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This Week's Sermon !

July 24 - Pentecost Season -

Hosea 1: 2-10

Psalm 85

Luke 11: 1-13

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous?

One day a week or two ago an internet friend posted a picture of the oddest looking lounge chair. It looked really comfortable, if, that is, you could relax in it and ignore the fact that it was a gigantic wooden scorpion! In real life, the stinger at the end of a scorpion’s tail can deliver a painful sting, but I am told it usually does not require medical attention in healthy adults. You would not want a child to be stung though. Of course no adult would hand a child a scorpion to play with or as a substitute for food. That would be cruel and insane.

For today’s sermon I want to look at the familiar and even sublime “prayer of Jesus” and the ridiculous sounding instructions to Hosea, the prophet. At first glance the two passages read today don’t seem to have much to do with one another but when viewed through the lens of the question, “What’s God want with us anyway”, I think they do.

We are told in the story from Luke’s gospel that Jesus’ disciples observed him at prayer and asked him to teach them how to pray.

In recent years, this prayer he taught them as a response to their request has been called the “Prayer of Jesus”. However, it probably should be termed the “Disciples’ Prayer”. There is no indication that he used it himself; he was teaching it as a model for their prayer. There are many beautiful and thought provoking restatements of this prayer, some of which are being used in this service!

The lines I want to focus on is “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”. What is God’s kingdom, what is God’s will? How is this will accomplished?

Does this prayer teach us that if we pray hard enough God will wave a magic wand and give us what we want, right?

Well NO! Prayer is about relationship. Note that the prayer refers to God as “Father”, as “Abba” we assume in the original Aramaic language. It would be best translated “Daddy”. Many children show their dad they are growing up by doing something new and shouting, “Look at me Daddy”. Its familial, and informal but very tender and meaningful.

Some of my colleagues have taken to referring to God’s “kin-dom” because the word “kingdom” can be more about abusive power than it is about a place where all have enough and no one is abused or persecuted. What would the world be like it we were all kin and we treated one another like that?

I think this is what the prayer is saying when it speaks of “your will be done”. God’s will is not “the poor having nothing and the rich having hundreds and thousands times more than they need”. It’s not about children making cheap clothes for us - for the profit of multinational companies. Its not about going to war for selfish political ends. Its not about farm workers being exposed to chemicals in ways we would not allow, so that we can have all sorts of fruit that we never heard tell of half a generation ago and they have no land on which to grow their own food. Its about a just global community. Its NOT about “me first”.

Now, to Hosea. Hosea was a prophet whose unhappy marital life mirrored the relationship of the people to God. It was an extended metaphor meant to show the people that they were like an unfaithful spouse. The names of his children were also symbolic; “Not Pitied, “Not My People.” Can you imagine calling one of them in for supper, or telling them to clean their rooms - “Not Pitied, help Not My People with the dishes.”

I thought Michael Jackson naming a son, “Blanket” was odd but other celebrities now have children named ”West,” “Saint,” and “Apple ” ti name just a few.

What’s behind these names for Hosea’s children?

The prophets whose lives and teachings are recorded in the Older Testament often lived precarious lives; in many cases their proclamation was more than mere words delivered to a reluctant people. It was a thankless and dangerous job.

When we look at the Hebrew prophets, we need to remember that prophets do not predict the future. I might predict the outcome of the next American election but that’s not biblical prophecy. Biblical prophecy is connecting the current state of affairs to the will of God and under God’s inspiration giving the people hope in the midst of despair OR telling them to “smarten up” or else they will suffer because of their actions.

Instead of being for-tellers they are actually forth-tellers ! They speak forth, or proclaim, God’s word. Proclaiming the consequences of inattention to the message and then when nothing changes, that future coming true, is not the same as predicting the future!

While it is a universal human quest to search for meaning and for the answer to the question, “What does God want from us?” human beings sometimes don’t really want to follow the answer they receive.

It’s often much easier to sacrifice a calf, or give some money, than it is to live a life of justice and mercy within the human community.

When we come to church and sing about God’s love and then go out the door and treat the stranger abominably, that’s a problem. When we leave here and treat the need of the world with indifference, that’s also a problem. Sometimes we don’t really know how to help, but we should never be indifferent. The needs are always greater than we can meet, but we should never be indifferent or uncaring. Sometimes we go so far as to blame the other for their plight as a way of insulating us against the responsibility to help - that’s also not the response of faith.

Relationships are hard - ask anyone who is in one. It doesn’t matter if it’s a parent- child relationship, a friend-friend relationship, a boss-employee relationship or a romantic relationship to name a few common ones. They take work and primarily making the relationship a priority.

God’s relationship with the people of Israel, according the prophetic literature, was fraught with frustration. The people had taken their relationship for granted. Jesus’ relationship with his disciples was fraught with frustration. They were continually misunderstanding what Jesus was trying to tell them.

They saw the Messiah, as most of the people did in Jesus’ day, as someone who would come and make their nation great again. It would be like the “good old days” of King David, when there were no problems and they were rich and powerful. First of all, there WERE lots of problems back then. Second of all, they wanted a Messiah who would benefit them, and did not pay any attention to the “light to the nations” call of Israel. It wasn’t that God’s love was in question, but what was in question was their faithfulness!

To pray and to live a life of faith is to enter into a relationship with the reliable God who is like a loving parent to us and to be in that relationship is a life of trying to live into God’s will for us. Its not about waiting for God to do all the work and it’s not about assuming that our wants are God’s will.

Let us remember to discern God’s will and then as individuals and communities, let us seek to be and do that will.


1995- 2016 The Rev. Beth W. Johnston.

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