July 04, 2021
• Rev. Dr. Jevon Caldwell-Gross
Let’s see if u get this right. Please don’t disappoint me. Can u guess what this is? (Show image 1.) Ok I’m hoping you got that right.
What about this one?
(Show image 2) 2 for 2.
If only life was that easy to understand and make sense out of things that we see and experience. But it’s not. In fact, by show of hands (or type it into the chat), how many people can say with 100 certainty that everything in their lives has always made sense?
You know why? Because much of life looks like this. (Image 3 ) Or this? (Image 4). It looks like these random scattering of dots that don’t seem to make any sense at all.
But one theologian put it like this, **“life is lived forward but understood backwards”(Slide) Many of the things we experience seem mysterious and even confusing in the moment, and it’s only when we look backwards do we actual start connecting the dots or making sense of the things that have happened, the things we’ve experienced, the people we’ve met, the good, the bad, and everything in between.
So over the next few weeks as we look at the life of Joseph, you may uncover some things that have already been there. Because I think much of our understanding of faith and learning about God is really recognizing what’s already there. God has always been active, we just couldn’t connect the dots. We just didn’t notice. We just couldn’t see it. Because life is lived forward but often understood backwards (refrain)
Point 1 - Joseph’s Dream-
As we look backwards, we see that Joseph’s story takes a turn when he starts having dreams…But the dream seemed a bit off. It didn.t make sense. It didn’t add up. It wasn’t connecting.
In his dream, he saw them all out in the fields gathering bundles of wheat. In the dream Joseph’s bundle of wheat stood upright and the bundles of his brothers circled his bundle and started bowing down. His brothers mocked the very idea that they would ever bow down to their little brother. Whatever his dream meant, they couldn’t see it! They just couldn’t see Joseph reigning over them.
Then he had another dream. This one was even more crazy. This time the sun, moon, and 11 stars bowed to him. Even his father, the one that held him in high esteem questioned the validity of his dream. He even had to wonder, “so what now do u think your mother and father will bow down to you?” Even they questioned the validity of Joseph’s Dreams.
Which is actually a very encouraging word for you and I. Because this suggest something very important. Much of what God can and will do in your live you won’t be able to see it coming. Let this be a reminder, You can’t see it. The people who love you sometimes can’t see it. The people who don’t like you can’t it.
Take a moment and let that sink in. Whatever you think you can see, you can’t. God’s ability is so beyond what we can understand, think, or imagine that whatever God wants to do in ours we just can’t see or understand it. Joseph couldn’t see it. His Father couldn’t see it. His brothers couldn’t see it.
The reason why there are so many dots we cant connect is because we are trying to make sense out of our lives with our heads and not our hearts. We are looking for the things (and the dots) that seem related, experiences that seem similar. And with our head the dots just don’t make any sense.
Think about it. There is nothing that he sees in he sees in his past, present or future that suggests that this is a likely possibility. The dots aren’t connecting. Hes one of the youngest brothers. Not royalty. Under what circumstances would they be bowing to him. How’s this going to happen? What does it mean?
But that’s the things about God. God never promised us that everything was going to make sense. God does not operate by our rules..Doesnt go by our time God can connect two contradictory experiences and somehow make them fit. God does not operate in normal the ways that tend to live and order our lives…Its frustrating but works out in our favor..
Let me prove of......This past week at Staff Chapel, Dawn Fitch who is the Admin for our worship Department shared her faith story.
She said that when her granddaughter was born, she contracted a staph infection at birth. (Picture) When she was delivered, they immediately took her to the NICU because she wasn’t breathing properly. Day after day, her condition stayed the same. The doctors would come back day after day with the report that she still hadnt turned the corner. For 17 days, they just could get her oxygen levels up.
