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October 27, 2019 Joel 2:23-32; Psalm 84; II Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

Last Sunday I talked about the inevitability of human failure and frailty and the equal inevitability of God’s merciful grace. We concluded the message time singing together, “Marvelous Grace” and then Becca got up and read a passage from Ephesians, a passage which includes these words, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…” Jonathan (my son) slipped out of the sanctuary right after my sermon, quickly got changed and headed out for a day of work at P&M pumpkin ranch. I figure only moments after Becca finished reading that Ephesians passage about the gift of God’s grace, Jonathan’s truck went careening off the road a quarter of a mile beyond Virgil and Shirley’s place. It was a combination of factors. Driver error – Jonathan was likely driving a little too fast and braked a little too suddenly in anticipation of the turn. The high winds that day and a really light back end conspired with that mistake and he lost control. The pick-up sailed through two ditches cutting the corner off an intersection before crossing another road and slamming through a deeper, more unforgiving ditch. The front end of the truck plowed into the embankment and the impact sent the steering column forward and down into his legs. The air bag deployed. Wires sprang loose. The air filter burst out. The truck finally came to a shuddering, thankfully upright stop in a harvested milo field. Jonathan was wearing his seatbelt or this story may well have had a very different ending. He unhooked the belt, cracked the driver’s door open enough to squeeze out, and left the pick-up emotionally shaken, traumatized, but physically unscathed. He walked the mile and a half back to the church where Todd found him in the parking lot as people were heading to their vehicles to drive home.

Grace. God’s grace.

Some realities take time to sink in fully and I found throughout the day on both Sunday and Monday, emotion would overwhelm. The reality of God’s saving grace would flood through me and tears would spill out. It’s one thing to stand up here and talk about God’s grace which manifests in our lives in untold ways. It’s quite another thing to experience it in such a direct and intensely personal way.

Over the years, I have been told by any number of people, including some quite close to me, how boring the Bible is. It’s so dry and dusty. The Old Testament prophets go on and on in this archaic language. The Psalms are just poetry – poetry not being high on most people’s list of what they want to pick up and read during their spare time. Paul has this tendency to drone on endlessly about theological fine points. And I will admit, if I’m not in the right frame of mind when I open scripture and begin to read, a thousand other streams of thought crowd their way into my mind and I reach the end of a chapter realizing I have no clue what I’ve just read. Furthermore, I don’t tend to thumb over to Joel or II Timothy for light reading in the evening before bed.

With that said, when I do approach scripture with a prayerfully open mind and heart, I am endlessly amazed at how it comes alive and speaks to me in the most unexpected and thrilling ways. I know many of you have that same experience too. And when I say, speaks to me, I mean me and the particulars of my life here in October of 2019 or whenever it is I happen to be reading. And all three of these texts offer a perfect illustration of what I’m talking about.

First of all, these are all lectionary texts for this Sunday. Did you notice that two of them mention autumn rains? Isn’t that cool? Both the Joel text and Psalm 84 speak about autumn rains. And in the passage from II Timothy 6 we find Paul asking Timothy to do his best to reach him before winter. So all three of these passages seem to be set in the season of fall, exactly where we find ourselves today. This is a thin strand of connection, yes. But it is a connecting point we can make between ourselves and all the folks who come to life in these pages, who lived through the same seasons of the year we do today.

Psalm 84 – I read the coolest thing about Psalm 84 the other week. The commentary writer I consulted suggested the Psalmist, whomever he or she was, was likely sitting in the temple and just really feeling thankful to God. Maybe his son had just had an accident and was spared, I don’t kno