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Speaking to the Soul: The Slide to Enslavement

Speaking to the Soul: The Slide to Enslavement

Week of 3 Lent, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 88 (morning) // 91, 92 (evening)

Genesis 47:1-26

1 Corinthians 9:16-27

Mark 6:47-56

Our passage from Genesis walks us step by step, season by season, through the process of enslaving the majority of people in Egypt and Canaan. Working for the powerful Pharaoh, Joseph exploits a famine in the land to gradually acquire every asset of the people around him.

First, the people bring their money, and Joseph gives them grain. When their money is gone, Joseph suggests another deal: “Give me your livestock, and I will give you food in exchange for your livestock, if your money is gone.” Finally, when the people have no more flocks, herds, horses, or donkeys to offer, the hungry people tell Joseph, “There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our lands.” They are forced to sell to Pharaoh their property and all the labor of their bodies in exchange for seed for food.

Where can we see similar slow but certain losses around us? When must people trade not only their money but their assets, their autonomy, their very selves, their only hope? Our world is full of cruel systems that deprive people of a fighting chance to sustain themselves.

In less than one week, we will see the outcome of this process of deprivation and enslavement. Next Thursday, the Scripture passage will tell us, “Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” This new king will not remember the Joseph who made him rich, but will instead begin to fear, oppress, and extract forced labor from Joseph’s descendants.

The arc of Joseph’s story should remind us that consolidating wealth and power at the top is, ultimately, not the way to freedom and flourishing for God’s people. Rather, when we can value and celebrate the gifts bestowed on each human being, and place resources that nurture those gifts in each person’s hands, then people will be much farther from the land of enslavement and much closer to the land of promise.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as Priest Associate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with education, young adult ministry, and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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