Joel 2: 20-32
Joel is a prophet of hard times. We don’t know exactly when he worked, but he describes a foreign army descending on Israel like a swarm of destroying locusts. This happened too many times in Israel’s history – perhaps one of the reasons why Joel’s work survived is that its readers kept on noticing the overlaps with their own experience.
Yet his prophecy is not just a record of devastation. These verses describe the invading armies thrown out, and then speak of restoration and hope, from the peaceful soil, through the animals, feeding well on green pastures, to the people, their grain, wine and oil abundant in a time of peace and prosperity.
This is crowned by the account of the gift of the Holy Spirit, in words which Peter echoes on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17 – 21). In the Old Testament, the Spirit is linked mainly with leaders in society, kings, prophets and priests. Joel proclaims God’s promise that when the time is fulfilled, the Spirit will come to everyone, old and young, male and female, even the slaves who were seen as the lowest in a hierarchical society.
One of the ways in which the church has come closer to God in recent years is through a clearer recognition that Joel’s words are true. Our prayer handbook includes prayers by little children. Our leadership is far more inclusive than it was. One of our stated goals is to become ‘the Inclusive Methodist Church’. All this because we believe that Joel’s prophecy is true, and God gives the Spirit to all people. So we turn back to God, asking for help this Advent to recognise that there is room for everyone to take part in God’s mission to change the world through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Revd. Dr. Caroline Wickens
you pour out your Spirit in abundance on children, women and men.
Help us to recognise that gift in others and in ourselves,
and then help us to live as people of the Spirit,
knowing there is room for us to be fully ourselves in your Spirit-filled reign.