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.When my son was younger he came home from his dad's house and there was one thing that just gnawed at his insides more than all the others. He had a hard time letting it go. He told me about his brother and sister and usually when he was speaking of them he was all about the love. He would tell me of how they played together and what they did. He would share the stories he read to them or the movie he introduced them to or the addiction to Avatar (the tv show) he started. His brother and sister are much younger than him. But that summer his sister was going through the phase where you test your parents about how much whining will get what you want. So my son was out with siblings and stepmom and his sister started whining about needing ice cream. She was relentless and cried, wailed, begged, pleaded, and refused to cooperate. So stepmom went and bought ice cream for her son and daughter but said my son was old enough that he didn't need any. He thought this was so unjust, so unfair, so wrong that he had a hard time letting it go. It was like the last straw, all of those little slights where they got to do thing he was never allowed to do had finally reached the tipping point for my son. It was one thing to get more tv, have to do fewer chores but when you are denied your favorite food because you are too old he just thought enough is enough.
5Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more.
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.
11So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind. Genesis 37:1-11
Jacob had eleven sons. But the one he loved the most, the one that was his favorite was Joseph.
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.Genesis 37I wonder if the coat was the last straw for those brother's the finally push that said it will never get better, he will always be loved more, given more. For his 10 older brother's we are told they hated him four times in eleven verses. His brother's saw Jacob give to Jospeh a symbol of all that was wrong in their family dynamic. For Joseph was one of his last child. A child that he didn't think would ever come. For his first wife had given him sons but his beloved wife. He worked year to win Rachel and then Rachel could not have children. And so a contest occurred between Rachel and her older sister Leah. Rachel gave her maid to Jacob to give her sons. So Leah gave her maid to Jacob and had sons. Then Leah conceived more sons and a daughter. And finally God open Rachel's womb and gave her Joseph. So this is a family with first wives and second wives, beloved wives, and wives just for breeding. There are sons and more sons with different mother's and different relationships to the father. And the father loved one of these son's the most. The son who he never thought possible. The son of his beloved. This son he gave him a robe, a robe that was fit for a king and his other 10 sons saw this love and hated Joseph.
There are many families who can relate to this dynamic. Where one child is loved more by a parent. The children always know this. This is especially hard in families that have gone through a divorce and there is remarriage and there are children with different parents. When the second family is formed and the first family is discarded or ignored. The children know they are treated differently and how they respond depends. Some of those children strike out at the step parents and blame them for the special treatment, recognizing that they are not loved or cared for int he same way as their own children. Some children become resentful of their step-siblings; they may lash out at them because they are easier to resent than a parent who is supposed to love you unconditionally.
Genesis tries to show us how deeply flawed humans can be and yet God can be their in the midst of that family drama. Genesis shows us that the people God has chosen to bring his dream into the world are not always sympathetic, but can be deeply flawed characters or come from a family so messed up they make your family look like saints. Into this family drama God places a dream. But people are given the dream and don't understand what it means. Joseph who has grown up knowing he was loved and feeling loved by his father, experiences this dream as a statement that the hatred of his brother's will not be the last word. Maybe Joseph shared his dream with his brother's because it was the last straw that day for his brother's never spoke peacefully to him. That day. when Joseph shared his dream
“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.” Genesis 37:6-7Joseph saw this dream as taking that pain, those words that hurt him from his brothers were not going to be the last word. That someday he would experience his brother's bowing down to him. With more hatred directed at him. Joseph dream's again.
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.” Genesis 37Joseph again experiences a dream where he sees his family bowing to him. His brother are not just full of hatred now they are also jealous. After all they have heard the story of how their father had stolen the blessing of his father from his brother. They had heard the story of how their father had tricked his brother into giving up his birthright. His own sons know that their is a real possibility that their father will give Joseph their inheritance, will show his love to Joseph by taking from them. So the brother's are jealous.
God has given these dreams to Joseph, but does not yet know the meaning and hope God has placed on this dreamer. But maybe God need Joseph to know that what was coming next was not going to be the last word. That slavery, sexual harassment, prison would not be the end of the dream. The dream was just begining and God was moving Joseph into the place where God's people could be saved.
While most of us won't be given a dream such as Joseph, he gives all of us hope that we can move through the worst that the world has to offer us and know that God is there with us even in the midst of drama. trauma, hurt and pain. God is there with us and will help us to experience the dream God has for us and in us.
Variation of a sermon preached on September 4, 2016 at St. Paul's UCC Hinckley, IL.