Sermon: Pentecost 11C
Sunday August 4, 2013, St Petri
View the media file “Always will” at the beginning of the sermon.
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. 2 But the more they were called, the more they went away from me.[a] They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. 3 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them.
4 I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.
5 “Will they not return to Egypt and will not Assyria rule over them because they refuse to repent?
6 A sword will flash in their cities; it will devour their false prophets and put an end to their plans. 7 My people are determined to turn from me. Even though they call me God Most High, I will by no means exalt them.
8 “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboyim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.
9 I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I devastate Ephraim again. For I am God, and not a man— the Holy One among you.
I will not come against their cities. 10 They will follow the Lord; he will roar like a lion. When he roars, his children will come trembling from the west. 11 They will come from Egypt, trembling like sparrows, from Assyria, fluttering like doves. I will settle them in their homes,” declares the Lord.
God tortures himself in this Word from Hosea.
The woman in this scene is God’s wayward people. They have placed the ring of the covenant they made to be God’s people in God’s world on the table and gone off to the club to find solace and flame and meaning in something or someone else. This has been building. Time and time again God’s people have done this and still pretended to be married or be in covenant with the Lord. Now they have made their final break….
The man represents the furious compassion of God in pursuit of his loved partner people.
He tortures himself by continuing to seek his people, put up with their repeated rejection. God knows the pain of separation. God knows the pain of divorce from a loved one. In Hosea the language of God’s loss is strong – like the feelings of loss for us.
But, as the narration said, and as we vividly see in the pages of Hosea true love – God love – God’s self-sacrificing kindness cannot be explained. It defies sanity. It defies logic. This is God’s kind of love – always…
He will forgive. He will pursue. He will bring us home. That is his voice in this word today.
“I do have choice, says God. And I still choose you. I always will. I always will”.
How is it with you, friend? Where is the baptism certificate? Left on the table? That’s our wedding ring as Christians.
Been a long way from the Lord this week, this month, this decade? Been seeking the things the world can offer at the cost of your inner freedom and spiritual balance? Been rejecting Jesus and his call on your life? Been dancing around with various desires and pleasures and self-improvements and the like?
He is pursing you now ….
Through Hosea the prophet of the Lord….
When I first knew you, when you were a child, I loved you, says God. Out of slavery to yourself and the darkness of your own rebellious ways I called you my son, my friend, my child. The more I called you, the more they went away from me;You kept sacrificing your relationship with me and even the people who love you on your idols of self. You keep paying the price that your idols demand… you kept looking for the peace, the security, the kindness the power to overcome your broken heart in people and things that could not deliver the things for which you long. But I was the one who taught you how to walk, ride a bike, drive car, work hard…I was the one who took you all up in my arms; but you did not know or forgot that I healed you of all your brokenness at your baptism and every time you gathered in my name and shared the body and blood of my Son, the sacrificial Lamb who has taken away the sin of the whole world on his cross. I have been leading you with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I am to you like a person in your life who lift infants to their cheeks. I continually bent down to you and sustain you – feed you with my healing and calling Word. For as long as you refuse to come back to me and this turning away from me continues in your life, you shall be ruled by the kings of the world, the tides of your culture, the call of more and more, the temptation and never-ending burden of your own misplaced dreams about more this, and more that……. The damage from self-seeking rages in your community. This trouble, pain and fear consumes even your community leaders. Sin and evil devours human life because of evil human scheming. My people are bent on turning away from me. They call out to a great power for help, but I do not raise them up at all. O but how can I give you up, my people? I can’t! How can I hand you over, and let your evil devour you, my beloved people? I just cannot. How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath. They shall go after the LORD, who roars like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west. They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says the LORD. How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like that stubborn, man Admah, whom I judged and condemned? How can I treat you like that completely judged and condemned city, Zeboiim? I can’t do that to you. My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy you; for I am God and no mere human. I am the pure and Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.
Friends, in the final execution of God’s wrath on humankind, inflicted in the very body of Jesus of Nazareth, and in the glorious rising of that same man, we can have absolute clarity and confidence in the truth that “he always will”.
Our Creator is our Saviour and our wise Counsellor. Our God is love whose love divine excels all of our loves. Can you hear his voice speaking into your situation today? He always will – pursue you, call you, invite you, love you. Forgive you. He always will.
