The late prophetess, Rachel Held Evans, talks at length about how the Bible is full of contradictions. If like me, you are particularly drawn to the prophet Micah, you may have heard one of those contradictions in today’s reading from Joel. Micah 4:3 tells us that swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks and Joel 3:10 tells us that plowshares should be beaten into swords, and pruning hooks into spears. Quite frankly, I’m much more comfortable with the movement away from the violence that we hear from Micah than I am with the movement towards violence that we hear from Joel.
This chapter of Joel has a few purposes: to proclaim judgment on Judah’s enemies—Egypt, Edom, and others—who have oppressed Judah’s people and taken them hostage, and to encourage the people of Judah to rise up against their enemies, trusting that the Lord will protect them, and be their refuge, their shield.
Perhaps this passage makes me so uncomfortable because the privileges I hold as a straight, white, middle-class woman with an upper-level degree make me much more like the people of Egypt and Edom than the people of Judah. Perhaps this passage makes me so uncomfortable because the systems in which I’m complicit other, oppress, and outcast those who do not hold the same levels of privilege that I do: those who live in poverty, those who are refugees, those who are seeking political asylum, those who are like the people of Judah.
The Good News I hear in this passage is that the day is coming when the Lord will dwell in Zion and shower upon Judah many blessings: Judah will be occupied no more. As followers of Christ, we’re called to be a part of ushering in the Kingdom of God to the here and now, of accompanying the Lord to the House of Zion. We do this by taking a hard and honest look at the currents we’re swept up in, and by making conscious decisions to swim upstream. Are you in?
The Rev. Julie Tonnesen serves as the campus minister for LEAF (Lutherans, Episcopalians, and friends) at Elon University, and as associate pastor at Macedonia, Burlington. She loves spending time outdoors with her friends and family, reading good books, drinking strong coffee, and hiking with her dog, Gracie.
1. Do you align yourself with the people of Judah or Judah’s enemies in this passage? Why do you think this is?
2. What is one thing you can commit to doing that will make your community a more just place for all its members?
God of justice and mercy, give us eyes to see the systems in which we’re complicit. Give us ears to hear how you’re calling us to be agents of your reign. Give us minds to know how we might make changes in our own lives to work towards justice. And give us ready and willing spirits to answer the call. Amen.