Passion and Forgiveness. August 4

Passion and Forgiveness

Hosea 11:1-11; Psalm 107:1-9, 33-43; Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21

Rev. Catherine E. Schuyler

Catskill United Methodist Church; August 4, 2019

 

God is good, all the time. And all the time God is good. This is true. First John 4:16 says God is love. This is also true. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans that ‘nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ God’s love for each of us is deep and forever. We know these things to be true and we count on them.

 

God is also bigger and broader than we often give God credit for. Scripture from Genesis through Revelation presents us with descriptions and understandings and words of who God is that encompass a God of more depth and breadth than we sometimes choose to name or encounter.

 

I remember a funeral for a man I thought I knew pretty well. He had been a part of the congregation, quick with a joke, willing to lend a hand, and proud of his grandchildren, though they lived quite a ways away. At the visiting hours before the service, the two sons of the deceased were greeting those who came. One man approached the casket whom neither son knew. He said, “I worked with your Dad and I respected him. His word was his honor, and the whole company knew that if he said he’d do it, it would be done. I’ve never worked with a better man.” This testimony was new news to the family; their dad hadn’t spoken much about his work. They learned something new that day that broadened their understanding of their father.

 

This word from Hosea serves that purpose for us this morning. We hear in this text a broad range of divine emotions. God holds nothing back. Through the words of the prophet God expresses:

Intense love –

It was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I held them as one holds an infant to the cheek

Deep, righteous anger –

the sword rages in their cities because they do not turn to me!;

Incredible frustration –

the more I called to them, the more they turned away!

 

God’s passionate emotion in Hosea is echoed throughout the stories of Hebrew Scripture. I draw your attention to it in this text because so many emotions are packed together in one short passage. It is an intense passage because God is letting it all out, allowing the prophet, and the people, to see all that God is feeling. God’s stream of consciousness encompasses love and anger in such quick succession it would almost seem unreal, except that we are human and we know that our own hearts can be the place of utterly conflicting emotions simultaneously. This passage makes clear that we are, in fact, made in God’s image because we can so closely identify with divine idiosyncrasies as they are revealed in the Word.

 

I had a day like that yesterday, emotions experienced almost on top of each other. I woke up to a cup of coffee prepared by my sweetie and given to me with love. I headed off to see a beautiful movie at the Bridge Street Theater so by noon I was experiencing deep peace and contentment as I came home, ready to make lunch and get to work preparing for this morning and for our trip this afternoon. My contentment quickly turned to deep sadness as I read of the shooting in El Paso. At least twenty lives lost, shot by a young man at a Walmart, aisle by aisle. Twenty people, women, men, children, who aren’t at Sunday dinner today with their families, who will never be at that table again. There are others who were shot who spent last night in the hospital instead of in their own beds. My heart breaks for their families and friends.

 

Alongside the sadness is anger. Anger at a man who would commit such a hateful thing. Anger at a nation that isn’t willing to limit the sale of murderous weapons. So that this shooting is simply added to the list of all the rest of the shootings that have destroyed lives over the last few years – Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Gilroy, Las Vegas, Parkland, etc. There are much better ways to learn US geography than by places where people have been shot in public places.

 

Concurrent with the sadness and the anger is frustration bordering on despair. Can we do anything? Is there such an underlying strain of hatred and destruction in our land that we are powerless against it?

 

With all of these emotions there is also fear. What keeps Catskill, or Saugerties, or Albany from being the next location for a tragedy like this?

 

And then, this morning, more. Another shooting, in Dayton, Ohio. Nine more people dead, never to sing or laugh or hug again this side of Paradise.

 

These human emotions are not different from the divine emotions named here in Hosea. The pain and suffering we experience because of human sin – hatred, fear, meanness, refusal to love those whom we see as different or strange, cowardice to do anything to stop it – is not a new experience in the world. And the horror of sin breaks God’s heart as it breaks our own.

 

What is it that breaks God’s heart here in Hosea?

In verse 2 the charge against the people is desertion and idolatry:

The more I* called them, the more they went from me; *
they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols.

In verse 6 it is violence:

The sword rages in their cities.

And in verse 7 the people are simply determined to leave the ways of God behind them.:
My people are bent on turning away from me.

