Joel 2:23-32, Psalm 65, 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18, Luke 18:9-14
- What struck me in this passage is the connection between the people and God and their planet. Obviously, this passage connects to the specific devastation of the earth that the people have felt and are now recovering from, but still, I can't help but think that today we have a much different sense - a disconnectedness - from the planet on which we live. Instead of the devastation that does still happen on our earth making us feel separate from God and worried, we seem to have very little interest in the care of our earth, or what it means for our relationship with God...
- "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. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit." A beautiful and inspiring verse, and I'm struck by how inclusive it is in describing who will be dreaming and giving prophecy and visioning for God - old, young, men, women, free, slaves. How can we overlook verses like this to say that there are only some who are of certain categories of people that God will call to speak and preach and lead??
- "And my people shall never again be put to shame." Shame - where is the shame in your life? What causes you shame before God? Sometimes I think we've got our sense of shame all messed up - we have shame about things that don't even matter, and no shame in areas where we ought to be ashamed of ourselves as a human race!
- As in Joel, here again there is a strong sense of the tie between God, people, and planet. Here, instead of recovering from devastation in nature, the people (or at least the psalmist) are rejoicing in nature, showing nature, even, as joining in the praise of God.
- And, again, as in Joel, there is forgiveness/repentance involved. "When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions." "overwhelm us" - this is a particularly good way of phrasing our human condition, in my mind. We actually do get overwhelmed by our own sinfulness, don't we? By our own actions? We don't even like ourselves, usually.
- Note the comparison between the "roaring of the seas" and the "tumult of the peoples" - a great image.
- "poured out as a libation" - we are poured out as an offering - we can live or not live our lives in a way that pours our self out to others and to God. But if we don't pour ourselves out, we deny ourselves being filled even more, filled to overflowing, by God's blessings!
- "fought the good fight . . . finished the race." This is a popular funeral text, and with good reason. There is a sense of fatigue, here, in some ways, tiredness at the journey of life, but also accomplishment - a life well-lived in God's hands. I think we all hope for such a sense of 'finish'.
- "all who have longed for his appearing." My views about Jesus' second coming are pretty non-traditional at best, so verses like this initially turn me off, or, at least, just don't impact me. But this struck me, because just the other night, I was thinking how awesome it would have been to live in Jesus' time, to see Jesus when he was ministering on earth, to hear him teaching. In that way, I can relate easily to longing for Jesus to appear to us so fully again - who would not want to experience Jesus "face to face" like this?
- The Pharisee and tax collector both come to God to pray - one thanking God that he is not like the other, like the others, who he deems inferior, but the tax collector simply praying for God's mercy. It is easy for us to say that we would never be like the Pharisee, and look down on him. But actually, we are just like him - only maybe not how we think. Before we judge the Pharisee too much, maybe we can look at him a little differently. I think he is actually trying to prove himself before God - thinking he must earn God's love. At first, I see him as arrogant and haughty, but at second read, I see him as many of us - trying hard to do what's right, but never really trusting that God's grace can be so free and easy as promised. We think eventually we will have to 'pay up' with our good deeds to get a share in God's grace. Where the tax collector gets it right is this: he knows he needs God's mercy, and he asks for it. And God gives it. Ah, amazing grace.