By Barbara Klugh
Hosea 1:2-20; Psalm 85; Colossians 2:6-19; Luke 11:1-13. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text.
In this week’s readings, the prophet Hosea’s marriage to a prostitute parallels Israel’s unfaithfulness to God, Paul exhorts us to guard against false teachers by holding on to our faith in Christ, and Jesus teaches his disciples to persevere in prayer.
Hosea 1:2-20: Hosea is the first book of the twelve Minor Prophets. The labels Major and Minor refer to the length of the text on the scroll. Prophets like Isaiah fill up an entire scroll, while the writings of all 12 Minor Prophets fit on one scroll. A near contemporary of Amos, Hosea prophesied while Israel was on a downward slope toward disaster. He saw the end of King Jeroboam II’s reign (788-747 BC), followed by six more kings in 20 years, with four of them being assassinated. Hosea prophesied about the impending destruction of Israel because of their betrayal of the covenant and worshiping false gods. And yet, for all that, there is always a sense of God’s enduring love for his faithless people.
In our reading, God tells Hosea to marry a prostitute. Hosea marries Gomer, a symbolic act which may be allegorical or may be an accurate account. Either way, it’s a great illustration of Hosea’s prophetic message. Israel has been “prostituting” itself by disobeying God’s laws and by worshiping Baal. Hosea and Gomer had three children whose names are also symbolic. Jezreel, “God sows,” refers to a city where a bloody coup took place under King Jehu. The current king of Israel, Jeroboam II, is a great-grandson of Jehu, and Hosea predicts that both the dynasty and the nation will end. Lo-ruhamah means “no mercy” or “not pitied.” God will not have pity on the house of Israel. Lo-ammi means “not my people.” God rejects the people of Israel because of their unfaithfulness. Yet, in a sudden reversal, Hosea predicts that at some time in the future Israel will be restored. Scholars are divided on whether the promise of future restoration was from Hosea or was added later, during the exile or the post-exilic period.
Psalm 85: Psalm 85 is a plea for forgiveness and the restoration of God’s mercy. Verse 10 is one of my favorites in the entire Psalter: “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”
Colossians 2:6-19: As we continue with the Letter to the Colossians, Paul is addressing some false teachings that have arisen within the Colossian Church. Paul did not go into details, but it seems like some teachers were adding rules and practices that were confusing the Colossian believers. Paul reminds the Colossians that through baptism we participate not only in Christ’s death but also in his resurrection. God “forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.” Because of this reality we owe no allegiance to any other power or practice—whether angels, humans, rituals, dietary laws, asceticism, or mysticism. Neither the Colossians nor we should allow ourselves to be bullied into following any practices that are not essential to life in Christ. We can live fully in the freedom that Christ has secured for us through his victory on the cross. We don’t need any add-ons.
Luke 11:1-13: In our gospel reading from Luke, Jesus teaches his disciples the Lord’s Prayer, to persist in prayer, and about God’s goodness, especially in giving us the gift of the Holy Spirit.
“Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.’”
Jesus then follows up with a teaching on prayer. The first is about a person going to his friend’s house at midnight asking for a loan of three loaves of bread to offer hospitality to a newly arrived guest. Even though the friend doesn’t want to be bothered, he will reluctantly give him the bread if the request is persistent enough. But God is not a reluctant giver. God wants to give us good things and prayer will open us up to receive God’s blessings. So Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
If sometime you find yourself just going through the motions of the Lord’s Prayer—saying but not praying—I recommend the book, Unabashedly Episcopalian by The Rt. Rev. Andrew Doyle. It’s just over 100 pages and is based on our Baptismal Covenant. It contains a chapter about the discipline of prayer, and includes the Lord’s Prayer with comments that helped me to renew my appreciation of the wisdom of the prayer Jesus taught so long ago.