Hosea 1:2-10, Luke 11:5-13 (NRSV)
Fellowship of Faith – July 24, 2016
The Reverend Deborah Fae Swift
Hosea 1:2-11The Message (MSG)
2 The first time God spoke to Hosea he said: “Find a whore and marry her.
Make this whore the mother of your children.
And here’s why: This whole country
has become a whorehouse, unfaithful to me, God.”
3 Hosea did it. He picked Gomer daughter of Diblaim. She got pregnant and gave him a son.
4-5 Then God told him: “Name him Jezreel (which means God sows). It won’t be long now before
I’ll make the people of Israel pay for the massacre at Jezreel.
I’m calling it quits on the kingdom of Israel.
Payday is coming! I’m going to chop Israel’s bows and arrows
into kindling in the valley of Jezreel.”
6-7 Gomer got pregnant again. This time she had a daughter. God told Hosea:
“Name this one Lo-ruhamah which means No-Mercy. I’m fed up with Israel.
I’ve run out of mercy. There’s no more forgiveness.
Judah’s another story. I’ll continue having mercy on them.
I’ll save them. It will be their God who saves them,
Not their armaments and armies,
not their horsepower and manpower.”
8-9 After Gomer had weaned No-Mercy, she got pregnant yet again and had a son. God said: “Name him Lo-ammi which means Not-my-People because you’ve become nobodies to me, and I, God, am a nobody to you.
10-11 “But down the road the population of Israel is going to explode past counting, like sand on the ocean beaches. In the very place where they were once named Not-my-People, they will be named Children of the Living God. Everybody in Judah and everybody in Israel will be assembled as one people. They’ll choose a single leader and there will be no stopping them.
The last few weeks have been hard ones, haven’t they? Both at the local level and at the national one … even the WORLD … things have been hard: violence … racism … xenophobia … fear-mongering. But the part that has REALLY been pervasive is the negativism. Portraying everything in the most negative … fearful … DEPRESSING ways.
Whether it’s the news of bombings and shootings abroad … or the statements of a political party … we are constantly being TOLD that the world is falling apart and that we’re all going to hell in a handbasket.
Imagine my great surprise, then, when I heard Boston Globe journalist Mike Barnacle … not a very soft and squishy kind of guy on the outside … when I heard him say the other day: “You know … I’m sorry … I just don’t KNOW many people who are afraid to go to the store … who are not celebrating picnics with their families … who really BELIEVE that our country is falling apart. I just don’t KNOW them. And I don’t know any foreign countries who still aren’t impressed by the United States of America.”
And I began thinking about it.
Neither do I!!!
Oh, I know people who are sad and grieving … I know folks who wish things were different. Heck … we ALL wish things were different. But I don’t know people who are crawling into a hole because they’re AFRAID of the world. Even my KIDS … who are all young adults of color … even THEY are going off on holiday to New York City … going to work every day … hangin’ out at the mall … being with their boyfriend … whatever. They’re living LIFE.
And so are we!
And that’s when I had to laugh at myself. I’m going to tell you a little bit about my family.
My mother – God rest her soul – was … for want of a better term … a tough old broad. She was born in 1920 and in 1945 she suffered a near-fatal car accident. She was pronounced dead (!) 3 times and ended up in Crouse-Irving Hospital in Syracuse for a year-and-a-half before convalescing at home with a private duty nurse for a year after THAT. She was 25 years old … from then until she was 28 she was hospitalized!!!
And then she went back to teaching … this woman who doctors said would never walk again.
When she was 31 my father convinced her to marry him a year after his first wife had died. He was a widower with 3 children. My mother had been his student and had BABYSAT his kids when they were little.
She walked into a pre-made family and, as some of you know … that can be a pretty awkward and difficult … challenging … situation.
They got married and 3 years later I was born.
The reason I say this is because like many of you, she had been through TOUGH times. Both of her brothers, my uncles, survived the D-day invasion! Her father had died when my mom was 9 years old and my grandmother supported the 3 kids and herself by taking in laundry, teaching piano lessons and being a church organist.
Not much money in THAT house.
And maybe it was BECAUSE my mom was a tough old gal that she would look at some of the things I would come up with as real points of DRAMA in my life – like most teenage girls do at one time or another – and she’s say … “Oh, for God’s sake” or … when I was REALLY making a mountain out of a molehill … “Oh, for the love of GOD, Deborah.”
Now, as a mother of teenagers myself … I can TOTALLY understand where she was coming from. She’d survived REAL trauma … REAL crises … and I was taking something and MAGNIFYING it … CATASTROPHIZING it … until she couldn’t STAND it any longer.
Well, when I heard Mike Barnacle the other day, all I could hear OVER him was my MOTHER.
Some of my friends were talking about moving to Canada if things keep going the way they are in this country and my mother would’ve said, “Why, WE aren’t going anywhere.”
I remember one time when there were problems with a minister in our church and some families started leaving. I asked my parents if we were going to leave, too, and she said to me, “Noooo … ministers come and go. The church is the PEOPLE. Nobody’s gonna force us out of OUR church.” And when I think about how things are going in the world now … I find that I am my mother’s daughter.
