By Ed Little
A Reading from Joel 2:28-3:8
28 Then afterwards
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.
29 Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
30 I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. 32Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.
1 For then, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, 2I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgement with them there, on account of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations. They have divided my land, 3and cast lots for my people, and traded boys for prostitutes, and sold girls for wine, and drunk it down.
4 What are you to me, O Tyre and Sidon, and all the regions of Philistia? Are you paying me back for something? If you are paying me back, I will turn your deeds back upon your own heads swiftly and speedily. 5For you have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried my rich treasures into your temples. 6You have sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks, removing them far from their own border. 7But now I will rouse them to leave the places to which you have sold them, and I will turn your deeds back upon your own heads. 8I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the people of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a nation far away; for the Lord has spoken.
On the day of Pentecost, God poured his Spirit upon the disciples. Divine pyrotechnics accompanied the event: rushing wind, flames alighting on the disciples’ heads, supernatural language. When Peter spoke to the crowd that had gathered, he turned to the book of Joel for an explanation. “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh” (Acts 2:17).
Hundreds of years earlier, in the midst of crisis, the prophet Joel had heard God making a promise, not only that the crisis would pass, not only that Israel would be restored to environmental harmony; but also, and above all, that God would use this time to renew the hearts of his people. God will transform them from within. God will pour out his Spirit upon the most unlikely people: sons and daughters, old and young, female and male, even slaves. No one is excluded from God’s empowering grace.
God’s promise was for the people of Israel’s in Joel’s era; for the first disciples; and, even more miraculously, for us. Every time a person is baptized, the promise is fulfilled. “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism, and marked as Christ’s own for ever” (BCP, p. 308). Every time a Christian is confirmed, the promise is fulfilled. “Strengthen, O Lord, your servant with your Holy Spirit…” (BCP, p. 418). Every time a Christian prays, “Come, Holy Spirit” — in desolation or in joy, in sorrow or in self-surrender — the promise is fulfilled. Jesus underscored the promise immediately before his ascension: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). This is a promise that our Lord is eager to fulfill.
The Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little II was bishop of Northern Indiana for 16 years after serving parishes in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Joaquin. He is the author of three books; most recently: The Heart of a Leader: St. Paul as Mentor, Model, and Encourager (2020).
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Diocese of Ruwenzori (Uganda), the Rt. Rev. Reuben Kisembo
Diocese of Dornakal (South India), the Rt. Rev. Vadapalli Prasada Rao
Christ Church Episcopal, Tulsa, Oklahoma