Easter Day “ March 27, 2016
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. (Genesis 50:20)
A number of you read the bible every day according to the lectionary in the Book of Common Prayer. If you don’t, well you should. When you follow the lectionary, every two years you will read the entire bible, and every day you get fed in deeper and deeper ways. This year during Lent, a little bit at a time, we read the story of Joseph in Genesis. Joseph is the 11th of 12 sons of Jacob, Rachel’s firstborn, and the obvious favorite of the sons. Joseph made the mistake of gloating about his favored status in front of his 10 older brothers and at some point they had enough of him and decided to kill him. At the last minute, the eldest son, Reuben, has a change of heart and devises a plan to sell Joseph into slavery. The brothers tell their father Jacob that Joseph is dead, pocket the money, and go on with their lives not having to put up with their gloating little brother.
Joseph is a pretty lucky fellow, however, and again becomes the favorite, this time the favorite slave of Pharaoh in Egypt. The story takes a long time to play out but in time the tables are turned on the brothers. There is a famine in their homeland and they travel to Egypt to buy food and who should be in charge of all the food supplies in Egypt? None other than Joseph. He recognizes the brothers but they don’t recognize him at first. When they do, the tremendous guilt they have been carrying all these years pours out and they are remorseful. The story culminates with the reunion of all the brothers with their father. Joseph not only forgives his brothers but offers a perspective that could only have been reached after a lot of time and a lot of grace. You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. He doesn’t just say it’s okay, let’s move on. He puts it all in theological perspective.
That is where Joseph arrives after a series of hardships where somehow things work out better than they had a right to. He is not blaming God for what has happened. He is beyond blaming his brothers. His heart has been reconciled and he sees things with brand new eyes. God took all the evil that his brothers threw at him, all the evil of slavery, all his suffering, and turned it into something good. God didn’t cause the evil. God changed the evil. God’s plan from the beginning of time is to create and to love, to redeem and transform all that goes amiss. There is nothing in this world that can defeat God’s gracious will or defeat his plan of loving us into all that God means for us to be.
You meant it for evil but God meant it for good. Easter is that perspective. It is the moment of realization that, while the world and each of us, is tainted with evil, God’s gracious will is not defeated. Nothing that happens, not even the crucifixion of the Son of God, can stand in the way of God loving us into all that God means for us to be.
Health fails, loved ones suffer, financial security plummets, our friends betray us, we sabotage ourselves, horrible things flow out of our mouths and the mouths of those who are the most important to us, terrorists attack and murder, tornadoes and hurricanes destroy, addictions overtake us and rule our lives, our hopes and dreams are dashed, life is sometimes simply harder than we can manage. And, in time, a new perspective develops. None of those things or anything else in all the world can defeat the gracious will of God. God is loving us into being all that we are meant to be and nothing that happens to us, nothing that is taken away from us, nothing that anyone else causes, nothing that you and I cause, will keep God from loving us.
You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. The world throws evil at us over and over again. And we still know the goodness of God that simply will not go away. Life is not good only when we are the favorite child or only when things are going our way. Life is good throughout the ups and downs, births and deaths, joys and sorrows. Christ is risen and that makes all things good.