Be Glad And Rejoice

If you’re tempted to believe that your past or present is robbing you of your future, take heart, and listen to Joel instead. For Joel there’s no such thing as a past loss or failure that can withstand the abundant opportunity of the present and the future. No such thing as permanent, irreversible damage.

And Peter was bold enough to believe and to preach in Acts chapter 2 that the words of Joel’s prophecy were fulfilled on the first Pentecost after Jesus’ departure. So we don’t have to wait for some end of time eschatological event. But we do wait in hope for the day when all will see the divine presence in the present; the Spirit has been poured out on All flesh. Our present hope bears witness to that reality.

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.”

New Covenant, New Creation

Jeremiah 31:27-34
“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals. And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord. In those days they shall no longer say:

“The parents have eaten sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”

But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge.

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt– a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”

Jeremiah envisioned a covenant relationship with God that was directly from God as an act of creation and forgiveness of sins, putting all individuals in a relationship with him and holding all individuals accountable for their own actions (“but all shall die for their own sins…, No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.)

I believe the later Christian development of the idea of Jesus’ substitutionary atonement for the forgiveness of sins is an unfortunate solution to a problem that never existed: the original sin of Adam and Eve imputed to the rest of mankind. Jeremiah offers a solution directly from God that requires no intermediary or imputed/alien righteousness.

Like the original covenant, the new covenant was kicked off by an act of Creation by God, and Genesis creation language is here too: “God will sow human and animal seed”. And covenant language: “I will be their God and they shall be my people.”

I believe that in scripture, we find ancient beliefs which bear witness to realities that have always been true. What Jeremiah believes about Judah and Israel, I believe has always been true about all of creation. I believe that we’re all born into a covenant with a divinity that creates and recreates based on covenant faithfulness to love and forgiveness. Because forgiveness is necessary for existence and creation in the world we live in, right? I believe forgiveness transforms us continually into the Divinity that creates us, making us the Divine agents of New Creation.

Treat People With Kindness

In Harry Styles’ song, Treat People With Kindness, he says:

“Maybe we can
Find a place to feel good
And we can treat people with kindness
Find a place to feel good
I got a good feeling
I’m just takin’ it all in
Floating up and dreamin’
Droppin’ into the deep end
And if we’re here long enough
They’ll sing a song for us (ah-ah-ah-ah)
And we’ll belong”

Reminds me of brother Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7
These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

While exile was understood as a punishment for Israel’s covenant unfaithfulness, Jeremiah didn’t believe that God was finished with the exiles. He speaks of gardens, offspring and multiplication like Genesis 1 and 12. The garden and the promised land were to be ground zero for covenant faithfulness. Now Babylon is ground zero. The exiles are not sidelined, they are not junior varsity, and the blessings of the covenant for the people and the planet are not on hold. Earthling unfaithfulness is no match for God’s faithfulness to his promises, even among uncircumcised Babylonians, so Jeremiah recommended intermarriage. In fact, the welfare (Shalom in Hebrew) was also the Shalom of the exiles. I believe that’s because we belong to each other and belong together. Jeremiah does not recommend listening to the false prophets who say otherwise. He didn’t believe God sent them. Neither do I. Grace and peace be with y’all.

In which Habakkuk uses the myth of redemptive violence as a theodicy.

The prophet asks God how long he’s going to let all the destruction and violence continue.

What good are laws if justice never goes forth?

The Lord answers that the violent nation Babylon is carrying out justice on his behalf, and the prophet answers that surely the everlasting one can do better than that.

God’s response? Well, the Babylonians will get what they deserve too, I’m in my temple so everyone can stop complaining.

So Habakkuk, like many before and after him, props up the myth of redemptive violence (MRV) as a theodicy, and goes back to singing worship songs.

And when Jesus’ life and teaching calls the MRV into question, they kill him for it, then centuries of Christians interpret that death through the MRV.

I believe “the Earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” when we finally stop adhering to the MRV. How long will that take?