Now Dawn is and was a member of the choir and the Director, Mark Squire at the time asked the choir to pray one Thursday night. He asked them to hold out their hands like they were holding a new born baby and breath air back into her lungs. That Friday the doctors came back with a report that without any intervention she had finally turned a corner. After 17 days they didn’t see it coming. Didn’t make medical sense. Didn’t make logical sense. Whatever you think up see, you can’t. Because sometimes God just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
Now commentators fault and blame Joseph for his brothers hating him. But all Joseph was looking for was answers. He just needed somebody to help him connect dots. Somebody to help him understand what all this meant.
And I think that is the story or has been the story for many of us. At the core of what we desired, it was just answers to the things in life that we couldn’t always understand. We couldn’t see what purpose this served. We couldn’t see why this person came into our lives. Didn’t know why they left. We couldn’t see how something was going to work out…So we just needed some answers.
One of the biggest misconceptions about faith is that it gives us all the answers. An honest walk with God will you with more questions than answers…***Faith gives you more questions than answers. (Slide)
Here’s what’s so hard about Joseph’s Dream, God gives no details. None! Many people give up on faith, disconnect from God or lose faith in themselves because when they were looking for answers it seemed like all they got was ambiguity. Here’s the truth.
**Every faith journey comes with seasons of ambiguity. (Slide) Seasons where God gives you the framework but no details. Seasons where you pray for answers and God is silent. Seasons where you get inspiration but God gives you very little information.
Think about how much ambiguity this dream. God gave them just enough to stir the pot but don’t enough to clear the air. All God had to do was to tell them why this was going to happen, why it needed to happen, reassure them that it was all going to connect. You can’t just throw out a dream about people bowing down to someone and not fill in the gaps. God could easily show us clear picture with the dots already connected. Either God is an instigator or God is very intentional for a reason. Maybe their is a reason for the ambiguity. A purpose for the mystery....
Maybe it’s just me but God is always short on details...
Let me prove it.
• God says, “Noah, i know u don’t have any construction experience but build an ark with there is not sign of rain.” No mention of floods!
• God told David, the 17 year old teenager, you are next in line to be King. Left out the fact that it would take him years to get there.
• Jesus tells these fishermen, “Follow me and I’ll make sure fishers of men and women. Casually leaves that they will have to fend for their lives. Go to pharaoh and tell him let my people go.
• Gods reminds us people, “I’ll give a you land flowing with milk and honey.” Doesn’t mention it will require them to fight the toughest battles of their lives.
• God promised Gods people a savior would come but coincidentally leaves out the date, time, and place.
Doesn’t God always seem to short on details!!!It’s like we are on a “need to know “ basis with God. Maybe God often leaves the dots unconnected for a reason. The reason why you only get a glimpse or a dot here and a dot there is because if God connects the dots too early there are many experiences we would walk away from if we knew all that it entailed. If you saw the complete picture you might not be able to handle it!
That’s what the job description says, “other duties as assigned” because if you knew all that it entailed you wouldn’t want it. If we really knew how hard relationships really were, we wouldn’t date ourselves! If we really knew how hard starting a business, or going back to school, starting a new job, dating again, moving again, joining a church. The road to get there might be to intimidating. The struggles might be overwhelming. If we really knew all of the details we might have abandoned some of the best things that have ever happened to us. The ambiguity is not meant to confuse but to protect us.
So God gives us what we can digest in that moment. **God loves us enough to only gives us the amount of information that we can handle. Let me prove it.
Let me prove it....
In my pocket, I have my debit card, I have keys to my car. Now my children are 9, 8 and 4. If I told you that I was going to give them the keys to my car, you would rightfully assume that I had lost my mind! Why? Because it’s irresponsible to give them something they are not mature enough to handle. They haven’t developed enough to even to comprehend the gravity of the responsibility. It would be too intimidating for them. It could be detrimental for them if they have access to to much to soon. They might hurt themselves or somebody. They just aren’t ready yet! So I have to love them enough to withhold even the things they might think want simply because I love them. I have to love them enough to give them what their minds and maturity can handle.
