Narrative Lectionary Reflection
November 10, 2019
Read: Hosea 11:1-9 and Mark 10:13014
First off, sorry for not writing these past few weeks. Being the bivocational pastor makes for a busy life, but I will try to be more regular in my reflections.
This Sunday’s text has me thinking about prophets, God’s love and Rick Astley.
Who can forget the British singer who bursted on the the pop music scene in 1987 with the song “Never Gonna Give You Up.” It was smash hit on both sides of the Atlantic and the video has become a popular internet meme.
But that song also reminds me of how God expresses God’s love for the people of Israel who have failed him time and time again. “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel?” says a pained God. God is angry at how Israel has decided to not trust in God, but to seek alliances with other nations to protect themselves from Assyria. They don’t realize that this will be a fatal mistake. Assyria will invade and cause the Northern Kingdom to cease to exist. The population, the 10 tribes of the North, will become lost to history.
When I’ve looked at this text before, I usually focus on how God is responding. But I’m seeing the Hosea from a different viewpoint; that of Hosea himself.
Throughout the book of Hosea the prophet is led by God to do some odd things that are to symbolize the fraught relationship between God and Israel. Early on, he marries Gomer a prostitute. I won’t go into detail about this, but the marital and parental images are suppose to show the love of God and the faithlessness of the people.
But how did Hosea feel about all of this? We can gather that Hosea, a prophet, had a heart for God and was willing to allow God to work through him. That meant saying and doing somethings that might have seen weird to the people around him.
As we look at our own lives and the life of the church, do we think about what it means if we are Hosea in our modern context? What if we are called to tell the people how they have fallen away from God, but also share God’s great and never-ending love?
Churches in the United States are dealing with a changing culture. In the 1950s and 60s, people were nominally Christian and church was the center of cultural life in America. But we are not the church going nation we used to be. That has left us disestablished from culture. As we see our pews become empty and our budget shrinks, we are wondering how to live. More liberal Christians think it is about social justice and they are busy dealing with various political issues and going to this or that protest. More conservative Christians think it is about moral living and that people must stop living loose and become holy for God. Neither of these are bad choices, but they miss something: God’s anguished love for us all.
What is the church being called to do in this day and time? Hosea echoes Rick Astley by telling the people that God will not give them up, never let them down, never tell lies or desert them. God will never make them cry won’t say goodbye, you get the idea.
In a society that is so fragmented, isolated and angry, can we be a Hosea to the people? Do we feel, do we know that God loves us passionately like a parent loves their wayward child?
That is the mission of the church in these times. We are called in words and deeds to tell of God’s anger and love for us.
Hosea was faithful to God and was able to convey God’s feeling to the people. We are called today to be faithful to God, and share the good news outside of our walls.
Are we ready to be God’s Hosea?
Dennis Sanders is the Pastor at First Christian Church of St. Paul in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. He’s written for various outlets including Christian Century.