Archive for the 'Hosea' Category

For August 4, 2013: Proper 13, Year C

The Reading            Hosea 11:1-11

In last week’s reading from the beginning of the book of Hosea, God is frustrated to disgust with Israel’s unfaithfulness. At the end of the book, God remains exasperated—but, as the poem that is today’s reading shows, God’s compassion for God’s children exceeds even our capacity to wander.

The Response            Psalm 107:1-9, 43

“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his mercy and the wonders he does for his children.”

The Epistle            Colossians 3:1-11

The Old Testament reading and Psalm today paint vivid pictures of God’s persistent mercy for God’s children. The epistle to the Colossians follows up on this point: if we truly participate in Christ’s death and resurrection, then it is our responsibility to live according to Christ’s example in our treatment of all of God’s children.

The Gospel            Luke 12:13-21

“But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’”


Further thoughts

The speaking voice in the book of Hosea sometimes sounds like the voice of the infinitely merciful God we know from the New Testament, but sometimes it sounds terrifyingly like a human father lashing out at a child’s rebelliousness or a human spouse seething that once again the house isn’t tidy and dinner isn’t on the table at 6 p.m. because, after all, the mother of the infant and toddler has nothing else to do. I can’t help wondering if the shaming really is God’s voice, or rather whether it’s a projection of some of our problematic human tendencies to shame others as a way of deflecting attention from our own shame. If Hosea went into his marriage with Gomer convinced that she would stray as predicted, his comportment is likely to reflect that. What if Hosea had argued with God, not necessarily about the command to marry Gomer, but about the need to identify her before the fact as a slut? What if that was a test? And, harking back to the destruction of the world, what if the call to build the Ark came to more than one person, but all the rest blew it off? Or what if Noah had argued for mercy?

For the point of the readings today is not the wrath and the name-calling. Even Hosea, in this reading, shows us God too much in love with God’s people to destroy them. The letter to the Colossians, for its part, calls us to abandon a series of sins all of which have to do with abusing, pulling rank on, and looking down on others: instead, our thank-you for God’s mercy is to extend to others the grace we have received from God. And I think one point of Jesus’ remarks in Luke is that both the person in the crowd and the rich man in the story are too concerned with getting or keeping their own share. Whether the good things of God are material or spiritual, they are intended to be shared as openhandedly as they have been given.

The big question, then is how we can remember, as individuals and as a community, to live into that call.

For July 28, 2013: Proper 12, Year C

The Reading            Hosea 1:2-10

The prophet Amos over the last two weeks condemned Israel in terrifying terms for defrauding the poor. The book of Hosea is even more shocking and graphic: at God’s command, Hosea tells us, he marries a woman who will cheat on him flagrantly, to symbolize Israel’s faithlessness—and, eventually God’s capacity for forgiveness.

The Response            Psalm 85

“Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring up from the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven.”

The Epistle            Colossians 2:6-19

The church at Galatia, with its mix of Gentiles and converted Jews, seems to have experienced a good deal of friction about how to eat and drink and celebrate rightly as a Christian. Paul reminds the Galatians and us that what matters is that we are made right with God through the sacrifice of Jesus: the rest is human thinking.

The Gospel            Luke 11:1-13

“‘How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’”



Further thoughts

The story of Hosea and his bride is difficult to read. The command by God Almighty to find a whore, or at least a woman who will certainly both sleep around on Hosea and make sure he knows all about it, and marry her surely contravenes both Talmudic law and the considerable weight of what custom has to say about the purity of the woman one marries. The language is incredibly alienating: the wife is depicted as not merely unfaithful but repugnant, and the children are given abusive names that signify brutality (Jezreel was the site of Naboth’s house that King Ahaz coveted and it was where Ahaz and Jezebel were killed), callousness, and unwantedness. It has been suggested that verse 10, which reverses the second and third children’s names, was added by a later hand; this verse takes some of the sting out of what precedes, but we’re still left with a blameless man holding his nose while condescending to marry someone that no sane man should want.

The epistle and gospel make a much bigger shift. The reading from Colossians depicts the sacrifice of Jesus as the product not of God’s contempt but of God’s love; the benefits of whatever Jesus underwent in this world are extended to us if we simply believe in his Name—including a key ritual, circumcision, for which the female body has no good analogue—and everything else is just window dressing prescribed by humans. In the reading from Luke, Jesus’ disciples probably expect an arcane and stately ritual when they ask to be taught to pray; they want something that marks them off from others as insiders. Instead, Jesus gives a format that a two-year-old could master in which God Almighty is “Daddy” and the “we” includes the whole of God’s beloved world.

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