The Dream Catcher

Posted by on Aug 14, 2014 in Faith Words |

Words of Faith

Rev. Rita S. Platt

Aug 10, 2014

“The Dream Catcher”

Genesis 37:12-28

Among the Chippewa and other American Indian tribes there is a legend that goes something like this: A spider was quietly spinning his web in his own space. It was beside the sleeping space of a grandmother.  Each day, the grandmother watched the spider at work, quietly spinning away. One day as she was watching him, her grandson came in, saw the spider, picked up the shoe and attacked the spider with the intent of killing it.  ”No, my son”, whispered grandmother, “don’t hurt him.” “But grandmother, why do you protect the spider?” asked the little boy. The older lady smiled, but did not answer. When the boy left, the spider went to the old woman and thanked her for saving his life. He said to her, “For many days you have watched me spin and weave my web. You have admired my work. In return for saving my life, I will give you a gift.” He smiled and moved away, spinning as he went. Soon the moon glistened on a magical silvery web moving gently in the window. “See how I spin?” he said. “See and learn, for each web will snare bad dreams. Only good dreams will go through the small hole. This is my gift to you. Use it so that only good dreams will be remembered. The bad dreams will become hopelessly entangled in the web and forgotten, never to come to pass.”(1)

This is just one of the legends that fostered the use of the “Dream Catcher” among all of the Indian tribes. Each nation, or tribe, has its own version of the legend, but the purpose is always the same, to guard against bad dreams and let the good dreams come through. I’m sure that most of you have seen them, at least in pictures.

Joseph could have used a dream catcher; it would have been helpful to be able to distinguish between a good and bad dream.  He tells his brothers a pair of dreams that symbolically communicated that his brothers would bow to him, and he tells them these dreams in a way that really doesn’t seem to blunt the impact.  I am certain they thought these were very bad dreams. It seems to his brothers that Joseph may be getting a little big for his britches.  Even his father Jacob rebukes him over the dreams. If Joseph had a dream catcher they might have been caught, but then we wouldn’t have this morning’s reading.

Jacob sends Joseph out to the fields where his brothers are and when they see him coming they decide to end his ambitions then and there.  “Here comes this dreamer,” they say to each other.  “Come, let us kill him” (Gen 37:19-20).  Now, Joseph might believe his own press a little too much, but that’s not really an excuse to kill him.  But the decades of family conflict finally have gotten to what might have been an inevitable conclusion.

The brothers want to kill the dream, to stop it from becoming a reality.  And by the end of the story the dream is over in the minds of the brothers and Jacob.  But it isn’t over; in truth it has only just begun because God is the original Dream Catcher.

As Walter Brueggemann insightfully observes:

Though hidden in the form of a dream, silent and not at all visible, the listener will understand that the dream is the unsettling work of [the LORD] upon which everything depends.  Without the dream there would be no Joseph and no narrative.  From the perspective of the brothers, without the dream there would be no trouble or conflict.  For the father, without the dream there would be no grief or loss.  The dream sets its own course…and in the end, the dream prevails over the tensions of the family. (2)

The irony in all of this is the fact that the brothers’ choice to turn on Joseph is the very thing that leads to the fulfillment of the dream.

The brothers assumed the dream was about Joseph’s ambition and some kind of preferential treatment.  And can you blame them?  That’s how Jacob dealt with Joseph all the time – the favorite son. Whether spoken or unspoken his brothers knew it.  They assumed that the dream of them bowing to Joseph was a continuation of Joseph’s status over and above them.

The truth is that Joseph’s elevation wasn’t to a position of superiority but one of servanthood.  God’s people needed to be cared for, and Joseph was tabbed as the person best able to pave the road forward. But neither Joseph nor his brothers completely understood the dream.

We usually don’t understand the dream either; that’s why we need time.

Joseph spent at least 10 years between the time of his dream and the realization of his dream. Part of that time he spent in slavery. At least two years of that time he spent in prison.

Between the time of the dream and the reality of the dream come true, when life happens in the in-between times, it is tempting to forget the dream.

That’s when we need to trust the original dream catcher.

As individuals…as a church… will we dare to dream God’s dream again?

It won’t be easy; there will be opposition.

I think about Martin Luther King, Jr., articulating a dream of unity. We remember his sermon on the Washington Mall, where he spoke of a day when people would be judged by their character and not the color of their skin. This was a dream from God about a future of hope and inclusiveness. The dreamer was a threat to the status quo, and, ultimately, those who resisted his words and his dream silenced him.

I think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor who fought against Nazism in World War II. He was a leader in the Confessing Church and became involved in the anti-Hitler resistance movement. He was arrested, charged and found guilty of sedition in a plot to assassinate Hitler. He was hanged for his resistance to Nazism, but he continues to speak to us through his writings, as he encourages the church to live out its prophetic calling within community. Bonhoeffer was a dreamer who bravely lived out what his conscience dictated, even when it meant going against the powerful structure of Nazism and public sentiment.

If we are willing to risk adversity – if we will be prayerful – if we will open ourselves to catch God’s dreams, life will happen. But one day, perhaps when we least expect it, we may wake up some morning, with our eyes opened to the reality of God’s leading in even the mundane aspects of life. Even though life happens, God still works the divine purposes out in our lives. Our responsibility is to be faithful. Our responsibility is to place our trust in THE DREAM CATCHER.

(1) First People Legends –

(2) Brueggmann, Walter . Genesis: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Westminster John Knox Press :1982,1986.  Pages 288-289