Until the End of Days

by Marti Pechnyo, Stephen Ministry Leader

I love words. Particularly the right word in the right context delivered with the right inflexion. Take the words, “reform” and “reformation.”

Reform –  
•    To improve by alteration, correction of error, or removal of defects
•    To abolish abuse or malpractice, to end a wrong
•    To change for the better
•    To improve social or economic conditions without radical or revolutionary change
•    To form again

I found only two definitions for Reformation –
•    The act of reforming and
•    A 16th-century movement in Western Europe that aimed at reforming the Roman Catholic Church and resulted in the establishment of the Protestant churches

Let’s go much farther back in history than the 16th century to talk about reformation… closer to the 4th century BCE. In three short Bible chapters, Joel presents some pretty serious opportunities for reformation. The people to whom Joel is speaking have just endured a tremendous natural disaster – locusts – cutting locusts, swarming locusts, hopping locusts, destroying locusts – locusts that have left nothing behind. The grain is destroyed, the wine fails, and the oil languishes.

Joel tells the people to remember the destruction, to gladly receive God’s grace and then to take up the much more onerous task of preparing for the Day of the Lord. 

Note that Joel calls the people to reform in two different time periods – now, following the devastating visit of the locusts and then, in preparation for the end of days.  Reformation now is long and arduous, but it’s nothing compared to the reformation that will occur then as the Day of the Lord approaches.

For now, following the locusts’ destruction, Joel says the Lord will ease the reforming with gracious rain and “the threshing floors shall be full of grain, (and) the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.” But the trials that lead up to “the great and terrible day of the Lord” will be even more difficult to endure. Joel proclaims, “The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood…  Prepare war… Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears.”

Personally, I can’t feel what the people to whom Joel was speaking must have felt. Somehow, when I think of cicadas, I can’t see total destruction. But consider the recent devastating fires in California – tens of thousands of people forced out of their homes, many of whom have lost all they own. More heart breaking is the significant number of lives lost.

We humans have helped set the scene for this disaster by disrupting the natural order of the ecosystem. For millennia, wildland fire has been a natural and necessary process that is vital for the survival of plants and animals. And yet, we continue to interfere, aiding and abetting climate change and ignoring the dangers of overpopulation in critical areas, thereby increasing the potential for large-scale catastrophic wildfires.

Our part in advancing natural disasters is just one example of our arrogance. We also must direct our efforts to reform the greater moral and spiritual disasters affecting us all today – the continuing scourge of war and gun violence, the plague of racism, the scandal of sexual exploitation, the exclusion of all in need of food, shelter, and refuge. These are clear wake up calls for us to participate fully in reforming today’s world. After all, the Day of the Lord is always near.

How do we go about preparing for the Day of the Lord? Joel provides great assurance that we can be ready if we pay attention to those in need around us and trust in the Lord. God says, “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh…” Not some flesh or chosen flesh or fill-in-the-gender-race-color-creed flesh, but all flesh. God continues. “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.”

Watch for these signs. I am. And in the meantime, let’s do some reforming. Not just the “to form again” kind. Let’s commit to the harder reformation, the one

•    To improve by alteration, correction of error, or removal of defects
•    To abolish abuse or malpractice, to end a wrong
•    To change for the better

God is here with us, always, even until the end of days.