Wednesday Scripture - Joel 2: 12-13
Yet even now, says the Lord,
return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
13 rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Today's verse seems a bit of a downer. Who wants to go into the season of Advent and Christmas with fasting, weeping and mourning? It is important to remember that for some the Christmas season is not one of joy. It is a time of weeping and mourning, because the loss of loved ones, even long ago, can come rushing back during the holidays. Some churches observe this with a 'Blue Christmas' service which makes space for those who experience deep sadness during the holidays to have a safe place to mourn and lament. But this isn't exactly what Joel is talking about. Weeping and mourning has been thrust upon them by life. Joel is urging the people to intentionally choose to engage in weeping and mourning as a response to God's unsettling message confronting infidelity to covenant and to the vulnerable.
Engagement might be the key word for today. I don't believe that God or Joel simply want the people to feel bad. Guilt and shame alone accomplish nothing. Joel is urging the people to heed God's warning and then engage in what they've heard. Joel wants them to act, to wrestle, to respond. The word of God not meant simply to inspire emotion, but to shape the listener. For shaping to happen, we need to engage in the word of God.
Engagement is no simple task. Because we are already so heavily engaged in so much. As I have already said this week, those of us with children are engaged in their numerous extra-curricular activities. Grandparents also like to be present and supportive. We have work and chores and home improvement projects and involvement in the community. We have aging parents to tend to and neighbors to support. There is a lot going on. Which is perhaps where Joel offers us some encouragement. Regardless of whether we think Joel begins to ponder the call of God because of locusts or because of marching armies, Joel's engagement with the word of God is also rooted in being mindful of what is going on around him. Joel weaves together his experience with the message of God, written perhaps, and received by revelation. But that is our good news. One of the ways we can engage in God's word is by reflecting prayerfully on our experiences.
The promise of Joel's word for us today is that even in our most heart-wrenching moments God is present, offering hope and healing. Yes, God is also demanding. God seeks to shape us, to mold us. But the promise is that we will become a more beautiful creation as a result. So allow Joel's words to shape you this week by creating some time, even 5-10 minutes to reflect both on your experiences and God's word. Explore how they intertwine. Ponder how the bible stories you recall guide you, provide hope, challenge you to grow and change, help you to be faithful.