Sermon for Aug. 9, 2020 -- "Out of the Pit(s)"

Out of the Pit(s)

Aug. 9, 2020

Hugh Drennan


In my hometown were the Special family; Popa Distinctly Special, Momma Ima Special, their boy Exceptionally Special and the daughter Extraordinarily Special. They lived in a beautiful two story white colonial house on a cul de sac on Superior Street. Their children went to the Gifted and Talented private school, the father worked in the loan department of the bank for special developments and the mother taught special needs children at the public school. One day at bible school the other children locked Exceptionally and Extraordinarily in the coal room. They were bewildered at such treatment. …

And that’s the way it was in my hometown where folk are pretty much like folk everywhere else.

When you were a child did you feel special? I hope you did; children should feel special. Joseph certainly did.

Poppa Jacob obviously doted on him famously, giving him his coat of many colors and spending quality time with him at the expense of Joseph’s brothers. It is no wonder that his brothers resented him. Inappropriate parenting can lead to a host of problems. Family relationships are very complex.

Joseph certainly does not help his cause when he talks about his dreams as symbols of his brothers, grain sheaves and stars bow down to him. Who wants to hear that stuff?

So, Joseph is a spoiled, entitled kid who thinks he is hot stuff. The brothers get a bit carried away in seeking to put him in his place. “Let’s kill the dreamer!” they shout giving vent to their frustration. The older brother Reuben seeks to calm them down a bit. “We don’t want to be killers. Let’s just throw him a pit and someone can rescue him and our dad will get him back…or not.”

Then their base materialistic instincts kick in when they see a caravan passing. “Oh, we can make some money here. Let’s sell him.” And so they do for 20 pieces of silver; the number seems familiar.

Talk about being in the pits.

Like the Special children Exceptionally and Extraordinarily stuffed in the coal room. (suppose the coal room bit dates me a bit doesn’t it…) Wonder, “What the…” “Why’d they do that?” I’m, we’re special, don’t they get that?

So, here’s Joseph taken out of the pit but sold into slavery and sent to a foreign country, Egypt. He goes from being very special, the apple of his father’s eye to one of the lowest status in a foreign country, a slave.

Joseph leaves the pit and finds himself in even a worse place. It is a real out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire situation.

We citizens of the U.S.A. have often felt we are a special people. We are the citizens of a democracy, a new way of government we see as much better than other forms of government.

We are a people who overthrew our oppressors the English who were taxing us unfairly. We overthrew that government and established something new and exciting. We’re special.

Often in our country, that carries over into religion as well. Christians have falsely believed that we are the new chosen people, the new promised land. We’re special.

And so into the “special life”, comes our pit in the form of the covid-19 virus. Despite the claims of those who believe we are special people to whom only good things happen, we lead the nations in the world with infection from the virus. Not a good distinction.

We social distance, wash our hands, wear masks, at least most of us, but others don’t, exercising the American freedom to choose, and the cases mount and the numbers go higher and higher. We politicize the issue and muddy the waters. We fight over material wants and getting the economics of the country going versus fighting the virus. Like the brothers who pulled their brother Joseph out of the pit, they thought they could at least make some money out of the deal.

We talk about the new normal and wonder what will that really look like. It does seem clear that things are never going to be the same as before the pandemic.

Other countries looking at how we have and have not handled the pandemic, may see us like the brothers saw Joseph. Joseph the one who made great claims about others bowing before him, now in a pit and the sold into slavery. He just got his come-uppance and our country just got their come-uppance.

And that is where this part of the story leaves us. It leaves us in the pit and then sold into slavery. We are the victims of a pandemic, and whether we deserve our come-uppance or not, we are left struggling with our hopes and dreams of what we thought, that we are special people.

To put in back into my hometown’s Special family:

Poppa Distinctly Special complained about his children being locked in the churches coal room. Folk knew about his entitled and privileged offspring and muttered, “It served them right.” Distinctly loses his job as a loan officer and can’t find work in town.

The mother, Ima Special also lost her job as a special needs teacher as folk thought she was just too uppity to have that job.

And Exceptionally and Extraordinarily were ostracized by their classmates and felt bullied.

So the Special family left town. They felt that they had been pushed out of town and had to live in a foreign place where they did not feel special at all.

Not a pretty picture. Neither is it any fun to live through a pandemic.

Is Joseph special?

Are the Special family in New Sharon really special?

Are we special?

Well, stay tuned until next week for the next installment of the Joseph story, the Special family story and our story.

Same Zoom Channel, same Sunday time slot, same congregation, same preacher.

How’s that for an O’Henry ending for a sermon?




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