It Gets Better

On October 28, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

It Gets Better Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Oct 27, 2019 The prophet Joel declared, “God has poured out for you abundant rain.” Join me in the spirit of prayer. Let us dwell together in peace, and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may […]

It Gets Better
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Oct 27, 2019

The prophet Joel declared, “God has poured out for you abundant rain.” Join me in the spirit of prayer.

Let us dwell together in peace, and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

Most of us probably didn’t hear a lot about the prophet Joel in our religious education. We don’t know much about the prophet. We aren’t certain when he was writing.

Joel tells us that his people experience a plague of locusts. Some scholars take him at his word and think his agrarian society was devestated by locust swarms. It does happen. Others believe the locusts are a euphemism for invading armies. Whatever the locusts were, they caused damage and heartbreak. As a result, the people cry out to God for relief, and eventually, the rains come and restore the land…healing eventually comes.

It’s a tale of woe, but also of encouragement.

Joel doesn’t ask why these locusts have done what they’ve done. He doesn’t say, “Why us?” He doesn’t suggest the people deserved it. He doesn’t imagine how they could have prevented it; he doesn’t even offer a plan for how they can get better faster. He just acknowledges that sometimes things are difficult, and then he encourages his people to not give up hope for better days.

Locusts come, they do damage.
But the rains also come, and the damage begins to be repaired.
Locusts are hurtful, but the rains can begin a process of restoration.

It’s horrible that the locusts have eaten the crops and left us with famine and drought and despair…but the rains will come and healing will begin. No matter how much we’ve lost, the future can be better.

The past is past and the future has infinite possibilities!

Dr. Peale said in our second reading today: “Great people do not allow the vicissitudes of life to defeat them. They have something within them that rises victoriously above losses and disappointments. Whatever comes, life is good.”

Misfortunes come. It may take time and effort to get past them. Sometimes it takes a while to heal from the pain they caused. But those misfortunes don’t have to be the end of the story.
Our story can be how we survived, how we learned, how we helped others survive, how we got our second wind, how we loved and laughted and shared and cared through it all.

Those locusts are frightful, but they can’t touch our spirits, they can’t take away our hope, they don’t determine our future.

I attended over 100 funerals in the 90s. Almost all of them were for people who died from complications from AIDS. Of those who died from AIDS, not one was over the age of 50.

AIDS was terrifying, and ubiquitous, and I didn’t know a single gay man who didn’t think at one time or another, “am I next?”

The fear. The regret. The grief. How did we get through it?

I remember Louise Hay encouraging us to love ourselves, and to affirm possibilities. It was a good way to live. It might improve our health, and it would definitely help us be happier.

I remember spelling “aids” with all small letters trying to take some of the sting out of it.
We would redefine HIV to mean “Hope Is Vital.”
And I remember saying that people were living with AIDS rather than dying from it. If they were alive today, they were living. And we focused on that.

A friend and mentor of mine would pray in every public, pastoral prayer for a cure for AIDS. The idea of a cure seemed impossible but she dared to pray for it anyway.

And Troy Perry would say, time and again and always with great passion: God is greater than AIDS.
People were dying, but we still declared that there was a power that was greater than the plague at hand.

Eventually, a medical miracle occurred. Combinations of drugs became available that could help people survive, even live vibrant, long lives.

There is not yet a cure and the meds aren’t always easy, but after the viral locusts had devastated our community the rains finally came and restoration and resurrection began. Damn the locusts, but thank God for the rains.

Joel encourages his audience by saying that “God will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten…You shall know that I am in the midst of you, and…I will pour out my spirit on all flesh…[and] everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved…”

Joel doesn’t surmise why the tragedy occurs, he just trusts that in the fullness of time, what was lost will be restored.
He doesn’t say that locusts won’t do more harm, he just trusts that there will always be a reason to be glad and grateful.
He doesn’t say that everyone will have it easy, but he does trust that God’s spirit will never be withheld from anyone.
And he doesn’t say that there won’t be hard times, but he does insist that those who call on God will be heard, and somehow, God will respond.

He doesn’t blame anyone for aids, and he doesn’t predict when or how the cure will come, the prophet just insists that God is greater than aids.

He doesn’t say that there will never be injustice or oppression, but the prophet declares boldly that God’s spirit is never withheld from anyone.

There’s not a spot where God is not.
You are God’s miracle, and not God’s mistake.
No amount of locusts will ever change that.

That’s the Jesus story, isn’t it?
His conception was a scandal, he was born in a barn, his childhood was spent as a refugee, he betrayed by a friend, and at 33 years old he was executed as a criminal.
The locusts certainly plagued Jesus. But they didn’t end his story.

In, through, and as the church, he was raised to new life. And that new church, the raised body of Christ, was refreshed by the rains of Spirit at Pentecost. The locusts struck and struck hard, but the rains came, and Resurrection and Restoration and Renewal were the result.

I don’t know what you’re facing, and i can’t tell you when or how it will be resolved, but I can stand with Joel and prophetically declare…it gets better.

Be encouraged: The locusts have done their worst, but the rains of restoration are on the way. And this is the good news. Amen.

Dear God,
Let showers of blessing flow into my life.
I give thanks for restoration and renewal.


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