Posts Tagged ‘time’

Genesis 42:

6 Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. 7 As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked.

 8 Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. 9 Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”

21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”
 22 Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.” 23 They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.

  He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.
 25 Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to put each man’s silver back in his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey. After this was done for them, 26 they loaded their grain on their donkeys and left.

Families are indeed curious creatures.  If you have one, you must agree.  They have these histories- they become genetic.  Part of the DNA of each person.  In this segment of Genesis a strange reunion takes place.  The conceited son who was ambushed, sold off in spite, and left for dead on the highway of their shared memory is reunited with 10 of his 11 brothers.  But rather than leap down from his place, clutching them and exclaiming, he upholds his new identity as an Egyptian governor, keeping safe distance.

In fact, he actually comes down pretty hard on his brothers, yelling at them, and accusing them of mortal crimes.  He throws them in jail for 3 days just to make them sweat.

It says in the scripture that “he remembered his dreams about them [bowing down to him].”  Yet he keeps all of that to himself.

Apparently, though time has passed, and they have collectively agreed that Joseph was killed tragically long ago, the guilt has not passed.  Though they may never talk about it openly, the sounds of their brother weeping and pleading from the bottom of the cistern still echo in the space between them.  And now, at a distance from their father, those memories are not distant.  They are right there, on the surface.  Having another moment of glory, slimy and black on their collective memory.

21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother.

What a horrible moment this must have been.  Full of tension.  Full of angst.  All the way around the stage, everyone tense, everyone eager for resolution.  Nobody knowing how it might happen.

Did Joseph’s conceit return?  Was he gloating in the memory of his dream, with the sheaves of grain bowing down to his sheaf?  Is this the return of the old Joseph?  What in the world is God’s spirit doing right now?

Does God gain glory from this moment?  Brothers in conflict?

In the New Testament epistle called 2 Peter, the author speaks of God not being slow… as some understand slowness.  I don’t know what the Greek words are for all of this- but I have been comforted by the idea of this phrase.  

God is not subject to linear time the way that we are.  The way that Joseph and his brothers were.  God holds time within himself.  Each moment of our history is evident to him.  I believe that every moment of history exists as the present for God.  He is the creator and sustainer of every moment.  Each moment of our lives is utterly rooted in God and in his sustenance.  He is more than sunlight feeding a plant.  He is the sunlight, the soil, the ability to convert the sunlight into energy usable by the plant- he is the time it takes for the plant to convert the sunlight.

My point in saying this is that I see moments like these, where time seems to slow down, and each moment is adrenalin times 100- when each second is like fire and ice mixed together in a torturous pathology, God is still present in these moments.

In that moment when my father was dying, and me and my brothers sat around his bed- where was the glory of God in that?  Each of us experiencing our own private anxiety about losing our father.  Each of us reliving all of the moments of our lives with him, good and bad.  Between each breath.  Each of us secretly fearing the next moment.  Secretly hoping that something miraculous might happen, each knowing that it was impossible.

His glory seemed slow in coming.  But God doesn’t “do” time like we “do” time.  His kind of doing time sees the apple, the manger, the cross, and the last trumpet all at the same time.  Maybe that’s what we’re seeing here.  A sliver of the spectrum.

Joseph conceives of a plan.  He wants to see his littlest brother, Benjamin.  It seems, from the text, that Jacob is protecting Benjamin, desperately, almost as though that might somehow save Joseph from his past.

Joseph uses his power and swag to fill the bags of his brothers not only with grain but with the money they used to purchase it as well.  He must have known it would cause them great terror.  Maybe.  Maybe it didn’t occur to him that they might see it is as an opportunity for Egypt to take them all away for good and for ever.

In either event, he keeps one brother as collateral- a guarantee that they will return, and they will bring the little brother, Benjamin.

But when the brother’s get back to their father and tell them what happened, he is in despair at the loss of another son.  And utterly refuses to let another child go down to Egypt.  He is still mourning the loss of Joseph, and is thrown into mourning for Simeon as lost.  And he will not lose another.

But Rueben, desperate to regain his conscience, and fully lost in remorse over Joseph, offers the lives of his own children as a promise that Benjamin will return unharmed from Egypt.

Are you in mourning over something that is behind you?  Or frightened of something in front of you?  I have been.  I am.  At times like this it’s easy to wonder where the hell God has gone.  But we have for us many examples, in scripture, and even in the collective lives of our families and friends, stories of God’s faithfulness.  The written comfort from 2 Peter is often on my lips, and in my ears.  God is true.  He is faithful to his own character.  It sometimes drags out for us- sparks glowing into embers, into flames into a full-on all consuming fire that seems like it will go forever.  But it won’t.  It can’t.

Only God and his words can go forever.  And his words, his promise, is that He is with us.

“He is not slow in keeping his promise, as some reckon slowness.  Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

2 Peter 3


Jesus gets a New Job

Posted: October 6, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Whenever an icon dies, a plethora of statements light up, like christmas lights buried in a dusting of snow.  I remember driving my ’79 Caprice Classic station wagon up Cornwall.  I had just passed Assumption on my right, and the First United Church of Christ on my left when the DJ on the radio announced that Kurt Cobain had died.  Well, he didn’t really die so much as he killed himself.  Small detail.

Anyway, yesterday Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died.  First the AP News alert buzzed in my pocket.  Then the little “Drudge Report” siren went of in my pocket, and I pulled my phone out to read the headline.  “Apple reports that Steve Jobs has died.”

