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Blessing and Promise: New Life

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You can watch the video of Pastor Kris’ reflection, Blessing and Promise: New Life, HERE.

Here comes that dreamer, Joseph. In the verses just before today’s reading the Bible tells us that at the time of this dream Joseph was 17 years old. A teenager. A young adult. And a bit of a brat. He was his father Jacob’s favorite of his 12 sons… and Joseph acted like it. He tattled on his older brothers. He bragged about his dreams. And his dad continued to spoil him with special gifts.

Last week, we read about Abraham’s vision as an elder in his nomadic community. Where Abraham felt “dried up,” God saw hope (Gen. 17:17). Now four generations later we are hearing about Joseph, and the dreams of the youth. Stories like this, tales of extravagant hope which both young and old alike have, are woven throughout the Bible. I believe that these narratives are important to pay attention to, as being aware of these inner stirrings can lead to transformation not only in our personal lives, but beyond—and can change the world.

Especially in these days of great trial, as we live during a pandemic and the myriad of economic, political, and justice movements swirling about. Thus, I want to take time this morning to explore how God is encouraging us to say “yes” to the dreamers in our midst, their hopes, your hopes, OUR HOPES, and the possibilities that can emerge in the days ahead.

I will begin by sharing a story. A tale about the dream of one young girl, and why the legacy of the Notorious RBG—Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—continues to rings true in her life, and the lives of many other women and girls today following Ginsburg’s death.

Once upon a time, a young girl from a small southwestern town in Wisconsin had a dream. A dream that she could change the world. This was in the late 1970’s and William Proxmire[1] was a U.S. Senator. This teenager, maybe a bit sure of herself, really, really wanted to be a page in the United States Senate. She researched the duties a page was expected to do. Basically, it involved being a runner for senators, delivering mail and legislative materials to various offices and in the Senate chamber. Being in the milieu of change was exactly where she wanted to be! When she was a junior in high school she applied for the job. She excitedly waited to hear from Senator Proxmire.

Time passed, and then a letter arrived in the mail. A letter from Senator Proxmire. In it he explained the state of Wisconsin did not host female pages in the Senate. The reason? There was no housing for them. There was only housing for male pages.

Thus, no interview. No opportunity to go to Washington D.C.—if you were a girl.

That teenaged girl was me.

Which is maybe why as I read this week’s Bible story about the headstrong, purpose driven, 17-year-old Joseph, I wondered about our human tendency to quash the dreams of our youth. How the status quo of “that’s just the way things are” deadens opportunities for transformation.

This week the news was filled with testimony. Testimonies to the amazing life of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. But the airwaves also resonated with the grand jury decision in Louisville, Kentucky, regarding the charges to be filed… and those not to be pursued… in the shooting death of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor. What were Breonna’s dreams for herself? What hopes died with her? What hopes do her mother and the rest of her family cling to?

What hopes do we have for the future of our country as elections loom and the race for a coronavirus vaccine is on? There is so much that needs to be repaired.

We, like Joseph, do not live in a vacuum.

Joseph, this young man who was maybe naïve but dreamed dreams… and shared his vision with others, was brushed off. Other people (his brothers), older people, naysayers, began to interpret his dreams for him. Their hate and fear warped their response to Joseph’s dream. What role might power, money, and fear be playing in our contemporary experience as we attempt to interpret God’s hopes for the future?

Throughout time many dreamers have been killed. Thrown into pits. Tossed aside.

As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr said in August of 1963, “… even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. 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 my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”[2]

The Lorraine Hotel in Memphis where King was killed 5 years later is now the National Civil Rights Museum. There is a plaque in his memory with these words from today’s scripture on it, “Here comes this master dreamer… Come now, let us kill him… and we shall see what will become of his dreams.”

What will become of his dreams? Her dreams? Their dreams? Our dreams?

Late this week, I mailed letters to the youth as they begin this unprecedented school year with masks, online classes, and social distancing. It contains a blessing for them in the learning ahead—and a challenge. I asked them to answer this question, “What problems in the world do you want to solve?” What are their dreams? How is God calling them to action? 

I included a postcard with a stamp in the letter for each youth. I asked them not only to answer the question, but to write down their answer on the card and to mail it back to me. I am looking forward to receiving the dreams of our youth!

In a moment, we will be welcoming new members to Memorial UCC. I have invited them to each think about what dreams they have for the church.

What about you? What are your dreams? For healing? Wholeness? Justice?

I leave you with the words of Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt who spoke at Justice Ginsburg’s eulogy as she lay in state at the U.S. Capitol on Friday:

“Today, we stand in sorrow and tomorrow we the people must carry on Justice Ginsburg’s legacy. Even as our hearts are breaking, we must rise with her strength and move forward. She was our prophet, our north star, our strength for so very long… God, give us the strength and bless us with the courage, the intelligence, the bravery, and the unbreakable resolve to pursue justice.”[3]

People of God—young and old—Have the courage this day to dream God’s dream and to have the unbreakable resolve to pursue healing and justice in the weeks ahead.

~ Pastor Kris

Reflection on Genesis 37:5-8, 19-22, 26-28 offered September 27, 2020

[1] “Senator William Proxmire,” Wisconsin Historical Society, October 3, 2012, https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Article/CS545.

[2] “’I Have A Dream’ Speech, In Its Entirety,” NPR (NPR, January 18, 2010), https://www.npr.org/2010/01/18/122701268/i-have-a-dream-speech-in-its-entirety.

[3] Lauren Holtzblatt, “User Clip: Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt Eulogy for Justice Ginsburg,” C-Span, September 25, 2020, https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4909812%2Fuser-clip-rabbi-lauren-holtzblatt-eulogy-justice-ginsburg.