Sunday, December 14, 2008

Joseph - The Silent Superhero


Superman was created in 1932 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. It was sold to Detective Comics in 1938, appearing in Action Comics #1 on June 1 of that year. Superman has gone on in the comics and movies and action figures and on and on.
Batman first appeared in 1939, created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Spiderman in 1962 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditka. We are a culture that likes heroes. I remember as a kid growing up on western comics where the heroes could draw fast and had integrity. Our heroes today tend to have fatal flaws and struggle, sometimes to make a story interesting, and sometimes to make them more human.
Then there are the silent heroes – the heroes in our everyday lives that model dedication or integrity or the triumph of the human spirit in the face of tragedy and loss. On David Felter’s blog he had a link to a YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uUd98KhLA4) of DJ Gregory who has cerebral palsy. He walked very haltingly but learned to play tennis. He then set a goal of walking every hole of every round of every course of the 2008 PGA tour. He completed it and to many people he was a hero and a role model.
Today we are going to look at another everyday hero, a silent guy. Many, if not most, would not call him that, but he set an example none-the-less. His name is Joseph.

Verse 19 – Pursue the right thing. We can read the newspapers and magazines and find story after story of people who did neat things, but in a different time and place they blow it. There’s the family that gets a nice big new house on TV’s extreme home makeover, and months later sell it for the money. The heroes in our stories have flaws that make them more readable and human. I love to look for the heroes with integrity. On a show that lasted 4 years there was a Mountie named Benton Frazier, who was beyond reproach. He was somewhat na├»ve but he knew who he was and lived by his ethics. In Christian Service Brigade I grew up with the 7 points of valor:

HONOUR The man of honour is the man whose word is true. Psalm 15:1, 2 The challenge is to not just know the right stuff, but to apply it. Integrity of words and life are the foundation of our testimony, our witness. If people around us are to see Jesus in us, our word must be true.
COURAGE No fear can overcome the courageous soldier's promise. Joshua 1:9 Fear is all about what has not happened yet. We have not been given the spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and a sound mind.
CHIVALRY He is always ready to be strong on behalf of anyone weaker than himself. Romans 15:1 Where are the men who take initiative today. We need to be proactive, not just reactive, for the gates of hell will not prevail. It takes a strong man to reach out and pull another up.
PURITY To be clean in heart, mind, speech, and body is to be strong. Psalm 119:9 Our materialistic society is a breeding ground for idols and temptations. All of who we are needs to ring true to the Good News.
LOYALTY A man of faithfulness, devotion, and allegiance. I Corinthians 15:58 Life is not a series of quick fixes. It is largely the task of 3 steps forward, two steps back. It is the rushing game on the gridiron. We need to plug in for the long term, but be open to the vision, not just the method.
OBEDIENCE A man who knows how to obey will be better able to lead others. John 14:21 We need to hear God's voice. We need to know it intimately. We need to let it sink deep into our soul so that His desires become ours. We need to put our faith into action.
DEDICATION A man of whole-hearted dedication to the Lord Jesus Christ. Luke 9:23-24 Denial of selfish ambition and the complete surrender of all that we have - body, mind, strength, possessions - to the control of Jesus is what He asks. He set the example. Not us, but Him. Not ours, but His.

Joseph was a man who pursued the right things. He recognized there was a problem with his pregnant betrothed, and did not want to shame her. He also wanted to honour his God in purity, and this talk of angels was pretty farfetched. Indeed, if this was God’s doing, wouldn’t he clue Joseph in too! He sought to keep Mary’s shame to a minimum; that is, until he heard from God.

Verse 20 – Always be listening for God’s voice. Bonnie’s novel coming out next June is about a woman’s journey to God; about how she starts hearing her dead husband’s voice, but eventually hears her dead God’s voice – who isn’t dead anymore. Jesus who died still speaks to us. The Holy Spirit guides and directs us. God is in His holy heaven, let all the earth be silent says Habakkuk. Here he speaks to Joseph in a dream. He spoke to Elijah in a gentle breeze. Je spoke to Zacharius and Mary through the angel Gabriel. Paul met God on the road to Damascus. He speaks to us through the Scriptures, through nature, and in our heart. There’s a song I used to sing in youth group that says, “Don’t try to tell me that God is dead, He woke me up this morning. Don’t try to tell me that God is dead I talked with Him today. He opened up my blinded eyes and set me on my way. Don’t try to tell me that God is dead I walked with Him today!” Have you heard from God lately? I was reading a short autobiography of the man who led us in music at the clergy conference. He went through a period of depression in his life, and the thing that turned it around for him was the discipline of reading his Bible every day. Listen for God today. And if you do hear from Him…

Verse 24 – 25 – Do the God thing. Most of the time the right thing is the God thing, but sometimes He leads us in a different way, a different direction. There was the prophet who was told to marry a prostitute as a picture of Israel. Remember the Judges, and Peter and Paul? When God calls us out of the ordinary, He always equips us to do the job. Missionaries like the Goforths and Adoniram Judson, and Hudson Taylor, and the ones in our denomination today – all called to specific lifelong tasks. For us it may be as simple as to love our enemies, to bless those that persecute us. In the whole Biblical record we never hear Joseph speak; but we do see him obedient to what God has given him: to be a father to the Son of God.

Paul writes that Jesus did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped but emptied himself and taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, He humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. What an amazing Savior. He didn’t consider His rights first, didn’t cling to what He could gain, what He should have, who He should be, how others should think of Him.

It sounds an awful lot like someone else I know; someone we have been talking about today! Someone else who didn’t say, “I got rights, it’s my decision;” But instead lived a life that said, “I will follow your will and your way, O God.” No, we don’t read words of Joseph. There are no beautiful songs or thought provoking stories that begin, “And Joseph said.” But there is one powerful thing--a Son; a Son, who although He was fully God, was also fully man; a Son, who needed a father to guide Him, to point Him in the right direction. Jesus needed Joseph.

And we need more people like Joseph in this world. Not just the honorable Joseph who was going to do the right thing by kindly and quietly divorcing Mary. No, we need the Joseph who had the dream and chose to obey. Those who don’t worry about what other people think, those who are less concerned about themselves and more concerned about others, dads who take the time to listen, to love, to train, moms who are patient and understanding and willing, people who are willing to go where God calls. There may be no quotes in a book somewhere that you or I have made. No newspapers may write about us, no interviews on TV, no awards or accolades may be done in our name--but I would like to think that, like Joseph, it doesn’t matter. I am walking with Jesus. Just like we can catch glimmers of who Joseph was in the man that Jesus grew up to be, people should be able to catch glimmers of who Jesus is in the parents, the spouses, the children, the students, and the friends that we are.

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