Submitted by Jan on Tue, 18/10/2016 – 10:20
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 24th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 25
Year C (2015-2016)
Bible Book: Joel
Chapter: 2
Verse: 23 – 32

It is not that important whether the well-known imagery of the locust swarms refers to real locust swarms, or whether it is a metaphor for enemy armies (see 2:25 but also 1:4 and 2:3). The meaning is the same. It is the imagery for a reality of destruction and death. The locusts eating the crops on the fields of the farmers and the fruit of the veld, carry death and misery with them. The enemy armies marching through the land bring with them destruction and death. The metaphor speaks of uncontrollable and powerful forces destroying the resources that sustain life. These forces caused poverty and hunger, corruption and the abuse of power in order to manipulate the economy. These impersonal forces caused prices to raise to the level where food became unaffordable. Indeed, sustaining life became unaffordable, and many people were unable to live. This is the ultimate form of death.

Interpreting the locust metaphor as enemy armies has one serious limitation though. It reduces the threat to life to political powers. It is a popular interpretation because it is comfortable. It hides many of the social attitudes that carry death. Attitudes relating to stigma such as racism and sexism, insensitivity to disability and gender-based violence carry death and destruction in them. But it also prevents us from seeing how media images of perfect bodies and bliss are also promises that eventually destroy lives. This time it is not stigma but pride and greed that destroys the right to live. If we reduce Joel’s metaphor to political processes, then this reduction protects us from taking responsibility for the issues and attitudes in ourselves and in our communities.

Such is today’s world into which God sends the prophet with life giving words. The prophet speaks about rain, plenty of food and fruit. He speaks of hope and of life-giving gifts. God will act and sustain the lives of those who suffer under the forces of death. The right to live will be restored, and the hope that humans will accept responsibility, change their attitudes and behaviour will be renewed. It is a hope that God will act and that human beings will be able to forgive and restore relationships that were destroyed by stigma and ignorance.

Joel sees how public spaces such as markets and water points will again become spaces of freedom and life. He sees public spaces (of communal life) where it is safe to speak out, where we can learn the art of life and relationships without being judged by the colour of our skin, the fluency of our speech and movement, and by the state of our health. The gift of hope comes to us in the person of Christ, protesting against the power of death and cultural hegemony. Today hope comes in the form of protesting students and workers, as much as through the words of wise council of the elderly. Hope, Joel tells us today, is received through worship and prayer, and enacted through activism and communal life.

To think about: Why is it so difficult for us the discover the death and destructive power of the way we live? May be reflecting on the following words of Richard Rohr can assist in the discussion. “Whether human beings admit it or not, we are all in love with – addicted to – the status quo and the past, even when it’s killing us . . . for some sad reason, it is joy that we hold lightly and victimhood we grab unto.”

Written By: Rev Johan Pieters, Operational Manager at Homo Novus Community Projects and trained Churches Channels of Hope Facilitator

Author: Pieters J (Rev)
Language: English