Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said to them, ‘Listen to this dream that I dreamed. There 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.’ His 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. He 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.’ But 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?’ So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
Some of us cannot hear this story without Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat humming away in the background, and maybe the words, “any dream will do” penned by Tim Rice. But that just doesn’t make sense – any dream won’t do! Of the dreams I do remember, most are rubbish, and far too many are more nightmare than dream! So, it must be wonderful to have a God-given dream, that is actually a prophetic word – just like Joseph had. Here is a dream that “will do” for surely everyone will rejoice at Joseph being chosen as God’s messenger. Not exactly! The meaning was so clear, it hardly needed interpretation, for the family would be humiliated to have to bow down before their younger brother. They wouldn’t hear this as a Word from God, and as for coming true – they would make sure it didn’t!
Spiritual gifts, like dreams from God are awesome, giving life, healing, hope and restoration, re-assuring people of God’s love. It is because they are so transformative, so powerful, that they can also be so dangerous, and destructive. Like a box of matches that gives light and warmth, in the wrong hands can burn down a whole forest. That is why Scripture is so clear that all spiritual gifts are precious and need careful handling, to be tested, and shared in the Spirit of Christ, with humility and service. The story shows what happens when handled badly, and with the wrong attitude.
Already Joseph was on a pedestal, spoilt by his father. If only he had someone he could trust – sadly maybe his mother Rachel, who had died. Do you have someone to confide in, share your vulnerability, even to test out what God may be saying in your life? Seek God’s spiritual gifts, but may your motivation be Christ’s love, and may you be surrounded by Christ’s fellow travellers. Then, close your eyes and draw back the curtain…
Give me the confidence to be open to receive spiritual gifts to heal, help, reconcile and restore.
Give me the courage to use your gifts and the wisdom to use them well.
Give me discipline to accept the testing of these gifts by Christians we trust in counsel and councils.
Give me a servant-heart to let these gifts be shared freely and generously.
Give me humility to welcome and receive the gifts of others.
Give me the dreams that are full of your life-giving Spirit.
The Rev’d Kevin Watson, Yorkshire Synod Moderator and Moderator of General Assembly 2016-18