August 08, 2021
• Rev. Dr. Jevon Caldwell-Gross
This is the moment hes been waiting for.. we’ve spent 5 weeks looking at the life of Joseph and it all started with a dream. A dream that saw his brothers working out in the fields and their bundles of wheat bowing down to his bundle of wheat. In his second dream, he saw the son moon and the stars bowing down to him. And it seems so far off because there was nothing about his current life that gave any indication that this was a possibility. Until now. Until today.
Pastor Mindie revealed to us last week that Joseph has become the governor or the second in command over all of Egypt. His ability to interpret dreams opens an opportunity for him to lead during a time of crisis. It’s revealed in Pharoah’s dream that there will be a famine in the land and they must store up as much food as possible to help them when the shortage arrives.
He is now entrusted with overseeing the food distribution for the entire kingdom. On paper Joseph’s life looks good. He has a family (his last one threw him into a pit). Met the love of his life. Respect. Power. Well-Known. He’s come a long way since week from the 17 year old boy that was thrown into a pit.
(Watch how God connects these dots) The famine in the land impacted the entire region. Guess what happens? The famine reaches Canaan. Guess who lives in Cannan? His brothers! The famine forces his brothers from Canaan to travel to Egypt to buy grain. They heard about some hot shot in Egypt could interpret dreams and was going to lead them through the crisis. And while Joseph is passing out grain he recognizes his brothers.
And it’s in that moment that he remembers the dream. He remembers. It’s finally made sense. He gets it. This is the very first time that we get any inclination that he remembers the dream that God was able to show him years ago. Joseph recognizes them but they still don’t notice him.
Joseph plays a few mind games with them. He pretends he’s a stranger. He starts talking down to them. He accused them of being spies. He makes them sit in prison for a few days. Sets them up so they’d be accused of stealing. He has them make a few trips back and forth to Egypt. He’s having a good time with them. Jospeh shows us a side we haven't seen before. This is not the calm, rational, wise Joseph we are used to seeing. Joseph is petty! Reality TV show petty. Daytime talk show petty. Joseph has a really petty side to him that I actually admire!!!
Success doesn’t heal all wounds
After Joseph is done with his pettiness, something happens that we have not seen from Joseph in 5 weeks. He breaks down and cries uncontrollably. If u read earlier
versus, u could see it coming. He sees them in chapter 42 we are reminded that “after he finished speaking with he began to weep.” Then again in chapter 43 when they come back with their youngest brother it says, “Jospeh hurried out and looked for a place to weep, He went into his private room and wept there”. And now he completely loses it!
Everyone can see him. They can hear him. Its an ugly cry! Sobbing cry! Hes tried to hold it back, but all that he’s gone through over the last several years finally pushes its way out. Joseph had been waiting for a moment to just let it all out! He’s been waiting for a moment like this.
Now here’s whats interesting. He doesn’t cry when he gets thrown into a pit. He doesn’t show this kind of emotion when he is falsely accused. Not when he get thrown into prison and not when he’s forgotten about for two years. Which lets us know that he survived his trauma but he hasn’t dealt with it. At the moment Joseph shows us that success and fulfilled dreams dont heal old wounds. (slide) We cant outrun every dot. The effect of some dots linger beneath the surface of our success, something triggers it, and we realize that certain dots still impact us. And its hard for us to believe that elevation doesn’t heal those emotions.
This past week, there was so much conversation about Simone Biles, arguably of the most decorated Olympic gymnasts. She pulled herself out of a competition because as she says, she lost her place in the air.” She didn’t feel right mentally and felt it was unsafe to compete. The fact this was such news revealed we are uncomfortable with success and wounds existing in the same person. She won over 30 metals competing professionally. She grew up and was in out of foster care. She was the last competing sexual assault victim from the physician that had been in the news for months. This is not an amateur. We are great as an audience for people to display their gifts, but not their wounds.
Maybe that’s why when Jesus was asked to prove his divinity to Thomas, Jesus does not show up feeding thousands, Jesus does not show up healing I’m a blind man, Jesus does not cure leporsy , but shows him and points to his wounds.
We’ve been taught to hide and bury them. But maybe their is a redemption nature in them. Maybe Jospehs tears will give someone else permission to show their wounds.
