Sermon for Sunday, 27th October 2013 (Pentecost 23/Proper 25)

Oct 23rd, 2013 | By | Category: Sermons

‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions’ Joel 2:28

The book of Proverbs says visions are vital. Proverbs 29:18, says ’Where there is no vision, the people perish’. Whether it is a church, or, indeed, a country, if people have no idea what they are about or what they are working towards, then they tend to give up and things fall apart. Why would anyone stay involved with an organisation that was unsure of its purpose and which had no idea of what its future would be?

To the prophet Joel, in this morning’s Old Testament reading, having vision was an important part of the future for God’s people. Joel looked forward to a day when vision returned to the life of the people.

The Church has taught that Joel’s prophecy of the future came true on the Day of Pentecost, fifty day after Jesus rose from the dead, when the Holy Spirit came down on the disciples gathered in Jerusalem. From the day of Pentecost onwards, the followers of Jesus were to be people inspired by the Holy Spirit and filled with a vision of what God wanted.

If we were true to Jesus’ calling we would want to be close to the church as it was in the Acts of the Apostles. But when we look at Joel’s vision of the future and look at a typical parish and we have to admit that there is a bit of a gap between the vision and reality.

Can we put our hands on our heart and say that our own parish is a place where there is a sense that the Holy Spirit has been sent to all people and should guide and direct our every thought and our every decision and our every action? Can we say that the whole life of our parish works, in the words of Joel, to ’praise the name of the LORD your God’.

If someone came in on a Sunday morning to find out what goes on here, would we be able to point to things in the life of our church, and in our own personal lives, that would persuade them that God is present and that, as Joel says, he is the Lord and there is no other?

Joel lived around about the Fourth Century BC in very uncertain times. The hopes of two centuries previously, of a new and strong country, had not been fulfilled. The country had been through economic and environmental disaster with drought and locusts. People were turning away from God, no longer trusting him. Twice we get the line, ‘never again will my people be shamed’; there is a sense they are losing their religion, giving up on God who doesn’t seem real to them.

I think Joel would have understood our own times. Faith in Joel’s time was no easy matter, those who held on to their beliefs would have wondered what the future might hold. Would the generations to come continue in the faith of their fathers? Even in Old Testament times younger people went off and followed their own choices and preferences. Even in Joel’s time there were people who thought that God was no longer relevant to their lives. Joel would have stood in church today and said to us that the times we live in now are nothing new.

Joel’s answer to us is would be that the Day of the Lord, the day to which he had so looked forward had come, and what had we made of the gifts that God has given us?

Read the Acts of the Apostles, Joel would say, read about the gifts given to the Church, these are gifts for your church. Don’t complain about the church not growing or younger generations not being interested, if you don’t use the gifts that God has given you.

Joel would say to us that the opportunities are there for us to take. If we don’t take them, then don’t be surprised if God says he has had enough of us and gives his blessing elsewhere.

Dreams and visions, Joel would ask, what are your dreams and visions? If we were honest we would say that, when it comes to the church, we don’t have dreams or visions. We keep the place going, we hope something will turn up, maybe we would even prefer to move back into the past. If Joel came to a synod in the diocese or a vestry meeting in a parish, what would he make of it, where’s the vision?

People without vision perish, a parish without vision dies. The LORD says,

‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions’

We need to pray for the Spirit. We need to pray for vision

Seir Kieran

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