“They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.”” (Genesis 37:18-20)
In case you don’t recognise these verses, they are from the story of Joseph of Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat fame. That’s how Andrew Lloyd Weber described him, at any rate, in the musical based (loosely) on his life. Joseph was the second-youngest son of Jacob (son of Isaac, son of Abraham). He is another one of the founding fathers of the nation of Israel, and it was Joseph and his eleven brothers who gave their names to the twelve tribes.
The story of Joseph is an amazing tale of heroism and triumph, but it begins in pain. In his youth, Joseph was despised by his brothers. They saw him as their father’s favourite and considered him arrogant. As a teenager, Joseph tactlessly shared his dreams with his brothers – dreams that he would one day be so powerful that the rest of the family would bow down to him. When opportunity arose, the brothers conspired to dispose of ‘the dreamer’, eventually opting to sell him as a slave rather than kill him, while telling their father that he’d been devoured by a wild animal.
Joseph’s story is a torturous journey from prisoner to prince, stretched out over the last third of the book of Genesis, and what is most amazing about this story, from my perspective, is that God never seems to make an appearance!
In the earlier chapters of Genesis, God walked in the garden with Adam and Eve, spoke directly to all the key players, and even wrestled with Jacob. From this point forwards though, God seems to move into the shadows. God speaks to people in dreams, but those dreams are often hard to interpret. God is at work, ensuring that the promises given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are being fulfilled, but it’s often hard to see that happening, except in retrospect.
Joseph’s experience of God is something akin to our own. We know that God is at work, and we believe that “all things work together for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28). Even so, the activity of God in our world is often far from obvious. God appears to be absent and uninvolved so much of the time. Terrible things happen that don’t seem to make any sense. Relationships break down. People die. Our best efforts fail.
The pious response to this is often, “well … everything happens for a reason”, and I don’t know how true that is. Perhaps you’ve read Kate Bowler’s book, “Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved”. It’s a reflection on her struggle with colon cancer, and a grim reminder that this truism is often invoked in such a way that it excuses evil and trivialises pain. We never hear Joseph say to his brothers, “Oh well, it all happened for a reason”. What he did say to them, after enduring thirteen years of slavery and imprisonment, was, “you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). I think that’s a bit different.
I am doing my best to maintain this Joseph-mindset myself at the moment. I struggle with so many broken relationships and shattered dreams. I don’t accept that God somehow needed every bad thing to happen just as it did in order to bring about some particular outcome. I do believe though that in all these things God is working for good, and that all the evils we experience can in some way be absorbed into God’s greater plan.
I’ve quoted Kierkegaard many times, I know: “Life can be understood in retrospect but, unfortunately, it has to be lived forwards.” I do look forward to that day when I’ll be able to look back and make sense of it all, and see how God was indeed with me every step of the way. Until that time comes though, we knuckle down, move forward in faith, and we keep dreaming.
Our Sunday Eucharist
We had another wonderful Sunday Eucharist last weekend. Unfortunately, our Muslim brother, Tom, couldn’t be with us. He’s running a photographic exhibition somewhere in London and we weren’t able to connect with him in time. Even so, David Baldwin and myself were joined by our good friend, Rev. Dr. Stephen Sizer, and he gave us a challenging reflection on Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 9. Our Bible Banter is captured in the recording below, and you can also find Stephen’s homily (with a transcript) on his site, www.stephensizer.com.
Let me work your corner
Thanks again to all of you who continue to support Fighting Fathers Ministries through your prayers and through monthly financial contributions. If you’re not contributing financially and you can afford to, it would be greatly appreciated if you could go to Patreon.com and sign up to either:
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- Friday, August 11th to Sunday, August 13th – @Binacrombi. Please join me
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- Monday, August 14th – Boxing from 7.00 pm @Legends Gym
- Wednesday, August 16th – Boxing from 7.00 pm @Legends Gym
- Saturday, August 19th – Boxing from 3.00 pm @Legends Gym
I concluded last week’s newsletter with an appeal, letting you know that the financial situation was becoming critical. At the time, I don’t think I realised just how critical things were. Our boxing club has now had to leave the gym we were training in. By God’s grace, Legends Gym in Kensington called me and offered us space there.
Whether Legends will work for us will become clear over the coming weeks. The days they have available are different (Mondays and Wednesdays, instead of Tuesdays and Thursdays) and the extra travel time is prohibitive for some of us. Even so, I trust that the Good Lord will find us a way to keep going.
Perhaps there are other ways of making things work. Some of us have been talking about cycling between different gyms during the week. Another option is for me to start training people in their homes or in parks. I received one invitation this week to teach boxing at one of our women’s prisons! I don’t expect any of our regulars to join me there, but it may be that God will take us in entirely new directions. I am open and ready to do whatever needs to be done. I am loathe though to let go of our boxing community. It has always been a source of joy and healing for many people, and for me as well. I am trusting that God will find us a way forward.
Of course, our financial situation remains critical. If things continue on a downward spiral, the next thing to go will be this weekly newsletter and my other online work, including our Sunday Eucharist. I don’t believe God wants that to happen so I’m trusting that we’ll find a way forward. If you’d like to be a part of making it all work, the easiest way to do that is to sign up for a monthly contribution via Patreon.com.
I haven’t published much this week, but I did create a blog post out of Father Ola’s reflection on light and darkness in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 5. We broadcast that on March 10. You can now find it, complete with transcript, on the Fighting Fathers Member Site.
Keep me in your prayers please, as I do you.
P.S. I was so impacted by Senator Malcom Roberts’ recent speech to Parliament that I have included it below. If you can handle some more startling revelations about what’s been going on in our world over the last couple of years, it is worth watching.