In fact, author Henri Nowen uses the term wounded healers. Lets make that fit. I think to some extent we are all wounded (fill in the blanks). Wounded dreamers. Wounded spouses. Wounded Parents. Wounded sons and daughters. Wounded people.
And the expectation for healing those wounds is not placed on their shoulder if his brothers. Even though our wounds are not always our fault, healing is still our responsibility. (slide) What dots have you survived that still need to healed?
With his wounds, hes watching Gods dream for his life come true. Here he is passing out the wheat to his brothers that are bowing down to him. But I think if we stopped there we would be doing this story any justice. I don’t want you to leave here thinking that just because you dream it that it’s going to happen. Let me say this. God is not obligated to help us fulfill our dreams. (slide)
That’s what we are often told. Get a dream. Dream Big. It takes team work to make the dream work. Let your dreams be your wings. If you can dream it you can do it. If u just work hard enough that dream will come true. Dream it and you can be it. For much of our lives we are encouraged to dream. And that’s great. Keep dreaming.
But if we get technical, this was not Joseph’s Dream, it was God’s dream. Nowhere in his story do we get that this is what Joseph wanted for his life. Somewhere along the way, Gods plan for his life became his plan. Nowhere do we find Joseph trying to jockey for any of these positions. When Joseph was in prison he didn’t apply to be the warden. He didn’t ask to be the Governor. This was not his aspiration. He’s not campaigning for it. All that we know is that he simply wanted to be faithful in whatever roll that he had. Joesph spent more time chasing God and his dreams followed him. The invitations just kept coming.
Joseph reveals one of the most important relationships that we can have in our lives. This will determine so much of our lives. It might determine, where you live. Circle of friends. How you spend your time. Let’s see if we are on the same page. What’s one of the most important relationships that we have in our lives. Write it in the chat. One of the most important relationships that we have... is with the things that we want and desire. (slide) Its that relationship. It’s the connection we have with the things we chase.
Im not saying don’t be ambitious. I’m not saying don’t work hard. All I’m suggesting is to be mindful whether it’s God plan or your dream. Because if we are not careful our dreams become idols. They can become distractions. We can spend more time chasing a dream than we do desiring God. Some of us have almost ruined
our families chasing dreams. We’ve become unhealthy people, chasing dreams. We missed some of the most meaningful moments. We miss life chasing a dream.
Here’s what I fear. I think we often assuming that chasing after our dreams becomes synonymous with doing Gods will for our lives. And then we hold God accountable to making our dreams come true.
Next logical question some is asking is what, how do I know if the dream if from me or from God. Here’s how you know it’s your Dream or Gods dream for you.
1. Big enough to create decency. If you don’t need Gods help to accomplish it, chances are that’s us not God. Think about God it, why would God give us a dream where God was not a central part of the equation. Do I need Gods help to see it accomplished? There is no way a Hebrew sold into slavery becomes Governor over all of Egypt if God is not a part of that.
2. With a Dream from God, you won’t ever have to comprise who you are to get where you are. Did you miss the fact that is everywhere he’s gone in the Egyptian place he’s never has time deny the fact that he’s Hebrew. He blends it but still stands out. He lives in the fine balance of being in Egypt but not of Egypt. Gods call does many things buts it’s never to shrink or lose the esssence if who we are.
3. Is this about me or someone else. Here’s the Dream. Giving out wheat during a famine to people that are starving. This entire Dream wasn’t about status it was serving. This was it. This is what he’s been waiting for. God was working on something so much bigger than one person. Joseph realizes that the dots were not just about his life but about the lives of thousands. Is this Dream about helping you or helping someone else?
What’s your relationship to the things that you desire?
Re-Framing: What story are you taking with you?
Depending on how you connect the dots determines the story that we carry with us when that moment arrives. Now Joseph has the same people that threw him into a pit groveling at this feet. Because of that day, he’s been falsely accused and thrown into prison for 12 years.
Can you imagine the possibility of responses that Joseph could have had? Imagine the picture he could have seen with those dots. Joseph’s story could have been, This was your fault, you did me wrong, so now I’m going to do you wrong! His story could have been one of abandonment. His story could have been around all the people that have discounted him. His story could have been how people closest to you cause the most pain. There are many stories that his dots could have told.
