Readings: Hosea 1:2-10; Colossians 2:6-15; Luke 11:1-13
Hands up who has read the book of Hosea?!
Hosea is a funny old book but I really like it. Hosea is one of the minor prophets – anyone know why they are called minor and major prophets? – length of book nothing to do with importance!
Now, we get a sort of overview of the message of Hosea just in this first chapter. God uses Hosea’s life as a prophetic picture of God’s relationship with the people. And if you read it all it’s quite a full on drama – would make a good movie. But it is also a beautiful picture of God loving the people and longing for them to turn back to the Lord when they stray.
God doesn’t stay angry or reject people but longs to be close to them all again. There’s a wonderful line in the next chapter where God says of Israel – I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.
This text was written in the days of, we can read in v 1: Kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and others – around the 8th C BC. Which is after the time of David and Soloman, the people of God were divided into 2 nations: Israel and Judah. It was largely a succesful and prosperous time, so people often didn’t look to God as they should – they didn’t ‘need’ God and so idolatory, corruption, and so on began to grow.
So this is all a picture of God’s relationship with the people and it points not only to what was happening then but to the future. The command to Hosea to love an adulterous woman is a picture of God saying I will love the people even though they turn to other Gods and turn away from me.
There are often difficult passages in the bible and perhaps this is one of them, essentially God is saying you the people are acting as a prostitute, whoring yourselves after other Gods. But, ultimately, I still love you.
And as we look forward, the name Hosea comes from the same Hebrew root words as Yeshua – Jesus. And means salvation. So God brings salvation even through broken relationship and through one man sacrificing his own life for others. Here Hosea, in the future, Jesus.
We could look at this as a fore runner of the picture of the Bride of Christ – Gomer, the wife, is a broken woman, a sinner, unclean, and yet a Godly man marries her. Just as we are the bride of Christ and we are all sinners, and yet Jesus will return for his church, for us.
So, despite the people turning away from God, ultimately we know that is the future. As we read in vs 10 –
“Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God’.
Restoration. Healing, wholeness, relationship with God.
And as we then heard in Colossians, our relationship with Jesus is now complete –
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,14 having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross…
This truth is repeated throughout the bible, this is why it’s so important to read it and study it and get into it, it’s constant reminder of who God is, has been, and always will be. Of who we are in Christ. It’s an encouragement.
I want to ask you to start bringing your bibles to church – or an app if you must and I’m a techy person but I don’t think there is any substitute for having an actual bible – I write notes in mine or things I’ve heard preachers say, highlighted, underlined. I love when I go back to a passage and read something I wrote years ago and it reminds me yet again who God has been in my life. So bring your bibles and if you don’t have one let me know and I’ll get you one!
Now this truth that God loves us no matter what, should be at the heart of all we do. As Christians we have been given an amazing gift, through grace, because God loves us and Jesus died for us. Everything that we have ever done wrong is forgiven through Christ, I mean I don’t think we often think about how awesome that is.
So we too should be people of grace and wanting to share that with others…
As part of our vision process I’ve talked with you and in our team meetings about our culture and what that looks like: the culture of our church. Things like we’re a church of welcome, we are known for our wonderful welcoming atmosphere, people are drawn back because of it.
And inclusivity – which is so important as we seek to grow a community where all are welcome.
And I want to talk a little bit about inclusivity and what I mean by it because I think we all need to understand and be on the same page.
We are a church of inclusivity in all aspects – well, we’re working towards – for example this week we have an accessibility audit to look at how accessible our building is – but there are other things to consider there too like is our worship accessible – what about those who have hearing problems for example, or those who are neuro diverse or have learning difficulties – is this a place where they can feel fully at home and able to worship?
Every single person should be able to access this building, access worship and our activities, with the needs that they have – hence it may be an ongoing process. Every single person here is loved just as we read that God loved the people even when they turned away.
And I wanted to say something specifically here on sexuality – partly because this week the Lambeth Conference – where Bishops from all over the Anglican communion gather – and they were asked to affirm the notion that marriage is between one man and one woman – and partly because, whilst I know my predecessor was inclusive, I don’t know what has been said or taught here in the past, but I want us to be clear that this is where I am leading us:
For me scripture is the plumbline in matters of theology. We have to look at God’s word. And whilst there are scriptures that talk about sexuality these can be and are interpreted in different ways, in opposite ways, especially when you look at the context.
I don’t believe there is a single scripture that actually argues against committed same sex relationships. Actually some of the verses used are usually referring to something within the context, for example temple prostitution – which was a pagan practice and so the scripture is actually about worshipping other Gods, not about sexual attraction. I don’t have the time to go into it all here but if you want to have a genuine discussion I’m really happy to go through things in a small group in an appropriate and safe time and place.
This question has been hotly debated over the years of course and you may disagree with me, that is your right but what I am saying is, this church is inclusive. Everyone is welcome, everyone is equal in Gods sight, that same sex attraction is NOT a sin. We should celebrate all loving committed relationships.
I hope that is abundantly clear.
That means if you are a part of this church family you have to respect that. We may have different theological views, all are welcome as I said, but this is not up for debate. I don’t ever want to hear anyone being questioned on their sexuality or challenged on it here. I don’t want to hear words of judgement given out to one another, for whatever reason – there is only one judge, and, spoiler – it’s not us!
If God, who is our ultimate judge and jury can take back humanity as beloved children – children of God we read – no matter how many times they – we – have turned our back on God, then we too can and should show that same grace to one another no matter what we think or believe is right.
Even when you were dead in your sins… God made you alive with Christ. (Col v13)
We have received grace and we share grace.
You know in God’s sight, as we see time and again in the bible, especially the OT, the biggest concern is not a single “issue”, it is people turning away from God or worshiping other Gods, and repeatedly. And so much bad stuff happens when people turn away from God, but you know what God loves them all the same, God says, I’ll bring you into my kingdom, you will be my people.
To finish, let’s go back to Hosea.
Hosea was a man who followed God’s instruction with abundant faithfulness – and that must have been so hard. He married an unclean woman, the shame he would have felt. And she left him to go back to her former life, before finally returning. His children were named in horrible ways at God’s command, what a legacy was spoken over them. And yet Hosea was faithful, loved his wife, welcomed her back into relationship with him. Loved his family. His children were ‘children of the living God’
He represents God, Jesus, loving us in our brokenness and wrong doing, every single one of us, welcoming us back with open arms, loving us no matter what.
Let’s be people who know that for ourselves and show that to others?
Revd Sara-Jane StevensJuly 24, 2022 at 9:19 pm
Hugely brave, faithfully loving, full biblical and strongly aly. Thank you Jules. Thanks for the strength I was needing in how to address real inclusivity.
JulesNovember 7, 2022 at 4:01 pm
*heart emoji* !
Roy StannardAugust 7, 2022 at 5:51 pm
Simply, hear hear.