I told my wife as I continued walking and she said “REALLY?!”  Like she didn’t believe me.  I don’t think it was the headline that surprised her nearly as much as the way I said it.  Like it wasn’t really a surprise- we all knew it was coming.  Sort of like when you get a wedding invitation in the mail.  Or a bill.  They are remarkable occasions- but not collapse-on-the-floor surprising.

I couldn’t help but wonder.  All the hype this week (at least in techno/gizmo world) was the annual confab in Cupertino.  All the pundits were speculating about what new wonder-of-the-world-to-be Apple would be unveiling.  Traditionally, this was one of Jobs niche areas.  The unveiling.  The pulling back of the curtain.  The old ipod in my pocket- OH NO WAIT!  It’s in my COIN-POCKET!  CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?!”

And the next day, Jobs is dead.  Just like that.

I’ve been 23 for a long, long time.  I’m not sure what’s so special about 23 for me.  When I first turned 23 I was a “recent college graduate.”  I had double majors- one in Philosophy, and the other in Theology.  I added that last one my senior year, around Christmas.  I was looking at my schedule and realized that I’d just about met the requirements for the degree without even being an inked member of the tribe.  So I went ahead and posse’d up.

In other words, I lived in a small apartment in a small town with a roommate and lived on a painter’s wages.  Single, limited prospects and slimming.

Yeah, no.  Not like Matisse or Picasso.  Like “Joe’s Housepainting.”  Or like “random-guy-in-a-spray-booth-with-mask-and-paintgun-in-average-American-factory” painter.

Since then, I’ve moved.  Bought several cars.  Bought two houses, gotten married, had 4 (seriously) kids, had a job, gave up a job, had a dream, given up a dream, changed a dream, stayed married, started homeschooling 1st of 4 (no, really) children, and my dad has died.  But in my head, sometimes, I still think I’m 23 with lots of life before me.  Plenty of time.  No real consequences.

Pipe smoke.  Not even a pipe dream.

Thing that I wonder at is that Steve Jobs was more handsome at 56 than he was at 36.  He was a more widely revered manager, innovator and designer than ever.  The older he got, the more iconic he became.  We’re not talking young, beautiful and reckless.  This isn’t rock-stardom.  It’s something bigger.  I don’t mean to be flippant, but maybe my kool-aide mustache is showing here.  His life had global impact.  His vision and persistence changed economies.  Not singular.  Plural.  And it was created.  He didn’t do it by killing, stealing, terrorizing or destroying.  He did it constructively.

And yet, yesterday, after all the hype, after all the people had gone home from the iFrenzy in Cupertino, Steve Jobs died.  And Apple goes on.  We go on.  The world still goes on.

The world will never be the same- not even close.  But spin it will.

We all face that dark corner in our rooms though, don’t we?  I remember looking at my newborn son’s hands.  I remember my dad telling me about how he used to hold my little hands, and wonder.  You have to think his dad might have done the same thing.  And that my sons will too.

And I will face that dark corner that we all must face.  I will lay down in my bed, sit down in my chair (I’m being optimistic here), and my brain will skip a note.  The God made union of spirit and clay will be broken, again, finally, for the last time until He mysteriously joins them in a new way.  A new indestructible way.

Here’s another thing though.  When this happens, when an entire generation turns a corner together in it’s corporate passing of time- at moments like those I gain even greater faith in my past.  Seems weird, I suppose.  But as Steve Jobs dies, and his life merges with rest of eternity, I realize, again, that just as his did, lives passed before that, and again before that.  Does reality now have any more validity than the realities of those previous to mine?  No.  Just as my reality is a reliable one, all of those that came before me are also reliable.  And it can then go back, back, back.

The men who left their families, their wives, their businesses, because Jesus persuaded them with a look- those men are no less real than I am.  Than we are.

Their lives are no less real.  And when those men faced their deaths, those were no less real either.  Only one of the 12 apostles that Jesus called had “peaceful” deaths.  One.  All eleven of those men faced something violent- something that challenged their conviction.  All of them had opportunities to trade their convictions in for something less painful.  Less horrid.  And yet they stayed.  They had seen something unbelievable, something that even seeing could not persuade for some.

The letters and books that make up what we call the bible have an aura of mystery about them.  When we talk about them being inspired by God they gain a mysticism, an elevation.  And they acquire the ability to be disbelieved.  To be considered unreliable.


They are all handwritten.  Yes, of course, our copies are typed copies, bought and sold.  Commodities.  But somebody set their hand to the purpose of writing them out.  And with that, the time.  This stuff was important.

Do you think the world will go on?  I mean really?  Like, can you imagine the world in a 100 years?  How about 500?  How about 2,000 years?  Honestly, with all the dire predictions, asteroids, economic collapse, world war, ethnic cleansing, Skynet and this Robo-dog, I struggle to imagine the world outliving me.  Can John Conner do it?

Did you know that the 4 Gospels in the Bible- the four narrative accounts of Jesus’ ministry, were about the last books actually written?

Does that make them less reliable?

The letters Paul, James, Peter wrote, the books that make up the rest of the New Testament, were written first.

Why?  Maybe because they didn’t expect the world to last long enough to need a written account.  Maybe it wasn’t until people started to think, started to notice they were actually dying!  We should write this crap down!  Somebody might need to know this stuff after… after I’m gone!

Our lives matter.  What we do draws the lines for the next generation to fill in.  No lines?  No fill.  No fill?  No drawing.  Period.

But that doesn’t mean that we are the end of time.  Time’s culmination.  Fascinating.

New International Version (©1984)

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

New Living Translation (©2007)
The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

English Standard Version (©2001)
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.