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Good Times and Complacency
Reflecting on the Day of Pentecost: One Day after Sunday (Year A)
Psalter: Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
Old Testament: Joel 2:18-29
Romans: Romans 8:18-24
Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
I will repay you for the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army that I sent against you.
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied
and praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel
and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other.
And my people shall never again be put to shame (Joel 2:25-27).
The people of Israel have experienced pestilence, famine, and drought In Joel, God promises them that those times will not last forever. He will in his words, “repay for the years that the locusts have eaten.” The reference to locusts in verse 25 may also be a reference to a northern army sweeping down invading Israel. We know that this happened with the Syrians, the Assyrians, and the Babylonians. At times, the invading army came from the South—the Egyptians. So there may be a larger picture in view of not only pestilence and drought, but also invasion.
In the Old Testament, God wants his people Israel to rely on him rather than on themselves or on other nations; something that Israel struggled with throughout its history. Israel’s difficulties are seen as the result of their complicity with the worship of other gods and disobedience to the law of Moses. Instead putting the blame for judgment upon themselves, they blamed God.
The problem is in good times and prosperity Israel forgot God and credited themselves as the source. It is not accidental that in the Old Testament God reminds the people not to forget about him when times are good. This continues to be a problem for God’s people to the present day. In times of prosperity, fullness, and goodness God’s people tend to become complacent because they get amnesia about who’s responsible for such bounty. We tend to get distracted by the prosperity that frees up our time, resources, and energies. If there is a threat to the church in America today, it does not come from atheism, humanism or secularism? It comes from within—the complacency of those who believe. In Joel’s day, the people in their prosperity fell into complacency and then in their difficulties abandon God, seeking the worship of other deities and trust instead in their own ways.
And yet in Joel, God promises to restore the people. God is in the business of reconciliation even though God has been the one offended. God will not hang on to the insult. God will restore and bring together. The question will be for God’s people is once that prosperity has been restored, how long will it be before they fall back into complacency which will result in disobedience and trusting in themselves and others? When will they fall back into patting themselves on the back for the blessings they have received?
Have we become complacent in the practice of our faith?
PRAYER: Empowering God, you gave the church the abiding presence of your Holy Spirit. Look upon your church today and hear our petitions.
Grant that, gathered and directed by your Spirit, we may confess Christ as Lord and combine our diverse gifts with a singular passion to continue his mission in this world until we join in your eternal praise. Amen.
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