Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Of Locusts and Lilies

This week's scriptures are Joel 2:21-27 and Luke 12:22-32.

This is the last Sunday in this liturgical year-referred to as Year B. Year A focuses on Matthew, Year B on Mark, and Year C on Luke...all with some passages from John thrown in. Though there are some problems with using the lectionary, it does help us stay focused on the life of Jesus (from three different perspectives and foci). It also serves as a protection from the preacher circling round and round his or her favorite passages or issues like dishwater round a drain; hopefully challenging preacher and congregation alike to look at the passages that challenge them and not just the ones that make them feel good.

Joel, before the passage above, has described the misfortunes that Israel his brought upon itself with its disobedience. They are tremendous, damaging. But, as Joel points out they are not forever. One of the themes that runs through the prophets is made clear here: God's wrath does not last forever...there is healing available...Gods ultimate goal is restoration of Gods people.

I love the phrase "restore the years the locusts have eaten." I've never been around a swarm of locusts. What I hear and read though is that when they come, they come like a dark devouring cloud. They eat every plant in their path. There is nothing left behind. Have you ever had a time in your life like that? When all you looked out on was a barren landscape of your life? It was in a time like that that I first remember reading this phrase. And I have to tell you that one of my responses was..."yeah right" I did not believe that my life could ever be put back together. But it also gave me just a glimmer of hope....hope that God might have something left for me....that restoration and redemption might be possible. And I will also tell you that the past few years have, indeed, been ones of experiencing God restoring the years that the 'locusts' of my life had eaten.

Now I want to skip over for just a minute to Jesus' words about "lilies of the field." I've done a little research this week about the plants that Jesus was most likely referring to. I'll share some of that Sunday, but for right now I want to point out just one thing....they are perennials...they are bulbs...even if a swarm of locusts chews its way through the entire field....chomping stem and flower....there, below the the bulb that will bloom next year.

"Consider the lilies of the field, they toil not, neither do they spin..." it isn't something that the flowers is a gift. The gift of being a bulb. You and I are created in the Image of God. We carry within us that Image. We do not cause it; we cannot destroy it. Oh we can bend it like a pretzel. We can deform it til the only one who can recognize it is God's own self. But we cannot destroy what God has created in us. It waits. God will touch it. It will begin to make its way to the surface. It will flower.

I don't know what your 'locusts' were, or are. Unless you chose to tell me (and should you want to tell me, I will listen) it's none of my business. But what I do know, as sure as I know that Jesus loves you and me, is that God is waiting to restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.

It isn't like the old joke about country music (you know the one: 'what do you get when you play country music backward? You get your wife back, your truck back, your dog back'). Some things (at least for me this was true) are gone. But the vital things; the parts of me that I thought were dead, gone, and done; these are the things that God restores.

For some folks the 'locusts' weren't their fault. Others did things to them. But their lives feel just as barren. For others they can point clearly to how they fashioned from their own behavior the 'locusts' that ate their lives. In one respect, it doesn't matter. What does matter is this: God wants to restore to you the years the locusts have eaten. Think about the lilies of the field. And trust, as Jesus told us, that our Heavenly Parent cares for us so much more than even these.

See you Sunday.

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