Friday, August 15, 2008

Fall Transformation

On RevGalBlogPals the Friday Five question is this:

For this Friday's Five, share with us five transformations that the coming fall will bring your way.Bonus: Give us your favorite activity that is made possible by the arrival of fall.

So here are the transformations I anticipate this fall. (The question, of course, is what will happen that I don't anticipate.):

1. At age 52, becoming a student again as I start work on my MDiv degree. (What am I thinking?)

2. At the same time, continuing to morph from a rookie pastor (2 months in to my first appointment) to someone who has a clue about what they're doing. Of course, there is also the need to appear to remain calm and in control at the same time.

3. In December, my son turns 18, so I become a parent of adult children--very different than having just children.

4. Getting to go back to wearing my lace shawls again all the time. Yes, I have missed them. Maybe I can even add some heavier ones into the mix.

5. Going outside without melting. I'm not really much of a hot weather person, so I look forward to this one.

Favorite fall activity: With the whole family back in school, being able to get back to a predicatable and much more productive schedule.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I'm In!

The big news-I've officially been accepted by St. Paul's School of Theology at Oklahoma City University. Woohoo!! Let the 'fun' begin. Actually, craziness might be a better term. In any case, I'm soon going to be a lot busier. It's been nice feeling like there was at least a hope of getting or staying caught up, but I think that's about to change. Oh well, what's life without a challenge. Guess my Xbox time if fixing to really take a nosedive.

Oh well, speaking of being less than caught up, here's my sermon for last week (even as I'm late getting started with this week's):

Killing the Dreamer
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
August 10, 2008

Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. 2This is the story of the family of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. 4But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.
5Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. 6He said to them, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed. 7There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” 8His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words. 9He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, “What kind of dream is this that you have had? Shall we indeed come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to the ground before you?” 11So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
12Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. 13And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.” 14So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron. He came to Shechem, 15and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” 16“I am seeking my brothers,” he said; “tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” 17The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’“ So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. 18They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. 19They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” 21But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him” —that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father.
23So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; 24and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. 25Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. 28When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.
If you remember the story from last week, we talked about Jacob the liar, Jacob the cheat, Jacob the wheeler-dealer. We talked about how Jacob dealt so sharply with his brother, Esau, that he ended up having to leave home to save his life. And we talked about how even after all that, God came to him when he had lost everything and promised that God would never leave him, God would take care of him, and God would bring him back to his family—not because of who Jacob was, but in spite of who he was.
And all those thing came to pass, just as God promised. Maybe not as quickly as Jacob expected. In fact, surely not as quickly as Jacob expected because it took 20 years of being subjected to the same kind of duplicity that he had handed out to his brother before he was able to come home. He had to spend some time unlearning how he had always behaved before, some time reaping the consequences of his behavior. But eventually he came back home, with his four wives and thirteen children, and his flocks and his herds and his servants. He came home to face Esau and to face up to what he had done. He came home expecting to have more consequences to face—and Esau forgave him.
Which brings us to this week. This week’s story is set somewhat after Jacob’s return, maybe 10 years or so. The children are mostly grown, some have wives and children of their own. Even the youngest, Joseph and Benjamin are teenagers by now, and Jacob is starting to get old. Funny thing about Jacob. Even though he had suffered so much because of his father, Isaac’s, preferential treatment of his brother Esau, in spite of that, Jacob still apparently hadn’t learned much about parenting. He certainly hadn’t learned just how toxic parental preference could be. Or maybe he remembered, but because he missed Rachel so much, he just couldn’t help himself. For whatever reason, Jacob repeated the mistakes of his father and favored one son over all the others. And the son that he favored was Joseph.
Joseph is an interesting son. Certainly he is amazingly gifted—smart, good looking, charming, well-spoken. Everything that a father could want in a son. Not nearly as disappointing as some of his other sons had been. This boy was truly full of promise.
Of course, he was also a teenager--he was 17 at this time--and just as naïve, passionate, self involved and convinced he was right as many 17 year olds are today. Why else would Joseph tell Jacob and his brothers about his dreams of someday being in charge of things, of being better than the rest of them? Only a teenager could share a story like that and not understand why everyone else found it annoying.
Of course, Joseph had already burned a few bridges with his brothers by ratting them out to their father, so it wouldn’t take much. And then for Jacob to make it even worse be giving him that special coat, much better than everyone else’s stuff too boot, was just more than they could tolerate. The scripture tells us that it had gotten so bad that the brothers couldn’t even speak peaceably to Joseph. They literally couldn’t even stand to be around him.
So what did Joseph do? He sent Joseph off alone to check on his brothers. I cannot imagine what he was thinking. Although Rabbi Marc Gellman says that the reason he sent Joseph after his brothers was to give Joseph the chance to make things right with them away from the Jacob’s presence and away from the prying eyes of friends, family and servants. That certainly makes more sense than any other explanation I can think of.
So Joseph went looking for his brothers. He didn’t find them in the first place he looked, but he found someone who put him on the right path and soon he found his way to his brothers’ sheep camp.
The boys were not thrilled to see him coming. It apparently didn’t occur to them that Joseph might be looking for reconciliation. All they could see was that the annoying one had followed them even all the way out here. They could not get away from this guy! But they had had enough. They were going to take care of this burr under their saddle once and for all.
But look what they say. Not, “Now’s our chance to get rid of the punk.” Not, “Finally we can get even with Dad’s pet, now that the old man’s not here to protect him.” What they said was, “This is our chance to get rid of this dreamer.” What an interesting complaint. Out of all the things that they could be angry with Joseph about, the one that really sticks in their craw is his dreams.
Dreams. What was the big deal with that? Dreams are just dreams, after all. Well, most of the time that’s true. That’s true when the dreams are our dreams. But when the dreams are God’s dreams, that’s something else entirely. We aren’t often privileged, as individuals, to receive a dream from God. And maybe that’s a good thing. God dreams are disturbing. Without fail, God dreams will disrupt the status quo. Without fail, God dreams will bring change. And God dreams will not fail. Those who are given the gift of a dream from God may ignore it, and lose the opportunity to be part of something great. But no one can kill it.
Joseph’s brothers knew all about God dreams. Their father had had two of them, and they were still living in the promises of those dreams. They knew what God dreams meant. And if Joseph’s dreams were truly from God, things were going to change. And not in their favor. Of course, they didn’t want anything to change. They wanted everything to stay just the way it was. They were comfortable with the status quo. They knew how everything was going to go from week to week. They knew who got what they wanted and how they fit into the scheme of things. It might not be exciting, but it was comforting. They had grown up with it. They were raising their children in the same context. As long as nothing ever changed, they wouldn’t have to change either. They might never get the chance to embrace anything new, but they wouldn’t have to let go of anything old, either.
You see, they didn’t just hate Joseph, they feared him. They were afraid that he might be right. They were afraid that his dreams really were from God. And they were afraid they God might use Joseph to really bring change. And not only might things change, but in that change, they might lose something. They might lose power, or jobs, or opportunities, or status. Of course, they might gain, too, but they couldn’t see that. All they could see was their fear.
So they decided to get rid of the dreamer. If they killed him, maybe the dream would die with him. But God’s dreams don’t die that easily. In fact, that’s one of the ways you can tell God’s dreams from people’s dreams. God’s dreams won’t die, no matter what we do to them. Our dreams may fade or fail, but God’s will come to pass, even if you kill the dreamer. That’s one of the great benefits of choosing to open ourselves to God. When we let go of our dreams in order to grasp God’s dreams, we become part of dreams that won’t die, fade or turn out to be all wrong. God’s dreams don’t ever turn out to be nightmares in disguise the way ours sometimes do.
God’s dreams continue beyond the dreamer, even if they are killed. Joseph’s brothers desperately hoped that Joseph’s dreams were his own alone. They told themselves that was just Joseph being Joseph. They were afraid when he insisted that these dreams were different. The last thing these jealous brothers wanted was for Joseph’s dreams to come true and change their world. So they decided to get rid of him.
But all they got by killing him was a load of guilt that did change their lives anyway. They crippled themselves by trying to go against the dream. Instead of destroying the dream, they destroyed themselves. They destroyed themselves with guilt. Which of them could ever look their father or their brother Benjamin in the eye again? They destroyed themselves with fear. Their fear that things might change and they couldn’t control it led them to actions that bound them in fear for the rest of their lives. What if someone found out what they had done? What if someone told? They destroyed themselves with shame over what they had done. The guilt, fear and shame they took on that day eventually twisted and warped their lives so much that they couldn’t accept the good things that came later. Even after Joseph saved them all by bringing them to Egypt, they never could let go of their fear, guilt and mistrust. They doomed themselves.
So why does this matter to us today? It matters because God is still sending dreams into the world. God is sending dreams of justice and mercy. God is sending dreams of peace and freedom. And God is sending dreams of something new to the church. I believe that in next 20 to 50 years, the church will be transformed into a something we can’t imagine. The question is, are we going to embrace these changes, be part of God’s dream? Or are we going to make the same mistake Joseph’s brothers made and try to kill it?
Soon it will be time for our Annual Charge Conference. Soon it will be time to begin drawing up our plans for the future. Now it is the time to begin to open ourselves to God and to seek God’s dream for us, individually and as a church.
Do we act from faith in God and the dreams God sends us? Or do we act in fear? As with Joseph’s brothers, the choice is ours.
In the name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sustainer—The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

And Now...

Well, a lot has happened since last Saturday. I just now realized that I completely forgot to post last Sunday's sermon. Maybe I can get that done later today, although my plans for today have been superseded by other people's events.

We did get a car for DS, a base-model Hundai Accent. It's a really nice car and he really likes it. Now we're in the flurry of arranging financing, insurance, etc. Of course, coming home from a church party last night in the rain, he hit a curb and bent the rim (Ouch) on one of the tires, so now a big chunk of today will be spent getting prices and making arrangements to get that repaired. We did agree that this expense is on him, though, so it looks like he'll be keeping that summer job a little longer than he planned to. I know that when you get something new that's really special, something always happens to it right away, but it still makes you kind of sick when it happens.

DD is coming home today to visit for a day or two and take home her dog. I really do like her dog, but I have to admit that I like it better at her house than mine.

I'm still waiting for word from the seminary. They should have received the last recommendation by now because I know they were mailed last week so I should hear something really soon. I know I need to get my books ordered, but I wanted a definite acceptance before I did that. I may have to go ahead and order them anyway.

DS and his friend are awake now, so I can actually turn on lights and make noise so I think I'll go and get a few things done.