“Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams for when dreams go
Life is a barren field frozen with snow.”
As the great poet Langston Hughes pointed out in this famous poem entitled, “Dreams,” to dream is to live. And not to dream is to die…
In this morning’s Scripture lesson, Joseph was having a really bad day. At seventeen years old, Joseph should have been ready to take on the world. No longer a child or an adolescent, he was nearly an adult. He had learned much in his early years and he was ready to put that learning into practice. Now was the time to cut ties with his parents and head off to conquer the world.
I know something about Joseph because I have someone in my house who is seventeen years old. He’s not a child anymore. He looks like an adult and he certainly eats like an adult. He’s getting ready to head off next year and put all the things he has learned in his lifetime into practice somewhere away from home…if he finishes his college applications, that is. When I listen to him sometimes, it sounds as if he too is convinced he can conquer the world.
Unlike the one in my house, however, Joseph has a few problems with his older brothers, who love him and hate him all at the same time. And the story comes to a head in this morning’s narrative when Joseph’s brothers throw him callously into an empty pit and leave him there. No water, no food, no company…Joseph’s chances for survival looked bleak.
Through the eyes of his brothers, Joseph was guilty of two things. First, Joseph was clearly his father’s favorite son. The golden child. The apple of his father’s eye. If any of you have ever been or still are considered the golden child in your family, you know how much animosity that title can inspire from your siblings. Likewise, if you are related to the one in your family who is the favorite, you know how frustrating it is to be the one living in the shadow.
The second thing that set Joseph apart and made him the envy of his brothers? Joseph was a dreamer. What’s more, Joseph wasn’t the kind of person who dreamed little dreams. He dreamed huge dreams. The kind of pie in the sky dreams that made other people uncomfortable.
Trust me I’m not saying Joseph was blameless in the story. Joseph was someone who felt no qualms snitching on his brothers. He got away with not doing anywhere near as much work as his brothers did in the fields.
It’s hard to imagine, however, how those character flaws merited Joseph being dumped into a pit. The brothers wanted to squelch Joseph and his dreams all at the same time. And they almost succeeded. Until Joseph was rescued from the pit and his brothers decided to sell him into slavery instead. Not much of a consolation prize.
On the other hand, because Joseph survived, his dreams survived as well. And that is a key point of information in this story. Because Joseph’s dreams were actually God’s dreams.
In the middle of Chapter 37, you can read about Joseph’s dreams. How he dreamt about his brothers binding sheaves out in the field. How he dreamt about his brothers sheaves bowing down to his own sheaf. Joseph even dreamt about the sun, the moon, and the stars bowing down to him. And his brothers, understandably, didn’t want to hear it.
Who among us wants to hear a dream in which everything we know and everything we assume and everything we believe to be true suddenly gets flipped on its head? When you dream God’s dreams, dangerous things happen. The status quo crumbles. Expectations turn upside down. The last become first. The least become the greatest. And the youngest brother winds up leapfrogging over every single one of his older brothers in terms of his success and stature.
In the end, the dreams were what enraged Joseph’s brothers. For they effectively reversed the pecking order in the family. The baby in the family is supposed to stay at the bottom of the heap. The youngest patiently waits his or her turn. When you’re last in line you’re supposed to support and respect and honor your parents and your older siblings. Instead Joseph had a grandiose dream where every person in his family bowed down to him…along with the sun, the moon, and the stars up in the heavens…
If you dream dreams that are too big, watch out. Dreamers wind up putting their lives in danger because others attempt to stifle the dream and the dreamer at the same time. It happened with Joseph but it’s happened with many others along the way. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed an amazing dream about sons of former slaves and sons of former slave owners sitting down together at the table of brotherhood…and states full of oppression and racism transformed into oases of freedom and justice…and little children with different skin colors being judged solely by the content of their character.
It was a bold and dangerous dream and not everyone understood it. All kinds of people in this country didn’t want to hear it. And the dream he dreamt eventually cost Martin Luther King, Jr. his life. But dreamers keep on dreaming. Because to dream is to live. And not to dream is to die…
Today is a day for dreamers. This Sunday, known around the Christian world as “World Communion Sunday,” is rooted in a dream. It’s a dream that embraces you and me here in South Windsor and brothers and sisters across every continent. It’s a dream where some people remember the Last Supper by breaking tortillas and sharing coffee from a common chalice. While others eat gluten free bread and drink grape juice from tiny cups. It’s a dream where some people share the communion meal in large, comfortable, well preserved sanctuaries. And other people share communion on dirt floors in small huts covered with thatched roofs.
In the dream that is World Communion Sunday, men and women and youth and children gather for worship in different countries and different time zones and different climates speaking different languages, but we tell the same story of the same savior and the same amazing love of God made known to us in Jesus Christ.
What’s more the dream of World Communion Sunday is even bigger than this one Sunday in the year. On World Communion Sunday and every communion Sunday we dream of a world where there is more than enough food and enough resources for all of God’s children to be fed. We dream of a world where everyone has a home in which to sleep and education to sharpen their minds. We dream of a world where torture and oppression and violence give way to peace and compassion and freedom. And all the ways we divide ourselves from each other based on race and class and gender and orientation dissolve as we go about loving our neighbors as ourselves.
I know it’s a big and bold and dangerous dream. World Communion Sunday dreams are the kind of dreams that could get someone into trouble. Not everyone wants to hear about a world where we look closely at friend and stranger alike and see in them the image of God reflected back to us.
Nevertheless, the World Communion Sunday dream is a dream rooted in God…a dream that belongs to God because it was and is God’s dream in the first place. And when a dream is actually God’s dream, God’s dreams cannot be stopped.
You see God is going to great lengths to preserve God’s dream for our world. In fact, God’s dream for our world comes alive again for us this day in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup.
Come then and find your seat at the communion table. And come ready to dream with God and with all Christians who are God’s children. To dream is to live. And not to dream is to die. Amen.