The Grapes of Wrath!Fr. Barnabas Powell
“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 to 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.
And still, we can see a “tone” change even in writing.
Which brings us to our scripture lesson today. The Church is changing Her tone starting today. She is employing a significant shift in Her daily work to prepare us all for the Lenten Journey. We will now read some serious words from the First Testament and today we will read from the Prophet Joel.
In Joel 3:12-21, we read the Prophet declaring that Judgement Day has come for those who have mistreated the nation of Israel. God declares through His prophet that He will summon “the nations” and bring them before Him because “the wine press is full. The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great.” Joel 3:13
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 evil doers and to comfort those who have been oppressed by these evil doers. 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 force through this process in an instant by standing before the awesome Judgement Seat of Christ.
Now, this isn’t meant to scare or intimidate you, but the wisdom of these readings before we embark on the hard work of Great Lent is meant to sober us up for serious internal and spiritual work. Another chance to voluntarily submit to repentance, and loving restoration BEFORE I stand before God Himself and have my life assessed for its honesty, integrity, and love or lack of love. Better to do it now than be forced to face what I’ve hid from my whole life then. Don’t you think?