This is the manuscript from my November 27 sermon that I worked off of. The lesson for the day was Joel 2:12-13 and 28-29. We are one week ahead of the Narrative Lectionary.
Yesterday, I saw online that an actor named Ron Glass passed away. You might know him from Barney Miller; he played Det. Ron Harris. I knew him better for another role, sci-fi show Firefly. He played a pastor, known as Shepherd Book.
Besides enjoying sci-fi, I connected with Shepherd Book. The series came right at the time I was first considering the ministry, and seeing a man of faith who had not always been a man of faith spoke to me.
I watched a couple of episodes of Serenity before writing this, because I wanted to see one particular scene.
Shepherd came into his quarters to find another character is “fixing the Bible,” trying to reconcile contradictions, develop a more unified message.
In response, Shepherd says, It’s not about making sense. It’s about believing in something, and letting that belief be real enough to change your life. It’s about faith. You don’t fix faith. Faith fixes you.
We don’t know when prophet Joel wrote his 3-chapter call to worship. Scholars have three Ideas, each around 2 or 3 generations apart. The first is just before kingdom of Judah falls, when the northern kingdom of Israel has already been dispersed. The second is after the Babylonian Exile when the exiles return to Jerusalem. The third is about a hundred years later during the rule of the Persian Empire.
Whenever Joel wrote, he wrote a call to the people of Judah to return, not just to God’s rule, but to worshipping God. Whenever Joel wrote, he wrote a reminder to the people of God that while God has allowed them to suffer, God still loves them.
The first snippet of text we hear from Joel is that call to worship:
Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Joel says the LORD calls upon the people to come back to God. They are called back to mourn, to repent for what they did, to atone for their sinfulness – to fast, weep, mourn. Typically, while in mourning, would tear, or rend, your clothes. But God doesn’t want that.
God wants their hearts to be torn, to rend their hearts, to know heartbreak. In our lesson from last week, Jeremiah said God would write their law on our hearts. Now, God wants those hearts to break over what they did.
No matter when this is written, the second sentence has to sting. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.
God speaks of their grace and mercy, but has allowed or will allow Israel and Judah to be punished. This reminds us that while our sins are forgiven thru the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our sins have consequences. Our sins rend, or tear, at the fabric of our relationships with our family, our community and our world.
God forgives, but the world remembers.
The tear can be repaired. The tear can be patched. It may actually be stronger, but it is never the same.
But these are words of hope, you have sinned, you have been punished, you are broken, but I still love you, says the LORD. Bring your broken heart to me, Let’s sit and cry together.
If you’ve ever reconciled with someone, sat down, got everything out on the table, you know what I mean. At the end, you are both crying, sobbing, snotty messes. But then, you begin anew, brought closer by mutual pain.
That is what Joel is telling us that God wants with us, to begin anew.
The second passage may be more familiar, quoted by Peter in his speech that we hear on Pentecost Sunday. 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.
God promises to send God’s Spirit to ALL flesh. Everyone, female and male, young and old will able to see what God can do, as well as what can be done in God’s name.
But dreaming is an act of faith – It is believing in what CAN be. Not in what is, but in what COULD happen.
It requires trust – trust in YOUR vision and in other to help. That can be hard, especially if trust has been broken. But if we confess and repent, God is gracious.
It requires work, we must DO God’s love, give it away and not just accept it, we must go and do, share and sacrifice.
IMAGINE what could be done if we LIVE OUT God’s love? What if we didn’t worry? What if we weren’t afraid? IMAGINE if we admit we are broken, but we believe
It’s just crazy enough to work, given the world we live in, it doesn’t make sense.
It’s not about making sense. It’s about believing in something, and letting that belief be real enough to change your life. It’s about faith. You don’t fix faith. Faith fixes you.
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
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