'You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good'. Genesis 50:20
‘I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day down in Alabama […] little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.’ Martin Luther-King preached those words on August 28th, 1963 nearly sixty years ago today. Martin had a dream. A dream of a promised land. A dream of a place where the sin of racism had finally been done away with. He had this dream as a result of his faith, and through his reading of the Bible. Martin was a Christian minister, and he knew well the dream of God’s people, the dream given to them by God through Abraham. A dream of a promised land. A land where the Jewish people would one day be able to live and worship their God—and our God—in peace. However, before it was Abraham’s dream, before it was Isaac’s dream, and before it was Jacob’s dream; before it was Joseph’s dream, and before it was Moses’ dream, it was God’s dream. God’s good dream was of a creation entirely in harmony with Himself, of a the world that He loved, who would love in return love Him, and love their neighbours. God had a dream, and it was good. And out of that dream, God created the world and everything He made was good, and only good all the time. Then God made people, and they were very good, and it seemed as though God’s dream was close to becoming reality… but God’s people kept getting in the way. Adam and Eve couldn’t help themselves, and neither could their children, who killed and murdered, and built towers to make their names great, and finally left God no option but to start again. But through it all God would not let His good dream die. Sure enough, God started again, and He started with Abraham, God whispered His good dream in Abraham’s ear and told him of the promised land. It seemed all very clear and all very straightforward. It seemed as if Abraham could just reach out and take it, after all, Abraham walked in the land God promised Him… but God’s people kept getting in the way. And three generations later, as God once again gave a dream to His people, Joseph’s brothers looked at Joseph in envy and malice, and once again humanity took a wrong turn. They thought to end the dream, the dream that was meant for their good, but which looked only threatening to Joseph’s brothers, so they plotted and schemed and sold Joseph into slavery. Now, surely, the dream was dead; but Joseph’s brothers—and humanity so many times since—have not counted on our God. Joseph may have given up on the dream; His father Jacob, may have given up on the dream; Joseph’s brothers, certainly thought the dream was dead but not God! Not the God of dreams. Not the God of the promised land. Oh no, this God—Joseph’s God, Abraham’s God, our God—no He was just getting started.
We come today, to the end of the story of Joseph, and we come today to the end of the Book Of Genesis. Along the way, we’ve sung the song ‘Any dream will do’ and we’ve seen the problems which Joseph and his brothers created for themselves. We’ve seen a young arrogant boy in a fancy coat be turned in to a wise and godly leader through a training regime which took him to Egypt, through jail, and into the Prime Ministers chair. We’ve seen Joseph’s brothers go from annoyed older brothers, to guilt-stricken liars who deceived their father Jacob, and yet never found a way to deal with their shame. Over the last two weeks we have seen the beginnings of reconciliation and reflected on the way in which Joseph’s reconciliation and forgiveness looked forward to Jesus’ reconciliation and forgiveness. And today, in our first reading (Genesis 50:15-26), we hear the words of God’s man, Joseph, whisper the words his brothers long to hear, as he says to them in verse 21 ‘do not be afraid’. They couldn’t know it then—and neither could Joseph—but these words pre-figured their greater descendant Jesus, as He rose from the dead, defeating all sin and shame, as He whispered to His disciples those very same words ‘do not be afraid’. This phrase used twice in two of our readings—and spanning over a thousand years between the first and the second—each time reminds those who hear it, that God’s good dream is still on track. Joseph’s brothers meant to kill the dream by their actions. Jesus’ killers meant to kill the dream once again by their actions. But our Good God took their actions and used them for good. The words of Joseph, sum up the whole of his story, and indeed the whole story of Genesis—if not the whole bible—when he says in verse 20 of our first reading: ‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.’ The God of the dream—our Good God—kept working away to ensure His dream of a creation entirely in harmony with Himself, of a the world that He loved, who would love in return, who would love Him, and love their neighbours, would finally come true. It was a plan and a dream which took thousands of years to fulfil, and in many ways is still not fully realised. This dream—this good dream—is a dream to which each of us reading this—and indeed, each person who has ever lived and will ever live—is called to join in with. Abraham was called. Joseph was called. Moses was called, Martin Luther King was called, and so are you. It is a dream which seems too good to be real, and at times—so many times—it has seemed to be dead. But the God of dreams, is a God of resurrections, and He works all things for good, and what we intend for harm, God has a way of making it work for the Good.
We do not always see the fulfilment of our dreams. And while Joseph got to see his brothers bowing before him, he did not get to see the fulfilment of the promised land. In fact in many ways, at the end of Joseph’s story, the dream seems to be further away than at the beginning. At the beginning, God’s people are living in the promised land, even though it is not theirs; at the end they have had to flee, and now live many hundreds of miles away… but, God has not finished. Martin Luther King didn't get to see the fulfilment of his dream either. He was assassinated before America was finally stripped of segregation. But Martin knew the God of dreams would ensure—and in Jesus’ death and resurrection had already guaranteed—a promised land of perfect peace and love, would one day arrive. We may not have got there yet, even today, for we are still waiting for Jesus to bring in His kingdom, but like Martin, and like Joseph before him, we can be sure that the Good God—the God who created the good world, and who sends dreams to His people—will ensure that His dream—His good dream—will one day come in its entirety. Twenty-four hours before Martin Luther King’s assassination, he was on his feet speaking, and he was heard to say: ‘We’ve got some difficult days ahead, But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land’. For Martin—and for every Christian—Jesus’ resurrection makes that promise a certainty, and in the meantime, Jesus asks only that we hold on to his dream, and keep working with Him to make it a reality. Jesus asks us to keep on believing, keep on trusting, keep on serving, and keep on sharing His dream; knowing for a fact that he is working behind the scenes to make that dream a reality. We too, like Martin, and like Joseph before him will go through difficult times. We too, like Martin and like Joseph before him, will have times when darkness seems to drown out the light. But we know what Martin knew—and what Joseph could not even guess—that God in Jesus can overcome the darkness of the darkest tomb, and in His resurrection use what was intended to harm for good and to accomplish the saving of many lives.
Today, in our Scriptures, and in our songs; in our prayers, and in our words of peace; and most supremely in His giving of Himself in the Sacrament, Jesus whispers to us of His dream, and asks us to hold on while He works with us to make it a reality. And so, as we close our series in Joseph, it turns out that in fact not ‘any dream will do’, but only one dream; the dream of the Good God, who dreams of a world when we only love all the time and all darkness has been done away with. Sisters and brothers, keep dreaming that good dream, and one day we too will see the Promised Land. Amen (from Fr Mike).