On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast for all his servants, and lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. He restored the chief cupbearer to his cupbearing, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand; but the chief baker he hanged, just as Joseph had interpreted to them. Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
We don’t know what crimes, perceived or actual, had led to the cupbearer and baker being imprisoned. It may have just been at the whim of the all-powerful Pharaoh. One night in prison they both have dreams, and when Joseph visits them in the morning he can see that they are troubled. They tell Joseph their dreams, he interprets them, and in three days they have proved true. Both are ‘lifted up’, but one is restored to their position and the other is hanged.
Joseph specifically asked for the chief cupbearer to remember him, and make his case to Pharaoh, if the dream proved true, but the restored official forgets and Joseph is left to languish in prison for two more years.
Such ingratitude from the cupbearer! He is restored to all of his previous duties and privileges, but doesn’t speak a word for the man who relieved his troubles whilst in prison. Perhaps he was too excited, or all too aware that the whims of Pharaoh could have had him hanging by the neck rather than the baker.
The circle of favours and obligations, of scratching backs, is how things get done. I help you, so in turn you help me. Sometimes it can be incredibly transactional, but often it is just how we naturally engage with each other. Showing gratitude is a way in which we build relationships, we build trust, and create community.
Eternal Father, who remembers all, we give thanks that no-one is ever forgotten by you. Within your heart every sparrow that falls is held in Love’s embrace, every hair on every head is known in Knowledge’s library.
Divine Presence, help us to always be grateful, even when that requires great strength, peace or hope. For the beauty, complexity, and harshness of life we will give thanks. We give thanks that we can be awestruck by Creation around us, dumbfounded by its intricacy, and overwhelmed by its ambiguousness.
We give thanks for the blessing of life, both what we see as good and bad, and everything in-between. Amen
The Rev’d David Coaker is Minister of Leyland and Penwortham URCs