Click 12-07-15 The COAT of Many Colors – Problems of a Dreamer to listen to scriptures and sermon.
Old Testament Lesson: Genesis 37:1-11
Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves and many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him. Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed. There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words. He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, “What kind of dream is this that you have had? Shall we indeed come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to the ground before you?” So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
Old Testament Lesson: Genesis 37:12-28
Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.” So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron. He came to Shechem, and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” “I am seeking my brothers,” he said; “tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, “Let us go to Dothan.’ ” So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.
Today we are beginning a new sermon series called The COAT of Many Colors. Clearly from our scripture lessons today, it is going to be a sermon series based off the biblical story of Joseph. This story truly has been one of my favorite stories since my childhood. This story is so much a part of me that when I was young, about 4 or 5 years old, I was made a coat of many colors and I wore that coat everywhere.
About 90% of the pictures from that time frame had me and this coat. This story of Joseph, undoubtedly has help formed who I understand I am today and is a large part of my own leadership as I continue to seek God’s will for my life and the life of this church. And so, in honor of the coat that I wore many years ago, my grandmother made for me this robe this past Christmas and I have been wanting to wear it, but felt it was necessary to give this explanation to you before I did so.
Enough though about myself and this new robe of many colors, and more now into beginning this series. We have here the story of Joseph, a story that in many ways parallels the story of Jesus. One of the ancient arts that recently has been re-developing is the lost art of storytelling. Joseph’s life, the way at least it was written in the book of Genesis truly is a story. One that has a plot, conflict, setting, suspense, characters and a climax. It may mean that as we listen to this story, our scripture readings for this series will be longer, but listen to them as someone listening to a story that is being told. Listen to it, even if you have read it a hundred times, as if this is the first time ever being told the story. This series that we will be working our way through is going to be a series that is broken up into two parts. We will begin this series today and hear from it for two weeks, and then we will take a two week break from it, and come back to finish the last 3 weeks in August. Although this is not the best practice for telling stories, it is the way it is going to happen due to the life of the church the remaining of this summer. Now to the story.
Joseph, the youngest son of Jacob also known as Israel, was Jacob’s favorite son as he was the one given in his old age. And a special gift had been given to Joseph because of his father’s love for him: in the Gk. A robe with long sleeves, and although the Hebrew is uncertain had often been translated as a coat with many colors. This sign, in many ways echoes the earlier covenant that had been made with Noah with a rainbow as it holds together all the colors. It is a sign of Love, as in Noah’s story a love for his creation, and in this story, Jacob’s love for his son Joseph. But this love of Joseph did not come without a cost. Joseph was a part of a rather large family you could say. At the time of the beginning of this story, where we are at least today, Joseph had a biological mother, a father, 3 others mothers, 10 brothers and 1 sister. I tell you this, because as the youngest in my own family of two brothers, the youngest in experience and in a patriarchal society such as the one we have here in the scriptures, often does not leave the youngest to be the one chosen for greatness. It has been and still throughout most of the world, the oldest son who receives the birthright from the family, and it is the oldest son who is often expected to step up to take care of the family and carry on the family line of work. And this is our first lesson in this wonderful story we call “the COAT of many colors.” God does not work within the social norms of our world. God does not call the ones who society expects to step up. God’s call comes to people of a wide assortment of demographics. As we look throughout scripture, God calls murders, calls the young and naïve, calls the old and wise, calls even the youngest of a family of 12. As I look at this, what I have come to know and realize, is that God uses people in leadership with all sorts of levels of knowledge and gifts. I have heard time and time again, yes even from within the walls of Red Valley, we just have so many followers and very few leaders. What can we do to help people understand that they don’t have to “know it all” in order to lead in a bible study. I believe what we must do to make this understanding known throughout our congregation is take a lesson here from Joseph and realize that Joseph was not a leader when his story began. He was not the person who we will come to know later in this story from the beginning. It was a process that began his life. A process of learning to trust in God and not in his own ability to lead or in his own wisdom. And with the understanding of it being a process, begin to allow people to step up, even with the understanding that they may not know fully what they are doing. I told her yesterday, a bit in jest, that I would use her as a sermon example, but let me take a moment to use Nikki here as an example. Nikki is a new believer, just first being baptized this past Easter, as in just a few months ago. She admitted to me her fear of being a liturgist today, and yet in the face of that fear of this form of leadership, Nikki stepped up to the challenge acknowledging that she may not be at the beginning the perfect liturgist and still did it. We, as a Church must allow our leaders to say I don’t know the answer to that question or know exactly what I am doing, but I will find out for you and I will try. I know for a fact that as I am in my early years of ministry I have told people quite often, “You know that is a great question, let me see if I can research that and get you what I have found out.” So as we begin to tell this tale, let us first take away this nugget of understanding that God’s call in Joseph’s life and maybe in your life today does not have to begin with perfection, but rather just a willing heart to say Yes Lord, and I don’t know it all.
