Week 1, The Book of Joel “Hope Isn’t Easy”: Hope for All People

Saturday, March 4

“Then afterward
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”
(Joel 2:28-29).

The setting for much of this remarkable book of prophecy is a locust plague, which has decimated Judah.  But, by today’s passage, that is over, and after the swarm has passed, when the locusts all are gone, reassurance is offered to the community, the “children of Zion” (Joel 2:23), who twice are promised, “my people shall never again be put to shame” (Joel 2:26, 27). But the people also learn that they are part of a larger community than they had known.  In this passage—the most familiar passage from this book, quoted by Peter in his sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2:17-21)—the “children of Zion,” called “my people” by the Lord, include not just the adult men of the worshipping congregation, but women, children, the aged—even slaves.

Joel reminds us that we belong to a larger community than we had known.  We may have forgotten that—I confess that often I have forgotten that.  We succumb to the temptation to define our community too narrowly, as including only those like us, whether ethnically or ideologically or theologically. If this past election taught us anything, it is that we had not heard one another at all.  In the days and weeks to come, we must learn to listen to one another—not necessarily to agree, but to listen, to learn, and to understand. We too hear today God’s promises of deliverance, of vindication, of freedom from shame. But we cannot experience these blessings separately and severally. They are not offered to us in that way. We will find them together—all of us—or we will not find them at all.

Prayer: O chain-breaking God, we long for freedom. But you have shown us in your Word and by your Spirit that if we would be free, we must work to free one another, for until we all are free, none of us is free.  Teach us to draw the circle wide–to find ourselves a part of a larger community than we had known, embracing sisters and brothers we did not know we had, and extending to include all God’s world. In the name of Jesus, whom God sent to us out of love for all the world (John 3:16-17), Amen.

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