Friday, August 16, 2013

Sermon for Aug 18, 2013; Genesis 39:20-23 and 41:9-16

Rev. George Miller
Genesis 39:20-23 and 41:9-16
“Dungeons and Dreamers”
Aug 18, 2013

There is something about Sunday morning worship: an opportunity to take a break from the week before and the days ahead to gather, gives thanks and regain perspective.

No matter what has transpired or what is bound to take place, Sunday morning is peace, ease, joy…an island of refuge in the midst of a primordial ocean, a splash of Technicolor when the rest of the world is grey, a dream in the confines of a dungeon.

Each and every week I try to hold onto the good feelings that come from worshipping together, of not fixating on the passage of time, micro-managing responsibility and trying my best to go with the flow, hoping those feelings will last all week…or maybe a day…or perhaps just an hour…

…but then life creeps in like sinking sand and feelings of flourishing can quickly subside into a sense of surviving.

For example, a few weeks ago we had a wonderful day of worship. We explored the concept of faith migration with the call to come back to God.

After worship, we communed, ate tasty treats and shared stories. I drove to Stephanie’s to continue the good will of the day, when I noticed a small drop of water on my brand new, expensive cell phone, right where the menu button was.

I tried to remove the cell phone’s special casing, but couldn’t unlock it and became nervous as I watched that single drop spread across the screen, sure that disaster was about to take place.

Bless their hearts, Stephanie and Joanne calmly took care of the issue, removing the cover, wiping down the screen and snapping it back in place.

All three of us laughed as I commented on the fact that just an hour ago I was so calm and serene.

Then there was the storm Tuesday night on Dinner Lake. Flashes of light appeared in the sky. Sound of hail-like rain pelted the windows. Horror-movie thunder barreled down on every side.

At a quarter-to-ten there was a booming “boom!!!” and everything went out- the lights, the TV, the air-conditioner.

Two more thunder-claps came, making both my cats jump. Then the reality set in of what it meant to have no electricity.

I lit candles, turned on the battery-powered hurricane lamp, packed an emergency bag and got out the cat carrier in case lightening struck the house and I’d have to flee.

Without electricity, the house got hotter, but with the rain I couldn’t open the windows.

Scariest thing of all: there was only 42% of battery life left on my cell phone: how was I to survive?

I texted friends, to see if they were OK. Everyone was. They all offered me a place to stay if my lights were not restored …which they were, 2 hours later.

But let me tell you; those were two looong hours. The uncertainty; the loss of control. The inability of watching “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” DVR and opening the refrigerator door anytime I wanted.

It makes one further appreciate that this year’s Global Missions Fair is going to disaster care. It also illuminates today’s reading.

We are in week two of our Joseph sermon series. Last week we were introduced to Jacob’s deliciously dysfunctional family.

Jacob openly favored one son over another. Joseph openly shared his egotastic dreams with his brothers. His brothers openly despised him, stripped away his clothes and cast him into the bottom of a waterless pit.

Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery. He is taken to Egypt, becomes the overseer of his master’s house until he’s falsely accused of attempted rape. He is tossed into jail where he is granted some authority and becomes known as a discerner of dreams.

Then one day, Pharaoh is alerted to Joseph’s special gifts and calls upon him. In rather quick succession, Joseph is removed from the dungeon, shaved, dressed, deciphers the Pharaoh’s dreams and is immediately promoted to the second-most powerful position in the country, adorned with fancy clothes, fancy jewelry and a fresh ride.

Within the space of 2 chapters, 82 lines, Joseph goes from slave to free, dungeon to opulence, powerlessness to powerful.

A happy success if ever there was…until you stop to realize that Joseph’s story began was he was 17 and now he is 30.

This means that for 13 years he has been a slave and a wrongly-accused prisoner. There are no rainbows or birds of color in his world. He is far removed from his family, far removed from his friends.

The story makes those 13 years pass by quick, but really, how quick could they have gone by for Joseph?

To be locked up. To be forgotten. To be a number, not a name.

I had a hard enough time with a drop of water on my cell phone and 2 hours without electricity. Could I have handled 13 hours in jail? 13 days? 13 months? 13 years?

When we read the Joseph narrative, it makes the claim again and again how the LORD was with Joseph, how the LORD caused all Joseph did to prosper, how the LORD blessed the Egyptians through Joseph.

It’s a fairy-tale like story designed to teach us that no matter what we go through, the LORD does not forget us, the LORD is steadfast, and the LORD delivers.

Which I believe. But let’s step into Joseph’s garb. Those 13 years he was cast into a waterless pit, sold as a slave, jailed and forgotten, how do you think he felt? How easy could it have been?

Would Joseph say God acted fast? God acted slow? Was God late or was God on time? Could Joseph feel the blessings God was bestowing? Was he aware of the steadfast love he was receiving?

Does it matter if the world around you prospers and bursts into color when you’re alone and feeling forsaken?

The biblical narrator can look back upon the experience and say that God did not forget Joseph, but what good is that if every door is closed to you???

This experience is not just limited to Joseph. In our own lives there are dark moments in dungeons; moments in which we feel as if we are decaying. Times when it feels like God has forgotten about us or is asleep.

During those times in our lives we’ll hear people say “Be patient,” “Trust in the LORD”, “Deliverance will come.”

But when? How long is long enough to wait upon the LORD? 2 hours? 13 years? A lifetime?

I cannot answer that question, nor can anyone else. But I do believe that God hears, I do believe that God works.

I do believe that God restores and I do believe the LORD wants us to flourish and not just survive.

Even when it seems like water is on our cell phone, even when the electricity is off, even when we feel like we are in a jail.

I do believe the LORD is with us, the LORD watches over, the LORD blesses. And we…well, we find ways to go on.

As we learn in Joseph’s story, not every journey will be pleasant. Not every person will be welcoming.

But it is important to remember that we are created in the image of God, dreamers, creators, people of the Light.

It is important to remember that God is able to work through the history of human folly to bring about Kingdom flourishing.

We may never know in what way or understand the time frame. But through our faith in the LORD we can still believe in and hope for a better tomorrow.

To play our part in creating, building and dreaming.

Were we created to live life to the fullest?-Yes. Will we face dark moments?-Yes

Can any prison, person, place separate us from the grace of God?-No!

When our surroundings are dark and grey the Holy Spirit still finds ways to fill it with splashes of Technicolor.

When the world seems to be a primordial ocean, our faith in God becomes an island of refuge.

Even when it feels like we are confined to a dungeon, in Jesus we find the courage to dare and dream.

Are we willing to believe that God will make real the dreams we were created to dream?

As followers of Christ, as siblings of Joseph, are we willing to trust that God will enter the dungeons of our existence?

Amen and amen.

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