This is a summary of my sermon from Sunday 28 July 2013 (Proper 11, Year C) on Hosea 1:2-11.
The bottom line of the opening chapter of the book of Hosea is painfully simple: if you believe in God, and worship others, you’re a prostitute. We see this played out not just in Hosea’s preaching, but in the very lifestyle God called him into.
- Hosea married a prostitute, illustrating both how disgusting Israel was as God’s bride, as well as the depth of God’s irrational love for them.
- Their first son, Jezreel, was named after a battle that wiped out the previous dynasty (King Ahab & son), thus making him a walking reminder of Israel’s impending doom.
- Their first daughter, Lo-Ruhammah (I will not have mercy/pity/love), was a walking reminder that God’s not on Israel’s side anymore.
- Their second son, Lo-Ammi (Not my people), was a walking reminder that they’ve become Gentiles.
Yet, there is hope: those rejected will be redeemed as “sons of God” (Hosea 1:10) under one head (v11) – aka Christ! This promise is noted in 1 Peter 2:9-10, wherein St. Peter observes that we (Christians) have undergone the same process of redemption: we were not God’s people, in a merciless situation – enemies of God. But now we are a…
- chosen generation or race (being a Christian is more important than our ethnicity)
- a royal priesthood (we all come to the throne and the altar of God)
- a holy nation (being a Christian is more important than our nationality)
- God’s own people (our true leader is Jesus)
- having obtained mercy (forgiveness and healing is ours)
The process of this redemption sees some elaboration in Colossians 2, wherein St. Paul writes a little about circumcision. The Old Covenant circumcision removed a little extraneous flesh. Similarly, the circumcision of Christ is a removal of extraneous sin (Col. 2:11)! We’re buried in Baptism and raised through faith (v12), or put another way, we were dead in our sins and made alive with the removal of the Law’s accusations; as the circumcised flesh was discarded, so are our sins discarded – nailed to the Cross (v14). This is Baptismal grace – as we say in the Nicene Creed, the remission of sins!
Of course, baptism only removes the sin from us at the time; it’s not a vaccine against ever sinning again. And so we find ourselves in a quandry: we are still recovering from our Jezreel/Lo-Ruhammah/Lo-Ammi identity and we are still transitioning into being chosen/holy/royal/God’s/saved. Therefore, we must take seriously this “saintly sinner” identity, as Martin Luther put it.
Luke 11 has some helpful pointers on this subject:
- When you pray, call God “Father,” yet hallow his name and confess your sins (Luke 11:2-4).
- Even impudent/persistent friends get what they want – God is so much more generous (vv5-8)!
- So ask/pray God for your needs, seek after him in all things, and knock on his door; he will listen and help (vv9-10).
God is not a vending machine, however. His help is not always exactly what we think we want or expect. Luke 11:13 finishes this section by identifying God’s help to be the Holy Spirit. Supporting this idea, St. John also reports Jesus describing the Holy Spirit as “the Helper” (John 14:13). This sheds light on the examples of Luke 11:5-10, as bread, eggs, and fish are all common symbols of life and sustenance – exactly what the Holy Spirit is consistently portrayed to be giving to God’s creation! Thus we find that as we deal with our saintly “sinner identity,” God’s help is already with us, and yet ready to refresh and renew us always. We just need to seek and ask.