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Environmental Stewardship Commission

Episcopal Church in Minnesota

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Resolution on the Spirituality of Food Production

Resolution on Church Buildings and Grounds

Resolution on Creation Season

Resolution on Green Congregations



Lectionary Reflection

Year C, Proper 25
Revised Common Lectionary (Semi-Continuous Track)
Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) Reading


Joel 2: 23-32:

O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the LORD your God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain, as before. The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which 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. Then afterward 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. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit. I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes. Then 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.



Reflections on Joel 2:23-32
by John G. Gibbs, PhD

First, the context is essential for this lectionary text. The whole section Joel 2:21-3:8 promises that creation will be restored and the nation secured. Unfortunately a tendency to emphasize humanity at the expense of the whole creation appears to have influenced the lectionary's omission of vv. 21-22, and its choice to commence the reading at v. 23. In any case, as Joel sees it, the Lord's care for both land and people (in that order, 2:18) begins in this instance with attention to the creation: provision of grain, wine, and oil; removal of the plague of locusts (described as an "army" and a "nation"); and reassurance to the creation:

"Do not fear, O soil;
be glad and rejoice,

for the Lord has done great things!

Do not fear, you animals of the field,
for the pastures of the wilderness are green;

the tree bears its fruit,

the fig tree and vine give their full yield."

Accordingly, we would convey Joel's message more accurately by adding vv. 21-22 at the start of the lectionary text, and thus reading all of Joel 2:21-32. Only after the Lord has addressed the creation's needs does God, as Joel sees it, speak convincingly to the people: "O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the Lord your God…"

Second, we may not know for sure Joel's exact "Sitz im Leben" (historical situation), but we do see clearly "the rural crisis" of a plague of locusts, as James Limburg put it, when "even the wild animals cry to you" ("O Lord," 1:19-20). Dismayed lament arises from the people like that which bursts forth from a virgin whose marriage had been betrothed but not consummated due to the sudden death of her husband. "The fields are devastated, the ground mourns; for the grain is destroyed, the wine dries up, the oil fails" (1:10). That is when "joy withers away among my people" (1:12).

Death across creation's landscape leads to sackcloth and lament - among religious leaders, farmers, and "all the inhabitants of the land" (1:14). [If you want to know what plague of grasshoppers (locusts) looks like and feels like, Limburg suggests that we consult the graphic description of a South Dakota plague, as given by O. E. Rolvaag in his book Giants in the Earth (NY: Harper & Row, 1927, no page cited).]

Is it necessary to spell out our present situation of planetary peril within which the glacial water supply of future generations is melting right before our eyes, waves of unwanted immigration are already building (in quest of life's necessities, water and food), plants and birds are moving northward as long-term temperature averages rise, fish populations are imperiled…? Further, need we elaborate on the circumstance that "there are no guarantees" about the future of this planet, as if it does not matter what we do on it and to it, and as if it does not matter whether we do or do not every day afresh "return" to the gracious and merciful Lord our God (2:13)? (Recent denials of climate change are not persuasive in view of abundant interdisciplinary scientific evidence.)

Third, the plague of locusts was not an accident of nature, in Joel's view. He and his people look back on it as something terrible, so awful that nobody had seen its like in the past, nor would anyone see such a thing again - yet an event through which the merciful God led both land and people to new life and abundant harvest (2:18-27). Indeed, an Eden replaced the wilderness that the dreaded "Day of the Lord" had inflicted on people and place alike (2:3; 3:18). Joel's major message is this: YHWH the Lord "is a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel" (3:16), and this God "dwells in Zion" (3:21) among God's people and on their land. His point is: not destruction, but deliverance.

Fourth, the ethics of God's people is rooted in their relation to Yahweh the Lord, and embraces the world around them. When in calamitous circumstances we collectively do not know where to turn or what to do, that is the time for corporate prayer, discernment, reassessment - the time to "be glad and rejoice in the Lord your God" (2:23). In the wake of such worship both reality and perspective are transformed:

"Then afterward
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.

Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit." (2:28-29)

This vision became the text for the Church's first sermon (Acts 2) which was preached by the Apostle Peter at Pentecost. The Spirit poured out inclusively on all God's people is the basis of Church growth in both spiritual depth and global scope. This is the "Creator Spiritus" which mysteriously was "out there" in the first stirrings of God's creation before being "in here" among the People of God. The ethics of God's People, "eco-justice" anywhere and everywhere, dreams and visions of "a better world," all drink at the springs of this Spirit.

Cf. James Limburg, Hosea - Micah in the Interpretation Bible Commentary series (Atlanta: John Knox, 1988), pp. 55-77; The New Oxford Annotated Bible (NRSV; augmented 3rd Edition, Oxford University Press, 2007); The Harper Collins Study Bible (NRSV; revised edition annotated by Harold W. Attridge and others in the Society of Biblical Literature, HarperOne, 2006).



Reflections on other Readings
[Standard (Episcopal) and Revised Common Lectionary]
for Year C, Proper 25

Revised Common Lectionary

Standard (Episcopal) Lectionary

Old Testament
(Hebrew Scripture)
Joel 2: 23-32
this page
Sirach 35:12-17 or
Jeremiah 14: 7-10, 19-22
Psalm 84:1-6
no reflection available
Psalm 84
no reflection available
New Testament
Luke 18: 9-14
no reflection available
Luke 18: 9-14
no reflection available


John G. Gibbs, PhD, a retired theologian, resided in Park Rapids, MN, when he originally wrote his reflection in 2010. John and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John G. Gibbs, PhD, or any MEESC member, or mail them to:

c/o C. Morello
4451 Lakeside Drive
Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

The MEESC assumes that all correspondence received is for publication on this web site. If your comments are not for publication, please so note on your correspondence. The MEESC reserves the right to decide which items are included on the website.


This page last updated 2010-10-15.


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