Lifting Up

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 37:25-36: Joseph sold into slavery



Mark 1:29-45: Jesus heals Peter’s mother in law

In reading through the office this morning, I was struck by the connection between Joseph’s being “lifted up” to be sold into slavery and Jesus’ “lifting up” of Peter’s mother-in-law for the purpose of healing.  The Joseph story is one close to my heart: I played Issachar in the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical in high school and experienced the betrayal of Joseph’s brothers through the “magic of theatre.” Over recent years, my work with immigrants led me to identify this lifting up of Joseph to become a slave with the plight of undocumented peoples who are “lifted up” from unsustainable lives in their home countries, only to encounter servitude in a foreign land (though God’s redemptive work is also glimpsed at times even in the midst of the hardships they face).

But for some reason, I hadn’t seen Jesus’ “lifting up” in this healing story as strongly connected to this previous lifting up until today.  Psalm 40 (immortalized by U2 on the album War) says “I waited patiently for the Lord, he inclined and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.”  In the case of Jesus, the lifting up is from the beginning a lifting up for good; in Joseph’s case, the good was only realized much later.  Perhaps it was the hand of God that saved him from the pit, but it was the hand of the Midianites that then sold him into slavery.  It was God who then “set his feet on the rock” while in Pharoah’s court to turn this story of fraternal treachery into one of societal redemption and communal good. In Jesus’ case with Peter’s mother-in-law, the good starts “immediately,” to use the Markan phrase, with the outstretched hand.

God lifts us up from the pits of our lives in various ways.  I am curious about your stories of being lifted up, and hope you will share them here.  I hope that all who read this will experience goodness and joy today and be led to sing a new song.

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