When I’m in “a mood” there is nothing I like better or feel is more helpful to get out of it than going out into the woods walking or quietly sitting. The text from today’s Book of Joel Chapter1 calls it “wilderness.” There is unfortunately, less wilderness now then there was then. It hurts to watch forests die due to wildfires or the destruction of our natural environment by hurricanes & tornados. In Joel, we hear the laments of that same feeling by many who lived in his community. Scholars do not know when Joel actually lived, though some feel the work was written later in the Persian era (539-333 BCE) because there are references and images from a much later era than other prophets. Nothing is known of the prophet himself except his father’s name. He writes in v.19 "To you, O Lord, I cry. For fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and flames have burned all the trees of the field." It’s not a good time for Joel. Likewise, there is an awful lot of damage that has been done to our planet recently due to disaster and as we discussed last week, it is up to us to clean up that damage and help each other recover. We, are the cleaner uppers, the redeemers of environmental disaster. I know you all contributed to the basket for the rescue efforts of the UCC Disaster Response Team and the work done by CWS. Seeing your generous contributions last Sunday was great and you are asked to contribute again today and next week, then we will send off a check in the exact amount of the collected funds. We do not keep any of it. You are indeed Jesus’ hands, feet and heart in the world! Thank you again for your generous spirit.
In the New Testament reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans today, the Disciple is trying to shore up the spirits of the faithful who are feeling down and out, cast into the wilderness of faith. Paul was a good counselor because he listened and understood how Jesus’ fledgling crew felt lost and he did not put them down for it, but rather cheers them on. He writes; “24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope! For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” I suppose the people he was addressing were aggravated. They had been persecuted by the Roman Government for many years, so by this point they were likely tired and frustrated. Paul says don’t give up! Never give up! It is good advice and Paul was all about trying again and again throughout his travels to convince people of the power of a redemptive God through Jesus Christ. He knew the tendency of human beings to become agitated in the face of oppression.
Nevertheless, he was committed to convincing the others that “26 Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words” By that I wonder if he was saying the Spirit is sighing deeply, or was he referring to us and our sighs? Perhaps Paul wanted others to believe that even in our times of depression or lament which we are not able