In first-grade religion class a few years ago, I was teaching the story of Joseph and his brothers.
When I announced the story about Joseph and asked if anyone knew anything about the story, a student shot up her hand and said, “I know that story.”
She immediately began to tell the story with her eyes wide with excitement, and she talked so fast that I could not stop her.
In a little less than two minutes, the student was able to tell the whole story in great dramatic detail. She even had a pause when she got to the point when the brothers dropped Joseph into the well.
At that point, she reached out her hand to make sure she was getting my attention, “Pastor, don’t worry about this business of the brothers throwing Joseph into the well.” And it’s here that she crinkled up her nose, and she whispered, “Just wait-the story has a good ending.”
I am not sure if I was looking worried about if the conflict in the story was going to get resolved or not, but I am glad the student knew that bad times can have good endings.
I wish I had a video of this student telling Joseph’s story. She didn’t miss anything-Jacob, the coat of many colors, the brother’s jealousy, the throwing of Joseph into the well, Joseph sold into slavery, the interpretation of dreams, the famine, and then the reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers.
The story does have a good ending, but it goes through a lot to get there. This young student was able to be so dramatic in telling the story because this story has all the makings of a good story.
If we can say this about stories-most novels, movies, children’s books, and short stories follow a formula.
A character starts out by doing the same old stuff that he usually does-then, something happens to upset the routine. The rest of the story builds the drama to see if the character will get his life back.
Near the end of the story, all is reconciled, and the character is able to move forward again in his life, but he goes back to his life with a new lesson learned.
The story of Joseph and his brothers is quite dramatic with royal courts and dream interpretations that most likely will not happen in our lives, but we can still relate to them.
I don’t think we have had any relative throw us in a pit-well, at least not literally- but we do know about the conflict in families.
At different parts of Joseph’s story, we are left with dominant impressions.
As the story unfolds, we see jealousy, anger, confusion, tension, anxiety, stress, and fear.
Looking at the dominant impressions in this story, we can see that we have some if not all of these impressions in the stories of our lives.
Talking about pits and wells today with the Joseph story, we might ask, “How much am I feeling that I’m in a pit right now?”
Am I near a pit and getting close to its edge? Am I falling into a pit? Have I hit rock bottom? Or am I trying to climb out of the pit? Whatever is the case, pits are no good for us. They are dark and can lead to despair, for there is no way out of a pit by yourself.
In a pit, a person can only yell for help. In a sense, Joseph was rescued. He got out of the well, but then he was sold into slavery.
The point that we need to be seeing about Joseph is that the story keeps moving. Joseph does not stay in the pit, in prison, or as a slave too long. He is moved to a high government position.
Through a lot of twists and turns, Joseph does well, and as we started today, Joseph and his brothers do reconcile.
If you are willing for a moment, can you identify the dominant impression of your life right now?
Depending on your circumstances, your dominant impression might be positive-like your in a time of feeling courageous, bold, determined, and undaunted.
Or on the other side, you might be feeling fearful, tired, and anxious.
Life can dish out all kinds of circumstances, and they can make us think and feel a lot of things, and at times, we can be feeling both happy and sad.
I like Biblical stories because they have all the makings of a good story. And what makes a good story is how it tells the complex ways of how humans go from our beginnings to ends-with some often tense- filled middles.
Because life is always moving, I can say that all of us are in some kind of middle right now that is going toward an outcome.
But, we are not sure of when that outcome will happen and what is happening with that outcome as far as understanding the whole thing’s purpose and meaning.
I’m sure we have all asked after going through something, “Why did that have to happen, especially, the way that it came about, and why did it end that way?”
Asking questions is helpful when it comes to our situations. We are in good company when we do ask questions. The psalmists asked questions like, “How long, O God?” and “God, why have you left me?”
Even Jesus asked a question when he was on the cross-why God had left him to suffer and die.
It’s here that we can talk about how deep pits can be.
The pit that we all fall into is sin, and the pit of sin is infinitely deep with no way out by ourselves.
The reason that the pit of sin is so harsh is that sin needs to be punished by eternal death-meaning forever separated from God.
Although we have transgressed against God’s goodwill for our lives, God does not want to condemn us to eternal death in hell.
Instead, out of His mercy, grace, and love, God sent Jesus to the cross to be punished for our sins.
Jesus went into the pit of wickedness for us.
And as we talk about not being able to get out of a pit on your own, we see that Jesus as both God and man was able to get out of the pit of the grave three days later.
Not only was he able to pull himself out, but Jesus also pulled the whole world out of the pit of sin, eternal death, and the power of Satan.
We are now free from all these wicked things and can move to a new life in Christ.
Everything is now about having a life in Christ and about living by that life.
In Christ, we have forgiveness of every sin, and from that forgiveness, we are perfectly right with God. Only people who are perfectly right with God can enter heaven.
As much as there are uncertainties in this world and in our lives about how specific things are going to go, we can be certain about some big picture things.
We know that in our baptism, we are God’s children, we have the gift of faith, and all our sins were washed away in the waters of baptism.
In God’s Word, we hear of how each story connects us to the story of Christ and work of his death and resurrection that makes us perfectly right with God.
Then, in the Lord’s Supper, Christ comes into us giving us the certainty of forgiveness, and in that assurance, we have power and strength to move forward in anything that life dishes out to us.
Jesus is now in heaven and all that is in heaven in ours here on earth, and this how we live our lives. By life in Christ, all of our stories can only end well.
Knowing that we have nothing but a good ending in heaven one day, we can have hope in all situations, even when they get so tough that we are feeling down in a pit.
Now that we know that Jesus has worked all things out for us, we need to share the love and care that he gives us with others.
As complicated as things can get, we may not know all the answers all the time to our questions, but we still reach out with love in Jesus’ name-not to fix the world, but we reach out in love of Christ, so people may know the certainty of good endings in their lives.
This past week in religion, we talked about the golden rule. I introduced the golden rule with a video made for youth. What stood out for me is how the presenter at the end of the video said that his prayer is always to keep moving in life, so he can do the next thing that is God’s will for him-and here was the real kicker for me-even if that next thing to do is tough.
Imagine what Joseph was feeling as he looked onto the mean eyes of his brother who turned against him as they threw up into a well. Then, we also have to think about what was going through Joseph’s mind when he had to obey his heart and look them in their eyes and forgive them.
The next tough thing for you might be to go to someone whom you have hurt and say, “I’m sorry.” Or maybe someone has hurt you, and she comes to you with a sincere apology. You have to say, “I forgive you.”
Then, there are steps in the healing process, where both sides may need some changing. Change can be tough for stubborn human egos.
Although we are to stay distant from each other during these days, and although we have many issues that are causing division among us, we need to get in each other’s spaces with love and care.
In the story of our world, we need to do the next step-the tough step where both sides are listening and trying their best to understand each other, so we can be moving towards reconciliation and healing.
As God has forgiven us, we are always moving towards reconciliation with each other, even if that step towards forgiveness and healing is a tough step.
But we can always know that tough things can be done by living in Christ.
So, we keep moving forward in our lives because we always know that by living in Christ, we can say, “Just wait, this story has a good ending.”