For Sunday, May 10 at Mosaic Baptist Church
I will repay you for the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent against you.
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other.
And my people shall never again
be put to shame.
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.
Joel 2:25-32 (NRSVA)
This week we continue our series entitled ‘Living the Resurrection and Spirit’. We are half-way through. First, coming out of Easter, we looked at the implications of the resurrection for the way we live here and now. Trust. Hope. Life.
Starting today, we are looking forward to Pentecost. This, like Christmas and Easter, is a festival celebrating one of the significant moves of God: the coming of the Holy Spirit.
The passage above, from the prophet Joel may initially seem to be a strange reading for introducing the Spirit. Perhaps it helps to know at the outset that Peter, on the day of Pentecost, seeking to offer the gathering crowd an explanation for the events taking place, turned, before any other, to this reading.
The prophet Joel and the promised presence of God are closely linked.
This is not so surprising. The crucifixion of Jesus occurred a mere forty days prior to this. Dark times indeed. Perhaps the broader context of Joel’s destruction-focused locust swarms reminded the resurrection-delighted disciples of resent events. Given these recent events, Joel’s poetic descriptions of destructive winged armies was a powerful (and controversial) image to proclaim in the centre of Jerusalem!
Yet here in the middle of Joel is this gracious promise to replenish what has been stolen, to supply plenty, remove shame, and ‘deal wondrously’ with Israel. Even before Peter’s famous citation we see the staggering hope Joel seeks to instil: ‘You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel…’
And then that promise of God’s Spirit poured ‘…on all flesh…’ Even just this line is laden with abundance. So many echoes of a plentiful anointing oil running down, covering, soaking. It reminds me of the description found in Psalm 133:
How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
life for evermore.
After all, Joel, like the psalmist, is painting a picture of plenty. Like the dew covering whole landscapes, the coming of the Spirit will be broad and inclusive. Sons and daughters. Old and young men. Male and female slaves. There is a comprehensiveness to this poem.
Indeed, it is probably more comprehensive than any reader ever imagined. Joel goes on to point to heave, earth, the sun and moon. This coming will stretch across all creation. God’s Spirit impacts everything!
I find something of a confounding mixed-reaction that is imbedded in Joel’s vision. This ‘day of the Lord’ is ‘great’ and ‘terrible’, involves survivors and those unable to ‘escape’, causes some to call out to God and others to hear God’s voice. It seems so terrible and wonderful!
It all has echoes of the heavenly voice overheard by the crowd surrounding Jesus as he prayed before his coming passion. Some heard thunder. Some the voice of an angel. Jesus heard the affirming voice of God. (See John 12:27-30).
It begs the question(s): What do you hear in the account of Pentecost? Is this coming of God wonderful or awful?
It matters. For what you hear will surely determine how you respond. Will you flee or stay to soak in the blessing?
Please listen carefully to the account of Pentecost. If you can hear this coming for what it really is there is a profound hope on offer. As the prophet reminds us, ‘…everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved‘.
How do you respond to the Spirit of God? Is there an eager desire to be a part of this outpouring of God? Is there a sense of fear? Is there a mix of these emotions?
How do you respond to the breadth and generosity of this wide pouring of the Spirit? How do you feel about a God who is this generous?
It seems that a direct result of the Spirit’s coming is ‘prophecy’, ‘visions’, and ‘dreams’. What experiences do you have of such encounters with God? How did you respond to these moments?