Centuries have passed since Hosea was preaching to the people of Israel. However, the words could be applied to the people of God today. We who are so lost that we hardly hear the words of love God speaks to us daily could easily be the children of Hosea. The children whose names were an indictment of Israel’s sin, their rejection of God’s ways could be children of today.
With greed, corruption, violence, and hatred filling the airwaves, Hosea’s first-born son, Jezreel, belongs to us. His name is an indication that God has noticed Israel’s behavior and there will be consequences. Surely, God has noticed how we have turned against each other and forgotten the ways of justice, kindness, and humility taught by Moses, Mohammed, and Jesus. Although I would not say that “God sows” them so much as they are a result of our behavior, death and violence are surely the consequences.
Hosea’s daughter, Lo-ruhamah, symbolizes God’s dissatisfaction (disappointment? disgust?) with the people’s ways. So God will have “no pity” or “no compassion” for the people of God. They have turned away and embraced the god’s of their own making rather than trusting in the God of their salvation. Lo-ruhamah lives today and is reborn every time one child of God shoots another out of fear or vengeance and claims, instead, to be administering justice or keeping peace.
The prophet’s youngest son, Lo-ammi, is a clear statement that Israel is not behaving as the people of God ought. God no longer wants to claim God’s own people. If that is not true today, I don’t know what would be. Surely, God does not want to claim us with all the hatred, the separation, the racism, the homophobia, the transphobia, the sexism, the zenophobia, and all the other fears that divide us. Just as surely, God does not want to let us go; God is waiting for us to return to God’s ways, the ways of salvation, of life, of justice, of kindness, of humility, and love.
And, yes, many of us want this, too. We keeping asking how we get there and what we can do. In recent weeks the Gospel texts have given us some indication. There was the command to show mercy to our neighbor’s in the “Good Samaritan” passage. Last week was an invitation to sit at the feet of Jesus in this moment and listen until we are able to set aside distractions and serve with purpose. This week is a continuation of these lessons in a call to prayer that inspires action.
The text begins with the Prayer of Jesus. These words are so familiar to many of us that we have long-since stopped paying attention to what they might mean for us. I don’t think Jesus intended this to be the signature prayer of Christianity so much as he wanted his disciples to pray for what they really needed in a way that honors both God and the one praying. This prayer reminds us that we need God in our daily lives to ensure that we are working to bring about God’s reign, not taking more than we need, forgiving others as fully as we have been forgiven, and paying attention so as not to stumble into evil. If we can do these things through the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, we make the world a better place.
When this kind of prayer becomes a part of us, we are more likely to receive our neighbors with kindness and offer mercy and hospitality. We are more likely to share the gifts we have been given rather than hoarding them for a day that might never come. True prayer changes us. It removes the barriers we create to protect ourselves and reminds us that we are loved even when we act in unlovely ways.
Several times on FB this week, I saw the meme, “Faith may move mountains, but don’t be
surprised if God puts a shovel in your hands.” Prayer, like the one Jesus taught his disciples, puts the shovel in our hands. If we are truly praying for God’s guidance, we will have to shovel out the fear and hatred that so often fills our ears, our hearts, and our pews.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Hosea’s children to feel at home in my house or my church. I don’t want to have to worry about the consequences our behaviors have sown, feel the lack of compassion, or be living outside the reach of God’s love. I am tired of seeing black bodies oozing red blood on our streets. I am tired of police officers abusing their power or letting their own fears control their impulses. I am tired of police officers being shot while trying to do their jobs. I am tired of churches closing their doors to LGBTQ+ people. I am tired of women being chastised and degraded when they seek positions of leadership. I am tired of one faith tradition claiming superiority over another. I am tired of ignorance fueling fear of immigrants and refugees. I am tired of violence and hatred. Justice, kindness, and love have to be easier than this constant fear, hatred, and violence. My shovel is not nearly big enough. Perhaps you will dig with me until Hosea’s children no longer find a home among us.
RCL – Year C – Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – July 24, 2016
Hosea 1:2-10 with Psalm 85 or
Genesis 18:20-32 with Psalm 138
Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)