The Second Sunday After The Epiphany
January 20th, 2019
The Rev. Charles Christian Adams
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
We thank God that you persevered through this storm and through the ice and that you didn’t cancel church. I guess since they didn’t shut down the auto show, close the movies or the mall, we would do well to keep worshiping. If they’re going to work, we should keep worshiping. I thank God for the many prayers and praises that have gone up. And I thank God for this wonderful ensemble and the choir that always sings with power and for your forbearance with your great pastor for inviting your humble servant to serve in this way.
I thank God for Dr. Danaher, he’s a brilliant man, and you are blessed to have him in this great house. He is of substance and he’s got a little style. You know where I come from, preachers are bald and have a potbelly. But this man here is a blessing to not only Christ Church Cranbrook but to Detroit, Metropolitan Detroit Community, as he is a leader. He is most, one of the most resourceful people that I have ever known. And he has a heart, a gigantic heart that is blessing many people. I don’t want to keep you on your feet too long, unless you think that you’ve turned Catholic. I grew up in a Catholic school. Mass was always a up and down enterprise. So, I want to re-emphasize the scripture that was read before and just put an amen on that. And about Joseph and his dream. And you may be seated.
Living the dream, living the dream. And I want to give thanks to the entire ministerial staff who I’ve been working closely with, not only in these worship experiences, but in community action. They are making the world a better place. Thank God for all of you for holding up the blood-stained banner of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And for my family that accompanied me here today. When we think about Martin Luther King, Jr., we think of one who dared to live the dream that God placed in his heart. A dream that he worked to actualize and realize in the world that surrounded him.
When we look at Joseph and the 37th chapter of Genesis, and I bid you to read the entire chapter at your leisure. Really read on through the end of Genesis, and there’s a tremendous blessing there. As you see the dream of Joseph come to its fulfillment. We see one, we see another who have dared to live their dream. And here’s the point, everybody ought to have a dream, not just Joseph, not just Martin Luther King, Jr., but everybody. One of the biggest impediments to positive social change is the stunning loss of idealism. And the amazing thing is, it starts so young. We’re dealing with a generation that says, this is the way it is, and this is the way it’s always going to be. It is what it is, and that’s all it ever shall be. We have come to a place where we have accepted that, that which we could change instead of having the wisdom to accept the things that we cannot change and the courage to change the things that we can. We have come to a place where people are no longer dreaming for a better day.
Before we saw Barack Obama in Denver, Colorado, I remember as a child Jesse Louis Jackson, and when he lost the nomination from the Democratic Party for President of the United States. In essence, he kind of brokered a deal where he would address the convention. I remember sitting around my TV as he gave one of the most memorable speeches in the history of this country. These are the words he said 1984, “Young America, hold your head up high now. We can win. We must not lose you to drugs and violence, premature pregnancy, suicide, cynicism, pessimism and despair. We can win. Wherever you are, I challenge you to hope and to dream. Don’t submerge your dreams. Even on drugs, dream of the day that you are drug free. Even in the gutter, dream of the day when you will be up on your feet again. You must never stop dreaming. Face reality, yes. But don’t stop with the way things are. Dream of things as they ought to be. Dream, face pain, but love, hope, faith and dreams will help you rise above the pain. Use hope and imagination as weapons of survival and progress. But you keep on dreaming.
“Dream of peace. Peace is rational and reasonable. War is irrational in this age and unwinnable. Dream of teachers who teach for life and not for a living. Dream of doctors who are concerned more about public health and private wealth. Dream of lawyers who are more concerned about justice than a judgeship. Dream of preachers who are more concerned about prophecy than profiteering. Dream on the high road with sound values. Wherever you are, you can make it. Hold your head up high, stick your chest out. You can make it. Sometimes that road gets dark, but the morning will come. Don’t surrender. Suffering will breed character. Character breeds faith and in the end, faith will not disappoint.”
If we accept that this is possible to hold on to a dream, then a reasonable question might be how do we live the dream? How do we actualize it? And I’m glad you asked. We find it right there in the life of Joseph. I don’t need you to pour over the text, I’m going to help you out. Joseph had a dream, a dream that God gave him. Those dreams were a gift of God. He dreamed just like Jacob dreamed. That’s what got him out of trouble with his uncle. Am I right about it? He dreamed as many would dream after him. But this dream was Joseph’s and he held on to it. And he believed that God was going to fulfill it. And I think in his life, we might find a way that we may adequately remember Martin Luther King Jr. And remember that God has not just given Joseph and Dr. King a dream, but each one of us. In their lives, we might find the roadway to live our dream.
