I (and Samson) have probably walked past this little shrine a hundred times. It’s about fifty feet off the road in an undeveloped lot next to a drainage ditch around the block from my house. I always knew there was something there on the tree, but couldn’t quite see what. Today we decided to take a closer look.
It’s there in memory of Justin, a twenty-three year old young man. A couple of American flags suggest he may have died in military service of our country. A rosary lets me know someone still prays for him. A solar-powered angel-light stands vigil at night. A small valentine sits right next to a small stone reminding us of the presence of angels. A small sign reminds us to count our blessings.
I’ve seen plenty of little shrines at intersections and curves in the road where crashes have taken the lives of loved ones. When words fail us, small crosses, stuffed animals, pictures, flowers and flags announce to the world, “We miss this person a lot.” These carefully erected shrines express a grief in ways that words can’t.
There is almost always a cross at the center of those shrines. A cross that reminds us of Jesus’ horrible death. A cross that reminds us of Jesus’ victory over death on the third day. The church may not be filled with all those who believe, trust or grasp for hope in Christ. But they are out there. They say it with a memorial that speaks volumes about their loved one, their faith and their Lord.
“And Reuben said to [his brothers], ‘Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him’—that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father. “(Genesis 37:22)
“Then Judah said to his brothers, ‘What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood?’” (Genesis 37:26)
“Then they took Joseph’s robe and slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood.” (Genesis 37:31)
Joseph’s eleven brothers are ready to kill him, throw him in a pit and tell everyone that a wild animal had eaten him (Genesis 37:18-20). They are so jealous and so tired of hearing about Joseph’s grandiose dreams that they are ready to murder him! And you thought your family was dysfunctional!
Reuben, the oldest and supposedly responsible, begs them not to shed any blood. He wanted to come back and rescue him later. Judah has second thoughts, too. Would it really do them any good to kill Joseph? Instead they stage his death, sell their brother to a passing caravan, and soak his robe in the blood of a goat. This would explain his disappearance to their father. A little blood is all it takes to solve their problems. They’ve gotten rid of Joseph and gotten away with his disappearance. Would they be able to sleep at night? Well, that’s a different story.
A little goat’s blood will also save their skin a few years down the road. When they desperately show up in Egypt, Joseph will save his family by selling them some food. Good thing he was still alive!
You never know when that person you don’t like, can’t stand or even hate will be someone who will help you out someday. God has a way of using folks to provide, protect and preserve our lives. They despised and rejected Jesus, didn’t they? And he’s the very one who saved their lives!
Thank you for all the people who help me out Lord, especially your son, Jesus. Amen.