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Joel 2:1-2, 12-17


Often, the first days at a new job or the first days at a new school, a required process of orientation is put in place. The function of the orientation is, quite literally, to “orient” a person to their sense of identity within the new role(s) they will inhabit. The orientation offers explanation, teaching, and guiding parameters on what kinds of actions and intentions are available to a person. If the orientation is to new employment, for example, working as a snow-plow driver, the orientation will include instruction on various issues of snow and ice, road conditions, and how to use equipment for snow plow removal. If the orientation is to a new campus where University work will commence, the orientation will give guidance on which buildings include which disciplines of study, who works in which buildings when administrative needs are needed, and guidelines for what is permissible in some spaces and not permissible in others, including parking, dormitories, and gymnasiums.

The origin of the word “Orient” derives from one of the Cardinal Directions, “the East.” While it is now the case that most maps and GPS coordinates use “North” as the Cardinal direction, it was the case that East oriented the world in an earlier time, when any person on any content could look to the “East” and “orient” their directions to the rising of the Sun, with its cyclic pattern and routine precision.

Orientation therefore is about understanding where one is in space and time, in sequence and reference to other objects and persons all around each person.

Being properly oriented is important.

Not having a proper orientation in some jobs, can lead to cataclysmic consequences – if, for example a nuclear reactor is not (dis)engaged correctly! (This is part of what happened in the crisis of Chernobyl!) Not having the proper orientation, in many outdoor settings, can lead to the difference between life and death as errantly wandering into the wrong ravine can lead to a dangerous fall or simply being lost without sustaining resources in order to be able to survive.

Being properly oriented, then, can be a matter of life or death.

Joel, in some ways, is about orientation. The language of Joel does not use the terminology of orientation, though the conceptual ideas of what Joel beckons from his audience is about an orientation. Except! Except Joel is about a re-orientation.