First of all, we see that in order to live the dream, you must tithe. I knew it was going to get very quiet when I said that. You must tithe, because tithing is not just a monetary concept, it’s a spiritual construct. If you learn the importance of sacrifice, nobody’s going to have to check your tax returns to make sure you’re giving 10% to your church. You’ll give more than that. The money will come. Because a life that is dedicated to Christ can’t do enough for the church and for humanity. If it is truly a matter of the heart, the Bible says where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. But it’s about time. It’s about giving of your service and sacrifice. It is about doing the work.
And one thing about Joseph, he gets a bad rap, right? He was a favorite son and he had all this favor. And he was so prideful, and he was just rubbing it in his brothers’ faces, right? But that’s not true. Joseph was a worker. He was working for his dad in the field when he brought back, according to Genesis 31 and 37 chapters, a report that his brothers were doing something that they shouldn’t have been doing, right? So, he wasn’t a tattletale, that was business. And then he was just trying to serve his brothers. He was out in the field with them. He wasn’t relaxing somewhere. And he worked when he went to Potiphar’s house. He worked when he went on into Pharaoh’s house. He was a hard worker. He put in the work. He tired of his service and his sacrifice. He didn’t take it for granted.
Well, when we think about Martin Luther King, Jr., remember that this was a man who worked. He worked so hard that after he died in the autopsy, the doctor said, “Even though he was 39 years old, he had the heart of a 60-year-old man. And that was attributed to the stress and the strain of the civil rights movement.” If we’re going to live the dream, we’ve got to work. But also, if we’re going to live, we’ve got to tithe. And tithe is being sacrificial, sacrifice boils down to work, but also in order to tithe, I mean, in order to live the dream, you must be tough. Dreaming is not for the faint of heart. As you read, after Joseph had his dream, that’s when his brothers got jealous. Even his father rebuked him when he told his dream to his father. When he had dreams it brought a backlash.
And I would like to tell you that when you have your dreams of a better society, racial reconciliation and a more equal distribution of resources in society, that everybody’s going to say, “Yes, great job! Way to go!” Then when you have a dream that you can become anything that you set your mind to. That you can accomplish anything that God places in your heart. That you can be the best. That you can stand toe to toe, eye to eye with anybody and succeed. I would like to tell you that you will get nothing but support but that is not the case. There will always be those that will oppose you. They tried to kill him and the only thing saved his life was Reuben and Judah depending on how you read the text, and that was just selling him into slavery. So, understand this, they may try to kill you if you really have a dream that God has placed in your heart. If they don’t try to kill your body, they’ll try to kill your spirit. So, who is he? Who is she to stand up and tell us this and that? Who are they to try to do this? As a matter of fact, I know their past. I know what they’ve been through. They may try to discourage you, tell you, “Oh, you’re going to be just like your mother,” or “You’re going to be just like your father. You’re never going to amount to anything.” If they don’t try to kill your body, they’re going to kill your spirit.
But I’m glad that a tough time and a tender heart can achieve so many things. Martin Luther King Jr. had a tough life. I mean, there’s going to be many tomorrow who say, “Oh, how we admire Dr. King, how we worked with Dr. King.” But we know that wasn’t the case, no, no. We know where he stood in opposition of the Vietnam War that even ministers turned their back on him. We know that he faced enormous criticism from those weary of all that he advocated. He said, “Enough is enough.” And he was isolated and alone. And I know there were many nights he felt like giving up. We know that he was beaten, we know that he was stabbed, we know that he was investigated, we know that he had to go through so many tough obstacles in life. But yet, he kept on dreaming and we are going to dream on. We too must have a tough mind. And we too cannot be turned around. But also, we must be tested if we’re going to live the dream. You’re kind of following me now right? With the tithing? You got to be tough, and you’re going to be tested.
Test, any teacher will tell you that a test is not just about evaluation. A test is for preparation. You’ve got to be prepared for what God has for you. You’ve got to be ready for the opportunities that will come your way. What my mentor said is, “There’s nothing worse than not having opportunity except not being ready when the opportunity comes.” And in order to be ready, you must be tested. Joseph went through a lot in the Bible. And you wonder why. Why do bad things happen to good people? But you see, God was getting him ready to be the Prime Minister of Egypt. God was getting him ready for a role that he would play that would save not only his family, not only Egypt, but humanity because Joseph a lot tied to Jesus himself. In the fight of Joseph, you have a precursor to the life of Christ. Everything he went through was a test. And when you’re going through the ups and downs of life, the pits, the prisons, the rejection, remember that it’s only a test. That He’s getting you ready for something great.
