Character Roles

Today’s readings: Psalms 96; 146, 2 Samuel 23:13-17b, 2 John 1:1-13, John 2:1-11

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The gospel of Matthew tells us an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to stay with Mary because the child she was bearing, though not his, was conceived from the Holy Spirit.  Joseph has two more dreams in which angels tell him to flee to and later return from Egypt, and goes searching for a 12-year old Jesus who has wandered off to the temple. After that Joseph is absent except for a few passing references to Jesus’s parents. We don’t get to read much about Joseph, but we can infer a good deal about his character: he is kind, faithful, and trusts the Lord even under duress.

In cinematic terms we might think of Joseph as a supporting player. Joseph isn’t the quirky best friend or really even the love interest. He’s more than a sidekick, but when he fills his function in the story, he fades into the background. Like the movie industry, life often tells us we aren’t successful unless we get top billing. But there’s a reason supporting actors and actresses (and technical artists, costume designers, etc.) have their own award categories: they may not get all the glory but without them the story might not even be possible. For every star with her or his name over the title, many others – sometimes numbering in the hundreds – had to perform their jobs well.

Maybe WWJD should stand for “What would Joseph do?” Jesus did whatever it took to fulfill his role as messiah. Only one of us gets that part. Joseph, on the other hand, had a much more attainable role. He humbly did as the Lord asked, and supported the mission of Jesus in a human but vital way. That we can do. That we must do.

Most working actors never land a starring role or command a seven-figure fee, but they are the bedrock of the industry. When we act with Joseph-like character, we are the bedrock of the ministry. We hone our craft of mercy, kindness, and justice not for the fame, but for the love of the work.

Comfort: God loves supporting players as much as stars.

Challenge: The next time you feel down about your contributions to the world, ask yourself whether you are judging by the world’s superficial standards, or by God’s eternal ones.

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