The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
The Right Reverend Cathleen Bascom, Bishop of the Diocese of Kansas

Genesis 25:19-34

 


We May Lose Sight Of One Another; God Never Does
The Joseph Story in Light ff Baptism and Black Lives Matter

Sometimes people disappear or we just lose sight of them. We, in effect, become blind. Last year, I was given this wonderful photo as a gift from Father Bob Terrill (show picture), it is a group photo of the clergy of the diocese of Kansas in 1962 (which just happens to be the year of my birth). I find it delightful seeing young versions of familiar faces bob himself, Frank cocoon, Sam Criss, Max Tracy. Of course, my eyes scanned the picture and I was abundantly aware of the fact that women were absent. I celebrate that much room has been made for people like me and Ashley to offer our gifts to God as ordained people.

A fact I noted, but soon lost sight of; there were two African American clergy. We have none now. Women have populated half of the page. African American clergy have seemingly disappeared from the group. (Jesse Milan, sr. Unable to come) I noted this truth even spoke to some of you about it, but quickly moved on to other concerns.

I have wandered around the streets north of Grace off and on for about 25 years, but I have always been blind to a small church structure on the corner of 7th and western. Until I started reading this book African American Topeka. And there it is, a picture of that church building with wonderful acolytes and choir and clergy on the occasion of an ordination (show picture). After recent demonstrations, I am beginning to see again or at least feel called to try to heal my blindness.

Today we hear the beginning of the great story of Joseph. In the bible, it is the one great memoir (I urge you to read Genesis 37-50 like a book, like a short novella). Our lesson today is the famous beginning of the Joseph saga. It – and Joseph’s whole saga – says some very interesting things about disappearance and blindness.

We have this phrase when we fall in love, “I only have eyes for you.” Genesis is honest about the fact that Jacob, Joseph’s father, only has eyes for him. The son of his old age, the son of his favorite wife. Jacob favors Joseph, and the symbol of that favor and privilege is Joseph’s long-sleeved coat (Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Technicolor Dream Coat). Jacob however is blind to the pain his favoritism inflicts on his other sons.

A part of the chapter the lectionary omits is the fact that Joseph sees God, knows God through dreams, dreams that tell him that his brothers will bow down to him. Blind to his own arrogance, Joseph tells his brothers this. And, well, as you heard, he disappears. The brothers are so threatened by Joseph, they rub him out, and he disappears from their lives and the life of Father Jacob, for decades. Realizing my own blindness to the African American community lately, has me wondering a bit about Jacob; he accepts so easily his other sons’ tale of Joseph’s death. Genesis never tells us that Jacob went out searching, asking what went wrong, taking a camel over to the site to search for where his beloved son died.

The main point of the whole Joseph story of course, is that God always seeks Joseph (and Joseph always seeks God). Carried by traders to Egypt, sold to Potiphar, seduced by Potiphar’s wife, taken to prison, interpreting dreams, including Pharaoh’s, rising to power as Pharaoh’s right hand man, Jacob and the brothers nearly starving in Israel, coming to Joseph to beg for grain not knowing it is him. (I summarized but please go back and read!) In all of this Joseph held fast to God, and God never lost sight of Joseph. We get the sense that God looked steadily at Joseph and in the end, despite their sin and in justice to him, God empowers Joseph to see, forgive, and aid his family.

Today Grace Cathedral celebrates the baptism of beautiful twins Mia and Jarek! There was a long era when baptisms happened more privately and they still can, but the church moved to the practice (and Tammi and Christine waited so patiently!) of baptizing with the whole community as was done in the early church. Because in baptism, we are all reminded of the fact, of the experience Joseph had, brought to each and every one of us through the presence of Jesus: God values each of us so much, God never loses sight of us. No matter how we may be treated by others we die and rise with Christ, God keeps us in sight across eternity. We celebrate that truth with Mia and Jarek and we celebrate it for ourselves.

The recent movements toward racial justice are making us wake up and open our eyes. We are called to begin to notice our blindness, to analyze it. How can we work to heal our blindness, to see clearly any of God’s children who have disappeared from view? I had a lovely beginning conversation with Rhonda Babb about what she remembers of St. Simon’s. I hope to see that church and community more clearly. What or who have you been blind to? How can you begin to regain your sight? Amen.