John for reading Genesis 37 to get us started here, about
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. 3Now 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.* 4But when his brothers
saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers,
they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.
5 Once Joseph had a dream,
and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even
more. 6He said to them, ‘Listen to this dream that I
dreamed. 7There 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.’ 8His
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.
9 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.’ 10But 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?’ 11So his brothers were jealous of
him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
Some of us
remember our dreams and some do not. I’ve always had an ability
to remember great details of my dreams at night and have kept a
dream journal at different points in my life to help me remember
more details and also to reflect upon their meaning. I think
our dreams have meaning. Now, lying next to me at night is
Kelly, who also dreams, but can’t remember them very often and
doesn’t think they hold much significance even when he does.
been pregnant there have been a lot more details – some wild and
crazy dreams, some that seem so real – others that tell me a
truth(like the baby’s sex) – others that I’m Natalie Portman
missing her flight. I find myself asking myself each morning –
just like Joseph and Jacob and Pharaoh’s servants – what the
hell does that even mean??? Am I revealing some deeper truth?
Or just sorting through the day’s images? What was my brain
doing? Where is God in my unconscious mind?
break into small groups and start a debate as to the meaning and
purpose of our sleep cycles and what it means when we dream.
Let’s save that for coffee hour.
their intended meaning, Dreams are utilized a lot in both the OT
and NT – Job, Samuel, the prophets Jeremiah, Joel, Daniel all
mention dreams and visions. Joseph, in Matthew has an angel
appear to him in a dream that helps him to act. Pilate’s wife
is said to have had a dream about Jesus and she instructs Pilate
to let him go.
We are not
going to settle this morning what Dreams mean and in reading
Genesis 37, we don’t know what Joseph’s dreams mean. It’s
UNCLEAR. A reflection of the present –how hate surrounds him?
A prediction of the future – that he will come to be Prime
Minister of Egypt and save his brothers from famine? At this
point we don’t know –
What I can
say today - I believe there are important themes in Joseph’s
story that are relevant to the lives of all people – people of
faith and those who do not claim to be so.
Fun Fact #1: The story of Joseph and his family is really a
novella, that most scholars now believe has been inserted at the
end of the book of Genesis. 13 chapters in all. Its placement
at the end of Genesis serves the Hebrew people in great ways.
It helps explain the movement of the Hebrews from Israel into
Egypt, where the book of Exodus begins. Explains how they got
But on a more
spiritual note, this novella develops a new idea of how God
works in our lives. Fun Fact #2:
This story is
not just about dreams revealing the future. The story as a
whole reflects a new way in which God works in and through
people. Up to now, in Genesis, people who dream or who
converse directly with God: think Noah, think Abram, think
Jacob, Joseph’s father - they all experience God’s direct
intervention – a sort of “this is the way, I’m gonna make it
happen”. Genesis 28 is where Jacob’s dreams are told – this
dream is God’s way of telling Jacob what to do when he wakes up.
Joseph too is
a dreamer. But The people involved in this story do not simply
perform the will of God – in the story of Jacob’s sons, there is
a distinct turn. Genesis Fun Fact #3: Joseph is the first
person who is not specifically a prophet, a king, but a common
person with spiritual gifts – gifts that he must use everyday.
And not just Joseph - each person in the story is born with
gifts, abilities, and independence (choice is a big deal in this
story), and all play a role in revealing God’s will. And you
know where there is freedom of choice there will be unexpected
turns and twists in the plot, obstacles. And God is hardly
mentioned – he is way more passive than ever before.
this story has a different interpretation of the dream, ranging
in emotional response – The Brothers are angry at a perceived
arrogance in Joseph. They aren’t entirely wrong – Joseph is the
youngest son of 12 and is said to be the most loved of the 12.
The brothers are already jealous because of this repeatedly
stated love of the father for the youngest. And then of course
the early mention of Joseph giving Jacob “a bad report” on his
brothers – shows he’s a bit of a tattletale. Joseph is
partially responsible for his “black sheep” status because of
his outspoken-ness - and his own interpretation of the dreams.
You see he doesn’t say he knows what they mean, but does think
it’s all about him. That’s what I do when I have a dream too –
think it’s all about me. <Natalie Portman, right?> Joseph’s
father, wants to keep peace among his sons, but does wonder what
possible significance these dreams have. Well Jacob does not
keep the peace, the hatred grows so strong that they will not
even speak to Joseph anymore – not even a good morning or a
shalom. They decide to kill the dreamer to keep his dreams from
coming true. Not what Joseph was expecting. “Killing the
dreamer” – isn’t that an upsetting turn of phrase – sometimes we
hold so tightly onto our own dreams we sabotage another’s dreams
(consciously or unconsciously). Or consider how our own fears,
on any level, can self-sabotage a dream.