Can we always? Can we always pursue, love, call, invite, welcome and forgive? I don’t think we can. We are mere mortals and God is not. Sometimes the pain is just too great, the damage too far down, the way to recovery and peace too difficult for us to achieve – even as Christians.
But it is then that we can rest back on God’s perfect “always” for us. When we can’t “always will”, he always will”!
We know what God has done and still does to be the pure and Hoy One living with us. He has been true to his word and “return us to our home with him” by gathering all people into the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of our souls and our cities.
God raised us up from our idolatry and rebellious heart against him while we were still rebellious and hostile to him and laid down the life of his dearly loved Son by sheer underserved love and we arose from that water of our baptism by the mighty resurrection power of Jesus and we are at home with our God wherever we go and whatever we do and whoever we are.
Friends if he “always will” pursue us, seek us, call us, invite us, welcome us then we are called to be like this as much as we humanely can be with the Holy Spirit’s help, for each other.
Paul calls us to be like our God in – people who “always will”, or at least most of the time “always will”!
Here’s some direction from the Lord on what it means to live as an “always will” kind of person for others…
Colossians 3:1-11 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have already died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Keep putting to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: sexual wrong doing, impurity, selfish passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry – trusting in things created rather than your Creator who loves you.). Get rid of all such things—unrighteous anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, now that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised; slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
Friends, we have the joy of being a community who live in the presence and promises of a God who is compassionate to a wayward wife, husband, friend and child. He obviously knows the pain of such a thing – the pain of wanting to love but being rejected in love; the pain of watching a loved one make one bad decision after another and reap the harsh consequences and not be able to anything about it; the pain of wanting a relationship with a loved one but knowing that the sin has to be named to be known and dealt with – tough love indeed.
And is there anywhere in the whole bible that describes the loving compassion of our Creator God who truly loves his community of often wayward people.
God binds himself to his people and can’t let them go. Even when he has to correct, rebuke, challenge, it is from a heart of love with the longest term view in mind – eternity!!
This is our place and our privilege and the driver for all we do together as a local church.
We are not engaging in conversation and prayer about the Holy Spirit’s specific direction in God ‘s mission here at St Petri to “save St Petri” or get more people in church or look good among other people and places or “build bigger barns’ for all our achievements and status and etc….
We are engaging in serious conversation about the Lord’s mission among us and through us to be like him – Always will” people – people who pursue toe sinner, love the lost, help the poor, invite the stranger – because that is how God has been with us.
So, as we seek the Lord on our directions as his people in this place lets indeed go with Paul’s direction and “Set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have already died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Our life is hidden in the compassion and kindness of our God and we are only here because of him. We have a purpose – a mission because of him. We are who we are by the grace of God and nothing else.
What a privilege to have that purpose, that calling , that place, that status and that hope. Our life is hidden in the “Always will” God who simple “Always will”.
1. People share a high and low for their week.
2. Read this part of the text together…..
7 My people are determined to turn from me. Even though they call me God Most High, I will by no means exalt them. 8 “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.9 I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I devastate Ephraim again. For I am God, and not a man— the Holy One among you.
3. God has got a problem! One the one hand his people are “determined to turn” from him and so, rightly deserve his judgement on their rebellious hearts. On the other hand he loves them and just cannot let them go.
4. Have you experienced this problem in one of your own relationships? Share something of that story…..
5. The whole book of Hosea is known for its emotive description of God’s deep compassion and care for his people. Scan this text, identify the strong words used to gain a sense of the deep nature of God’s compassion. How do these words make you feel about your own relationship with the Lord?
6. My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. Another way of translating this sentence is to say “,,,,,,and God repents…” God repents of executing his just judgement on his wayward people. God changes his mind. This is one of the few times in the Bible where God changes his mind and does not execute direct judgement on sinful people. Can you think of another occasion when God changes his mind? One seems to be Genesis 18:16ff…..
7. God has executed his judgement fully in the death of his Son Jesus. All this has been for us so that we no longer have to fear God’s wrath. In our baptism we have received the full benefit of Jesus’ sacrificial work for us. How does this truth shape your life? In what ways do you respond to this love of God and what do you believe we are all called to be and do in the way we live and relate to others?
Reading through Colossians 3:1-11 will help you reflect on this question and share your thoughts…..