A couple of Sundays ago in the lectionary we heard the emotional story of Jacob’s reunion with his brother, Esau. They hadn’t seen each other in years; now they were grown men with families of their own. When they reunite, we are told in Genesis 33 that Esau threw his arms around Jacob and they both cried.
One of the most difficult things about living through this pandemic for many of you has been the sense of isolation—being unable to come to church, to see friends, or have visits from family who live in other parts of the country—or even in the same city!
Because of the concern over spreading the virus to loved ones, many sacrifices have been made including giving and receiving hugs! That is why it was such a joy to watch as Susan and Nicholas were reunited last week for the first time in many months.
Because Nicholas has cerebral palsy and is immune-compromised, in-person visits have not been possible, out of an abundance of care for his physical well-being. But the picture says it all—how important this reunion was for both of them and their emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being!
The story of Jacob’s reunion with his brother continues this way: When Esau looked around and saw the women and the children, he asked, “Who are these people with you?” And Jacob answers, “These, sir, are the children whom God has been good enough to give me.”
Esau seems astonished by this proof that so much time has gone by since the brothers were together last. For many of you, watching your grandchildren grow and change is a delight—but watching it on Facetime has been no substitute for real-time! We long for visits that include real hugs!
As we all wait for a time when our social interactions can be less-restricted, we can rejoice in seeing this reunion of Nicholas and Susan.
This is how Joseph and His Technicolor Dreamcoat ends, as many musicals do—with a reprise of the opening song.
It begins with the words:
I closed my eyes
Drew back the curtain
To see for certain
What I thought I knew
One theory of modern psychology is that dreaming is the communication between our conscious mind and our unconscious mind, helping people create wholeness—that dreams are the bridge that allows movement back and forth between what we think we know and what we really know.
Joseph attached significance to his dreams and believed they might be telling him about himself and the world around him. Because he was curious about the meaning of his own dreams, Joseph also became someone who could help others interpret theirs.
This week we continue with the story of Joseph who is sought after by Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, when Pharaoh has a series of puzzling dreams.
Interwoven is the continuing saga of Joseph and his brothers. This Sunday we get the conclusion to the story that began in Chapter 37. It spans most of the remaining books of Genesis. If you’ve got a little time before Sunday, I encourage you to read it in whatever translation of the Bible you own.
If you are short of time, here is a wonderful summary https://www.faithwriters.com/article-details.php?id=46169 in poetic verse that will catch you up on what’s been happening so far in the story of Joseph.
See you in worship on Sunday!
I was asked to share the titles of the books I mentioned in
They are Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley (1997, Bantam Books) and
Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most, a memoir by Marcus J. Borg (2014, Harper Collins).
And I also thought I would share the following list of questions. One of the most effective ways of getting insight into dreams, particularly if the dream is difficult to interpret, is to work with a friend, or friends, who support us as we explore our own dreams.
We can often gain tremendous resources by taking the time to explore all facets of the dream. Those supporting the dreamer listen carefully while the dream is described and ask questions so they understand for themselves the imagery and feelings experienced. A good way to increase your ability to remember dreams is to value them.
One way to do that is to keep a dream journal. If you are interested in interpreting your dreams, or want to help another person explore theirs, these questions might help you as your think or journal about them.
- How do you feel in the dream? What is the predominant feeling?
- What is the main action/theme/activity of the dream? (It may help to give it a title, as if it were a painting or story or movie. Ask yourself: What single issue or insight brings the dream together? Where is the main energy?)
- Who are you in this dream?
- Who are the others in this dream? (Describe them and their relationship to you, qualities, contexts—as they may be ‘stand ins’ for others or for aspects of the dreamer’s own self.)
- What are you doing and not doing in your dream? Are you active or passive in this dream, and why? Are you resisting or in tune with what the dream is doing?
- What issues need resolving in this dream?
- What new ways of understanding/new actions are presented in your dream?
- Does the situation or issue in the dream feel familiar or relate to anything going on in your life right now?
- What is similar in this dream to other dreams? Have you ever had a dream like this before?
- Why do you need this dream now?
Last Thursday evening I was settled on the couch to watch Joe Biden’s acceptance speech but the most moving part of the evening was the speech given by 13-year-old Brayden Harrington.
If you have suffered from a speech impairment you will have watched this with a massively open heart and a deep well of memories. I held my breathe each time he paused, willing him to find the next word. I celebrated each complete sentence and paragraph. By the time he was finished I felt like fireworks should be exploding in the sky at this triumph of courage.
How do we walk in another’s shoes with empathy and understanding? How do we ascend beyond politeness? How can we really listen, share our experiences and, if we are very blessed, change another’s life?
