Psalm 22:29-31; Genesis 41:17-57; Matthew 14:15-24

Well, we’re back from the North.  A memorable adventure and great male bonding time with Jerry and Joel. And over a thousand images to cull and process.  It’s a beautiful part of the world and yes, it’s darn cold in winter, but highly survivable.  Of course, knowing that we were leaving there after just a few days made the weather more of a novelty than an endless, bitterly cold winter.

 Psalm 22:29-31  I have missed writing about this most magnificent psalm, whose opening lines, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” are famously uttered by Jesus on the cross just before he dies.  I think we badly shortchange ourselves when we thin only on that opening line as Jesus’ final despairing cry–and then silence.  He knew the psalm and those around him surely knew the psalm in its entirely as well.  Much as we know a song or a hymn by its opening line, so too, here.  This is a psalm not of God’s abandonment, but of God as sustainer; a God who “made me safe at my mother’s breasts.” (22:10)

It is a psalm about a God who sustains through the most desperate of times agains the most implacable of enemies, “They gaped with their mouths against me–/ a ravening roaring lion.” (22:14) Instead of abandonment, “He has not spurned nor has despised/ the affliction of the lowly.” (22:25); a God who answers: “And form the horns of the ram You answered me.” (22:22)

So, I take Jesus words as words of faith in his faithful father, not of despair: he knew that he would indeed be rescued and that on that glorious Easter morning, the world had changed forever and that all “will proclaim His [God’s] bounty to a people aborning,/ for He has done.” (22:31) And indeed, the Church–us–are “a people aborning.”

Genesis 41:17-57  Daniel and Joseph stand out as the interpreters of dreams of kings.  They are young, vibrant men, who know the truth of Psalm 22 by personal experience.  And both become their king’s right hand men.  But there’s an angle to Joseph I hadn’t appreciated before: he’s a brilliant administrator  and a savvy leader.  Lest we modern folks think we’ve invented “management,” we need only look to Genesis 41 for a rather early example of proactive leadership.

During my career, when I had people reporting to me, I always asked them to bring problems to me, but also to bring their idea for a solution.  I never claimed that was an original concept, and here at 41:33, I see just how ancient the practice really is.  After crisply deciphering Pharaoh’s dreams and making it clear that a famine in in the offing, Joseph offers a solution to the very big problem the Pharaoh now faces: “And so, Let Pharaoh look for a discerning wise man and set him over the land of Egypt.” And he then goes on to describe how the food should be collected in the first seven years and distributed during the famine.  Obviously, there’s no question that Joseph had himself in mind for that job, but he not just a man of insight, he’s a man of initiative!

Matthew 14:15-24  We tend to skip over the intermezzo between the drama of the feeding of the 5000 and Jesus’ equally dramatic walk on the water: Jesus’ time alone in prayer.  Matthew makes it very clear that this did not happen by accident, but by Jesus’ direction: “Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.” (14:22)  Then Matthew doubles down, saying first, “he went up the mountain by himself to pray.”  And then pointing out that he was there for several hours, “When evening came, he was there alone.”  In our eagerness for Christian community we tend to miss these crucial phrases, “by himself to pray” and “he was there alone.”

We must be connected to be sure, but as many of the Ancient Fathers made abundantly clear, solitude is equally crucial.  And here is  one of those places where we see the fully human and the fully God Jesus: Fully human because he needed time alone if only to recharge; fully God because he had a singular purpose: to pray and be with his Father.  By Jesus’ example we see that the “up” is as critical as the “in” and the “out.”  But the “up” does not always have to happen in a crowd.  One of the joys of my life now, as compared to earlier times is the frequent opportunity for solitude.  Unfortunately, I tend not to make as dedicated use of “upness” as jesus did.

It’s nice to be home and look out my office window and finally see green.  Like Easter, spring will be late this year, but it will indeed occur.

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