So as the story goes, or should I say begins, Joseph begins to dream dreams. These dreams were not just the old dream of falling or the dream of going to test day and forgetting your pencil. But the dreams that Joseph had were quite significant and full of symbols. And let me be the first to say, a dreamer: one who looks to the future and has a high goal set before them, is one who is often looked upon with disdain. A dreamer is hardly ever, if ever, looked well upon. Not only in the case of Joseph, but let’s take a short walk through history. Martin Luther and the Catholic Church, Dietrich Bonheoffer and Nazi Germany, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Civil Rights Movement. He even named his dream in his “I Have a Dream” Speech. Most dreamers however give their life for the dream in which they live for. Martin Luther – excommunicated from the Catholic Church and had to hide away secretly for years as he was sought after. During such time he translated the Bible for the first time into the common tongue that was spoken (German). Dietrich Bonheoffer died by execution of hanging. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – shot April 4th 1968. Joseph in our story today shows us the cost of being a dreamer. Joseph tells of his dreams to his brothers, and his large family. His brothers were angered by his Father’s love for Joseph, and now, because of these dreams, some were ready to kill him. And in one way, Joseph did lose his life for his dreams as we see that he is traded off to a foreign trade company, and with his brothers’ hope, to never be seen again.
So what is it about these Dreamers that people in this story and throughout our history continue to hate. My assumption is: that Dreamers are those within our societies and organizations who look beyond what has always been acceptable and look for other better ways of being, and because they promote those newer ways are often disliked and unaccepted. The Dreamer is hated because of a simple 6 letter word: Change. But, at the same time, the dreamer is always needed and continually as they are looked at in hindsight is often looked at with admiration. So who in our congregation here at Red Valley is being called to be dreamers? I know throughout my time here, I have been hearing ideas of visions and dreams of being the Missional Church, the church that responds during disasters, the church being able to provide shelter, food, and Air conditioning during times of crisis within our area. Dreams of being a people who are senders of missionaries and doers of the Word. A year ago we wrote down dreams of being a church overflowing with people and with all things God needs us to do, dreams of diversity, dreams of discipleship, some even with large dreams of a folk service on Sat. Evenings, a multi-level education building, a youth pastor, one, two or even needing three assistant pastors. I have read of previous dreams of being a church that “Welcomes all God’s children, nurture each other through Christ, and go in love to serve our community”. As I looked through past files of dreams and visions from Red Valley, almost all of our visions for Red Valley as of what looks to be mid 2000’s have been met. There are still a few ideas that are in there that need or could be met if we desired to have that as our dreams for the future. But as I close today, I want to encourage us to not let what holds back a dreamer be a stumbling block for being the dreamers God’s desires us to be. There are many reasons why someone would not want to “Rock the boat” per se. But if we, are striving for the kingdom of God, which I pray that we are, I hope this is not it. I am not done changing, I know that we are not yet the kingdom God desires and so for us to get there, for us to be open to God’s will, we must be open to Change and and to the dreamers. As we will come back to, repentance is the first act of change that is needed. Repentance only offered through God’s grace of Christ’s sacrifice.
As I close, you may be thinking, but I am only one person. I am only one woman, or one man, or even one child. But I’d like to close with my favorite part of this section of the story.
So Israel said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron. He came to Shechem, and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” “I am seeking my brothers,” he said; “tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, “Let us go to Dothan.’
This one man, who happened to be in Shechem see Joseph wandering in the field looking, and he alone sends him to where they had seen him, and because of his one action as one individual puts into action this long course of events that leads us to his enslavement, which leads to the Hebrews being in Egypt, which leads to Moses, which leads to the 10 commandments, which leads so on and so forth. One man, in sending Joseph on to where his brothers had moved puts into action all of this. Be a dreamer. And as Ghandi said, “Be the change you desire to see.”