Friday Week 27 Year I

I’ve been wondering to anyone who will listen for the last couple of days … just what the hell is getting Joel so wound up!? After all these are the last kind of readings we want to hear on retreat—doom and gloom and sackcloth and ashes and a guilt trip to end all guilt trips. ‘What is eating Joel,’ I’ve thought. Well that idle phrase turns out to be not far off. It’s not too obvious from the fragments we get today but Joel is writing in response to a national disaster: a plague of locusts—the cutter, the hopper, the devourer—who come like a cloud, engulf everything, and leave nothing but dust for the children to eat. ‘Day of darkness and gloom, day of cloud and blackness.’
We’re a month on from the September 11th and its day of cloud and darkness, and Christians worldwide are faced, and continue to be faced, with Joel’s problem: how do you respond to disaster, to destruction, to devastation. You can’t launch an armed offensive against locusts but maybe you can’t against terrorists either. What do we do?
Joel solution is to bargain. ‘Order a fast, pass the night in sackcloth, lament … wail’, and maybe the Lord will relent. Two problems with that: who’s blaming God anyway? Do we blame God for the tragedy of the twin towers? Maybe we do—but should we? And second, who’s blaming us? Whatever the right wing religious in America say we don’t have disaster because of feminism or gay liberation or shopping on Sundays.
Jesus has a response to evil. Name it, take power over it, and cast it out. But he doesn’t make a fuss about it. He does it to heal. We have a tendency either to leave hurts unhealed or to rush around righteously rooting out evil—whether it’s in our own hearts or right next door, or halfway across the world—and in the process don’t we make things seven times worse. There’s a cycle of evil just as there’s a cycle of violence—and Jesus wants us to dissolve the circle. And you don’t do that by casting out but by filling up. That’s the best response to evil: give it no room; fill your house, fill your heart, fill your nation, with good. Make a dwelling for God and evil is left homeless.