Prologue: Any Dream Will Do

~Cheryl Perry

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!)

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.