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Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost, October 23, 2016

Tell The Wonders

Three weeks ago was Rosh ha-Shanah, the first day of the new Hebrew year 5777. I celebrated that, and I will celebrate the Chinese New Year as well as January 1st, 2017, and any other New Year's events that may arise. You see, I’m looking forward to a new year, whoever names it, because this last has been for me one of "the years that the locusts have eaten." Even if things have been going pretty well at your house lately, you’ll understand that. At some times in our lives, each of us suffers a siege of locusts.

Notice my phrase: "a siege of locusts," not a "plague of locusts." A plague is something meant to bedevil or generally annoy, but a siege is something intended specifically to produce surrender. Listen to the prophet Joel, my brothers and sisters: Never surrender; tell the wonders of God and live.

There are people who say that Good News is found only in the New Testament. We call them people who’ve never actually read the Bible. However, we Episcopalians do read the Bible, and when I read the book of the prophet Joel, I settle comfortably into his images. Joel says: Make sure you tell your children; tell all of those who come after you about the wonders God has sent and live.

Now sometimes we hear instruction like that and think we’re being told to help the others, but I think we should also hear it to help ourselves. When we recall and tell of the wonders God has sent for our lives, we stay in touch with Reality, despite all the fake stuff that surrounds us.

Take a cue from the liturgy of Seder and the Easter Vigil, from the poetry of Psalm 78 and Psalm 107 and Psalm 119: Recount the amazing things God has done in your life. Compiling the list may take you a while, because you’ll want to include the miracles, the dreams, the closing or opening doors, and the many so-called “coincidences.” Note how the list changes over time, especially if you’ve been paying better attention to new wonders as your awareness grows.

Getting ready to tell the wonders will change your life. Telling the wonders could change someone else’s life…in that event, you’ll be a channel of blessing.

There is only a single Beware to consider, and Jesus is of course the guy to explain it with a story. While you are listing the wonders, do not for one minute think that you caused them. Yeah, right; you and that Pharisee with the serious ego issues. “Thank you, God, that all the good things have come to me because I fast and tithe and keep my manicure shiny and…” Not, definitely not.

Joel reminds us to remember, and Joel teaches us to tell the wonders…then Jesus teaches us to give credit where credit is due. God alone sends wonders.

My friends, I have no idea what your list will look like, but I predict it will be long. My own is staggeringly long, and it makes me smile SO much!

Some wonders are goose-bumply. Once upon a time, when I guess I was about 14 and going to a movie theater in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, I stepped into the street just as a car ran its red light and came barreling towards me at many miles per hour. An arm reached around my collarbone, jerking me up and backwards, saving my life, in the last split second. When I turned to thank the man who had saved me, there was nothing there. Nothing: zero, zip, nada, rien, genischt. Just empty air. Providing you don’t count all those angels.

Some of you have heard about my encounters with the Raccoon of the Redemption and wild rabbits who mark moments of protection for me; others know about the day I was empowered to lift a Volkswagen off my husband. A few of you may have heard about the dream I was sent at age ten, which gave a precisely accurate picture of one situation in which I found myself while doing research about rabbis, in New York City 46 years later. Wonderful, amazing. And more than just a little bit weird.

What’s included in your list of wonders? The song that comes to you just when you need understanding, the hope that breaks through soul darkness, the listener who arrives just when you are most desperate, the light that makes temptation vanish…whatever happens. with or without a scientific explanation, that makes all things work together for good? That’s God stuff. That deserves to be told.

What will happen if we prepare the list and tell the wonders? Our God is a God of the future, so here the prophet Joel speaks truly-good Good News. He tells fresh truth to those of us still suffering because some of our years have been eaten by locusts. He says even more amazing stuff will happen:

    God will pour out the Spirit on everyone --
         family, servants, sons and daughters
    Wonders will be set in the sky above and in signs on the earth below
    Young ones will see visions; old ones will dream dreams.
    And everyone, every single one will be rescued
    Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved!

That is the goodest Good News we could ever have. It is not our own doing; it’s God’s work and God’s alone -- perhaps not yet explainable by science, but definitely capable of being experienced by humans who are paying attention, it leads to life. The wonders of the Lord are all about life. Start compiling your list of wonders today. Tell your children, tell your friends…if you can get them to sit still for it, tell total strangers.

Relive and relish what God has sent for your life…share it freely and with a kind of excitement that is appropriate for such wonders. Look forward to a future in which even more amazement is to be realized by each of us in touch with Living Reality. We cannot predict, but we can report, and we can rely on its happening.

And, oh yes, by the way:  Happy New Year! 

Amen.

     - Prof. Patricia G. Bleicher