Genesis 46:1-7 and 46:28-34 (NSRV)
Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and tell Pharaoh, and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me. The men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock; and they have brought their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have.’ When Pharaoh calls you, and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our ancestors’—in order that you may settle in the land of Goshen, because all shepherds are abhorrent to the Egyptians.”
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.”
Our Lenten study this year focuses on the connections between our Sunday religious beliefs and our lives in the world on Monday. But Monday is not the whole rest of the week, and the 6 to 1 ratio of days is too often the basis of our image of who we are and what we are doing. In meeting people, we often ask “What do you do?” A feeling of a loss in our identity is a well-known consequence of retirement. Today’s passages deal with this very human focus on the world around us, and our inability to see beyond our assumed capabilities.
In Genesis, Jacob takes his family to Egypt while fearing how they might be received, as the Egyptians abhor keepers of livestock. In a vision, God tells Jacob not to be afraid to go, renewing the Covenant to be with them and make of them a great nation. Later, when Joseph takes his brothers to meet Pharaoh, his first question is “What is your occupation?” When they say they are keepers of livestock, Pharaoh is pleased, giving them good land on which to live and asking them to tend his livestock.
Mark tells the story of the feeding of the 5,000. The disciples respond with a real world, six-day response. “Where will we get the money to buy food for all these people?” Jesus then asks, “What do you have?” After breaking the small amount they collected, Jesus tells them to distribute it, and they are amazed that not only was everyone fed, there are baskets of food left over.
Dear God, we ask that you continue to be our strength and our support in times of stress and uncertainty. May we always remember that although we are weak and temporary, you are there forever. We are able to see little, and understand less, but your promise is eternal. Amen.