Even Now…

Ash Wednesday

February 26, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, we resolve to turn our hearts more fully to God. The sacred journey of Lent, one we have traveled so often over the years, invites us each time to go deeper into the Well of Mercy.

Joel’s pregnant phrase summons us:

Joel2_12 even now

Think of the “even now” moments of your life, those times when, despite darkness and cold, you turned toward light and warmth. Think of a time when, in contradiction to all negativity, your soul proclaimed

  • Even now I hope
  • Even now I believe
  • Even now I love
  • Even now I care
  • Even now I repent
  • Even now I forgive
  • Even now I begin again

buddingThe rise of an “Even Now” moment in our souls is like the hint of spring pushing its head through the winter snow.

It is the reddish-green thread suggesting life at the tip of the brown, cold-cracked branch.

It is the moment we believe that what we desire and love will turn toward us and embrace us.


Can you imagine God having such moments, longing for our attention, love, presence, catching a glimpse of our turning?

Our reading from Joel describes such a God.

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart…

These words suggest God’s longing for us, for our devotion and love.

But our holy intentions weaken and we often drift away from our “first fervors”. Our hearts attach to distractions from God. So God says:

Rend your hearts …
and return to the LORD, your God.
For I am gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, rich in kindness …
Come back to Me, with all your heart.

This is what Lent is all about. Each of us knows where our hearts have wandered. Each of knows what we must turn from — even now — to return to God’s embrace.

If we can hear God’s longing in this haunting reading from Joel perhaps the true turning will begin. A blessed Lent, my friends.


I found this modern song helpful to my prayer. I imagine God singing it to me, to the world, as we begin our Lenten journey. Perhaps it may touch your prayer too. God loves us so much, infinitely more than we can comprehend. But imagining God’s love in human terms, as John of the Cross did, can sometimes deepen our understanding and response to God.

Music: Even Now – Nana Mouskouri

Valley of Decision

Saturday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

October 12, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we have our second passage from Joel. It’s a awe-filled reading which describes Yahweh calling together the nations for final judgement. The gathering is to take place in the valley between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives.

Joe4_14 valley

From his poetic imagination, Joel describes the apocalyptic scene:

Apply the sickle,
for the harvest is ripe;
Come and tread,
for the wine press is full;
The vats overflow,
for great is their malice.
Crowd upon crowd
in the valley of decision;
For near is the day of the LORD
in the valley of decision.

It is a place where the Lord decides who, by their decisions, belongs to God and who does not. Those who have suffered, even shed blood to remain faithful – these are God’s holy ones. They will receive the reward.

What can we learn from this reading which grew out of Israel’s experience so long ago? How can we relate to a “valley” on the other side of the world?

That awesome valley runs right down the middle of our heart. It is the place within every moment where we decide for God or for self. On one side, its high ridges call us to greed, irresponsible self-interest, manipulative relationship, indifference to others’ suffering.

On the other side, the heights of love, mercy, and justice stretch before us. 

We will stand in that valley innumerable times in our lives. Which way we have chosen to climb makes all the difference when the final trumpet sounds.

Music today is a stretch. But I think Joel’s vivid prophesying was a stretch for his people too. The song is “Valley of Decision”, a reggae worship sung. It is sung by Christafari, a Christian convert from Rastafarianism. We all come to God in different ways. I was fascinated and inspired by this singer’s own choice from his “Valley of Decision”. (Words below)

VALLEY OF DECISION
Joel 3:14-21
(Chorus):
Run come and fall people take heed to His call,
Valley of Decision. Valley of Decision.
This is no game, people have to die in His name
Valley of Decision. Valley of Decision.

Darkness it looms all around us, I find it hard to see.
I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know
whether I should stay or whether I should flee.
People all around me seem, they seem to be so sad.
I see them cry I hear them bawl I see their backs against the wall,
I wish I could wipe away their tears.

(Pre Chorus):

There’s a Holy, a Holy hill, Holy Mount Zion,
Holy, Holy Mount Zion (Heb 12:22).
Just know that He’s the Lord your God
in this Valley of Decision, Valley of Decision.

Chat Chorus):

Even though I run through enough Hills and Valleys
I fear no evil cause God is with me.
Even though I run through enough Hills and Valleys
Thy rod and staff they will comfort me (Psalm 23:4). (2x)

(Chorus)
(Pre Chorus)
(Chat Chorus)

Jah (Yahweh) Great and dreadful day will soon come (Joel 2:11).
Jah will pour out His mighty, mighty, mighty Spirit to all mankind (Acts 2:17).
Through Him all creation, all creation was made (John 1:3).
Those who call upon His name, Call on His name and you will be saved (Rom 10:13).

(Pre Chorus)
(Chorus)
(Chat Chorus repeated)

Sound the Alarm!

Friday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

October 11, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we have the first of two readings from the imaginative poet-prophet Joel. Joel lived at the time of a massive locust infestation in Israel. He compares that devastation to the conquest of an invading army which can be expected if the people do not repent.

Joel2_1

If you have the time, I suggest you read the whole brief book of Joel at one time. Doing so gives a clearer picture of the prophetic cadence Joel employs. It is repeated by most prophets and it goes like this:

  • Hey folks, things are a mess!
  • Guess what, they’re gonna’ get worse.
  • Besides that, it’s your own fault.
  • So wake up and repent.
  • But don’t worry because God still loves us.
  • God wants to and will make things better.
  • Motivate yourself by that hope.
  • And anyway, we’re all just waiting for that great and final day.
  • So praise God by your righteous life.

Oh, but gloriously literate Joel delivers this message with such passionate turns of phrase! Let yourself relish one of two of these startlers from today’s passage.

Listen for how they speak to your heart in the current circumstances of our world:

  • Gird yourself in sorrow
  • Spend the night in scratchy haircloth
  • The Day of the Lord comes as ruin from the Almighty
  • a day of darkness and of gloom,
  • a day of clouds and somberness
  • The enemy is numerous and mighty
  • Their like has never been seen before

You might say, “Gee, I’m not really feeling all that bad, and the sun’s out where I live!” 

Well, try reading the phrase as if you lived in Kurdish Syria, or war-torn Yemen. Hear the prophet’s warning as an immigrant fleeing your country, or a democracy-seeker in Hong Kong. Listen to this word of God as a person without a home, or food, or healthcare might hear it.

In many ways, things are a mess! What are we called to by today’s reading? What is the warning and the hope within it to impel us toward a more just and merciful life?

Music: Deep Within – David Haas