Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sermon -- 1 August 2010

PROPER 13 / 10 PENTECOST — 1 August 2010
St. Paul’s, Durant— 9:00 a.m.

Hosea 11:1-11 | Psalm 107:1-9,43 | Colossians 3:1-11 | Luke 12:13-21

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

The first reading this morning is from the 11th chapter of the Book of the Prophet Hosea. We’ve never read this particular passage at the Sunday Eucharist before — it’s assigned to this Sunday in Track One of the Revised Common Lectionary.

(Perhaps you’re aware that in the Long Green Summer and Fall season of Sundays, the Revised Common Lectionary provides a choice for the First Readings between Track One and Track Two. And you may not really care, and that’s quite okay! Karon knows about this choice, because she checks with the priest for that Sunday to see which Track he or she wants to follow in order to do the Sunday bulletin. In Track One, if you haven’t drifted off yet, the Old Testament readings follow a semi-continuous sequence from Sunday to Sunday, just as the Epistle and the Gospel do. It’s related to the other readings only coincidentally, which means, surprisingly often. Track Two is basically the same as our previous lectionary that goes back to the 1970s, and in that track the Old Testament reading is selected because it has, or at least is perceived as having, some connection to the Gospel reading for that Sunday. That’s the advantage of Track Two. The advantage of Track One is that there is somewhat more continuity from week to week in the readings from the Hebrew Scriptures themselves. This year, for instance, the first readings in Track One are mostly from the prophets: we heard about the prophet Elijah, and then about his successor Elisha, and then we had a couple of weeks from Amos and now we are getting a couple of weeks of Hosea. Amos and Hosea were prophets in the northern kingdom, the Kingdom of Israel (as opposed to the southern kingdom, the Kingdom of Judah — and all too often they were opposed!) in the middle of the 8th Century BC. The messages of Amos and Hosea were basically “If you people don’t get your act together, God will send the King of Assyria from the East to whup you.” And as it turned out, the people didn’t, and God did.

Anyway, in Track One, beginning next week the Old Testament readings are from Isaiah for a couple of weeks, and then from Jeremiah for most of the rest of the fall. The Track Two readings are an assortment, related to the Gospel reading for the day. Which one you get depends on what priest you get that Sunday!

Anyway: Although we’ve never used this reading at the Sunday Eucharist before, it’s possible that this verse rings a bell for you [you might want to put a finger in your pew Bible, even if you don’t usually follow along with the readings — page 632]:

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

Yeah. Where have we heard that before? Well, it’s quoted in St. Matthew’s Gospel, chapter two, verses 14 & 15, just after the visit of the Wise Men to the infant Jesus. An angel appears to St. Joseph in a dream and tells him to take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, because King Herod is out to kill him: “Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet [Hosea], ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’”

Oh, right! I thought that sounded familiar!

Of course, if we look carefully at today’s reading from Hosea, it seems that Matthew is taking this verse pretty much out of context. (What? Take a Bible verse out of context? Oh, surely not! Who would do such a thing?) This verse is not a prediction of the return of the Christ Child from being a refugee in Egypt. It’s about how God brought God’s people Israel out of Egyptian slavery into the promised land hundreds of years before — Israel referred to here metaphorically as God’s child, “my son.”

Oh, wait…

Well, maybe Matthew isn’t taking this verse so much out of context after all. Just with a bit of insight and imagination.

Anyway, Hosea isn’t predicting the future (at least not that he knows of!), he’s reflecting on the past and what it means for the present (which is what prophets do). And he’s saying here, “Look, God brought us out from bondage into freedom, and what have you people done? You’ve messed up! Over and over! You’re worshipping the pagan Canaanite gods, the Baals! What is it you didn’t understand about God’s command, ‘Don’t worship the Baals!’? This isn’t just like going to a different church, you know! But God still loves you, even though there are consequences for what you are doing. The Assyrian Empire will conquer the Kingdom of Israel, and you will be scattered from Mesopotamia to Egypt.” (This wasn’t an organized exile into captivity, like the Babylonians would do with the southern Kingdom of Judah a hundred fifty or so years later, but it was the beginning of the diaspora, the dispersion, of the people of Israel into the surrounding world.) But Hosea goes on, “But God still loves you. God will not utterly destroy you the way he destroyed Admah and Zeboiim.” (Who? Where? Admah and Zeboiim were neighboring cities to Sodom and Gomorrah, and shared in their destruction by fire and brimstone, or as we might say, volcanic ash and lava, back in the Olden Days.) “God says, ‘I will not destroy you, Ephraim’.” (Ephraim was the largest of the northern tribes; here it’s a figure of speech in which one stands for all.) “They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says the Lord.”

God is not “out to get us,” as so many people even today seem to think. God loves us, and wants to bring us home, even when we have messed up. The prophet Hosea lived and proclaimed God’s word over eight hundred years before Jesus Christ, but he still had a great insight into the Good News of the Kingdom of God. This is Gospel.



5 comments:

秀吉秀吉 said...

與人相處不妨多用眼睛說話,多用嘴巴思考. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

文岳仲君 said...

不斷的砍伐用的雖是小斧,卻能砍倒最堅硬的橡樹。......................................................

姜堯林智超玟 said...

認識自己,是發現妳的真性格、掌握妳的命運、創照你前程的根源。......................................................

枝誠侑誠侑竹 said...

好久沒有這樣輕鬆享受閱讀的樂趣了~~留個言邀您分享我的快樂~~..................................................................

冠陳儒 said...

及時行樂-快樂不需要理由............................................................