I want to talk about Joseph, tonight. Life has brought him to Egypt. By twists and turns he has been a slave, a convict, and then prime minister of Egypt and savior of the world through his train storage and distribution. He’s reconciled with his family who all live now in Egypt. The dream–far greater than any dream he interpreted in his career–the dream is to return home. Despite his power, Joseph is a slave and an expat. He cannot return, and now at at plausible if unlikely 110 years old, Joseph is dying. He asks that when the Israelites make their Exodus they take his bones with them. By the Bible’s timeline, that is not for 400 years. That’s a long time. Joseph doesn’t know that, but he trusts that God will deliver. And God does. The Israelites take Joseph’s bones with them when they depart. it’s a story of Joseph’s faith. Slavery will end. Exile will end. We will be free. We will go home.
I take heart in that, as we worship outside amongst the cars of God’s kingdom, in masks, physically distanced, now six months into this pandemic. It will end. Probably not tomorrow. Probably won’t take 400 years, either. But it will end. We will sing together inside at Holy Communion.
That being said, our New Testament reading calls for us to be faithful now, not merely by waiting for the future but living how the present demands. For the second week in a row the Wednesday New Testament reading involves Jesus cursing a fig tree. I did not mention Matthew’s version of the story last week. Tonight we hear Mark. I can take a hint: we should talk about it.
In Mark, Jesus arrives at the Temple in Jerusalem–our Palm Sunday text. But, after a quick look around Jesus leaves the city and checks into his hotel. He won’t spend a night in Jerusalem. Next day, he sees a fig tree with no figs on it, only leaves. He curses it…which is odd. Then he goes into the city and shuts down the temple. Then you get today’s reading: the tree has withered. It’s a complex metaphor Mark uses. The Temple is the fig tree–its time is up, it’s not producing. And Jesus is the real Temple. He is that place (or person) in whom God and humans connect. Where the Temple is fixed to a site in Jerusalem, Jesus is everywhere. Where the Temple, like the fig tree, is withered (even if we don’t see that yet), Jesus is alive.
And then Jesus adds some words about faith and forgiveness. Wherever you practice these, God hears because Jesus is present. Wherever you practice faith and forgiveness, God hears because Jesus is present. God is with us while we wait. God is here on the lawn at the corner of Washington and Chicago Streets. Or when we’re chatting during the Sunday morning worship premiere. Or catching the video on YouTube when we can. Or when we are at work. Or when we brave the pandemic to shop. Or when we’re hunkered down about to check the news and thinking “dear God what horrible thing am I about to hear about?”
This will end.
But Jesus is here, now.