Thursday Scripture - Joel 2: 28-29
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.
29 Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
Traditionally during Advent the Church tends to focus on what we can do to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Christ child into our lives. We read from the gospels the story of the arrival of John the Baptist. This story includes both the promise that he would prepare the way for the coming of Jesus and his message of repentance and baptism which would prepare the people to receive Jesus. There is nothing wrong with that kind of focus. You might notice that this idea that we actively engage in preparing for the advent of our God has inspired my reflections for the past few days. I have been asking and attempting to answer, what must we do to invite Jesus into our lives in news ways and what must we do to prepare for his arrival. But our bible stories, two Sunday's ago in Jeremiah and this past Sunday from Joel, focus on something different. They focus not only on what we do but on what God is doing.
'I will pour out my Spirit' God promises in today's reading. And while it is true that this seems to be a result of the people's repentance, there is also the hint that this is something that God will do, regardless of how the people respond and engage to Joel's warning message. Or, as Bono, the singer for U2 once wrote, 'stop asking God to bless what you are doing. Find out what God's doing. It's already blessed.' I am suggesting that Joel and Bono are suggesting the same thing for our Advent journey. That we actually work to pause our rushing and our responding and working, as challenging as that may be, to watch for what God is already doing and to listen for how we might join in.
I realize that this isn't easy. We're busy. We have many responsibilities. But every once-in-a-while Joel seems to be saying to us, we need to pause, watch and listen. The challenge of Bono's words is that implicit in his statement is the possibility that what we are already doing isn't what God is calling us to do. The deeper challenge is that when we pause, watch and listen, we might be called to leave our comfort zones, take on risky missions, and finally, need to rearrange our priorities and let go of some of what we are currently doing to make room for the task to which God is calling us. I'm not good at that. I will add on to my to-do list. It is difficult to cull things from my to-do list and admit that I cannot do everything that needs doing all the time.
Which is where our faith needs to come into practice. We need to remember that the advent of Jesus, the coming of the Kingdom, the liberation of the oppressed and vulnerable, is not up to us. It is up to God. When we act as if it is up to us we do damage to ourselves (growing weary, burnt out, bitter), and we may do damage to others as well. Joel reminds us to rely on the guidance of the Spirit, to rely that the Spirit is working when we cannot or inspiring others to act in the areas where we simply cannot. This ensures that our mission is inspired by love not fear or desperation and fueled by peace and passion, but not desperation or pride. So allow today's reflection to shape you by pausing to watch and listen. Furthermore, allow yourself a Sabbath moment to celebrate what God is doing, even if it is without you.