By Barbara Klugh
Hosea 11:1-11; Psalm 107:1-9, 43; Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary.
This week’s readings challenge us to think about the way we are living our lives and what we can amend to be more faithful to our Father in Heaven. God longs to be in loving relationship with us.
Hosea 11:1-11: Last week, Hosea compared Israel to an unfaithful wife, and this week Israel is portrayed as a disobedient child. Who cannot relate to a story of a devoted but frustrated parent who gives unstinting love and nurture to a stubborn and ungrateful child? As in last week’s reading, the text moves from God’s judgment to his promise of restoration. In our reading, Israel is referred to as Ephraim (the name of one of Joseph’s sons), which was sometimes used in prophetic literature. The Interpreter’s Commentary considers “Hosea’s portrayal of the depth and nature of God’s love” as “one of the greatest passages of the Bible.”
After all the love and care God has lavished upon Israel—he taught them to walk, he carried them, he healed them, he fed them—they have abandoned God in favor of Baalism. Their terrible choices are leading to disaster; they will be destroyed and live in exile under the king of Assyria. (The Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC.) Here is a glimpse into the aching heart of God. God is a God of justice and Israel deserves no mercy. We know that. Yet, God’s compassion “grows warm and tender,” and he will not abandon his chosen ones. After a period of tough love, God will bring his people back. “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.” With God, mercy, not judgment, has the last word.
Psalm 107:1-9, 43: Our portion of Psalm 107 is a community thanksgiving for God’s enduring mercy in our many times of trouble.
Colossians 3:1-11 plus 12-17: This is our last reading from Colossians. For the past three weeks, Paul has made the case that we have been raised to new life by faith in Christ. This week Paul helps us deal with the question, “How do we live in this new way?” Paul says we need to set our minds on heavenly things, not on earthly things. We need to let go of all the things that are contrary to God’s purpose for our lives. You can probably guess what’s on the list. First the sins of the flesh: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed. Then the sins of the tongue: anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive language, and lying. All those behaviors are on the “stop doing this” list.
Too bad the lectionary stops there. I’ve highlighted and underlined verses 12-17 in my Bible, which contains the “do this” list. As God’s chosen we should clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. We should bear with one another and forgive as we have been forgiven. Let us clothe ourselves in love, and let the peace of Christ rule our hearts; be thankful; let the word of Christ dwell in us; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; sing to God with gratitude. And “do everything in the name of our Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Our lives are always bearing witness to something. What are lives bearing witness to? What do we need to stop, and what do we need to work on?
Luke 12:13-21: In this week’s reading, Jesus is teaching a large crowd. In response to a man’s request that Jesus intercede about his inheritance, Jesus talks the opportunity to teach the crowd, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
In our day, we hear about families being shattered because of fighting over an inheritance. Then Jesus tells the Parable of the Rich Fool, which is recorded only in Luke’s gospel. A rich man’s land had produced an abundance of crops, and he thinks he can secure his future by amassing more and more wealth in bigger barns. He tells himself he can “relax, eat, drink and be merry.” But God calls him a fool, because he’s going to die that very night, and all his things won’t help him a bit. Jesus said, “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”