Sermon preached by Linda Buckley at St Matthew’s Church, Stretton, on Sunday 24th July 2016
Any skeletons in your closet? Anything that you’d rather nobody ever found out about you? These are some of the things that were found in the top 25 of a recent survey
BRITS MOST COMMON SKELETONS
1. Having an affair
2. An embarrassing incident
6. Family history
9. You smoke/used to smoke
10. Real-life crushes
13. Bank/credit card statements
15. A criminal past
16. Illness or condition
17. Previous marriage(s)
18. Pretending to like something/someone you loath
24. Education/exam grades
25. Pretending to be good at something ..I include pretending you’ve read a book or watched a film
Apparently bumping the car is also there along with taking small items home from work previous lifestyle
We are going to explore a very public skeleton on full view in this story from a minor prophet, Hosea. Minor because shorter book in the Bible, not less important
Imagine, you get an invitation to the wedding someone you have been out of contact with. You look around. On the groom’s side are well-dressed families and some local church members talking quietly.
The bride’s side is packed and noisy. Lots of people are dressed as if for a night out, mostly single people and no families… Then the traditional music of Britney Spears “hit me baby one more time” starts and the bride enters wearing bright red … Well, almost wearing because, there isn’t much left to the imagination….and , although you don’t like to judge and know the groom has always been a person of faith and sound advice, you begin to wonder if he’s lost it.
Then the service begins… I take you for better, for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, in adultery and prostitution……you want to stand up and shout “Is it too late to object? Run for it!”
So why did Hosea marry someone who he knew would sleep with other men and become a prostitute ….because God told him to.
At the time Israel was prosperous and successful as never before and as a result they had fallen away from God…they didn’t need him for help, they had all the security and material stuff they wanted. They became proud of what they had achieved and complacent. They forgot what God had done for them in rescuing them from Egypt, however it was his plan not theirs, and certainly not the plan of other gods
God is not pleased and through Hosea he basically says
You’ve sinned – stop it
God’s angry – repent
If you don’t he will punish
If you do he will restore you
God loves his people and wants them to love him
Back to the wedding. God tells Hosea to marry someone who will break his heart, who will commit adultery and eventually become a prostitute. Simply this will be an example to the people of Israel who keep breaking God’s heart. He marries Gomer
The bible tells us Hosea and Gomer have a son Jezreel, Jezreel was a place which was remembered by the Jews as a place of massacre because of disobedience to God. Would you call a child Belsen or Auschwitz? We are then told Gomer has a daughter ..no mention of Hosea so we assume by someone else called Lorumaha, meaning no mercy, no compassion, and a son Loami – not my people. God will show no mercy they are not his people
How do we feel about Gomer? Do we want to punish Gomer, see her as the bad person? Gomer leaves her husband and children for other men, and prostration, eventually she gets so desperate she sells herself into slavery, we will return to the rest of this story later
While all this is going on Hosea is giving Israel God’s message
God says he’ll reject them if they don’t want, him he points out they don’t know him any more…there is no mercy in their hearts, or faithfulness, they are hard hearted, their love has gone like a vapour or early morning mist, they are following other gods or ideals as the centre of their lives (today could that be careers, investments, beauty, holidays, material goods, technology, social status or social media statuses, longevity)… All Mist and vapour
God wants mercy not sacrifice he wants love not false action
He says my “prophets will kill you with words… ” God didn’t come to set up a religion but a relationship, the Jews had kept some of the trappings of religion but rejected the relationship
So this is where Hosea is, the relationship with Gomer has been rejected, but his family still have a future…can they change things?
In chapter 2 we have hope, given through the language of relationship. Using the imagery of an unfaithful wife God talks about Israel, and the potential future the future of the relationship.
V 14 Therefore, I will now persuade her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
God wants Israel to come back to him of their own free will
19 And I will take you for my wife for ever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. 20 I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord
God offers a clean slate , a fresh start leaving the past behind. The language of unconditional love.
So back to our story. Hosea wants Gomer back,chapter 3 Hosea says The Lord said to me again, ‘Go, love a woman who has a lover and is an adulteress, just as the Lord loves the people of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.’ So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer of barley and a measure of wine.
Hosea has to look for Gomer, actively search for her; he finds her and he has to pay the debt to buy her back. He didn’t have enough cash to redeem her so he uses important food and drink, he restores her. There is a cost for her rebellion
This is not a God who is keeping account of sin, but of a loving husband who says what is neededto restore the relationship – I love you still no matter what you’ve done… I will give you back your vineyards
And what about their children?
Chapter 2 I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord.
On that day I will answer, says the Lord, I will answer the heavens and they shall answer the earth;
and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel;
and I will sow him for myself in the land. Jezreel here has another meaning ..to sow, to bear fruit
And I will have pity on Lo-ruhamah, and I will say to Lo-ammi, You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’
Everyone has a place in God’s family
What a story, full of imagery full of real people with real relationships
What does it say to us?
Maybe we need to deal with our own skeletons, or those of others, When we say the Lord’s Prayer we ask God to forgive us . Do we truly forgive ourselves? If not , admit it and ask God for help.
As we forgive those who sin against us… Do we, really? If not ask God for help to do this. Admit it.
Some skeletons can be trapped in our idea and emotions?…. Things we are ashamed of feeling, and thinking.
In The Luke reading lJesus says
9 ‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened
At no stage was Gomer forced to come back. Just as Hosea went looking for her and offered her the opportunity, so God offers us the same. Through the sacrifice of Jesus we can enter into a relationship with God. Jesus is knocking, not forcing his way in, we can open the door, we don’t have to have Spring cleaned our lives, he is a visitor who isn’t looking at the dust, the unwashed dishes, opening the cupboard doors to look for skeletons ; he is looking directly into our eyes offering a hand if we take it. We come as we are.
We need a simple prayer. Please come in… It may be the first time we have opened the door, or it may be a revisit but we can come to God or come back to him as God is merciful and faithful and unconditionally loves each one of us
So our God really reigns and we can be a part of his kingdom on earth right here right now