I was with
the Eugene Progressive Clergy this week and listening to some
representatives from Occupy Eugene – and one woman commented how
a couple of new gangs, emigrating from California, are now in
Eugene and are upset at the gang culture of Eugene – some gangs
in Eugene have of successfully transitioned OUT of violent,
criminal acts, left them behind – while salvaging the important
values of security, protection and caring for one another like
family. And this notion is a threat to the old school gang
culture that by any means necessary, they plan kill the dreams
of these freshly reformed communities – it boggles the mind to
consider how much energy is invested in hurting another on their
way to success.
Joseph though – The killing of this dreamer takes a back burner
and the brothers decide to only tell the father he is dead, and
sell Joseph as a slave, make a little money on the side. Over
the years Joseph is sold from slave owner to slave owner – and
though he is an upright person, fulfills his duties as a slave
responsibly and treats others fairly and ethically, he is
eventually falsely accused of a crime and put in jail.
dream might have meant to him at first, wherever he thought his
life would be at this point - he seems far from it now. But
even in jail he models to the jailers and other prisoners his
strength of spirit and uses his gifts and abilities in whatever
circumstances – and becomes a dream interpreter.
time after this, the cupbearer of
the king of Egypt and his baker
offended their lord the king of
Egypt. 2Pharaoh was angry with his
two officers, the chief cupbearer
and the chief baker, 3and he put
them in custody in the house of the
captain of the guard, in the prison
where Joseph was confined. 4The
captain of the guard charged Joseph
with them, and he waited on them;
and they continued for some time in
custody. 5One night they both
dreamed—the cupbearer and the baker
of the king of Egypt, who were
confined in the prison—each his own
dream, and each dream with its own
meaning. 6When Joseph came to them
in the morning, he saw that they
were troubled. 7So he asked
Pharaoh’s officers, who were with
him in custody in his master’s
house, ‘Why are your faces downcast
today?’ 8They said to him, ‘We have
had dreams, and there is no one to
interpret them.’ And Joseph said to
them, ‘Do not interpretations belong
to God? Please tell them to me.’
So the chief cupbearer told his
dream to Joseph, and said to him,
‘In my dream there was a vine before
me, 10and on the vine there were
three branches. As soon as it
budded, its blossoms came out and
the clusters ripened into grapes.
11Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand; and
I took the grapes and pressed them
into Pharaoh’s cup, and placed the
cup in Pharaoh’s hand.’ 12Then
Joseph said to him, ‘This is its
interpretation: the three branches
are three days; 13within three days
Pharaoh will lift up your head and
restore you to your office; and you
shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his
hand, just as you used to do when
you were his cupbearer. 14But
remember me when it is well with
you; please do me the kindness to
make mention of me to Pharaoh, and
so get me out of this place. 15For
in fact I was stolen out of the land
of the Hebrews; and here also I have
done nothing that they should have
put me into the dungeon.’
several new pieces between the first and second set of dreams:
He is far
from his vision and dream in Chapter 37 now.
developed a gift even in the midst of great hardship – he is
a dream interpreter.
all about him anymore – his life situation teaches the
reader that Even when your dreams are put on hold, you can
help others dream. Even when you are in a dungeon you can
be a light and help to another.
turn for helping someone else, he asks that they might do
the same – “Don’t forget me,” he says to the cupbearer. I
need your help too. He still has hope for his future. As
readers we are to gain hope here too.
significant for the Hebrews because soon Moses will come with
his gifts and call out the gifts of everyone to help make it
through the Exodus.
And did you
know – I didn’t know until General Minister Sharon Watkins
pointed it out to me on Friday afternoon – Biblical Fun Fact #4
- Moses, in Exodus 13, as he’s preparing the people to leave
Pharaoh – it says Moses carries with him Joseph’s bones. That
is creepy, yes, but it is also very cool to me. I remember
Moses’ uncertainty, his fear, all the obstacles he saw before
himself and how little he thought of his ability to complete the
job God asked him to do. Joseph’s bones provide strength. It
is good for the soul to remember that We are not the first to
navigate constantly changing and unclear circumstances. We are
not the first to face numerous obstacles in the course of
achieving our dreams. Carrying Joseph’s bones, remembering
Joseph’s story is a way to remember God will be there to guide
you. God will be there to guide you but you have to show up too
– bring your best game along with you.
today would agree that we don’t experience God as the chess
player, ourselves simply the pawns in his storytelling. There
are times we feel alone and distant from God. And there are
times we feel “divine” timing – meeting the right person at the
right time, hearing a good word from a friend or a stranger that
effects our outlook or interpretation. There are accidents – or
so they seem – that change the course of events we so carefully
had planned out. But somehow, though unclear in the moment, we
find we overcome great hardship and struggle in life. And will
have to do it again and again, with determination, with
patience, with God’s help, with our abilities and with one
another. It’s maybe the one thing we do know about our world
today – there is no obstacle we will over come on our own, we
have to do it together – this is what Diana Butler Bass calls
providence – not God intervening on our behalf but “God's
intentions unfold as we practice faith in humble gratitude.
Providence is not divine Mapquest. Rather, providence is a
pilgrimage of God's people in time as they seek to live in
mercy, kindness, and grace-and that is where God's will is made
This is not
the end of Joseph’s story but its where we will end today. We
can hear some of the end next week.