Genesis 41: 25-36 Normal, what is normal
Dear community, today we celebrate thanksgiving service and have heard from Trini a section of the story of Joseph.
How Joseph explains his strange dreams to the Pharaoh. Dreams that frightened the Pharaoh, because suddenly the skinny cows – vegetarians, we remember – eat up the beautiful fat cows, that’s not normal.
Normal, what is normal?
With that, I have already found the framework of my sermon today: Normal, what is normal? I think we can say for sure that cows eating each other is not normal.
But what about Joseph? Is his life story normal? Are his abilities normal or extraordinary?
Even if we look at the life story of Joseph, the question is not so easy to answer, because what is already normal? At least it is not unusual that people come from difficult family backgrounds.
Joseph’s father Jakob was a cheater.
Jacob deceived his father Isaac and stole his brother Esau’s birthright and blessing. Jacob was then betrayed himself when he asked for Rachel’s hand and got Leah as wife.
Rachel, Joseph’s mother, had hard times for a long time. She must have been beautiful, but even having children was withheld for a long time.
When she had finally given birth to Joseph and Benjamin, Jacob spoiled his son Joseph and preferred him to all his brothers. Then his brothers turned against him and sell him as a slave, who then comes to Egypt. There he rises as fast as he descends again: From the caretaker of the Pontiphar to the very bottom of the prison, because he is slandered, Joseph has already experienced many things in his life.
Is this normal or extraordinary?
Who among us can say that their parents never cheated? Not me.
Who among us can say that as a child he never had the impression that the siblings, brother or sister, were treated better? Not me.
Who among us can say that life never brings unfamiliar twists. Not me.
My parents betrayed, where and how I do not say that, that would be mean to them. As a child I always had the feeling that I was preferred to the other siblings – a favorite son. But then the exact opposite, where I was blamed for everything. Although I and my brother both started to scuffle, it was my fault, because I was the older one. And the last example I can confirm: Yes, there are unusual twists in my life.
Is Joseph so normal? Or is he extraordinary?
If I look at the life story of Joseph, as I have just tried, then I find everything not so extraordinary, but a feature strikes me. A feature does not seem to me to be normal, because: Joseph does not moan.
I find that rather unusual: Joseph does not complain.
Whether he is now sold as a slave, whether he comes to foreign lands, whether he is a caretaker and then unjustly thrown into prison, Joseph manages to make the best of and in his situation.
Joseph knows he is connected to God. Even if he interprets dreams, he knows what is his and what is of God. Expose belongs to God, he says.
Or, when he finally reconciles with his brothers, he emphasizes God’s miraculous providence and not the guilt of the brothers when they sold him as a slave.
Joseph does not moan, but with God’s help he makes the best of each situation. And he is thus able to gratefully accept even the difficult situations of his life.
He goes through the difficulties to regain good times.
If I asked you, what do you prefer, the good or the bad harvest years, how would you answer?
The good years? Really?
Have you thought carefully what this means?
Look at this year.
Tatis hit the nail on the head. The apple harvest was a hammer.
2 boxes have become full.
Yes Tatis, but that’s not all.
Come to the country with us. There are half of the apple trees still full of apples. Because no one can harvest so many apples, let alone consume them. In those years, the farmers who bring their apples to the big processing plants get just 5c for the kilo of apples. Do you want to bend over and pick up apples for 5c per kilo? 40kg of apples, that’s two big warehouse sacks full. You should be able to do it in an hour. So apples picked for the hourly wage of € 2.00?
And if you do it and if you actually process everything, then you can drink apple juice every day in the winter, get applesauce on muesli and apple jam every morning, eat Kaiserschmarrn with apple compote every afternoon, eat apple pie every afternoon and in the evening adults can drink cider to sleep until their skull smokes. Every day apples, until the next good year.
Then maybe you’ll remember the lean year that Tatis described: an apple. How precious was that. So precious that it was cut and divided into six parts. And so delicious was this apple, everyone remembers it. Because it was the only one. In the lean years farmers can demand 50c for the kilo of apples. Ten times as much. That’s at least € 20 hourly wage. Not much either, but then you think about the whole work yet again differently.
What is normal?
Honestly, I do not know if I should find a good or a bad year normal now. But one thing I realize or dawns on me:
Whether it’s a good or a bad year, both years have their good and bad sides. In every situation, I can be thankful to God for what he gives. Because everything has its good sides too.
I think that’s something out of the ordinary that we can learn from the story of Joseph:
God can make something good out of every situation. Always. Always and everywhere, at all times. Even when Joseph, completely wrongfully, is thrown into prison, God creates grace before the chief prison guard, and he uses him as the head of the prison. Even in prison, God is with Joseph.
I think that can comfort us all, that God is with us. Even when life feels like prison.
Or if we feel we are in the middle of a bad year.
Trini has pointed this out to us:
There were 2 lean years with many crop failures, but this year we experience an abundance. A wealth that God gives and we do not have to make ourselves.