Cheryl spoke of this in her Sunday reflections; about diving deep into the silences, waiting with openness for the formless words of dreams and visions. She invited us to think of the moments of holiness that we have known.
Often this means really listening to another. Being open to how real and powerful the encounter was. As that long list of caregivers, academics, theologians and ordinary folk Cheryl named attests, deep and holy moments are real and life-transforming.
The dream that captured Cheryl, and the courage that propelled Brayden, formed by empathy. They took flesh and flight because someone stopped and entered the world of another in an intimate and vulnerable way. They committed to learn and share an experience. They were prepared to go deep, to invest in the other.
The path to empathy and understanding wends its way through curiosity, patience, openness, and vulnerability. It involves stopping and listening. That means focusing of what is being said and on the speaker NOT on your pithy response!
It means getting off your own schedule and agenda and being willing to have your time disrupted. Mostly, empathy is honest and gracious. It reaches out to understand rather than to fix. When we are empathetic we position ourselves to be surprised, inspired and blessed with unexpected moments that can only, truly be of God.
What a person desires in life
is a properly boiled egg.
This isn’t as easy as it seems.
There must be gas and a stove,
the gas requires pipelines, mastodon drills,
banks that dispense the lozenge of capital.
There must be a pot, the product of mines
and furnaces and factories,
of dim early mornings and night-owl shifts,
of women in kerchiefs and men with
Then water, the stuff of clouds and skies
and God knows what causes it to happen.
There seems always too much or too little
of it and more pipelines, meters, pumping
stations, towers, tanks.
And salt – a miracle of the first order,
the ace in any argument for God.
Only God could have imagined from
nothingness the pang of salt.
Political peace too. It should be quiet
when one eats an egg. No political hoodlums
knocking down doors, no lieutenants who are
ticked off at their scheming girlfriends and
take it out on you, no dictators
posing as tribunes.
It should be quiet, so quiet you can hear
the chicken, a creature usually mocked as a type
of fool, a cluck chained to the chore of her body.
Listen, she is there, pecking at a bit of grain
that came from nowhere.
Baron Wormser has been a librarian, teacher, and poet laureate in Maine, where he also lived with his family “off the grid” for a time. This poem is perfectly suited for an age of pandemic and “social distance” – partly because it exalts an ordinary, solitary act, and partly because it helps us see again that such acts connect us in all kinds of ways with all kinds of people. And the poem’s theology is a tour de force: “the pang of salt” is surely as powerful and persuasive an argument for God as any!
This week we begin a 2-part saga of Joseph and his brothers. Although the lectionary breaks this into just two Sundays, it is a great long story that stretches some 13 chapters in Genesis.
If you are someone who likes to “read the book before seeing the movie,” the main part of the story is found in Genesis chapters 37-45. In preparation for Sunday, I encourage you to read it!
Over the last nine weeks we have been hearing the stories of Abraham and Sarah’s descendants. These are some of the most well-known characters and stories in the Hebrew Scriptures: Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Esau, Rachel and Leah.
Stories of sibling rivalry, jealousy and parental favouritism are themes in our own stories today. These famous names and faith-history shapers had the same banal, complicated relationships that play out in our own families—sometimes in very significant ways.
This week we pick up the thread of the story in Chapter 37. And what a thread! Indeed, if we know anything about this Joseph it is the story of his fancy jacket, immortalized by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber in their musical Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.
We hear that Joseph is the favoured son because he was born to Jacob “when he was old” and that because of Jacob’s outward displays of his greater love for Joseph, his brothers hated him and “would not speak to him in a friendly manner.”
In the wonderful Webber & Rice musical one of my favourite songs is “Joseph’s Dreams.” It tells the part of the story that this week’s lectionary passage leaves out—that describe Jacob’s sons’ real reason for despising their brother.
As the song goes:
“Joseph’s coat annoyed his brothers,
But what makes us mad
Are the things that Joseph tells us of the
Dreams he often had.”
(Here’s a link if you want to listen!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9Lp8GsfFsI
I love this musical, and this song in particular, that ends with the lines: “But one thing we are sure about. The dreamer has to go!”
Joseph is a dreamer. Not a head-in-the-clouds daydreamer or an angle-spinning schemer like his dad Jacob. But rather, someone who paid close attention to his dreams and saw them as divinely sent—as a way God communicated.
When Joseph awoke from his dreams there was a sense of curiosity, it seems, to interpret them – to attach meaning to them – and figure out what they might be telling him about himself and the world around him. Joseph believed dreams provided such insights.
What do you think? Have you ever had a dream that helped you make a decision, clarified an issue, or warned of something?
Because Joseph was curious about the meaning of his own dreams, he also became someone who could help others interpret theirs. In fact, in next week’s lectionary story we learn that Joseph becomes sought after by Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, when Pharaoh has a series of puzzling dreams. But that’s getting ahead of myself!
