Sermon by Fr. Philip Sang, delivered on Trinity 6C, Sunday, July 24, 2022 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.
Our Christian life is not to be confined to a closet. Our belief must be revealed in our practice. If we walk in Christ, then we must act as Christ would act because Christ is in us, in our hopes, our love, our joy and our lives. We are Christ’s reflection.
At first glance, the reading from Hosea doesn’t seem to make sense. Would God really ask a prophet to marry a prostitute? Well, the answer is yes he can, and yes he did. You see, this was part of God’s plan, and we all know that God’s ways are not our ways, and sometimes God’s ways don’t make sense to us because we can’t see the overall plan God has for someone or something.
God wanted to teach Israel a lesson, so he told Hosea to marry Gomer the prostitute. When God used the word whoredom, he was not necessarily referring to prostitution. The word translated as whoredom is a broad term that refers to various types of sexual misconduct. It only refers to prostitution in certain cases. In the case of Hosea, it refers to a married woman being unfaithful to her husband. This was a metaphor for Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. Hosea’s marriage began well and ended badly, just like Israel’s relationship with God began well and had become bad by the time of Hosea.
Hosea probably asked God, “Why are you doing this to me? I am a good man, I try to be a godly man. All I want to do is have a family and raise children. Why should I be married to the wrong woman? Why should I be forced to raise strange children?” God’s likely answer was, “It is because you are my prophet that you are living through this situation. Who else could suffer like I suffer, grieve like I grieve, and understand what I understand? Israel abandoned me just like your wife abandoned you. You can grieve for Gomer like I grieve for Israel.”
God knew that Gomer would be unfaithful and he used that knowledge to teach Israel a lesson. He used the names of her children as statements of prophecy. The first child, Jezreel, was a reflection of 1 Kings 21 where Ahab’s wife Jezreel planned to murder Naboth so that Ahab could seize Naboth’s vineyard. The licking of Ahab’s blood by the dogs was a metaphor for God’s future judgment of people who follow other gods.
The name of Gomer’s second child is translated as “No Mercy”. Scholars suggest that Hosea was not the father. He did not have the natural affection that a father has for his children. This was a metaphor for the lack of love that God had for Israel at this point in time.
The name of Gomer’s third child is translated as “Not My People”, and again scholars suggest that Hosea was not the father. It represents the breaking of the natural bond that God made with Israel at Mt. Sinai; however, this breaking of the bond did not nullify the promises God made to Abraham. Like Abraham, Israel’s salvation was by grace through faith and not through works of the law. The salvation would be offered through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
God used Hosea’s family to call Israel back to him and his teachings. Paul said the same thing in Colossians. Both the Colossians and the Israelites had been led away from God. In the case of the Colossians, they were led away by false prophets. They were deceived. They forgot that in God and Jesus they were living new lives after being forgiven of their sins. They were united with Christ and shared his power over all earthly rules and authority. The only way they had to gain spiritual maturity was to hold fast to their faith in Christ and not to the man-made rules of the Pharisees.
The story of Hosea and Gomer is really a story about God and the covenant people. Hosea used his family struggles as a way to speak to Israel about its unfaithfulness to God. Israel paid a heavy price for its unfaithfulness. Reconciliation would not be easy, just like it was not easy for Hosea and Gomer to reconcile. Israel had to learn a hard lesson. We as Christians have to learn the same hard lesson when we forsake Christ for other worldly ambitions. Thank goodness God is stubborn and pursues us even when we turn from him in sin. This is Hosea’s ultimate message: God is faithful to his promises and can’t let us go. His faithfulness to us overcomes our faithlessness to him and to each other.
We as modern Christians are also called to faith in Christ as a way of gaining spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity is gained through faith. Faith allows us to withstand life’s challenges. Faith will guide us to the end of our life’s journey. It will guide us into the time of Judgment Day when God will say “Welcome Home!” Without faith, we are destined to hell.
God can’t give us up as his children regardless of how unfaithful we have been. He loves us too much. At the same time, he can’t overlook our sins because of the damage sin does and will continue to do so as long as we hold on to our sins. Our closeness to God is broken because sin offends God. Sin hurts us because sin always has negative consequences and cuts us off from others, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. God had to find a way to comfort us and heal us-and the way he found was through Christ’s death on the cross.
