It occurred to me yesterday that the Sunday sermon comes up short at the altar rail unless the preacher has the ability to incarnate the person of Jesus there in our lives. If his or her words cause Jesus to come alive to us, so that Jesus walks out into the sanctuary, down the aisle and touches the lives of those sitting there hoping for a word, something to take home with them so that the Christ life might enliven their own lives. That’s what Jesus did. He walked right out into the mess and muddle of everyday life, to ordinary people, to touch, heal, teach and love. We ministers of the Word need to school ourselves beyond scholarly and academic considerations. Unless the gospel lives for us, we cannot hope to make it, Jesus, live for others.
This is what Joseph does. In his story he walks out into our lives, so we can journey with him. So we can learn what it means to be fully and authentically human. He shows us how to navigate the pitfalls in life and become wise and heroic.
The narrative of Joseph’s life comes alive because it resonates with each of our own lives. Before I can say a word about Jesus, I had to begin by saying many words about Joseph. Jesus will carry the story of Israel within him. As the last patriarch Joseph stands for that story. Where the Hebrew people will go, Joseph has been. Joseph goes before each of us, shepherd, dreamer and savior.
For me Joseph was the place to begin, because all the rest of scriptures hang on understanding the final chapters of Genesis. I did not want to rush and make him a Christ-figure. Or prefiguration. He isn’t. What he is is a person much like you and I. ‘A man with his moments. Moments of being loved. Moments of being betrayed. Moments of dreams and moments of stark reality. Moments of blessings and moments of loss. Moments on the way to becoming himself. And in between all these moments is a life. A life of wandering and work. A life spent trying to piece together all the scattered moments of his life in order to give them meaning, in order to come to know himself and the sacred Reality at the heart of all the moments of his life.’ (From Page 1 of the Preface to I Am Joseph, Shepherd, Dreamer, Savor.)