What’s the Story – The Coat of Many Colors

It’s popular for pop-culture to lampoon the church for serving up a steady diet of obscure stories and marginally meaningful teachings. Many weeks we deserve it. But sometimes, like this past weekend, there are just too many good stories to pick just one to talk about.  So I’m coming to you with another “What’s the Story” post for this week. I hope you don’t mind.
Thanks in large part to the good work of Andrew Lloyd Weber and the dazzling smile of Donnie Osmond, the story of Joseph and his colorful coat has become a bonafide icon in our culture. Who can fail to hum a few bars of  “Go! Go! Joseph” just as soon as they read about his coat of many colors?  Its amazing to me how basically religious stories continue to capture the imagination of even the secular culture.
My prayer is always, though, that such popularity is not an end in itself. Rather, I hope it inspires the curious and questioning to explore the biblical roots of such stories and discover, as many have before, the layers of meaning that lay just below the surface.
Take the Joseph story for instance. Though complete in and of itself (some scholars have wondered whether or not this is the first novella in human history) it exists as the final act in the equally expansive drama of the Patriarchs of the Old Testament. The stories of Abraham, Issac, Jacob and Joseph, their travels, their families and their relationship with God comprise an epic mythology that forms the basis for much of what we understand of Ancient Judaism. Joseph’s dreams, his fall, his redemption and his rise to power in Egypt are just the icing on a cake that describes a much longer human drama.
And ‘human’ is probably to operative concept in understanding the broader meaning of Joseph and his crazy mixed-up ancestry. While the story of the Technicolor Dream Coat is a classic hero-story worth of the finest comic book character or even Jesus himself (celebrated, hated, betrayed, redeemed, exalted), the relationship of this story to the more human facets of the longer tale, like the jealousy of Joseph’s brothers, the dishonesty of Jacob their father, the waffling faith of Abraham their great-grandfather and more besides, gives the story a believability  that is essential to the development of faith in the God who is at the center of it all. If God will bless even these messed-up group, then he certainly won’t overlook me.
Many stories in the Bible are fantastical, existing on the edge between fact and fiction. This is the nature of tales handed down through generations. But occasionally you run across a story that, while more mundane, actually sounds more like something that might happen to you. Pay close attention to these. They demonstrate God’s willingness to work even with those of us whose lives are not heroic or fantastical.

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