by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The readings for Sunday, December 9, 2012:
Joel 2:12-13, 28-29
optional reading: Luke 11:13
Pastor Keith will preach on Luke 1: 26-38, which dovetails nicely with these texts
Last night, my spouse and I had a special guest to our house for dinner. Our campus pastor, who has moved on to other tasks, was in town, and we were happy to host him. How amazing that after all these years, we're still in touch and happy to see each other.
We talked of all sorts of things, mainly church related. His current work has him travelling to various churches across various ELCA Synods, so he's seeing how people are living their faith in real time in various settings. It was fascinating.
We talked of the challenges for the church (both the ELCA and The Church in a wider context) as we move forward through this century. We talked of our various wearinesses.
I find the words of the prophet Joel particularly comforting this morning. Humans have a tendency to look back and to see a golden age which has passed. Most of us look back with blinders. We don't remember how life really was when we were living it.
The ancient texts are a helpful counterpoint here. We see Joel calling on the people to repent. We get a sense that actions above and beyond the usual repentance are in order: fasting, weeping, opening of hearts, and making offerings.
Sounds similar to our age, does it not?
The last part of the passage for this Sunday's lectionary gives the promise that God's spirit will be poured out on believers and wonderful events will ensue. We will be drenched with visions for a better life--and we can assume that God will give us what we need to be able to fulfill those visions.
As we move through the Advent season, we move closer to the Christmas holiday that celebrates the fulfillment of Joel's promise in a spectacular way: God incarnate in the manger. Luke 1: 26-38 takes us to the early days of that fulfillment: Gabriel giving Mary a vision of miracles, fertility where only barrenness and emptiness should exist. Mary says yes to God's alternate vision, and new life blooms.
That was long ago, of course. But it's important to remember that the Holy Spirit still moves among us. It wasn't just a one time special event in Bethlehem. We're still blessed with visions and dreams--and if we have eyes to see, we can see that those visions, dreams, and prophesies lead us to glorious places and experiences.