Sermon Archives

God Along the Highway ~ Hosea 11:1-11

The sermon begins around 17 minutes in.

What is it like for God to be heartbroken? We usually don’t think of God that way. God is unmoving, unchangeable, omnipotent – all powerful. But God in this passage in Hosea is heartbroken; God is a spurned lover, God is a cheated-on spouse who is going crazy. It’s a very uncomfortable passage to read.

(By the way, I sent out a notice to all parents that the scripture lesson was harsh today – a very harsh, demeaning word about women was in the scripture. A word that should not be used in almost any context – given what we know about sex trafficking and #METOO and abuse of women and Jeffery Epstein, Bill Clinton, R Kelly and Donald Trump.)

Commentators have a variety of ways to “pastorsplain” this: Gomer was a promiscuous woman – perhaps a temple prostitute for Ba’al – the Canaanite god who was very popular among Yhwh followers.

Hosea, the prophet, is himself the living metaphor of the results of the broken promise f intimacy, of trust.

Three children are born of Hosea and Gomer: Jezreel (God Sows) Lo-ruhamah (No Pity) and the harshest: Lo-ammi (Not My People).

We may be concerned about the harsh God of the Old Testament, but this is a God who is heartbroken. His own people, his covenanted children, to whom God has given a name and given them everything: liberation from slavery, a land flowing with milk and honey; even though God didn’t want to – he gave them a king –but the united kingdom is a house divided – Israel in the north and Judah in the South; and yet, the people have cheated and turned away from God.

So, you think God can control everything? Apparently not. God can’t even keep his own chosen people in line, and we have another example of this constant theme of scripture that is lived out even still:
God gives; we use, abuse and throw away.
God offers everything; and we want more.
God calls us to covenant of righteousness and justice; and we turn our backs.
God sends Jesus; and we kill him.
God says share; and we horde.
God says welcome the foreigner and stranger; but walls are built and they are called “rapists,” and “murderers.” We separate families and put children in cages.
God says take care of the earth; and we pollute.

The story of Hosea, and the heartbroken God, simply can’t get more contemporary.

God tells us to be the beloved community and we segregate and demand our rights.

God calls us to be a shining light to the world,but the light is growing dim, and perhaps the light is going out on this democratic experiment.

And just like in Hosea’s day the false prophets are telling the king, “All is well. Don’t listen to those rabble rousers. Tell them go to Judah! Love Israel or leave it!”

The religious leaders keep claiming “God is on our side!” “We are an exceptional country!” And the sycophant priests – seeking to protect those in power – call the leader “God’s chosen.”

And God is heartbroken. There is no pity. There are no people.

And so, history will play out and the Assyrians will come and Israel will be no more. And soon it will happen to Judah – and truly, today, we are still playing out the historical/theological drama of a land torn – Israel, Judah, Samaria.

Perhaps God’s judgement is playing itself out in our time and in our land too.

Michael Gerson, a former speech writer for President George W. Bush (43rd President) now an opinion writer for the Washington Post, is no liberal. He is NOT part of the squad. But when I read his recent piece it could have been Hosea, or Micah, or Amos, or any of the prophets who had to speak a word of God to a lost nation, who had to speak a word from a heartbroken God, who had to look at a people once blessed – as God wrings the divine hands and asks, “What are you doing?”

They are not my people and there will be no pity.

Gerson wrote:

“For many, summer is the literary season of lighter novels at the beach or pool… yet the president never takes a vacation from provocation. And it was impossible to miss Trump’s urging of four American congresswomen with ethnic backgrounds to go back to the hellhole countries they came from (even though three were born in the US) Or his statement that if refugees don’t want abusive conditions in US immigration facilities, they should just stay home. Or his promise of mass deportation of people he regards as cultural pollution. Sometimes a US President is called on to be a comforter. Other times he is required to inspire. This is the USA president as a loud, bigoted drunk at the end of the bar, making it impossible for anyone else to talk or eat in peace…. In his warped moral vision, mercy is a form of national weakness. Kindness and respect are crimes against the state. His approach to nationalism involves slander against the voiceless. It demands further oppression of the oppressed. Trump wants to change not just the policy of our government, but also the character of our country, into something hard, and dark, and dishonorable, and pitiless.”

Gerson continued:

“This is surely the kind of thing that people of faith exist to oppose. Christians in particular worship a God who put on the cloak of human need and weakness.
A refugee God. A scarred God. A God sacrificed to political necessity, in front of a crowd claiming to serve justice and law.
What does “God is love” mean if it does not mean love for the refugee?
What does the “image of God” indicate if we refuse to see it in the wandering poor?”

And what is the response of the evangelical Christian – either silence or enthusiastic support.”

Well, this evangelical Christian will not be silent, and neither should you. Gerson shows us that the division isn’t between republican and democrat, conservative or liberal. He speaks truth. If Gerson has the bravery to name it, then so must I.

God is heartbroken.

And yet in verse 10 – did you hear it, did it make an impression? God has Hosea say, “Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”

God is heartbroken. But God is God. And even the worst that we can do, does not keep God from the redemptive task of salvation.

God on the cross – resurrection! The people in slavery – the Exodus. The flood – new life. The four horsemen of the apocalypse – the new Jerusalem! “It isn’t over till it’s over,” and “God writes straight with crooked lines!”

God’s anger is for a moment; God’s favor is for a lifetime.

Grasp life. Rise up, people. Be God’s people.

In Luke’s gospel we hear that God wants to give us what we really need! God won’t give you a snake if you ask for a fish; or lock the door when you knock; or hand you a scorpion when all you want is an egg….

But as God’s people – we have to embody who and what God is. I know our immigration system is a mess and needs an overhaul, but you don’t put kids in cages, and separate families, and deport Jose. That’s handing out scorpions and snakes, slamming doors, calling out “Don’t bother me, my children are with me in bed…. I don’t really care about your children, or those children!”

Our business – as the people of the heartbroken but redeeming God – is to pray and act as God would pray and act: God’s purpose: creation, redemption, release, resurrection, reconciliation – be done on earth as it is in heaven…. Be the beloved community now.

Heaven is not in the future but something to build today: everybody with bread, forgiveness of sins, forgiveness of debts. Heaven is not giving pay day lenders and credit card carte blanche to prey upon the vulnerable. We are indebted to God and to each other – and we forgive!

We pray to God to save us from the time of trial. But we are in the courtroom right now, and the trial is taking place, and the questions are being asked: what kind of people are we? What kind of country do you want to live in? What God do you serve?

Walter Brueggemann says that the marks of the community of Jesus are these: Radical hospitality, Radical generosity, and No vengeance. Brueggemann believes that from the right and from the left we can come together around this call to restore the relationship with our heartbroken God, to heal the wounds of the people, to rise up for righteousness, hospitality and love,  to be the beloved community.

AMEN.

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