Summary: When we are going through tough Sh@! if we turn to God he can help us find blessings and gain through the pain. He will repay the years the locusts have eaten
“And they all lived happily ever after” - that’s how we expect a story to end. But that is how our reading from Joel begins - “And they all lived happily ever after”
“ O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice inthe LORD your God for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you the abundant rain, the early and later rain, as before. The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.”
“And they all lived happily ever after”
But boy did the children of Israel need to hear those words. They had been through some “tough sh... no I won’t use that word in church - They had been through through some tough sh..shenanigans.
You know here we are celebrating Harvest festival, and it is hard for us to celebrate it properly. We can say thank you to God and have a great time. But how many of us have ever truly been hungry? For us, if we plant some tomatoes in the garden and the bugs get it and we don’t end up with any tomatoes, we go “Ahh, that’s a shame” and we pop off down to Sainsburys to buy some together with carrots, asparagus, beef, chocolate and a bottle of wine to drown our sorrows. But imagine if if your tomatoes don’t grow, you have got nothing else to eat. You go hungry. Imagine if you have been quite hungry for months, eating hardly anything. And then the crop arrives and you can eat properly. Imagine the saliva in your mouth as you celebrate harvest festival knowing that today .. you eat.
The children of Israel had been through tough shshshshsh.. shenanigans. The book of Joel begins with a description of a plague of locusts. Commentators aren’t sure whether this is a metaphor for the locusts of foreign armies who have laid waste to Israel, or to an actual natural disaster. But enough to say that the people have hit rock bottom. Finally they turn to God, and God who has been waiting all along to help, pours out blessing upon them.
“And they all lived happily ever after”
“I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter.. you shall eat in plenty and be satisfied and praise the name of the Lord.”
Imagine how it is when everything has gone so terribly wrong in your life and you turn to God and he suddenly brings it all right.
Look at the contrast between our two readings.
In our first reading we have a people who have got desperate. They turn to God and experience his mercy and his blessings.
In the Gospel we have someone who’s very self satisfied. “Haven’t I done well. Aren’t I rich. Look at my big barns. Ooh - they’re full. I’ll tear them down and build bigger ones.” He’s totally self satisifed, totally self confident, totally self reliant. And then he discovers that there are things that he can’t rely on himself for - he can’t stop himself dying that night.
A foreign observer once said “the English are a nation of self-made men who worship their creator”. Is that what we are? Are we more likely to worship ourselves than to worship God, to rely on ourselves than to rely on God?
You know, even as a church we can do that. For my first few years here, we in leadership said “I’m not sure we can do that” “we’d better keep that money for a rainy day.” We didn’t take risks. We didn’t trust God. Then the rainy day happened. The ceiling fell down. We turned to people for grants and they said “Oh no, you’ve got too much money saved for a rainy day, no grants for you.” And all the money that you had generously given over the years went (click fingers) like that because like the man in the Gospel, we had built bigger barns, rather than trusting God and taking risks.
Sometimes it’s only when things go wrong that they can start to go right.
It’s Manchester in the 1950s - three young boys called Barry, maurice and Robin get a pocket money job. During the intermission at the cinema they going to entertain the audience by miming a record. Its a fun novelty act. But on the way on the way to the cinema, the record fell and snapped. Disaster, what could they do? They didn’t give up . Instead of miming - in depseration they sang live for first time. They were an instant hit with audience. That was how the bee-jees began their musical career. Now if you don’t like the beejees, you might wish that record hadn’t snapped. But it was certainly something going wrong that made made things start to go right and put them onto the path of fame and riches