I am your brother….
Earlier this month my wife Nancy and I attended the Writer’s Festival in Woody Point, NL. We are there almost every year and we love it. There is just no better opportunity to listen to and even in engage in conversation with some of the most prolific and brilliant writers of our age. This year there was the opportunity to meet and interact with Annie Proulx, Lynden McIntyre and poet extraordinaire Dennis Lee. To say nothing of the opportunity to listen to the irrepressible Mary Walsh, NL’s most potent comedian. And there is music.
On Saturday morning there is the opportunity to do the Walk in the Wild. It cost nothing and is a gorgeous hike on the Lomond Trail in beautiful Gros Morne National Park. At various intervals along the way the crowd stops and an author speaks or reads and a musician plays and sings. I love this part and was looking forward to the reading by Lisa Moore and the stories from Hockey Night in Canada’s Ron McLean. It was the music that provided the grace moment though.
Tim Baker, the lead vocalist for Hey Rosetta was the featured guest and one of the songs he performed was the The Red Song. In his introduction to the song Baker told us that the dreamer Joseph in the middle lyrics was in fact the Joseph of Genesis chapters 36-50 and he did a great job of summarizing Joseph’s story to the crowd gathered.
I always marvel at the power of these Old Testament stories to inform and empower.
The story of Joseph is one of those recurring themes in popular culture. In the late sixties, the Country and Western Artist Dolly Parton used the story to write what she still calls her favourite song, The Coat of Many Colours. In the early seventies Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber collaborated to produce the musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Coat. This musical made it to Broadway in the eighties and it remains a very popular show.
Later in the day I was able to share a table with Tim Baker at a Des Walsh poetry reading. The picture above is from that event. I initiated a conversation with him about the story of Joseph and told him I was a priest. I also told him that remarkably in the past few weeks and in the week of the Writer’s Festival the Old Testament readings in the Common Lectionary were the story of Joseph.
I am going to resist telling you the story in this blog, instead encouraging you to read it for yourself. Suffice to say though the story is about family rivalry and the power of forgiveness. It is also about God’s ability to do good even in the midst of human evil and selfishness. This is a message that our world desperately needs.
It is also a political story about two nations, who were traditional enemies, discovering the value of working cooperatively to their mutual benefit. This is a message that Donald Trump desperately needs to hear. The past week has clearly revealed that putting America First and pulling out of the Paris Accord is in fact putting America in peril. Further our global economy is so intertwined that any attempt to solicit advantage for one nation will lead to needless suffering for all.
In Genesis 45:6, the powerful Egyptian Overlord, Zaphenathpaneah says to a family of Israelite refugees: I am your brother Joseph whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. Do not grieve, do not reproach yourselves for having sold me. God sent me before you to preserve life. We are all brothers and sisters. This fragile Earth, our Island home, needs us to work collaboratively.