“God is merciful and compassionate, very patient, full of faithful love and ready to forgive…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: 13, 28-29 (NIV)
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 can be a metaphor now.
They were in crisis, mourning, devastated at their losses. Our lives know loss or endings in our life. The grief that comes with when you lose something…whether it’s a relationship, friendship, friend, death, change.
Joel invites us to recognize the locusts of life, acknowledging the devastation they cause to 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.
Then, Joel says after grief to gather and build community, gathering in a sacred assembly, knowing you are not alone. 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 and how to find life again one step at a time.
And afterward, after the grief and the gathering, Joel says there will dream dreams and visions. This final piece in process. 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.
Along the way, we 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. To be discover 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 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.
Prayer: O God, help us to grieve our losses in life, to gather in community and to receive visions for our lives. In Christ’s name. Amen.