Sermon Proper 12 C 2019                                                                      

The Rev. John M. Atkins

The Prophet Hosea 1:2-10

2When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” 3So he went and took Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. 4And the Lord said to him, “Name him Jezreel; for in a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.” 6She conceived again and bore a daughter. Then the Lord said to him, “Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have pity on the house of Israel or forgive them. 7But I will have pity on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God; I will not save them by bow, or by sword, or by war, or by horses, or by horsemen.”

8When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son. 9Then the Lord said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not my people and I am not your God.” 10Yet 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.”

The Letter of Paul to the Colossians 2:6-15

6As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. 9For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. 11In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; 12when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

13And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, 14erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. 15He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.

The Gospel of Luke 11:1-13

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3Give us each day our daily bread. 4And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”5And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 9“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

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I still can hear the infantile grunts of my Sister’s newborn children when each wanted something out of reach. When older, their maturing voices articulated their wants, sometimes ending their petition by a shrieking, “Please?” My nieces and nephew came to understand that their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles really do want the best for each of them; we are worthy of their trust.    

For thousands and thousands of years people have grunted for many things out of their reach. They have prayed to various gods, asking for countless favors to be granted. Today we hear the prophetic voice of Hosea addressing that reality.

In the 8th century BCE, Hosea was God’s mouthpiece in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The Encyclopedia of World Biography reports that during “the reign of (King) Jeroboam II (the years 785-745 B.C.E.), Israel had grown in wealth and fostered a small class of rich landowners, merchants, and creditors.  However, the vast majority of the population… was made up of poor artisans, craftsmen, laborers and farmers who were frequently exploited or even enslaved by the rich.  

The upper classes were favored by the rulers and judges… And, the people of Israel readily adopted the ways of… neighboring kingdoms, choosing to trust (pagan Baals)… worshipping them and praying for favor of prosperity, fertility and rain,… (instead of trusting in) the God of Israel…”

(Some of the article is paraphrased)

In graphic imagery, Hosea exposed Israel’s unfaithfulness to the God of their ancestors. While no one is certain that Hosea’s imagery is metaphor or historical, we’re told that Hosea married a prostitute, fathered children, and gave them names symbolic of God’s judgment against Israel.

After much chastising, Hosea gives hope by “recalling God’s affection (and acknowledging) the God of Israel… as a God of (forgiveness and) Love.”

The Apostle Paul encouraged Christians in Colossi to stay grounded in Jesus Christ. While distractions arise, created by our own cravings, the standards of the world, or misguided…traditions; Jesus Christ is God’s revelation leading us (along the life-giving path toward God).” 

(Paraphrasing from Unnamed Author at Synthesis, July 28, 2019)

As we move our focus to the reading from Luke’s Gospel, we hear a shorter form of a prayer dear to our hearts. It’s one of the most recognized prayers in human history.

 In Hebrew tradition, it was common for a Rabbi to teach his students a prayer. Jesus is clear that God cares about our needs and will never give us a scorpion instead of a fish.

Yet, the Lord’s Prayer is more than an opportunity for uttering our needs. The Lord’s Prayer is Jesus’ vision of the world when saturated by the kingdom of God. The prayer reveals Jesus’ perception of truly living in harmony with our Creator.

The Hebrew people were acquainted with calling God “Our Father.” This concept is present in Hebrew Scripture (Dt. 32:6; Is. 63:16; Mal. 2:10), and in the liturgy of the synagogue.

Within his 1st century patriarchal world, Jesus began his prayer by using this term for emphasizing God’s endearment towards all humanity and all creation. This benevolent God reaches out to us, yearning for a relationship grounded in both self-giving love and trust.

The familiar Lord’s Prayer acknowledges God’s holiness, welcomes God’s kingdom, trusts in God providing for our needs, asks forgiveness, which is directly tied to forgiving those indebted to us, and then ends in a request for overcoming temptation.

Some contemporary theologians suggest that this 23-second prayer was never intended to be memorized and recited. Rather, Jesus gave this prayer as a guide to his disciples for imitating Jesus’ relationship with God.

This is a prayer for the followers of Jesus to contemplate as we accept the responsibility of imitating the examples and teachings of our Savior, Christ Jesus.

The key phrase in this prayer is: “Your kingdom come.” This phrase pops the balloon of what many in our world are conditioned to consider ‘normal’.

Throughout the millennia, people with power, favor and opportunity try hard at convincing others to believe in the erroneous trickle-down theory, or that things are pre-ordained to favor the rich and powerful in order to somehow benefit the world.

But, as we know, in most cases that’s rotten baloney. So, what would life in God’s kingdom look like?

POWER is defined by the influence of compassion.

WEALTH is counted in terms of loving action.

 JUSTICE frees the world of discrimination, suppression, prejudice, privilege, greed, and abuse of power.

In God’s kingdom everyone is on a level playing field because everyone is precious in God’s heart. Self-giving love is the beautiful pathway leading one person to another.

Care for the environment, animals and all God’s creations are natural expressions of deep appreciation. Questions arise from praying for God’s kingdom to come.

American poet, Archibald Macleish, wrote, “Religion is at its best when it makes us ask hard questions of ourselves. It is at its worst when it deludes us into thinking we have all the answers for everybody else.”

The answers to the following questions are extremely personal. Do we want to imitate Jesus? Do we desire a permeating relationship with God? Who are the gods we now serve? How much will we have to leave behind in order to journey with Jesus toward the vision of God’s kingdom?

The Lord’s Prayer is beautiful and treasured. It invites us into living here and now with God as our focus, putting aside all other gods in order to pursue God’s best wishes for all creation.

Jesus trusted in God’s ineffable love; and we are invited to do the same.

Some of you know, I’m going through tests to discover the source of a chronic cough that comes on unexpectedly. The tests and doctors’ appointments become exhausting as we explore possibility after possibility.

Instead of stressing over the situation, each day I’m reminded to trust that God desires the best for me and you– no matter what our circumstances may be. This attitude frees me to appreciate and enjoy the evidence of God’s love all around us.

During those tests and doctors visits I’ve seen videos taken inside of me. I’ve witnessed the amazing complexity of human anatomy, observing my vocal chords at work, and gazing into my esophagus and intricate intestine. I’ve chatted with specialists who really care.

After a long day, I experience peace by relaxing on the back deck swing watching brilliantly adorned monarch butterflies and tiny humming birds flutter around the colorful, delicate flowers. I’ve been charmed by Cardinals and Wrens and various types of birds who’ve adopted our backyard feeder. I laugh at the squirrels sunbathing on our banisters. To me, these are all evidence that God is loving and trustworthy.

The Lord’s Prayer conveys Jesus’ confidence in God caring, providing, loving, and desiring the best for us all. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, let’s not rush through it. Let’s pray it like we mean it – trusting God and committing ourselves to working with God in bringing about God’s kingdom,which is irrefutably God’s very best for all creation.