Harvesting Wrathful Grapes!
“It’s in your tone.” My tone, what does that mean? We were discussing some heavy issue and the conversation had, indeed, turned toward the heart of the matter. I guess my voice and facial expression began to match the seriousness of my words, and she noticed it right away. That’s when the “tone” comment surfaced. My “tone” had changed to match the seriousness of the topic.
It is absolutely amazing to me to consider all the ways we communicate with each other. The fact is communication is so very nuanced and complicated that to ignore all the non-verbal communication clues we humans use is to miss the vast majority of our communication with each other. That’s why writing is both powerful and limited. You can’t “see” my “tone” in an email or a post on a blog. I have to make up for those missing pieces of information with words and punctuation and other writing devices.
Look at our lesson today in Joel 3:12-21. BIG HINT – When we start switching to Old Testament Lessons, Great Lent is near!
Let the nations bestir themselves, and come up to the valley of Jehosh’aphat; for there I will sit to judge all the nations round about.
Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the wine press is full. The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great.
Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining.
And the Lord roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth shake. But the Lord is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel.
“So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who dwell in Zion, my holy mountain. And Jerusalem shall be holy and strangers shall never again pass through it.
“And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the stream beds of Judah shall flow with water; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord and water the valley of Shittim.
“Egypt shall become a desolation and Edom a desolate wilderness, for the violence done to the people of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land. But Judah shall be inhabited for ever, and Jerusalem to all generations. I will avenge their blood, and I will not clear the guilty, for the Lord dwells in Zion.”
Joel declares that God has decreed that the wickedness of the nations surrounding Israel has come to the season of harvest and He will thrust in the “sickle” to harvest the grapes of wrath He has stored up for this day of reckoning.
The words are poetic, the language is expressive and forceful. The message is serious because it is meant to sober up the evildoers and to comfort those who have been oppressed by these evildoers. The missive of the prophet is meant to shake up the status quo and to remind both the oppressor and the oppressed that a Day of Reckoning, while it may appear a long way off, is actually right here and now it’s time to account for your deeds with no place to hide!
No wonder the Church gives us this reading as we approach Forgiveness Sunday and the beginning of our season of repentance in Great Lent.
This is because, dear ones, just as the nations of Joel’s day had a reckoning for their mistreatment and oppression of the people of Israel, we, too, will have a day of reckoning when those who have oppressed us and those whom we have oppressed will face the impartial Judge of the Universe and the “crooked places will be made straight.”
Today, how do you think you’ll do on that Day? If everyone whom you’ve ever hurt, offended, or mistreated is, on that Day, going to be defended and your selfishness displayed for all to see by God’s impartial revelation, how do you think you’ll do? Perhaps the wisest course of action is to begin the path of repentance now and start asking for forgiveness, start mending relationships, start the process of healing within yourself and with others BEFORE you are forced through this process in an instant by standing before the awesome Judgement Seat of Christ. In other words, be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Dear Lord, we know Your Just Chastisement is Your Love undiminished by our inattentiveness. We will face the true and unfiltered reality of Your Presence, and we will either have learned to cry out “Lord have mercy and forgive” or we will continue to stubbornly prefer the enslavement of our passions. And yet, we cannot measure Your mercy. We cannot see the end of Your lovingkindness. We enslave ourselves, O Lord. We place ourselves in that terrifying place of experiencing Your love as wrath! Forgive me, O Lord, when I allow my passions to flood out the memory of Your mercy! And help me have a blessed and spirit-filled Great Lent. Amen