From the Prophet Joel:
Proclaim this among the nations:
stir up the warriors.
Let all the soldiers draw near,
let them come up.
Beat your ploughshares into swords,
and your pruning-hooks into spears;
let the weakling say, “I am a warrior.”
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Joel 3:9-10 (NRSV) – November 25, 2013.)
Read it carefully, it’s not what you think it is. It’s not what you expect. It’s not a call to make agricultural implements out of the weapons of war . . . it is quite literally the opposite!
It’s another surreal moment with scripture, like that reading from Revelation we had a few days ago! It’s God saying precisely what we do not want God to say . . . but isn’t that the way with God?
And like Revelation is sometimes understood, these words from God spoken through the Prophet Joel are about the end times; they are about judgment. God is summoning the nations do battle with God! God is coming to pronounce and carry out judgment, so he is ironically calling the peoples of the world to defend themselves against God. Earlier Joel had used a courtroom and law case metaphor, so this is just an escalation of that call to present a defense.
“I’m comin’; you best get ready,” is what this prophecy says. “Defend yourselves!” Can we do so?
Can we defend the failure all around us to feed the poor? In a country where our elected leadership has cut food assistance to the poor by $40 million while continuing and expanding corporate subsidies to agribusiness (and other industries), can we do so?
Can we defend the failure all around us to house the homeless? In a country where there homes sitting vacant because of the “real estate bubble” and the “foreclosure crisis” while families live in their cars and camp under highway bridges, where there are in fact more vacant homes than there are families in need of housing, can we do so?
Can we defend the failure all around us to care for the widowed and the orphan? In a country where we spend more per capita on health care than nearly any other industrialized nation but rank 37th overall in health care outcomes and have the 46th ranked life-expectancy for an adult, can we do so?
Can we defend the failure all around us to honor human life? In a country that regularly sends unmanned aerial vehicles (otherwise known as “drones”) into foreign nations to murder perceived enemies (including our own citizens) without warning, where thousands die every year because we value the “right to bear arms” so highly that we will not enact even reasonable regulations for the ownership of firearms, can we do so?
Quick! Grab a pruning-hook! Start straightening and sharpening it, because I think we’re going to need more than a few spears.
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.