Join us, this Sunday, as we begin exploring the story of Joseph the dreamer.
~Shirley Piedt, Outreach committee
One of the challenges during COVID has been providing housing and programs for people who live outside. It goes without saying that preventing an outbreak of COVID-19 among those living outside is prevention for all of us.
You may recall that First United hosted a film called Us and Them over a year ago to help us understand how it is that folks become homeless, and the complexity of providing supportive housing.
The Journey Home Society became the backbone organization tasked with moving forward with strategic goals which were established after a lengthy consultation with many groups and citizens including churches, businesses, and people with lived experience of being homeless.
The following link provides background to the main report and strategic goals https://www.journeyhome.ca/
As Cheryl has adapted Tuesday and Thursday Outreach services to accommodate safety and hygiene, so have other housing and outreach services pivoted to continue to meet the needs of folks living outside.
It has become even more obvious that all people are best served when they have housing especially as so many of the usual services were either closed or reduced with physical distancing requirements in place.
To better understand the challenges and successes to date with the response to COVID in the homeless and support sector, the following summary was completed by three researchers from UBCO; Dr. Jordan Barbando, Dr. John Graham, and Kyler Woodmass who comprise the Kelowna Homelessness Research Collaborative.
CHALLENGES FOR SERVICE PROVIDERS: • Building and maintaining close relationships with service users • Social distancing within existing spaces and between service users • General safety (for all), and violence against women • Delays in mobilizing infrastructure and technology areas that service providers found challenging are: • Building and maintaining close relationships with service users • Social distancing within existing spaces and between service users • General safety (for all), and violence against women • Delays in mobilizing infrastructure and technology
SUCCESSES: Local support and sector collaboration • Mobilizing housing and hotels • Remote channels for connectivity • Circulation of public health guidance • Implementing hygiene centre and plexiglass
OPPORTUNITIES TO SCALE UP: There was a long list of suggested practices and infrastructure that included: medication delivery systems, alcohol management program, mobile isolation trailers, increased access and supply of safe substances, tent and cart storage, providing teddy bears, information boards, and service user cellphone allocations. The focus areas for further collaboration revolved around access to food services, water and hygiene stations.
NEEDS FOR SUMMER/WINTER: One of our main goals was to identify priorities in sustaining the response into colder months and through a potential second wave: • Continued communication • Mental health supports for providers • PPE / sanitizer cost and availability • Maintaining and increasing housing • Funding for additional costs
What this summary illustrates is that needs for people living outside and service delivery is different in this time of pandemic. As a church involved with outreach to this vulnerable group, we continue to ponder what our role can be moving forward to fall and winter. If you have questions or are interested in being part of next steps contact Shirley at [email protected]
I am so looking forward to seeing some of the children and families of the congregation out under the stars this week when we watch a movie in the Seethaler’s backyard at the top of Dilworth Mountain. Doing just about anything under the stars can be breathtaking.
Maybe some of you have seen the Perseids meteor shower this week that is visible from mid-July each year, with the peak in activity between August 9 and 14. While we were at the cottage in July we were able to spot the Neowise comet, which appeared at the bottom of the handle of the Big Dipper in the night sky, and won’t pass this way again for another 6,800 years. Sometimes we have to get away from the light pollution of the city to see such phenomena, but not always.
I remember sleeping under the stars at Lumsden Beach Camp in the Qu’Appelle Valley of Saskatchewan; listening to the sound of crickets, watching the northern lights and the sky filled with more stars than I could count, and feeling an all-encompassing sense of stillness and peace. At this time when we are living through a pandemic, when we are longing for that feeling, what a gift it is! And it’s free! It’s just outside your door—in your yard, from your deck.
I am reminded, when I look at the star-filled sky, of the stories we have been exploring this summer in worship—which began with the promise to Abraham and Sarah that their descendants would be more numerous than the stars or grains of sand.
I catch a glimpse of the truth that we are all connected—you and me—to those faith ancestors who lived long ago. And we are connected to everything—galaxies, comets, meteors, stars.
I hope you have had some moments of peaceful reflection this summer, wherever you are. I hope you have been captured by a sense of awe and wonder in nature at some point during these weeks of warm weather.
As the warmth of the summer turns
To the coolness of autumn,
And leaves turn from green to
Brilliant shades of crimson, gold, and orange,
May we know your presence, beloved Son of God.
As the planting of the summer turns
To the abundance of our harvest,
May our hearts turn with gratitude to you,
Creator of All. Amen.
(Prayer written by Susan Girard, Riverview United Church, Atikokan, Ont. Used by permission from Gathering magazine.)
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