I read a good Lenten reflection on today’s OT lesson (Genesis 37:1-11). The author puts into words what I think all of us must be feeling when we read about Joseph relaying to his family his dreams of his own primacy over them. That author wrote, “Joseph - STOP! Just shut up and there will be peace!” It is hard for us to read about the youngest son blabbing to his brothers and father about them bowing down to him. Joseph’s father says it best, “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?” The answer to the family disunity seems obvious—just keep it to yourself!
But these aren’t just accidental dreams. They are prophetic. Fast-forward several years and we will discover that Joseph’s family is desperate for his help when he is an official in Pharaoh’s household. But that’s a long way away. We have to go from dreams, to murderous plot, to slavery, to more dreams, to famine, to chance reunion. On that side of the story, the dreams, which actually set that whole work in motion, aren’t quite as easy to dismiss.
On the one hand, we all know that discretion is often an important part of preserving family harmony. But on the other hand, sometimes God calls us to a place that shakes things up. When is it God’s will that families be torn apart? Or, better yet, when is God’s prophetic word sharp enough to turn brothers against each other? It might not always be God’s will that Thanksgiving be a peaceful time. When is it right to say what needs to be said? When a grandparent is blindly racist? When a father is unaccepting of his gay son? When a mother cannot admit her alcoholism? When the family seems more interested in preserving peace than listening to God’s will?