In the Lectionary

August 20, Ordinary 20A (Genesis 45:1–15; Psalm 133)

The challenges to unity are great. The reward of unity is tremendous.

It echoed throughout my childhood: my mother’s exasperated voice, entreating my brother and me to stop our constant fighting before it cut years from her harried life. She was right on one of those assertions and wrong on another: my brother and I did indeed fight a lot, but he and I will gather peacefully in Hamburg, Germany, this year to celebrate her 80th birthday with her, so she was happily wrong about the life-shortening consequences of that bickering.

Having siblings can be a uniquely rich experience, but growing up with those same siblings can be hard. Very hard.

In many languages, including English and biblical Hebrew, the same word is used for biological siblings as for those who are deeply united in a cause, such as fellow Israelites serving the Lord or fellow Christian believers in the New Testament. The biblical text contains ample testimony to both the pitfalls and the thrills of forging that outward union into an inward unity.