We talk about Martin Luther King Jr., let me tell you something, Martin was tested. Not just physically, not just emotionally, but he was tested in every way. Academically, he went to obtain a degree in the 1950s, right? And he attributed his philosophy to the Western figures that he had come across, to the Egyptian mysteries Immanuel Kant writing his moral law. He wrestled. He wasn’t just coming up with this philosophy off the top of his head. He wasn’t just a do-gooder. But he was tested. He wrestled with these realities. There was the framework for his fall. All of these things made him the man he was. And so, when he came to the world with opposition, he could stand on solid ground and say, “I know I’m right.” When he faced the critique of the day, he could listen and weigh it and measure it. But then stand on principle after it all because he has been tested.
Let me tell you, we’re going to go through some tests in life. Why shouldn’t we? If the board of education says that students have to be tested, if you will not eat meat unless it’s been tested by the USDA, if you will not get on the plane unless the FAA tested the pilot, then why on Earth would we be any good to God if we had not been tested by the weathers of life. By the changes and challenges of life. By the preparation. I’m glad that I’ve had to face and testify. Because it made me become the person that I am. It’s made me become the servant leader that I am. You see, God has to test us to make sure we are rid of all our arrogance and our foul. God has to test us so that we are empathetic and sympathetic to the pains and needs of others. God has to test us so that when the going gets rough, we will keep going. There used to be a great hymn that said, “We wonder why the test when we’re trying to do our best. But we will understand it better by and by.”
But also, to live the dream, you must have, not only the tithes, not only toughness, not only have been tested, but you must have talent. Talent. And I know that might throw somebody because you feel like you’re not good at basketball, and you’re not the greatest golfer, you can’t sing, you can’t rap, you can’t dance, you’re not good at working on cars, but you’re good at something. We all have some gifts to bring to the table. I don’t know what you’re good at, but I guarantee you’re good at something. Sometimes life is daring you to actually find out what that is, right? Somebody said there’s two great moments in life, one of them is when you are born and the second one is when you find out why.
I remember my son, I didn’t know what he was going to do in school. And they had a forensics team, and somehow, I think he got lost and ended up at the forensics meeting. And he actually did a very good job. And I’ll never forget the teacher came to me and said, “I think Charles has finally found his niche.” Well, I think that’s the journey, right? We’ve got to find our niche, you got to find that link, that thing that we’re good at. So, that we can all, everybody’s good at something. Everybody has a talent to bring. I remember seeing a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. shooting pool. I don’t think he ever became a good pool player, but he was a pretty good preacher if I remember correctly. Right? And he was Martin Luther King Jr. that said, look, you don’t have to measure greatness by popularity or how much money you make. Just be good at what you do, right? He said, “If you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley.” But be the best little shrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you cannot be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, then just be a trail. If you can’t be the sun, be a star. It isn’t about size that you win or fail, be the best at whatever you are.
But also, we’re going to need time. I think you’re going to remember this one, right? Tithe, toughness, test, talent. If we’re going to live the dream, you must give it time. Give it time. Because in season, when the season comes, you will bear fruit. You’ll be like a tree, planted by the rivers of water. When the season comes, your dreams will bear fruit. Joseph had to wait 13 years before he would get to the place that he had dreamed about. He was 17, if you look at the beginning of that 37th chapter. At 17 years old, when the story really begins, and he was 30 years old when he became this Prime Minister of Egypt. Thirteen years he had to wait for the dream to fulfill. David had to wait 15 years before he became the King of Israel, right? And most of that time, he was running from Saul. We think about the Civil Rights Movement and all that Martin Luther King Jr. established and accomplished. We had the Voting Rights Act in 1964. And we didn’t have Barack Obama elected as President until 2008. What that teaches us is that anything worth having in life is worth waiting on.
You have to give relationships time. We’re too quick to give up on relationships. You have to give your work time. There’s nothing worse than somebody who’s very grateful when they first come to work, right? And then they get some quick disillusion and they’re ready to give up. Anything worth having in life is worth waiting on. You can’t get a degree overnight. You’ve got to work for it. You’ve got to wait on it. You can’t run a marathon overnight. You’ve got to prepare to run the marathon. And then, when you run, you’ve got to pace yourself. It takes time for dreams to come to fulfillment. Sometimes you need time because there’s more to come. The bad’s never been told. You don’t know what you don’t know. God has more for you. Life is never comprised of just one dream. One moment at a time. There are some parts you haven’t even been envisioned yet. And that brings me to my last consideration, and that is trust. Time, test, talent, toughness, tithing, and trust. I’m not going to quiz you anymore. You’ve got to trust. Over the course of time there are all these other changes. You’ve got to trust that somehow God has your best interest in mind. Even when it doesn’t feel like it. You’ve got to trust that all that hard work is going to lead to something. You’ve got to trust that someone.
