Hello, I am grateful to be with you this morning as I was asked me to come this last week of February s. I’ve appreciated coming to Chapel periodically, hearing the amazing music and student leadership that is a part of this campus.
I come this morning with a strange word. You see, I usually pick some of the most obscure, strange topics to talk about. I have done this in classes in which I pick out something that few people know about and talk about it. And the same thing happened when I was preparing for this morning.
I have never preached on the book of Joel. Honestly, when you say the word Joel, I think of my junior year of high school prom date named Joel.
But I came upon this strange book 3 chapters, 72 verses in our Scriptures called Joel. It’s a short story that tells us about faith and living life when life doesn’t go as planned. He lines out a process with grief, gathering and getting a vision.
The book of Joel, places God at the center of its narrative, is a book of hope. It doesn’t start out happy, really glossy or that everything is just fine. It’s actually really real. It starts with an ending, when people whose lives and landscapes were devoured by locusts, like the insect. It was real then, but a metaphor now.
They were in crisis, mourning, devastated at their losses.
Our lives know loss or endings in our life. Now we are not close enough yet, because we have just met to talk and share about our losses. I wonder, if you or you know of someone who has gone through some loss lately.
The grief that comes with when you lose something…whether it’s a relationship, friendship, friend, death, change.
Relationship ending, loss of a friendship, Grandparent who died, an expected death, moving, a pet that died, destructive relationships, grades dropping, things that inhibit burden a joyful life
When you go through life, and you’ve lost something it’s like you want to wear a big sign that says “I’m struggling…. Please go easy.”
Joel invites us to recognizing the locusts of life, acknowledging the devastation they cause and offering a concrete way to respond. Hear, tell, lament, wake up, scream, be shocked, demand, grieve. Identifying, naming and working through, taking time to acknowledge the grief. In this place, God meets us.
Sometimes the beginning of our stories start with a loss. Grieve it. Then, Joel says after grief to gather.
Besides lament, to gather and build community, gathering in a sacred assembly. It can be in the chapel or anywhere. As we heard in the song, are you hurting and broken within? O Come to the Altar, the Father’s arms are open wide.
Get together with people. Knowing you are not alone.
We tendency to do things on our own nowadays, grieve ourselves and think we can handle the burdens but God has created us part of us seeking community, belonging to bring ourselves. Finding someone fraternity brothers, sorority sisters, teammates, ambassadors, classmates, roommates, family. We find hope in belonging when gather together for good. Looking for people who are grieving, wearing a sign, and paying attention to the brokenness among us.
In Joel’s day, there was a physical temple where they could connect, reminds his people that they can pray to God and engage in religious practices no matter where they are. Same for us today.
Through practices of worshipping, communing, praying, listening, reading, journaling, being in nature, serving, having times for connection we
connect to remember who God says we are, we gain our identity as a child of God and there is a place for us.
Our world hungers for a compassionate God. We discover God meets us right where we are gathered together and hear this good news from the words of Joel describes “God is merciful and compassionate, very patient, full of faithful love and ready to forgive.” (2:13)
And afterward, (after the grief and the gathering), God says this final piece in process.
I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. Joel 2:28-29 (NIV)
God’s Spirit poured out upon all of us, no matter what, with a Spirit greater than the prophets had received before, as John Wesley put it.
This is the beginning in our book that meets you where you are on the road of life, wants to comfort and empower you for journey that continues.
Along the way, you encounter locusts, gather with others, discover compassionate God and see visions of how to bring good in the world.
The world’s great needs will meet with your great passion and come to see how you can bring change in the world.
This can be in your field of study, your relationships around you, or in the way you want to make a contribution to the world.
To be advocates and supporters of what new vision you have with God for your life, for others around you, for your community, and contributing in the world.
This is the story of the good news.
The movement began in despair but ends in hope. This is our good news. We worship a God who came in Christ, who’s worst thing was not the last thing. T
The grief, the gathering and then getting a vision is a part of the movement that reminds us that God’s love never fails and is with us every step of life. Thanks be to God.