Jesus came into the world for a purpose, and that purpose was to die on the cross, the just for the unjust. When Jesus died for us, he took away our sins and nailed them to the cross. He provided the redemption referred to in Hosea. We must not take that grace for granted like Israel did. We must not drift so far from God that we can’t cherish his grace. That’s what happened to Israel at the time of Hosea. When we accept Christ, our condition is changed from condemnation and death to forgiveness and life. We are given a new nature-one that wants to please God. We are then adopted into God’s family, but that adoption requires us to submit to Christ’s authority. He paid for us with his blood, and since we are now his, he has the right to rule our lives. We have to let Jesus have complete control of every area of our lives-every decision, every action, every word, every motive, every attitude and every thought.
As Israel listened to the news about Hosea’s family, they learned about God’s undying love for his people. God’s faithfulness combined with our faith in him gives us hope that we can be changed, forgiven and saved. He wipes the slate clean and renews the relationship he has with us. We are restored as children of God.
In the Letter to the Colossians Paul encourages us to be rooted in Christ. Israel in Hosea’s time didn’t have those firm roots, so it’s no wonder that they drifted away from God. Once we have this firm foundation, Colossians teaches us to continually renovate ourselves so that we become more Christ-like, but we must not become rigid. We do not have to follow a rigid set of rules. All we have to do is come to Christ in humble faith and prayer. Jesus gives us a good example of a prayer to use in Luke 11:1-13.
There are two forms of prayer: quiet contemplation or thanksgiving and petition. Jesus used both forms of prayer to seek God’s presence, guidance and provision for both body and spirit. His prayer life reflected the life of friendship with God. God met Jesus’ needs when Jesus prayed, and he can meet our needs when we pray.
When Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread”, he was referring to the manna that the Israelites received every day when they wandered in the wilderness. It reminded them of their daily dependence on God for the basics of life. Bread serves the same function in a primitive, agricultural society where hunger is never far away. This might seem to be trivial in our modern, affluent society, but the term “daily bread” represents the modern essentials of our lives- for example, a car or medical care. God out Father listens to our requests but he does not blindly grant every one of them, just like good parents do not grant every one of a child’s requests. To do so would please us in the short term, but it would also hurt us in the long run, just like granting every one of a child’s requests would hurt the child in the long run. Instead, God provides what is needed, including limits and discipline
When I was preparing, I found this prayer, which I thought tied in quite nicely with the sermon. It’s a prayer we should all pray when we don’t get what we pray for:
I asked for strength that I might achieve;
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I had asked for,
but everything that I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.
My brothers and sisters when we turn to other people and things to meet our needs, we turn away from God just like Israel did. There are so many people today who believe that if they can simply do this or that, then their lives will be fulfilled. They are very disappointed when they reach their goals and discover that the view from the top isn’t as great as they thought it would be. They try to hide their disappointment with drugs, alcohol sex or material goods. They reached their goals without asking God if their goals were compatible with his plans for their lives. God wants us to seek, ask and knock and in return he promises to answer our prayers. We need to plant our roots deep in the faith of who Jesus is and what he did for us. That way, when the storms of life hit us, we will remain strong.
If we are to be like Christ, we must also forgive others like God forgives us. We as Christians are to be faithful reflections of the image and values of God. How can the world learn of God’s forgiveness if we do not forgive others?
The story of the man who loaned the three loaves of bread is a metaphor for God’s promise to save his people. People in that area and culture took hospitality seriously at that time. Failing to show hospitality would bring shame on the host family because the traveler would go to other homes for help and tell everyone about the person who refused to show hospitality. God refuses to allow his name to be brought to shame, so he saves his people. In other words, he keeps his promises and shows his own version of hospitality.
So how do we keep our faith strong in the face of our modern, secular, godless society? One way is through studying the Scriptures and through prayer.
Society is filled with people like Hosea and Gomer-people whose lives are messed up, who don’t have it together, who make poor choices and live with the consequences. I know, because I’m one of them. We might pretend that we are prefect, but behind our perfect appearances lie deep flaws that exist in spite of our appearances to cover up our sinfulness.
As I started my sermon today so do I repeat again, Our Christian life is not to be confined to a closet. Our belief must be revealed in our practice. If we walk in Christ, then we must act as Christ would act because Christ is in us, in our hopes, our love, our joy and our lives. We are the reflection of Jesus, and people will say of us, “They are like their Master. They live like Jesus Christ”.
In the Name of God, The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit Amen.