Listening for God

December 6th, 2011

By Laura Lehman Amstutz, MDiv ’06, Seminary Communication Coordinator and Seminary Admissions Associate

Laura Lehman Amstutz, Eastern Mennonite Seminary

Laura Lehman Amstutz, Eastern Mennonite Seminary

Scripture: Matthew 1:18-24

This story of Joseph is a challenge to move beyond our rights and instead participate in God’s work in the world.

Joseph would have been well within his rights to not only divorce Mary, but to stone her, if he chose.

When I imagine Joseph, I imagine a quiet, strong man, who has a deep sense of right and wrong. He was what we would call a religious person. He is described as righteous, which meant he followed all the Jewish laws. He was a son of David, with a long and proud heritage. Rather than publically humiliate Mary for what looks like a pre-marital indiscretion he makes plans to privately break their engagement. He was not doing anything wrong; in fact he was choosing a compassionate route.

And yet God breaks in and invites him to do even more.

And Joseph’s life is changed forever. He goes from doing what is within his right, to doing the will of God.

God did not need humans to participate in bringing about Emmanuel, God with us. I’m sure that God could have found a way to bring salvation that did not require the willing participation of humans. And yet God chooses to involve humans in this miracle.

I wonder sometimes if I do what is right or righteous (as Joseph’s intended divorce of Mary would have been), without paying attention God. I follow the rules and yet am blind and deaf to how God is moving.

I’ll admit that I’ve never quite had the angels-in-a-dream experience that Joseph had, but when I pay attention, sometimes I realize that what God is asking me to do is more than just right and righteous, but is true participation of God’s action in the world.

As individuals and communities of faith, do we do follow the rules and do what is within our rights, or do we truly seek the will of God?


Emmanuel, God with us, help us to be alert to your work in the world, and participate, like Mary and Joseph, not only in doing what is right, but it doing your will. Amen.