How many of you have read the book of Genesis? If you haven’t, may I suggest that sometime this week you get out the first book of the Bible and read Chapters 37-50. It will make these Old Testament readings make more sense. They really need to be read together to get the whole story of the patriarchs of our faith. The story we have today is about Joseph, the guy with the coat of many colors, the dreamer of Jacob’s children, who is obviously obnoxious but is the favorite of the 12 children. If we want a paradigm for raising children, the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or Israel are not the ones we want to emulate.
Joseph is a visionary. And what is insufferable, is that he is his father Jacob’s favorite. His brothers are fed up with him. Now most of us don’t have siblings that we would sell in to slavery, but I know some of us with siblings might have entertained similar ideas at a weak moment.
The one phrase that struck me as I first read this was: 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.
Dreams and visions are hard to deal with. Has anyone ever tried to build their ‘dreamEvery time you try to get that ‘perfect image’, you have to face reality. The builder says you can’t do it that way, or it doesn’t come in that color.” Somehow the dream doesn’t turn out the way you want it. That’s because being human is about being imperfect.
It was the dreamer Joseph who would save his people during a famine by bringing them into Egypt where Pharaoh had prepared for theIt would also be where the Children of Israel would know what it meant to be slaves, gain their emancipation through the graciousness of God and become the nation that gave rise to the Messiah.
But we still dream, don’t we? We still hope. That too is part of what it means to be human. There is a passage from the Prophet Joel that is also quoted in the 2nd chapter of Acts that reminds us what happens when the Spirit comes to us: And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.
Joseph could not keep his dreams or his prophecy to himself. Prophets can’t. It just isn’t possible to keep your dreams to yourself when God has given you the vision of what could be.
Five years ago, the people of this parish dreamed a dream. It was one in which love conquered the divisions that had developed in this part of the Church. They dreamed of a church that was built on the love of Christ. Its dream was to become a place where participation, accountability and transparency would operate as primary organizational values. And over the few years I have come here, I have seen that dream begin to be realized among you. It hasn’t been easy. I have seen you deal with the warts of your humanity. But most of all, I have watched you share that dream with others. Many of you have shared that vision with me. And through your efforts I have watched you begin to grow beyond the place where you were ‘waiting for the Spirit or the courts to save you from your humanity’ You have kept your visions despite those who would be fed up with your ‘naiveté’ or those who would tell you it couldn’t work that way.
Over the past few months I have come to the realization that I am getting old. IllnessI have now come to the place of dreaming dreams. I will not see the realization of the vision I had for the new Church that is developing all over the world. But that doesn’t bother me anymore. Because it is places like here at St. _______ that I know that the vision is alive and well.
The vision that the Church is a place where people can find the Spirit of God must be kept before those who love Christ. Since I was here last, you have opened yourselvesYou live out the dreams of the ancients. It has been the way that the good news has been passed on for centuries.
For those of us who are living into the dream of God’s kingdom, it is probably not looking like we initially envisioned it would be. But those of you who are still proclaiming the vision do well to listen to the hopes of those who now dream. Because the vision is always growing, always changing.
Five years ago, your vision was based upon getting the property back. Now, the vision is ‘how can we serve right where we are in the name of Christ’. However, those of us who have become dreamers, those of us who are old enough to remember, keep track of the story, keep track of the values that precipitated the vision, remember the history of what has happened and how not to fall back into past behaviors that led to imprisonment.
When the vision gets lost in ‘reality’ it is easy to embrace the expedient rather than the movement of the Spirit. All of us in this room are children of God. We long to embrace the Holy One and the lives that are generated by our relationship Go back to when you were first married, the dream spouse that you ‘thought’ you had, hasn’t always been a dream. with God. We envision ourselves as those trying to do what it is we are called to by God.
We long for the goodness that is generated in us by the Holy Spirit. And we know that in goodness is the only way we can know happiness. We call it from ourselves; we invite others to join in that happiness. But like that perfect vision, that ‘dream house’, it is not always easy to keep our eyes on that vision. It so easy to settle for what works rather than the genuine happiness to which God invites us.
Our Gospel reading is that wonderful story of Jesus walking on the water. We oftenBut walking on water isn’t just for Jesus, any more. Please note that Peter walked on the water too. Granted, when he took his eyes off Jesus, he sank. He lost his vision.
The vision we have of a new parish, a new diocese, a new Church depends upon our willingness to keep our eyes on Christ—keeping our eyes on the vision of Goodness and Love—keeping our eyes on Participation, Accountability and Transparency. Our visions must be rooted in the history of who we have been as much as what we hope to become otherwise it becomes ‘pie in the sky in the bye and bye.” As we all carry the vision and share that vision, more often than not, our dream gets accomplished. It is the willingness to step out on the waters of faith that allow that dream of a better world to be something more than a fairy tale. It is being willing to keep the vision before us all even when there are those who would be willing to sell us into slavery again. Remember slavery is very comfortable—and requires no thought or too much effort. And for some, slavery is the only experience of life they know, so they see dreamers as a real threat.
So today I laud your willingness to walk on the water of your faith, to keep yourself open to the love of Christ, and to share the faith in the Spirit that invites us to dream. Keep visioning. Keep acting on that vision. It is Holy. It is Righteous. It is the way to live into the freedom that God longs for us. It is the way that we will survive. And it certainly will be the way we will grow. AMEN