Introductions by Bruce Herzer
As I approached the readings this week, I didn't know much about Joel.  He's a minor prophet, so his is a short book in three chapters, in which he is speaking to the people of Judah.
It's not clear when Joel lived exactly. The range of estimates I came across was from 900BC to 400BC. There are few clues in the text -- he doesn't mention the name of the reigning King for instance.
He does refer to his contemporary world in prominently referencing an ongoing  plague of locusts in Judah. This seems like it may have been particularly symbolic and poignant to the Hebrew people given locusts were one of the plagues of Egypt. And indeed the text has weighty overtones.  Joel was amongst the first prophets to use very apocalyptic language, some of which we'll hear in a moment, referring to a future time or Day of the Lord that will come and promising salvation for Israel.

Joel 2:23-32

People of Zion, be glad.

    Be joyful because of what the Lord your God has done.
He has given you the right amount of rain in the fall.
That’s because he is faithful.
    He has sent you plenty of showers.
He has sent fall and spring rains alike,
    just as he did before.
24 Your threshing floors will be covered with grain.
    Olive oil and fresh wine will spill over
    from the places where they are stored.

25 The Lord says,

“I sent a great army of locusts to attack you.
    They included common locusts, giant locusts,
    young locusts and other locusts.
I will make up for the years
    they ate your crops.
26 You will have plenty to eat.
    It will satisfy you completely.
Then you will praise me.
    I am the Lord your God.
I have done wonderful things for you.
    My people will never again be put to shame.
27 You will know that I am with you in Israel.
    I am the Lord your God.
There is no other God.
    So my people will never again be put to shame.

The Day of the Lord Is Coming

28 “After that, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
    Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your old men will have dreams.
    Your young men will have visions.
29 In those days I will pour out my Spirit
    on those who serve me, men and women alike.
30 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth.
    There will be blood and fire and clouds of smoke.
31 The sun will become dark.
    The moon will turn red like blood.
    It will happen before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.
32 Everyone who calls out to me will be saved.
    On Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
    some of my people will be left alive.
I have chosen them.
    That is what I have promised.

Our second reading today is from Luke - The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, which directly follows the parable of the widow and the judge that we heard last week.  In this weeks reading Jesus tells his follows how those who call themselves great shall be humbled, and those who are humble shall be made great, contrasting a self-righteous pharisee with a penitent tax collector.
In looking for a common thread, It struck me that both readings address the themes of redemption and salvation, but from different times in history and from different perspectives.
The first, Joel, from a very wide perspective, of big events going on in the world and environment, most of which sound completely overwhelming and outside our control.
The second from a more personal, internal perspective -- nudging us to focus inward and to consider how we see ourselves in our own light, and how we live as a result.

Luke 18:9-14

The Story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Jesus told a story to some people who were sure they were right with God. They looked down on everyone else. 10 He said to them, “Two men went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee. The other was a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed. ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people,’ he said. ‘I am not like robbers or those who do other evil things. I am not like those who commit adultery. I am not even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week. And I give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood farther away than the Pharisee. He would not even look up to heaven. He brought his hand to his heart and prayed. He said, ‘God, have mercy on me. I am a sinner.’

14 “I tell you, the tax collector went home accepted by God. But not the Pharisee. All those who lift themselves up will be made humble. And those who make themselves humble will be lifted up.”