Rev. Eric Dillenbeck
Sunday, July 15, 2012
Genesis 37:1-28

Genesis 37:1-28

“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 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 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, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there 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.

I have a dream today.”

Martin Luther King Jr. was a man who had a powerful dream.  He was a man who was not afraid to share that dream and to work for that dream!  He understood the power of dreams and the ways God moves in and through them.  I would bet, as he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on that hot day in August of 1963, that he also understood how dreams can inspire people while at the same time be the cause of so much fear, so much discord.

This was not a talent that our dear Joseph seemed to have. He did not seem to have a clue how other people felt.  He was the favored son, of the favored wife of Jacob.  He was the 2nd youngest, but the story tells us he was the apple of his father’s eye.   This boy was showered with affection and gifts while his older brothers of another mother were expected to do all the work.  And when he was finally sent out to work with his brothers the first thing he does is bring back a bad report about them to his father.  And then, to top things off, he starts having these dreams; these dreams that he apparently can not keep to himself.

First, he dreams that he and his brothers were in the fields harvesting wheat when his sheaf rose higher than the rest and their sheaves bowed down to his.  Of course his brothers are going to hate him when he shares this dream with them.  I find myself getting annoyed with Joseph and I’m not his brother.   But Joseph does not stop dreaming.  And either unaware of the animosity, or in spite of it, Joseph shares the second dream.  In this one the sun, the moon and the eleven stars all bow down to him.  At this point, even his greatest admirer, his father, rebukes him.

I understand that Joseph is a celebrated ancestor of our faith, but we have to admit, he was obnoxious.  It was easy for his brothers to hate him.  It was easy for his brothers to hate his dreams.

In some way, the brothers perceived that these dreams threatened the natural order of things.  They threatened they way things had always been, the way things were supposed to be.  The brothers assumed the dreams were about Joseph’s ambition and some kind of preferential treatment. Can you blame them?  This is how Jacob dealt with Joseph all the time, so they had no other frame of reference.  Joseph’s brothers want to kill the dream, to stop it from becoming a reality.  While we might not be driven to kill someone because of a dream, this kind of angst is not beyond our experience.

It’s a dangerous thing to dream.  It’s a dangerous thing to share a dream or vision for the future that challenges the way things are now.  These kinds of dreams can make people uncomfortable, they can make people drive their feet into the ground and do unreasonable things.  In Joseph’s time his brothers were unreasonable.  They contemplated killing him, but ended up throwing him into a pit and selling him into slavery, thinking this would be enough to put an end to the dream.  James Earl Ray took the shot that he believed would put an end to Martin Luther King Junior’s dream.

And if those dreams had only been about those two men the story, and this sermon, might have ended here.  But the good news of the Gospel is that God’s dreams for humanity are bigger than the wrong actions of misguided individuals.

God does not appear in Joseph’s dreams yet we know God’s hand was directing the action.  Joseph’s dreams were God’s dreams and God’s dreams do not die in some pit, or wither on the slave train to Egypt.  Martin’s dreams were God’s dreams and God’s dreams don’t end because of a rifle.

Instead, as God has always done, God uses the perfect messes we create to work out God’s dreams and visions for the world.  In the remaining chapters of Genesis we see how the actions of Joseph’s brothers were redeemed by God to work out God’s plan of salvation.  And in the years since Martin’s death we have seen how God has used his life to inspire change in our world.

But God has not stopped dreaming and we have not stopped dreaming.  As we live out our faith on this corner in Cleveland Heights we have to work together to discern God’s dream for us today.  But sometimes as we seek to discern together God’s dream and vision for us we might get uncomfortable and want to dig in and resist the dream because it calls us away from how things have always been done.