Joseph was a dreamer and his dream got him into a mess with his brothers (Gen 37). We can imagine how Joseph’s brothers felt when he told them about his dream. He dreamed about sheaves of wheat in a field. His sheaf rose up and stood proud and tall while their sheaves bowed humbly before him. When he was naked and cold in the deep dark cistern, Joseph probably wondered why he had shared his dream with them. Genesis reminds us that things have gone badly for the human family. Murder and mayhem erupted. Cain killed Abel. Here we have another story of sibling rivalry. Reuben and Judah have consciences and try to talk their brothers out of killing Joseph outright. It is a story about forgiveness. Joseph does indeed rise up. He will to power in Egypt. Forgiveness and reconciliation with the brothers who wanted to do away with him lies ahead.
The early genesis stories are written as explanations for the evil we encounter in the world. Augustine developed the concept of original sin from the Fall story; however, the Creator said all was “Good”—original blessing. Bishop Spong reminds us that there never was a perfect paradisal state which preceded a fall. Creation has been groaning to perfection since the stardust imploded at the Creator’s command. As Merton discovered at Fourth and Walnut, if we could only see people walking around with the light and life of God shining in them, there would be no more murder, no more cruelty, not more hated.
Jesus continues to confront the chief priests and elders—evil keeps rearing its ugly head (Mt. 21). In spite of the prophets and their persistent efforts to move Israel away from tribal religion where they were God’s only chosen people, the chief priests and elders still felt that God has especially chosen them. Tribal religion at its very best! We have not outgrown tribalism. We pray for God to give us victory over our enemies while our enemies believe God is on their side. Tribalism erupts every time Notre Dame meets Michigan State. The Israelites thought that their God could beat up other gods like Baal.
The story of Jonah in their scriptures should have given them a clue— God was much bigger that their concept of God. God is always bigger than our concept of God because God is beyond all concepts. They should have remembered how God admonished Jonah when he got angry at God for showing mercy to the foreigners—the unchosen who had heard God’s message and had repented. When the landowner sent his very son to collect the produce, the tenants seized him and killed him. This foreshadows Jesus’ death on the cross at the hands of the tenants who were hoarding resources which belonged to someone else. The landowner—God—did not give them the vineyard; he leased it to them. The Creator has leased the earth to us. The resources are not ours for the keeping. The fruits of the vineyard are to be shared. Good tenants will produce much fruit and share it with others. This is the inclusive cornerstone of our faith.