Saturday, October 14, 2017

Wastelands

"Then shall you know that I, the LORD, am your God, dwelling on Zion, my holy mountain; Jerusalem shall be holy, and strangers shall pass through her no more. And then, on that day, the mountains shall drip new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk; and the channels of Judah shall flow with water:  A fountain shall issue from the house of the LORD, to water the Valley of Shittim. 

Egypt shall be a waste, and Edom a desert waste, because of violence done to the people of Judah, because they shed innocent blood in their land.  But Judah shall abide forever, and Jerusalem for all generations. I will avenge their blood, and not leave it unpunished. The LORD dwells in Zion." [Jl 4:12-21 The LORD’s Case Against The Nations]

In light of today’s world events, our Old Testament reading from Joel is a bit scary.  The LORD bestows favor for a nation [Israel] with wine, milk, and water.  Strangers [immigrants?] are no longer allowed to pass.   In contrast, other nations [Egypt and Edom] are made a desert waste through revenge and divine punishment. 

Some might falsely say the United States is God’s “favored one” with other nations being punished due to “violence against” the U.S.   Our history often reveals the reverse, e.g., Vietnam and now the Middle East.  Then there has been our internal violence caused by racial injustice and seemingly constant political party “warfare.”  

If only we would heed our second reading from Luke (11:27-28): “While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.’  He replied, ‘Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it."  What word of God do we hear?    What word of God should our nation hear?

Instead of listening to warmongers and saber-rattlers, we should listen to Jesus and his call for social justice and turning swords into plowshares - peace.   The prophet Joel said the opposite: “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.” (Jl 4:10).  Political leaders today seem to be saying the same thing although the weapons are nuclear – and semi- made into automatic.

The word of God can be hard to hear.  Sometimes the Word seems to be spoken in a whisper.   It’s up to all of us to shout it loudly: “Forgive!  Seek understanding!   Be tolerant!  Be compassionate!  Love, especially our neighbor whether near or far!” 

Let’s open our ears and listen.  The Word is not whispered.  We often just choose not to hear.   The consequence: the shedding of innocent blood and wastelands.

Deacon David Pierce

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