Here's the first of two Bible reflections this week. This one relates to Ash Wednesday.
There is tragedy. People are suffering. There is a famine and people are dying of starvation.
That’s the backdrop for the book of Joel, right near the end of the Old Testament. And what did Joel say about the tragedy, suffering, and famine?
God is mad. God is the one who is behind this punishment.
Really? I hate this stuff. When modern-day Pharisees and other, well, let’s just call them jerks, (and yes, I can think of several much stronger describing words and phrases) start spouting about how God is angry and that’s why there was a tsunami or a hurricane or some other disaster, my skin crawls and my stomach twists and I start feeling real, seething anger directed at those who blame God for the disasters.
But as I search through why I am angry, it is less about the blaming God for the catastrophe and more about why those folks, who I must remind myself are God’s precious children, place the blame. The people are being naughty. The people are not following the rules as the Pharisees, etc. see them. God is angry because the people dare to treat others as human instead of abominations.
I don’t see the Pharisee-like attitude in Joel, 2:1-2, 12-17, but the blame still really bothers me. What doesn’t bother me is the ultimate point of the reading.
Come back to me, says God. I’m not worried about how dressed up you are, I want you to be serious about following me with everything that you are. I love you, I am kind and gentle, I forgive, and I just want you to start loving me and your neighbor.
Even if your neighbor is a jerk.