Sermon Pentecost 10 July 24, 2016
Hosea 1:2-10 Psalm 85 Colossians 2:6-19 Luke 11:1-13
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.
In the last couple of weeks we have heard the prophecies of Amos, telling the Northern Kingdom of Israel, the Ten Tribes, of its impending doom because its people were not righteous toward God nor to each other, the plumb line and the basket of summer fruit, were the images Amos used. This week Hosea a contemporary of Amos gives the same bad news except Hosea enacts it in his own life. God spoke in very harsh language through Hosea. The Northern Kingdom of Israel as you may recall had fallen away from worshipping God and had turned to other gods, insulted, God called them whores and prostitutes because they had been unfaithful to Him. Hosea is told to marry a woman from the Northern Kingdom. He chose a woman called Gomer, and had children by her, each of whom was to be named for a new prophecy: “Jezreel” ‘God will scatter’ “Lo-ruhamah” ‘no mercy’ and “Lo-ammi” ‘you are not my people’. The Ten Tribes of the Northern Kingdom thus were totally rejected by God. The reality of that rejection was about to be realised for the Assyrians invaded soon after and took them away into permanent exile where they were scattered amongst other peoples and lost to history.
Many Christian commentators take Hosea’s prophecy to say that the spiritual place of the Ten Northern Tribes will be taken by Christians and that eventually the Jews and the new Israel, that is Christians, will come together under Christ (Hosea 1:11). You should know that this belief was a matter of controversy at this last General Synod.
Hosea also prophesied that Judah, the Southern Kingdom comprised of the Jews and the small tribe of Benjamin, St. Paul’s tribe, would be saved not by force of arms but by angelic action. That came to pass twenty years later when the Assyrian king Sennacherib laid siege to Jerusalem and almost all of his army was killed during one night by an angel. You can read about that in 2 Kings 19 and how Judah was saved.
Jesus’ original intent was to get Judaism to revert to its original Godly simplicity, to renew Judaism not to replace it with Christianity. Christianity has not replaced Judaism – the Jews are still the Chosen People. But when Jesus was rejected and was executed on the Cross, the die was cast, the Resurrection became necessary and a new way of approaching God was fully revealed in Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Eventually Jews and Christians will come together because of prophecy (Hosea 1:11, Romans 11:23-26) but that does not necessarily involve the Jews giving-up Judaism.
Thinking for a moment about simplicity of belief, the Psalmist gives us a great image of it for he says “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other”. Everything about Jesus’ mission to us speaks of mercy and truth, in Him they come together, mercy in the forgiveness of our sins by Him, and truth in that through Him we discover the true God. A God Who needs nothing from us, no elaborate ceremonies, no sacrifices (you probably have noticed that most sacrifices entail other people or other creatures suffering that’s too easy and totally meaningless if personal sacrifice is the purpose), God wants no self-punishment or any rigourous or outlandish tests of faithfulness, no pilgrimage and certainly no crusade. The only thing required from us is David’s appeal for “ a broken spirit and a contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17). So we will receive mercy, truth, righteousness and peace, they all go together. Living in Jesus Christ without fear of anything we can live peaceful and joyous lives.
Jesus obviously lived all those things and His disciples wanted to be more like Him, as do we, so they asked Him how to become like Him. The first step was to learn to pray like Him so they asked. He responded with what we call the Lord’s Prayer which answers their question this way; first acknowledge the truth that God is holy, and our God; then pray that the kingdom we want, the kingdom of peace, will come to us. The only way the kingdom will come is if God’s Will is supreme among us, anything contrary to that will upset mercy, truth, righteousness and peace and therefore happiness, holiness and eternal life. Then Jesus says pray for what we need to exist in this life, life after death is a concern but not dying is more immediate. So we need to ask God to keep us supplied in this world. Without the necessities of life, it is hardly any life at all and not one in which one could be happy. God made us, and will not desert us, He will supply us with the necessities of life even if it takes a little effort from us too. Don’t forget we were expelled from the God made Garden, because we went against God’s will, and we were told then to till the soil with the sweat of our brow for our own sustenance. Jesus then says, ever mindful of our propensity to challenge God’s Law, we are to ask for forgiveness. How can we be happy or holy or anything else that is good if we are burdened by guilt ? We can’t, so Jesus says, ask for forgiveness and it will be given, if we are forgiving of others. Each one of us is as weak towards temptation as any other, so we too need to learn to forgive before we can receive forgiveness. Forgiving others helps us understand the cost of forgiving, the cost that God accepts for us, and which surely makes us think twice before doing wrong again. But then recognising our appalling willingness to Sin, Jesus says ask that temptation will be taken away, or at least that enough resolve will be given so that we are not tempted. It’s better not to Sin than to ask forgiveness because Sin starts a whole process of other things going wrong too. Live that Prayer and mercy, truth, righteousness and peace will live in your hearts and surely that is what we really want. So how ? Jesus says we will be invested with the Holy Spirit and when that happens the battle is won Life really begins. Be persistent in prayer and live a happy life. Amen.