Those of you paying attention may be wondering to yourself, “Isn’t this the same text John preached on two weeks ago?” The answer is “Yes!”
For those of you expecting a sermon on Hosea – for our Kerygma class has moved from the prophet Amos to the prophet Hosea … well, the words of the prophet have shaped my interpretation of these words of Jesus. But we have the children with us today…and how would you preach on the first two chapters of Hosea? They’re a little R- rated. (Shhh! Ix-nay on the ostitution-pray!)
Still, Hosea and Jesus have much in common, although their style differs. They both care very much about the heart; the heart of the people of God. God wants your heart! In Hosea God is a very jealous lover; God’s heart is breaking. In the crucifixion of Jesus God has shown the divine heart: what it beats for and who God bleeds for.
Two weeks ago it was about our money and what we invest in as individuals – how this reveals our hearts. Today it is more about what we invest in as a culture and what that reveals about us collectively.
And my sense is that both Hosea and Jesus feel that the people of God have heart disease (metaphorically speaking). While there is much that is good and creative and gracious, with signs of the kingdom everywhere, I still feel sometimes (maybe you do too) that our present culture has invested things that don’t bring peace.
Even as Christians, we’ve invested in things that are breaking us down, making us more cynical, more individualistic, less civil, more narrow: we bail out banks and fail to support home owners. We fill our metaphorical arteries with so much metaphorical junk or plaque that we’re headed for a cultural heart attack. We have to start eating right and exercising –turning (which is what “repent” means) from junk food to the living food which is ours in Jesus Christ.
Now I know I just declared that we need more exercise so it is rather odd that I am going to talk about TV shows that Deanne and I watch (we get our exercise too!) But I have been struck by what TV shows reveal about our hearts.
Do any of you watch “Scandal” or “House of Cards?” They are both really good TV BUT they leave me very unsettled. They are both about the President of the United States and life at the White House. In “Scandal” you have a President who has an affair, leaves his wife to be with his true love. Washington is one cesspool of intrigue. Real political issues, like housing, education, and foreign affairs – it is of no matter.
“House of Cards,” I don’t know about you but I want to take a shower after watching that one. The President has become Satan himself – raw power on the loose; do not get in his way! Washington is an inner circle of hell.
These two shows reflect the culture of cynicism and maybe re-enforcing the mistrust of our elected leaders. No wonder we are disengaged and the young don’t vote and the center doesn’t hold and we fall apart.
In contrast to these two shows, Deanne and I have been binge watching another show also set in the White House – “The West Wing.” It aired for seven seasons from 1999-2006. It is substantive and compelling. It is respectful, insightful, and thoughtful. It reflects a pre-gridlocked Congress. I have heard that some high school civic teachers tell their students to watch it.
In ten short years between these three shows, we have moved our investment from trust to mistrust. And our heart is showing the wear and tear – we have forgotten how to be civil and to disagree respectfully. We can’t discuss abortion, gun violence, the environment, let alone health care, or education, or faith – we have chased the prostitutes of shallow thinking and have become shallow, cynical, and mistrusting.
Oh, the better angels are still there—I do believe this – but it gets harder.
I feel as if we have invested in “fear” – in violence, in discord, in incivility, in scarcity, in the cult of the individual – and our hearts grow tighter. We have become gluttons of the fast food of instant consumer gratification and individual choice.
I know many of you are big thinkers, and share my concern – but as Rabbi Heschel says, “You and I may not be guilty, but we are all responsible.”
And this is not about everyone agreeing about the specific issues – Christ calls us to be a community, not a special interest group. Our hearts should beat to the kingdom beat, thrill at the beauty that is all around, be filled with compassion for the poor and those left out; and be exercised in justice; our hearts should be glad with generosity, and expanded with curiosity, and joy. Place your treasure in hospitality and joy, your hearts beat true!
St. Paul in Galatians 5:22 describes how you and I are to live – we are to cultivate and invest in the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Paul contrasts the “works of the flesh; fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing and things like these.”
Unfortunately, maybe especially in the churches of today, we are more concerned with pointing out with narrowed eye and judgmental heart those individuals or groups that we consider to be on the wrong side – the church has become hard-hearted. We seem to invest in strife, quarrels, factions and our hearts grow cold and we can’t see beauty. We are easily distracted, and cannot enjoy the quiet moment, or the magnificent organ work.
We come to the table today – the bread and the cup; that which will begin to turn us, to soften our hearts. The body and blood of Jesus Christ will loosen the plaque and restore us to be the people of God who hunger for righteousness and justice; whose lives are grounded in steadfast love and mercy; who are not caught up in trash and suspicion but are set free to serve; to be restored to that relationship with God that our Creator yearns for. In the words of Hosea, chapter 2:19:
Come to the table and begin the diet which will lead us to health, to hope, to a new heart which shall beat to the rhythm of the angels of heaven giving glory to God: Hallelujah!