 

I don’t believe it’s usually good scriptural practice to claim that God’s word for the people three thousand years ago is precisely what God’s word is for us today. The context is different; translation may not be precise. But it is hard to ignore God’s declaration that the divine anger and almost despair with the people of Israel focuses on the swords that rage in the cities. It doesn’t matter whether the city is Jerusalem or El Paso or whether we use swords or guns, the outcome is the same – death and destruction, and weeping for those who die.

 

God’s emotions are powerful, but God does not allow emotion to have the last word, nor to be the only influence on divine action. As powerful as God’s feelings are, they are simply the beginning of God’s reflection here in chapter 11. God’s actions are not borne out of anger nor out of despair. In the midst of our sin, God decides to choose mercy. God makes a deliberate decision not to act in anger. In verse 9, God says, I am God and not mortal; I will not be forced by emotion to act in a way contrary to my divine nature, which is love.

 

We can learn too, from God’s process – we, too, can experience emotion and allow it to be expressed and let go, yet we do not need then to be defined by it and forced by an emotion to act in a manner contrary to the love that Jesus calls us to embody as his disciples.

 

Hearing this decision, that God will not give up on us, on any of us, despite our capacity to create tragedy through sin, we can stay in our own emotions long enough to recognize one more. There is hope. Because of God’s love; because we worship a God who brings death from life and hope from the grave, we can dare to hope that God can lead us into life today, life for ourselves and life, too, for our world, for our culture. We know the way to life; we learned it from Jesus. The way to life, even through despair, is love.

 

Today we gather at the Lord’s Table and tell again the story of that night so long ago. Jesus, at an emotional time, the night before his death, does not pour out nastiness upon those who will torture and kill him. At table, he offers his disciples a gift – of himself, of memory, and of a promise that this won’t be the last they know of him. Do this in remembrance of me, of all of me, of all that I have been and of all that I will be. Do it and let it speak to you beyond words and rational thought, simply come to my table, where you are welcome and where you belong, and remember me – in love, in grace, in self-giving, even in pain – remember me. So we come, with our pain and our love, our anger, our passion, our excitement, our joy. And God, who knows us deeply, in all our joy and our pain, welcomes us in love.

 

 

 

Hosea 11:1-11

11When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
2 The more I* called them,
the more they went from me;*
they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
and offering incense to idols.


3 Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them up in my* arms;
but they did not know that I healed them.
4 I led them with cords of human kindness,
with bands of love.
I was to them like those
who lift infants to their cheeks.*
I bent down to them and fed them.


5 They shall return to the land of Egypt,
and Assyria shall be their king,
because they have refused to return to me.
6 The sword rages in their cities,
it consumes their oracle-priests,
and devours because of their schemes.
7 My people are bent on turning away from me.
To the Most High they call,
but he does not raise them up at all.*


8 How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
9 I will not execute my fierce anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and no mortal,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.*


10 They shall go after the Lord,
who roars like a lion;
when he roars,
his children shall come trembling from the west.
11 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.

 

Colossians 3:1-11

The New Life in Christ

3So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your* life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.* 7These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.* 8But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive* language from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11In that renewal* there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
Psalm 107:1-9, 33-43 (UMH 830)Thanksgiving for Deliverance from Many Troubles


1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures for ever.
2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
those he redeemed from trouble
3 and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.*


4 Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to an inhabited town;
5 hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
6 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress;
7 he led them by a straight way,
until they reached an inhabited town.
8 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,

for his wonderful works to humankind.
9 For he satisfies the thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.


33 He turns rivers into a desert,
springs of water into thirsty ground,

34 a fruitful land into a salty waste,
because of the wickedness of its inhabitants.

35 He turns a desert into pools of water,
a parched land into springs of water.

36 And there he lets the hungry live,
and they establish a town to live in;

37 they sow fields, and plant vineyards,
and get a fruitful yield.

38 By his blessing they multiply greatly,
and he does not let their cattle decrease.

39 When they are diminished and brought low
through oppression, trouble, and sorrow,

40 he pours contempt on princes
and makes them wander in trackless wastes;

41 but he raises up the needy out of distress,
and makes their families like flocks.

42 The upright see it and are glad;
and all wickedness stops its mouth.

43 Let those who are wise give heed to these things,

and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

 

Luke 12:13-21

The Parable of the Rich Fool

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ 14But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ 15And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ 16Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” 18Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” 20But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’