Can you imagine how much Joseph had to trust God? Everywhere he went, all he tried to do was serve. He tried to serve his father. He tried to serve his brothers. He went to Potiphar’s house and tried to serve him. He went to prison and he looked at the faces of the chef and the baker, right? And saw that they were sad. He said, “What’s wrong? How can I help you?” And he had to interpret their dream. He was just trying to help. And then he goes to the palace and what’s he doing? He’s serving again. Then his brothers come up to the palace and see him there, and what does he try to do? Serve. All he was trying to do was serve everywhere he went. He was challenging him to believe against all the evidence that was to the contrary that this was going to work out. And it did. Then he became everything that God told him he would become. He did everything that God told him that he would do. But he had to trust God. He had to believe God.
And you see, the difficult thing about trust is you can’t see it. Faith is the sustenance you hope for, evidence of things not seen. It’s not what you can see. You have a dream beyond what you can see. There are things that God has for you that you have no idea that God has for you. You can never get to the place where you think you’ve arrived. You’ve got to understand that your latter will be greater than it is. The best is yet to come. I don’t care how old you are. Doesn’t the Bible say that the old man will dream dreams? Eyes haven’t seen and ears haven’t heard the things that God has in store for you. For you. Even if you accomplish your dream, guess what? You got the dream a little early. That’s what Michael Vick said. I heard it in an interview. He said when I got to the NFL, I was living my dream. I thought that I had made it. That’s why I took for granted that hundred-million-dollar contract. That’s why I live the way I live. And now I’m older and wiser and I’ve been through what I’ve been through, I’ve learned that when you achieve your dream, you got the dream a little further. So, this goes beyond what we’ve experienced. This goes beyond what we know.
Let me tell you something, don’t just dream for Mr. and Mrs. Right. Dream that you’ll have a god that will never leave you over sickness, that’ll be a friend that’ll stick closer to you than a brother. Don’t just dream that God will buy the baby a new pair of shoes, or help him to pay the light bill that’s due. Dream that God will supply all your needs. According to His riches and glory by Christ Jesus. Don’t just pray for peace in Washington and a bipartisan solution to the shutdown. Pray of the day when swords will be beaten into plowshares, spears, and throwing hooks. We will study war no more and justice will flow like waters in a righteous, righteous dream. Don’t just pray for healing. Pray for a day when there’ll be no more sin. Don’t just pray for encouragement, I’d pray for someone who’s encouraged by music. Encouraged by the prayers. Encouraged by the scripture. But don’t just pray for that. Pray for a day when there’s no more sadness. Don’t just pray for resuscitation. I’m going to tell my wife now. Don’t put Do Not Resuscitate on the papers, give it a chance. But you know what? I’m not really worried about that. Because even if you decide not to resuscitate, I’m praying for the resurrection. I’m praying for the day when there’s no more death. I’m praying for the day when we will have not just abundant life, but eternal life.
My friends, if somebody asks you how you’re doing today, you tell them, “I’m living the dream. I’m living the dream every day.” Can you trust God enough to say that? Does everybody know that you should be, you could not be here right now? As a matter of fact, some of us shouldn’t be here right now. We are blessed. We have been given life. We have been granted another day’s journey. We have another opportunity to keep dreaming. Joseph kept dreaming, dream after dream after dream. The Bible says he had one dream and he said it, then he had another dream and he said it. I’m telling you, keep on dreaming. Your life is a product of you having enough trust to live the dream.
Some of you can say, I’ve been through the storm and the rain, but I made it. I’ve been through sickness, heartache and pain, but I made it. I’ve been up but I’ve been down. Been pummeled to the ground. I’ve been down so low getting up wasn’t on my mind, but I thank God that he picked me up and turned me around and placed my feet on solid ground. I thank God that I made it. I’m living the dream every day.
Dream on. Dream beyond your circumstances. Dream on. Dream beyond anything that you haven’t seen before. Dream on. Dream beyond your lifetime so that generations will look back and thank you for the bridges that you have built. God bless you.
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