So let me pause and ask the question. What story have you been telling yourself? (Slide) What story or narrative has been defining you? It’s the story we bring to every church. It’s the story we bring to every relationship. It’s the athlete that’s till taking about their big game in highscbool. When we show up what are the stories that we keep bringing with us? Let me suggest today that it’s possible to reframe or reconnect some dots so that we can tell a different story. Thats exacly what Joseph does!
Look at the story Joseph tells. Look at the power of reframing your past so that you can tell a different story. Listen to the story that he tells.... I’m the one you sold into Egypt, but don’t be to hard on yourselves! Stop beating yourselves up over that. It’s all good! Because now I can save lives. (Hear the reframing?) Now I can use my gifts on a larger scale. They’ve had this famine for two years, but now I see that God sent me ahead of you to save your lives. I’m here to help you. I thought it was to help Egypt, but now it see it was to redeem you.
Side note: he mentions nothing about being lied on. He mentioned nothing about prison. He mentions nothing about being forgotten. He mentions more about the good he’s been able to do and not the things that have happened to him. That’s not the dominate narrative of his story.
Easier said than done. Reframing old narratives helps to have “healed memories”. It is a way of retuning to old dots and reconnecting old events to help draw a different picture.
I went to a retreat this past weekend in Houston. And the goal of the retreat was to help men develop contemplative practices of spirituality to develop healthier selves. It was amazing!!!! And their was one exercise that broke us down. Facilitator invited us to close our eyes and she said now imagine a painful experience early in your life that has been engrained in your mind. So that’s what we did. Room got quite. You could hear a pin drop....Then this is how she messed us up. In fact, try that with me. Normally this takes several minutes, but I’ll at least introduce you to the practice. Close your eyes. Imagine a painful or traumatic moment that happened in childhood. Now imagine Jesus walking into that situation what do u think he would say to you? What would be want to tell you.
When she asked that question you hear one sniffle. Then two. Then three. And when we shared about the experience most of us realized that we had been telling ourselves a narrative that was either incomplete and untrue. And sometimes the most painful thing is not just revisiting the moment but letting go of the
narrative. It’s hard letting go of the same story we’ve been telling ourselves! Joseph said, what you meant for evil, God meant for God!!!
That’s narrative that he’s been to tell after all of this!
Because he’s able to tell a different story, Joseph is clearly able to articulate Gods role in his life. He’s able to give credit where credit is due.
You see part of the contemplative exercise was geared around the practice of inviting God into those unhealed dots. All through Joseph’s story you find a phrase, “and the Lord was with Joseph.” Joseph found favor.... It’s one of few narratives where God is overtly intervening unless you can connect the dots. God is doing the work behind the scenes. But it’s the Bible’s way of inviting us to see God as this continuing presence in every single dot. Because one I can recognize God.......
Thats Joseph does not assign blame to his brothers. Because when assigned blame its ultimately give them credit for everything that’s happened. Joseph is able to see a larger move of God happening that is far beyond their actions. Its bigger than his brothers. Its bigger than Potiphas wife. If Joseph blames them for all that’s happened then...... he has to give them credit for all that’s happened.
He has to give them credit for his promotions. He has to give them credit for his rise to power. He does not assign blame to his brothers for a single dot in his life. Instead he names their action and still points to sovereignty of God in his life. He connects the dots for himself and for them! Connecting the dots is really our invitation to assign credit where credit it due. (slide) It is having the courage to revist old dots so that we can see new possibilities.
It’s like at the end of the movie and they role the credits. All they are trying to do is make sure the right people are given the appropriate recognition. Next time this happens, I want you to pay attention and look at how meticulous they are about assigning credit to literally all of the roles. First it starts off with the main characters. Then it moves to lesser roles. they credit the person who was walking across the street. The people that ran lights. Costume Designers. The person standing at the payphone. Every part of the story is given the appropriate credit
So I’m hoping that after 6 weeks you can look back over your life and rediscover the miracles that are already there. Connect some dots you may have missed. Tell a different story. Heal some memories. I think that once we start connecting the dots, we will see that God has truly been present all throughout our lives. So I hope this song will be a great reminder of just how faithful God has been as your connect the moments in your life. (Traditional....so lets roll the credits in our own lives as a
reminder of God continued faithfulness) So as the band comes, lets roll the credits and listen to these words.