A Coat of Many Colors

I came across Dolly Parton singing on an Irish App. I was intrigued by the song she sang that she wrote about a coat made of rags her mother sewed together for her as a child: A Coat of Many Colors! What a coincidence to come across this when one of the scripture passages in this week’s lectionary is about Joseph and the jealousy his coat of many colors elicited from his 11 brothers! Her coat didn’t elicit jealousy. It brought her ridicule: however, she defended its special worth to her by retelling the Biblical story of Joseph and how her mother stitched it with love! She sings “that one is only poor only if they choose to be. Now I know we had no money But I was rich as I could me, in my coat of many colors that my Mama made for me.”

Knowing the rejection of Joseph by his brothers who really wanted him dead, and having memories of going to school in clothes that elicited ridicule, and being Irish; I found myself crying as she sang.

I am a Jazz listener – country and western is not my ouvre. But I was crying like a baby. I think something is happening to me. I was watching a rom-com waiting for the Yankees game to start and I found myself drying tears that were streaming from my eyes. I got to the Yankee game in the third inning because I needed to stay till the happy ending!

What’s going on? Is it old age? Is it the quarantining? Is it the malaise that surrounds us with its unfeeling libel passing itself off as righteous indignation?

The Bible is an under-read, over-qouted warning label that most of our citizenry ignores.

St. Paul, who was not afraid to offer his opinion, also said-commanded: “Call no person a fool.” We are never to degrade a child of God – it is an insult to our creator. If we find ourselves hating another, we should fall instantly to our knees and seek God’s forgiveness. It is tantamount to murder: those are the thoughts of Jesus Christ.

We are an impatient and very selfish culture that fails to check our facts before we begin to criticize. We claim to be supporting truth, but we’ll quote stuff we never take the time to vet. We mostly respond to our feelings and leave our logic in neutral.

If you think that God will allow this to go on without a response, you are mistaken. And don’t get defensive! This is not the time for lashing out. Now is the time for confession – introspection – considering how much our minds and hearts resemble those of Jesus. Contradict Jesus with your life and you are defining yourself as opposed to God. These are hard words, but they are meant to lead the hearer to freedom from sin.

Joseph was a dreamer! Today dreamers are ridiculed and criticized as impractical and even dangerous. But the Bible’s main characters; those who revealed the nature and will of God to the greater world, were ALL DREAMERS!

All the prophets, most of the patriarchs, the Apostles! Joseph’s dreams saved the life of Jesus as a baby. Peter’s dream led the church to reach out to gentiles. Paul’s dreams (answers to prayer) brought Christianity to Europe and instructed us in dealing with adversity!

Here comes that dreamer, the brothers said derisively to one another as they conspired to kill him. They were jealous because their father Israel (Jacob, another dreamer) loved Joseph more than he loved them, because he was the son of his old age! Jacob made Joseph the coat with long sleeves!

THE COAT OF MANY COLORS! It symbolizes love! Much like the rainbow that God placed in the clouds to assure humankind that “never again would he destroy the earth with a flood.”

Here Comes that dreamer! Joseph had two dreams that he shared with his brothers and father, because dreams are meant to be shared!

The first: “We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheave stood upright, while your sheaves gathered round mine and bowed down to it.”
The brothers replied: Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him more because of the dream and what he said!

The second: I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”
His father rebuked him: “Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?”

This is a common reaction to dreams: We take them as a critique of the way we have been living rather than as a way to salvation. Eventually Joseph who was beaten and rejected and sold into slavery would prove the salvation of the Jewish people, and their bowing down would be in gratitude – thanksgiving.

God’s revelation through Josephs dreams were received as nightmares by his family!

Joseph, as I said, was not killed by his brothers, but sold into slavery because of the intervention of his two brothers Reuben and Judah. But they told a lie to their father!

They took his coat of many colors and dipped it in the blood of a slaughtered goat (sheep) and brought it to Jacob and said they had found it and some ferocious animal had devoured him! [the ferocious animal was the hatred of the brothers. When we are warned that sin waits like a ravenous lion to devour us, I believe it is referring to our hate – hate that arises from our shame, and like in the case of Joseph’s brothers, takes the form of jealousy.

One of the ten commandments warns us against COVETOUSNESS – envy. Envy for the love of their father that Joseph received resulted in jealousy!

God sends us dreams of salvation and we turn them into nightmares by our reaction to them. God desires that we embrace dreams of salvation that give us a window into the Kingdom of God. I think of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” sermon and weep.

Dreamers are sacrificed on the altar of selfishness and ignorance and blindness concerning the will of God.

When Dolly Parton was singing her testimony to love, I cried, not for her childhood pain, or mine. I cried for the other children caught in a reality that permits the making fun of difference and poverty. Dolly is famous and wealthy. I am pleased with a good life that has been filled with blessings.

Perhaps those children found the salvation that God extended to the brothers of Joseph. I pray for everyone to experience the salvation God offers us in Christ. Would that we may all one day be so secure in the Love of God that we reject jealousy and find our peace in loving our neighbors as ourselves!