There are times when we think we want answers. We think we want to see clear pictures of how it all connects. But the ambiguity that we sometimes feel is not because God doesn’t love us. It’s not because God doesn’t care. It’s because God loves us enough to give us what our faith and maturity can handle at the moment. Sometimes all we can handle is a dream without the details. Sometimes all we can digest is a random sky of disconnected dots. There is no way Jospeh would sign up for these if he new what was coming!
. Point 3. Anxiety around Ambiguity.
Heres the problem with this narrative and it presents a problem for us. Many people can not live with ambiguity. The ambiguity creates anxiety. And the anxiety around ambiguity leads to impulsiveness. (slide) When we can’t figure something out we will try to work it out by ourselves. We will make dots connect even when they don’t. We force it. We draw our picture and connections where there is none!
His brothers couldn’t live with the ambiguity that was created by Joseph’s Dreams! Will get into more next week, but his brothers couldn’t handle the ambiguity so they devised a plot to kill Joseph. What would his dream mean for them? Why woods they be bowing down to him? Why wouldn’t he be bowing to them? Why Joseph and not them? It’s too much ambiguity.
Church, we don’t always make bad decisions we just make impulsive ones. We will connect our own dots!
Don’t judge to quickly, but how many of us have acted impulsively because we were anxious about the ambiguity. We left to early. Said yes to soon. Settled. Ran. Hid. We would rather manufacture our own dots and make our own connections instead of waiting on God. What decisions have impulsively made because because you couldn’t see how the dots connected.
We will make up answers if we have to. We think need answers right now. We think we need all the dots to connect right now.
But at no Point does Joseph get the answer that he’s looking for. All hes left with is a dream! Hes left with a scattering of dots that hes left to figure. He doesn’t receive a single answer. Maybe some of you came looking for answers today. But let challenge you. Faith is just revealed when the dots connected, but its in the life we live even when we don’t always understand. It’s the life we live even when we cant see it!
I shared with the staff when I shared my faith story, so today I want to share it with you.
This is how my faith journey started. I had a dream one night that an evil spirit was chasing me. I tried as best as I could to elude this spirit but it was relentless. I ran inside of buildings, but it was still there. I’d run inside of homes and and it was still there. I tried running faster. I even tried running as fast as I could, but this evil spirit would not leave me alone. But off in the distance I saw this tall building and a pole leading up behind the clouds.
So I ran into the building, up all these flights of stairs and got to the top and the spirit was still there. I knew that if I climbed up this poll I’d be safe. But there was this huge obstacle in the way. The poll was on the other side of this huge glass structure. It didn’t have any doors. No knobs. No handles. But I noticed a small slit underneath the structure. And at the moment I prayed and my body turned into liquid form, I slid underneath, and once I got on the other side, I climb unto the poll leading beyond the clouds. The evil spirit stopped chasing me.
As a 14 year old kid I woke up that next morning and said Mom we have to start going to church! And from there we’ve never looked back. No did I know why, how, where, evil spirts...... Absolutely not. To this day I can’t tell you everything that it meant. I couldn’t see it. But I think I understand more now than I did then. I there are answers that we receive and recognize right in the moment. And then there are other answers that we live. They reveal themselves overtime. The picture becomes more clear as time goes on. Joseph couldn’t see it. His brothers couldn’t see it. His own father couldn’t see it…But God could.
Maybe the dots aren’t supposed to make sense right now. Just because something doesnt make sense doesn’t mean there its absent of something divine. You can be totally in the dark about something great happening in your life. It can be mysterious and unexplainable and still be a blessing. It can be confusing and a God send at the same time.
With no answers his story unfolds. So my prayer is that as you watch Joseph’s life unfold over these never few weeks that you might also be open to watching and noticing yours as well. Maybe there are some dots you haven’t yet connected and moves of God that’s you’ve yet to notice. Life is Lived forward but understood backwards. Let’s us pray.