This sermon was delivered in four parts, each part separated with a musical response or reflection.
I have to say that I am pretty pleased with my storyline so far. It may not be a fairy book storyline but it has had lots of happiness and joy. I've experienced wonderful surprises with adventurous twists and turns. There have been some really cool plots with great endings. I have come across amazing characters - some of whom I would have never have imaged would play a role in my storyline.
But my storyline has also included some huge disappointments and characters I don't like. There have been a few plots that have been hurtful and some even shameful. There have been frustrating sections, infuriating scenes, upsetting moments, tear jerking pages and frankly some pretty rotten chapters.
But I often wonder what would happen if I allowed myself to get wrapped up in one of these bad chapters? What if I wasn't able to turn the page?
Well for one thing, there probably wouldn't be a Logos Dei Community Church and I probably would not be preaching the "good news" of Jesus Christ.
But why is that? Why is it that sometimes when we experience bad chapters, the first thing we throw out is God? Or the community he has given to us - called the church?
You would think that it would be the opposite . . .
But I can't tell you how many people I have talked to over the past year who have said that they quit going to church because of a bad chapter in their life. I can't tell you how many people there are in the world who have completely given up on the church and on God because of the bad chapters.
We have all had bad chapters in our lives and perhaps have been tempted to allow that experience to become the final chapter of our storylines.
But this morning I want you to know that God has a bigger, greater storyline for you than any bad chapter you may experience. But to have that greater storyline, you have to experience grace.
So, this morning we will peer into the storyline of one who had many bad chapters but never lost sight of God's greater narrative of hope and of grace.
Part 1 - Joseph; dreams and sold to slavery
His name was Joseph and he was the first born son of Rachel; and he had a special place in his father's affections because Rachel was Jacob's favorite wife.
The love that he had for her was beautiful, the kind you would see in a fairy tale when the prince finds his true love . . . but it was also a source of jealousy and trouble in the family because Jacob had another wife named Leah - who frankly wasn't all that good looking and certainly was not loved by Jacob the way he loved Rachel. So naturally, there was fierce competition between the two.
Now, Leah had given birth to 6 boys and 1 daughter but Rachel was childless and she wanted nothing more than to provide a child for her husband.
But in Jacob's old age, she gave birth to a son and they named him Joseph because of its double meaning; "to take away" and "to add to"
- Take away: The birth of this son would "take away" the shame she had gone through during the years of being childless.
- To add to: It stirred the heart of hope that God would "add to" her another son.
Well, as you can imagine, the birth of this "favored" child added fuel to the family struggle and Joseph was in the very middle of it from his very birth.
You are not going to believe what happens in this story.
Read Genesis 37:2-36
You are not going to believe what happens next . . .
Read Genesis 39:1 - 40:23
Do you know what it's like to forgotten?
Well, Pharaoh has this horrible dream. He was so troubled by it that he called in magicians and wise men to help interpret his dream but no one could do it. Just then the chief cupbearer remembered Joseph and how everything that he said had come true.
Read Genesis 41:14-57
Has there ever been a time that you thought God couldn't get you through something? Because it didn't have a purpose? As the song plays think about a time . . .
You are not going to believe what happens next . . .
Wow! Every time I hear the storyline of Joseph, one word comes to mind - Grace.
I mean, here is this guy who was mistreated, falsely accused, rejected, abandoned, abused, maligned and forgotten and yet he refused to bear a grudge or to succumb to bitterness. He never rubbed it into their faces or made them pay for their wrongdoings.
Instead of getting what they deserved, the brothers received freedom and a bag full of grain . . . now that is GRACE.
But I have to ask myself . . . how? How could Joseph offer Grace to his brothers when clearly they deserved punishment?
Well, the text gives us a hint. There is a reoccurring phrase that perhaps you heard throughout this story . . . "And the Lord was with Joseph" in whatever he did.
Adversity and grace meet head-on throughout Joseph's storyline but in the end it was Grace that triumphed and the reason it did was because Joseph was able to recognize that God was with him and although people meant him harm, God intended it for a good purpose.
And because Joseph accepted God's grace in the midst of adversity, he in turn was able to offer grace to his brothers.
But there is another hint in the text that we need to pay close attention to, although Joseph did not allow the bad chapters to cause him to be bitter and was able to extended grace to his brothers, they did not receive the grace until they were willing to accept responsibility for their wrong doing.
They received the grace that Joseph freely offered only when they repented of their sins.
In all of our storylines, we have plenty of rotten chapters to be bitter about. We will be mistreated, falsely accused, rejected and abandoned and we will be tempted to turn away from God during these times and take things into our own hands but our challenge this morning is to become more like Joseph.
I think that there are two categories of people sitting in this room today
- Those who need to extend grace and forgiveness
- When you choose to extend grace and forgiveness to one who has wronged you, you become a trophy of grace. It not only frees you from the burden but your forgiveness allows people to understand more clearly the nature of God.
- The creator God who longs to be back in relationship with His people. The people, who have mistreated him, falsely accused him, rejected and abandoned him.
- Those who need to receive extravagant grace
- Perhaps you are here today and you have mishandled your wounds because pride got in the way.
- This morning, I want to invite you to turn your brokenness over to God. Allow Him to restore wholeness and completeness in your fragmented heart.
- Quit running from God's grace.
- Maybe you are more like Joseph's brothers who didn't understand grace but I want you to know that God has already given you what you don't deserve. He has extended his grace to you through his son Jesus Christ.
- And when we are willing to recognize our brokenness and sinfulness than we will receive that grace that he freely offers.
- Just like Joseph eagerly awaiting the arrival of his family in Egypt, so God has been awaiting your arrival back to him.
These two categories go hand in hand and you can't have one without the other.
You can't extend grace when we are not willing to accept Grace from God. You won't know how to truly forgive if you have never experienced true forgiveness.
And so this morning I invite you to struggle with grace.