The Love of God – August 4, 2019
The Love of God
A Communion Meditation by Rev. Karen A. Mendes
August 4, 2019
Main Idea: God loves us, no matter what.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Can any of us remember our first step? Our first moments of life? Our parents remember. Those of us who are parents remember these moments in the lives of our children. But of our own beginnings we have no memory. Research shows that most cannot remember anything that happened before the age of 3.5 and few events before the age of 6 become life long memories. (psychologytoday.com/us/blog/longing-nostalgia/201504/what-your-oldest-memories-reveal-about-you) But God remembers. Our Scripture text today explores love and memory. It is an evocative and startling look into the heart of God. Our God loves us, no matter what. And this love sustains and supports us throughout our lives.
The Prophet Hosea wrote during a time of great anxiety for the northern kingdom of Israel. After King David and King Solomon, the nation of Israel split into two; the northern kingdom of Israel, with its capital in Samaria and the southern kingdom of Judah with its capital in Jerusalem. During Hosea’s lifetime, Israel was in chaos after 4 kings were assassinated in 14 years and the mighty empire of Assyria had turned its attention toward conquering it. The ruling elite had turned toward Assyria in hopes that they might become partners rather than conquests. They hoped that the Assyrian gods would save them or at least spare them from utter destruction. This meant turning their backs to YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who had brought them out of slavery from the land of Egypt. By Hosea’s time, that rescue from Egypt seemed like an old fairy tale, removed from significance.
Much of the book of Hosea is about Israel’s unfaithfulness to God and the consequences of that infidelity expressed vividly by Hosea’s own unhappy marriage to a woman named Gomer. But the essence of the book is here in today’s text, where God is not a jilted spouse but a parent heartbroken over the actions of her child.
The text starts with a clear declaration of love, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” God remembers teaching the child to walk, holding him, comforting him, feeding him, surrounding him with kindness and bands of love, holding the child to God’s cheek, and rejoicing in the love and miracle that was God’s child.
But, as the child grew older, things changed. “The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols.” God stood on the porch calling, but the child ran away instead of running home. As much as God loved Israel, God did not control the decisions Israel would make. And so God sees their embrace of Assyria as a return to the bondage of Egypt. They are being led astray, they will be enslaved and their homes destroyed. They will call upon the Assyrian Most High god but he will not help them. Just as a parent grieves over the bad choices their child makes, so God grieves over the actions of Israel.
God cries out “8How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel?” (11:8) How can I destroy you like cities of Sodom and Gomorrah? “My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.” This statement is extraordinary as it expresses conflict within the heart of God! God’s justice and God’s compassion are in direct conflict with each other and in this conflict, love wins, “for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.” God is not bound by any rules, God chooses to love Israel, love us, despite our turning away. Notice also that God is “the Holy One in your midst”, a loving Parent intimately concerned with our lives.
God calls again to God’s child. This time with a roar of a lion, a roar of power which warns away adversaries and calls together God’s children. The children will come trembling like birds from their captivities and God will welcome them home.
We live in a time of great anxiety when great powers are poised to tempt us away from God. Big idols like money, political power, nationalism, and smaller but still powerful idols of apathy, vapidness, and social success. At every turn there is someone shouting, “Follow me, and I will make you safe. I will make you healthy, wealthy, and wise.” But these are idols and addictions. They require us to remain in fear, to turn away from God, to turn away from loving our neighbors as ourselves. And they cannot save us. They only lead us further into trouble. We have seen this just this weekend with the deadly violence in El Paso and Dayton.
God sees us making bad choices; choosing quick fixes, acting out of fear, and hardening our hearts to others. God’s heart is broken by our actions but God’s love remains. God does not turn away from us. God does not leave us abandoned. God remains in our midst. God calls to us with power, like a lion; a lion who welcomes and protects us, little birds.
As we prepare our hearts and minds for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, let us contemplate the love of God who has nurtured us and raised us up. Our God who holds us tenderly, like a parent snuggling with a sleepy baby. Our God who gives us free will to choose our actions, who grieves our harmful decisions, who has justifiable anger at us, but who chooses to love us and care for us anyway. As we partake of the bread and the cup, let us remember God’s love shown to us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus our Christ and may we be empowered to choose God in every aspect of our lives.
Let us pray,
O loving God, we thank you for your care of us and we are sorry for the pain that we cause you. Help us to remember you in all that we do. Amen.