Sermon for the 8th Sunday after Pentecost

GOTTA DREAM! (Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28)

God put Joseph through all this time of testing, of improving, of changing him to make him a better servant of God. God puts us through times of testing, of improving, of changing us to make us better servants of God. That is why there is evil in the world. That is why it is allowed to exist or at least that is the use it is put toward. Perhaps God has no choice in the matter of the existence of evil, because we do have a choice in the existence of evil and God has given us that choice, sometimes to the great detriment of others as when Joseph’s brothers threw him into the well.

Now Joseph has a choice, in this horrible place he’s found himself. Will he keep dreaming his dreams? Or will he stop? We have a choice in all of our situations. Will we keep dreaming our dreams or will we stop? Will we keep using the gifts God has given us?

Joseph is sold to the Ishmaelites, or the Midianites, there seems to be two versions of this story. He is taken unwillingly from home. He is sold as a slave. He is brought up on false charges by the wife of his master Potiphar. He is thrown into jail. Still he keeps on dreaming his dreams.

Two men are thrown into jail with him – Pharoah’s butler and baker. Joseph interprets their dreams though it may do him no good. He does not hold off until he gets a better position, a more influential position. He interprets the dreams and then he is forgotten again.

Finally the butler remembers him when Pharoah has a dream, and he is brought out of prison where he interprets the dream and is made lord of all Pharoah’s granaries where he can supervise them and oversee the handing out of grain for bread to all Egypt and, later, to refugees from Canaan, like his brothers, who had thrown him into the pit and sold him into slavery to begin with – all because he had not forgotten his dreams or his gift for interpreting dreams.

Only it occurs to me it is not his dream he interprets in prison. It is the baker’s and the butler’s dreams. It is not his dream he interprets for Pharoah, but Pharoah’s dream. So Joseph has learned to serve others with his gifts, and not just himself.

This is a far cry from the Joseph who had told his father on his brothers, and how they were not working.

So Jacob has learned something in his time of testing. God has brought him through and taught him something he did not know before. Leadership is for service to those around. Gifts are for service to those around.

When have you been put through a time of testing? When was everything taken away from you? When were you thrown into a pit, as it were, away from all the comforts of life? When were you sold into slavery, and sent away from family and friends?

God can use those times to test you, to improve you, to change you.

Peter went through the same time of testing, of improving, of changing, of failure – and of salvation.

He saw Jesus coming to him over the water ad wanted to be with him and thought his faith and Jesus’ help would be enough to do the job. Maybe there was some pride and arrogance there as the leader of the disciples.

We see Jesus coming to us in difficult circumstances, and we want to be with him and think our faith will be enough. Maybe there is some arrogance there.

We sink there was arrogance. There was misjudgment. There was failure.

Jesus reaches out his hand and lifts us up, out of the water, and takes us back to the boat.

So there was failure. It is ours, not Jesus’. He still comes through even if we lack the faith. Our faith is in God, not in ourselves, and not even in our faith. We do not have faith in faith. We have faith in God – God who puts out his hand and lifts us out of the terrible, deathly situation we have gotten ourselves into, even if it was with the best of intentions.

It is God who is with Joseph, even if we don’t hear Joseph call on him at all! It is God who is with him in the pit, with the slave traders, in the prison and with Pharoah.

And it is Joseph who does not give up dreaming.

So hold onto your dreams. Hold onto your gifts. Use them for others, in service to them and not to yourself. God will see to it that they are useful to many.

In this interim time we may think we have more gifts than we in fact do. We may think we have more faith than we in fact do. We may step a little too far out for our own faith to sustain us and we may sink under the waters of the world. But Jesus sustains us when we cannot sustain ourselves, and reches down and lifts us out of the wter and puts us back in our boat so we cn continue our journey to our new rector, only with Jesus in the boat guiding us this time – not us wandering around aimlessly, doing our best but without his guidance. The same is true in life. When we reach too far he reaches out to us and restores us to our lives, but takes the leadership this time.

God still uses Joseph’s dreams and ability to interpret dreams, even now when he is in such suffering. Only now God uses them for others, not just for Joseph.

So both Peter and Joseph are humbled. Our faith is not for cheap tricks or self aggrandisement. They are for God’s use for all his people – in Peter’s case, for the people he will preach to when Jesus is gone, Peter who will be remembered for his failures rather than his successes, for almost drowning in the water, and for denying Jesus 3 times; Peter who will be remembered for Jesus’ successes in his life, rather than his success in his own.

And Joseph is remembered for what God did through him for all the Egyptians, for a people not his own, as well as for the family htat tried to kill him, now that Joseph has also learned the importance of family and of humility.

In this interim time we will go through many unforeseen circumstances. But what we will know for certain is that God is with us. We just need to hold onto our gifts and dreams like Joseph, and use the even when it seems useless – when he’s in prison with the butler and the baker without hope of help. Help comes from God.

And even if we fail in our dreams like Peter, not having the faith to walk on water, Jesus does not fail in his promise, reaching out his hand to hold us up, and go with us on our journey.