I had an internal conversation in my head the other day … I heard myself echoing some reports from mainline media … “We’re going down the wrong track. Our country is going to fall apart.”
“Oh, for the love of God, Deborah …” came my mother’s voice.
“Race relations are the poorest they’ve ever been in this country.”
Really? “Oh, for the love of GOD.”
And then I stopped.
Because it IS “For the love of God.”
For the LOVE of God …
We are HELD in the love of God. And we need to DO things out of our love FOR God.
For the love of God … remember what we BELIEVE. Remember who we ARE … we are the CHILDREN of the living God!!! We are the ones – the ONLY ones – who can CHANGE this world. If not us … WHO? And certainly: if not NOW … when???
“Oh, but things have NEVER been this bad,” some people say.
Try telling that to the founding fathers who were in Philadelphia when it was 90+-degrees like it has been these last few days … without air conditioning … without central sewage or running water … when they were writing the Declaration of Independence and drafting what this country was going to STAND for. By signing their names to it they were EACH ONE signing their own death warrants. If they were captured, they would have been EXECUTED as traitors against the king. I think THOSE times were pretty bad.
Or what about the four years of Civil War … 620 THOUSAND Americans killed each other during those four years. We think that the racial divide is big NOW? What about in the 1950’s and ‘60’s???
You cannot TELL me that this is any worse than those other times.
Or what about with World War I and the devastation in Europe???? Or in 1945 when our country dropped two atomic BOMBS and VAPORIZED two cities in Japan. You think this is WORSE?
The only thing that is different now is that it is HAPPENING now.
Think about it.
It seems worse because we’re in the middle of it.
And I wish my mother were here to say, “Oh, for the love of God, Deborah … get a grip!”
That’s what HOSEA was telling HIS people.
He lived about 900 years before Jesus and HIS people in the Northern Kingdom were forgetting who they were. THEY were getting all scared and agitated, too. THEIR rulers and their aristocratic patrons (what today we would call the lobbyists) had clouded the minds of the people and taken them off-center in their worship of God. And so Hosea writes about how God told him that the people had become like PROSTITUTES … giving in and selling themselves to whoever was the highest bidder.
Today I think that highest bidder is FEAR.
Our leaders – our POTENTIAL leaders – use FEAR to lead us around by the nose because if we are AFRAID then they can sell themselves to us as the great SAVIORS!
Well, God tells Hosea: OK. I want you to act out with your own FAMILY what I’m telling you about my relationship with my people, Israel. First off … MARRY a prostitute. THEN name your FIRST-born God-Sows because I’m going to sow my righteousness back into all of you.
When your SECOND-born arrives, name her No-Mercy because I want her to REMIND everyone that I will have no mercy for those who turn against me.
After No-Mercy, another child will be born and name HIM Not-My-People … well THAT ought to get their attention, don’t you think?
But know that down the road, God says to Hosea … know that everything is going to get better because In the very place where they were once named Not-my-People, they will be named Children of the Living God.
Y’see, it IS for the love of God that we keep BELIEVING. God keeps reaching OUT to us. And we WILL be named Children of the Living God because nothing can happen to us that God isn’t already THERE for.
God is in CHARGE and God’s GOODNESS will win out.
How do I KNOW this?
Because Jesus tells us that no matter how much we may love our CHILDREN … God loves us MORE!!!
How do I know this?
Because we are TOLD that every time that ASK for something – like peace, or an end to racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, violence … WHATEVER it is … if we ASK it will be given to us. If we SEEK something – whether it’s God … peace … understanding … whatever it is … if we SEEK it, we will FIND it. And if we knock on the door … to understanding … to righteousness … to BELIEF … if we KNOCK, that door will be opened unto us.
Friends, we have NOTHING to fear … except fear itself.
And when we catch ourselves getting all caught UP in that kind of thinking, we really need to become my MOTHER (Norma) and pull ourselves up SHORT and say, “Really???? LISTEN to yourself … for the love of GOD! Get a grip” because after all – it IS for the love of God that we are here. It is for the love of God that we continue to work to make this world a better place. It is through God’s LOVE that we seek the Kingdom of God – the KOG – in our midst. And even in times like THESE … the KOG is here.
These times are NO worse than other times were to the people who lived in THEM.
And it’s time for the PEOPLE of God to stand up and restore some SANITY to the discourse around us because if God could forgive Hosea’s people after telling them they were Not-my-People … God can SURELY restore OUR world to some sense of normalcy and balance.
I want to leave you today with the beginning and end of the poem If by Rudyard Kippling because we ALL need to be reminded of this … so please forgive the sexist language … if he were writing today I think it would be more inclusive. But here’s our advice from the poet:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
and yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can do all these things, then …
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
If WE can keep our heads about US and remember WHO we are … as well as WHOSE we are …
If we can remember to ASK and SEEK and KNOCK …
Then we can live our lives For the Love of God and help OTHERS to keep their heads about THEM as well.
May God make it so. Amen.