Last week we met the dreamer Joseph who had just been sold into slavery by his brothers because his dreams were too big. It felt at that time that his dreams were lost. In today’s scripture, we catch up with Joseph about 20 years later. In the intervening years, he was a servant in the household of a high-ranking captain, got thrown back into jail for refusing to indulge in hanky-panky with the captain’s wife and languished there for about 10 years. During that time, he never lost hope and never lost sight of his dreams. In fact, even though he didn’t have dreams himself he became an interpreter of other’s dreams. A skill that came in handy when the Pharaoh started having bad dreams himself. Joseph was taken out of prison to interpret those dreams and soon found himself governor of Egypt and responsible for preparing them to outlast a devastating famine that he predicted would envelop the region in 7 years’ time. He was sold into slavery at 17 and made the governor of Egypt at 30. It would seem like his lost dreams had been found and fulfilled, but the story isn’t done yet.
After the 7 years of plenty, the whole region went into a time of famine that also lasted 7 years. The people of Egypt were fine, thanks to Josephs careful planning and leadership. But the countries around them, specifically Canaan, the land of Josephs family were hit hard. To make a long story short, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy food, after many more adventures they were finally reunited with their brother who had recognized them at once, but whom they failed to recognize. We find them now, in that moment, as lost dreams are recounted and the boldness of God’s dreams are unveiled. Hear now, Genesis 45:1-15.
45 Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. 3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.
4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 9 Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. 10 You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11 I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’ 12 And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. 13 You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” 14 Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.
May God bless to our understanding the words that we hear today.
Will you pray with me please?
When we first met Joseph, he was a cocky 17-year-old boy. Today we find him close to 40 and the second most powerful person in Egypt. I have always been a little amazed that Joseph was as benevolent with his brothers as he was, how well he weathered what seemed to be the dashing of his dreams again and again and again and how he was able to see God revealed through the bold dreams of God.
One of the interesting things about the story of Joseph is that nowhere in all of this does God appear to Joseph to reveal a vision or to offer insight. God is working behind the scenes, working through and among human plans. And Joseph seems to get that. He never asks” why” or wonders where God is, he does not ask God for a sign to assure him that everything will be all right, he is just able to hold onto the promise of God’s covenant, that God will be his God. He explains that all to his brothers in one beautiful sentence. “God sent me before you to be the bearer of the promise in order that we all might live.”
At the center of the Joseph story are the dreams, which turn out to be God’s way of continuing the covenant promises that began with Abraham. The dream would still take time to come to fruition, and it would still have its bumps in the road, but we find assurance that God is at work in the midst of it all. In our present world with so many broken dreams and shattered hopes, that is good news.
God’s bold dreams…I find that fascinating and comforting to think about God working behind the scenes, through and among human plans.
My intention today was to think about and talk about the bold dreams that each one of us has and that God has for us, something kind of nice and personal, but I got pulled into a bigger bold dream the last few weeks, it’s a bold dream, a dream that feels a little lost right now, a dream that I think we as individuals, as people of faith, certainly as a nation are wrestling with, but I truly feel that God is a part of that dream and that is the dream of justice and equality for all people.
My family is a family of color, African-American, Pakistani, Myanmar, Ugandan, Dutch, we hit the color palette from fair white to deep black. And my bold dream was that this was how the rest of the world was living, together as a family. My friends of all genders and gender combinations have been getting married this year and in my bold dream I thought the rest of the world was as delighted in their love as I was. I have friends who worship in a variety of places on Sunday morning, on Friday evening, on Saturday or not at all and in my bold dream I thought everyone celebrated the freedom for their friends who did the same.
Maybe it comes from my place of white privilege but I thought we were living the dream. Not only God’s dream for the unity of creation but also the one that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King dreamed for this great nation 54 years ago. And if we are going to talk about Bold Dreams, well his was a bold one that in many ways made this nation sit up and listen and dare to dream along with him. I would like to share in part some of his dream today because it feels like an important dream to remember
“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."…
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama…, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
Tomorrow is the 54th anniversary of Dr. Kings historic speech and I do not believe that the dream is lost. I do believe that God is working behind the scenes touching the hearts of many to take a stand, once again, against bigotry and injustice and I want to be a part of that dream, I want to add my voice and my commitment to that dream of unity which is why tomorrow morning I am joining with clergy from around the United States to march again for peace and for justice and for equality. Our bold dream is more extensive now because our dream is to let freedom ring for the day when all God’s children, black and white, latino and asian, Jew and Protestant, Catholic and Muslim, Agnostic and Atheist, straight and queer, gay and lesbian, bi, transgendered and gender fluid, citizen and immigrant, men, women and children, young and old will be able to join hands singing We have overcome, we have overcome today!