Sunday, December 4, 2016

Posted on Dec 03 2016

Bible Background: Joel is one of the ‘minor’ prophets (shorter writings than Isaiah, for example, and less known about the author.) Scholars aren’t sure of the time frame for Joel. The short book is a call to repentance and lament and warns of the consequences of turning from God. We read the 1st part of this passage on Ash Wednesday, and hear the gracious invitation to “return to the Lord your God!” We read the 2nd part on Pentecost and hear the promise that God pours out God’s Spirit on one and all!”

Going Deeper: 1. In human relationships, we sometimes come to the point with a friend or family member when we are just “done”. There is no relationship left, and none to hope for. Joel speaks the good news that God is never “done” with us. Like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) who came to his senses and realized he could go back home, God puts out the invitation, and the welcome mat: Return! Open your hearts! I am gracious and merciful!

2. At times we turn away from God, and at times, the busyness of life and obligations pull us away. When has this been true for you? What has brought you back closer to God? How close would you like to be or dare to be?

3. The promise of God’s Spirit for all people suggests a couple of things: Spirit=breath in the Hebrew. We are promised new life/breath! We are also promised a new way of seeing God’s power at work. Joel refers to “dreaming dreams, and seeing visions, and prophesying”. If you are older: what ‘dream’ do you have for the next generations? What vision of God’s kingdom do you have to share? If you are younger: what does your ‘dream’ look like? How do you envision God’s love, God’s justice, God’s mercy, God’s healing?

4. Advent is not just a warm-up for Christmas. Advent is a journey closer to the heart of God; and closer to seeing God’s reign of peace and wholeness renewing us and all the world. What do you long for for yourself this Advent? What do you long for for the community? For the world? What do you need Christ to bring alive in your heart, mind, or faith?

5. Joel gives us a perfect Advent invitation and promise. This ancient Advent hymn is the perfect prayer: O Come, O Come Emmanuel! Remember, “Emmanuel” means “God with us!” Come, O God, be with us, and help us walk more closely with you. Amen.