[Genesis 50:15-21 / Romans 12:14-21 / Luke 6:36-42]
People loved by God, in today’s collect we prayed that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by God’s governance that His Church would joyfully serve Him – and here’s the phrase we need to think about – “in all godly quietness.”
What is this “godly quietness” for which we ask? It is the peace of heart, the quiet and calm that can rule in our hearts, even in the midst of the most difficult and trying times. The peace that passes understanding and that doesn’t fret and get all worked up, but instead entrusts itself into the hands of God. Godly quietness of heart is one of the fruits of faith. To get a handle on it, think of today’s Old Testament reading.
Joseph – all those dreams from his youth, everyone bowing down to him, honoring him. God had told him that’s how it would be. And what happened? Betrayed by his brothers, sold as a slave, an exile who then is falsely accused and, because he would not compromise with wickedness, was tossed into jail, and there he was promptly forgotten by those to whom he did nothing but good. And at many points along that journey, I wonder if he struggled to hold onto the promises that God had made so many years earlier. Could it possibly be that God really meant them? Why then was He allowing such awful things to befall Joseph time and time again? But in true worship, which is “the exercises of faith struggling with despair,” [Tractatus 44] Joseph held to the promise, and in peace of heart, in godly quietness, he sought to serve in whatever new position he found himself.
“Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and He will exalt you in due time, casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.” Think of how Joseph experienced the truth of those words! Joseph humbled himself and in godly quietness cast his cares on the Lord, and look at what happened! That moment came when in a single day he went from being Pharaoh’s prisoner to being the Prime Minister of Egypt. And he went on serving, saving the lives of countless Egyptians, and yes, of his own family, who did indeed come and kneel before him as his servants.
But if godly quiet reigned in Joseph’s heart, fear reigned in the hearts of his brothers who had so ill-treated him. “What if he pays us back?” they wonder when they see that their father Jacob has died. “What if Joseph decides to get even now?” How little they understood their brother’s heart! And so they come and plead with him for forgiveness one more time.
Joseph speaks those astonishing words: “Do not fear. Am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” He spoke out of the godly quiet of his heart. He did not excuse their wickedness, but invited them to behold the miracle of God: that our Lord knows how to take the evil and sin we suffer at the hands of others and even do ourselves and in sheer grace, turn it into blessing for us and also for others.
Joseph, of course, was a type of our Lord. In Christ’s divine human heart there reigned this quietness for which we pray. His trust in His Father was unshakeable, and so He would urge us to be merciful just as Father is merciful. It was His trust in His Father’s final plan and vindication of Him that led Him to call to us: “Judge not and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you – more than you ask, desire or deserve.” He’s not inviting you there into anything else than the life He lived. He’s reaching it to you to be your life. A life where the godly quietness of heart that trusts the Father’s plan, knows that He is the master of turning ill to good, and making evil and hatred serve the designs of His gracious kingdom.
And so the Cross. For our Lord too was betrayed by his brothers, sold as a slave, wrongfully arrested, and then condemned to die, despite His innocence. And He willingly accepted all this in utter godly quietness of heart – the quietness of heart that comes from submission to the will of the Father. “Not my will, but thine be done” He had prayed, and then in peace had gone forth to drink the cup His Father reached Him. And just like with Joseph, a grand reversal took place. Through the very act of His betrayal, suffering, and death, our new Joseph was raised from death in an incorruptible and immortal body not to rule some measly piece of earthly real estate but the whole of the universe, and instead of hating us for what we did, He uses it to forgive us and love us, and He says to us too: “Do not fear, I will provide for you and your little ones.” Joseph gave them grain. Jesus gives us the living bread of heaven, His own true body and blood – the body and blood that were on the cross for us, crying out for our forgiveness there for all the times that we have shamefully treated one another, betraying each other, hating each other and wishing each other ill. His body and blood cry out for our forgiveness still. They speak into our hearts the unfathomable truth that despite our wretchedness and sin, we are the beloved of the Father in His Son and that His will for us is to share with Him a life that never ends, the life of forgiveness and mercy.
The Eucharist comes to us as the gift of godly quietness. It frees us to live in that forgiveness ourselves. Like our Lord, no need to avenge ourselves, looking out for ourselves. That is God’s job. Instead, the joy that Paul exhorts us to in the Epistle: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them…. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to what is honorable in the sight of all…. Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Which is all to say, O Lord, grant us to serve You joyfully in godly quietness, to trust that our lives are governed by You and that all things are indeed working together to bring us blessing – especially when we are called to suffer for Your name. Then we are utterly free in our Jesus to love and bless, forgive and give to all who mistreat us, all who hate and seek our ruin. In our Jesus, by the strength of His Spirit, we are set free to love them and to seek God’s richest blessing on their lives. Give us, O Lord, this godly quietness of heart to trust in You at all times and in all places, for You are merciful and You love Your whole creation, and we Your creatures glorify You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.