Sunday, July 24, 2016

Hosea, quit messing with us. It's not nice.

I don’t know what happened in your congregations this morning.  In my tiny rural congregation there was some difficulty grasping the lessons from Hosea, especially considering they had just spent a few weeks struggling with Amos.  For one thing, there was a general distaste for a bible story about marrying a prostitute.  It just didn’t seem, well, in good taste.  It’s just not, you know, biblical. 

I tried to connect Hosea with Amos by reminding them that while Amos was a prophet who spoke to the leadership of Israel about their unethical behavior that thad oppressed and impoverished the common people of the land, and about their elaborate but meaningless religious rituals, Hosea, doing his work at about the same time, prophesied more about their personal relationship with God, and he did it in a strange way; he acted it out.

We talked about Hosea’s marriage to Gomer as an allegory acted out like a stage play.  Hosea played the part of God while Gomer played the part of the people of Israel.  As God had chosen the Israelites, so Hosea chose Gomer.  As God blessed Israel with a land of milk and honey, so Hosea provided Gomer with all she needed.  As Israel betrayed the covenant with God by going after other gods, so Gomer betrayed Hosea by having sex with other men.  Hosea and Gomer acted out their parts as a demonstration of how Israel had treated God.  Throughout the book God shows anger, frustration, lament because God loves the Israelites even though they have betrayed him.  In the end, God declares that by God’s grace the day will come when, in spite of their sin, they will be restored and returned to him, their sins forgiven.  God’s love will never die even as our love proves undependable.  You’ll notice I switched from past tense to present tense because I think it’s what God is still doing in our own time.  

So, did he really do it?  Hosea did what God told him to do, but did he really marry a prostitute and have children by her, or did he simply write about it as if he had?  It’s an allegory to be sure, but I suggested that their guess is as good as anyone else’s as to whether he wrote about it or actually did it.  Whichever, there are some important lessons for us that we tried to get to.

Through Hosea, God reveals that God is affected by what we do.  God is not only engaged in our lives, but because God is love, and because love, whatever else it might be, is emotional, God can and does feel the emotions you and I feel about those we love.  It’s easy to say that we love God, but how many other gods do we love?  More than a few if we’re honest about it.  Like disobedient children, how often have we told God we would do something, but never took it seriously, never did it, and never intended to do it?  Hosea messes with our ideas about God in very uncomfortable ways, doesn’t he?

Like the people of Israel, how can we expect to live into the fullness of life in abundance that God desires for us, while behaving individually and in community in ways that lead in the opposite direction?  It can’t be done.  That doesn’t keep us from trying.  

Can we believe, as Amos, Hosea, and all the prophets said, that in the end God will still be there for us, creating new life for us, no mater what we are going through now?  Isn’t that what the gospel writers, especially Matthew, meant when they said that Jesus is the fulfillment of all that the prophets had said?  If so, how does it affect the way you live?  Hopefully, it allows you to be bolder in your lives of adventure.  We are children growing toward adulthood.  Go with boldness, grow with boldness.  That’s what nineteen elderly folks in a tiny rural congregation are working on.

How’d it go at your end?


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