This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on July 31, 2016.
For most of Hosea chapters 1-10, Israel has heard of her apostasy and rebellion against the Lord. These charges include judgment and pending punishment. Hosea 11 departs from this cycle, offering a statement of God’s love for the people and a promise of future restoration.
For those concerned with the patriarchal language from Hosea 1 last week, the imagery moves from one of marriage between man (God) and woman (Israel)—made incarnate through Hosea and Gomer—to the metaphor of a parent (God) and child (Israel). The language surrounding this picture, particularly in the first section of verses 1-4, invites consideration of God as a mother who nurtures and cares for the young. Within the male dominated society of ancient Israel, women had the tasks of child-rearing. In this way, God mothers Israel out of infancy to maturation. As any parent of adult children knows, once the kids are able to make their own decisions, they don’t always make the right, or righteous, ones.
Lest we forget, Hosea is the father of Jezreel, Lo-Ruhammah and Lo-Ammi. The reader may hear his own vexation as a parent of rebellious children in these opening verses. These I-statements reveal a parent in pain and anguish, receiving apathy and hostility for the offering of love and care. God nurtured Israel only to have Israel lay its affection upon idols and false gods. The prophetic words do not arise from anger but from longing and disregarded love.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on July 24, 2016.
Alright, Pastor. The lectionary has called upon you to preach a passage that many congregants will have some familiarity with. In fact, this passage may be all they know of the entire book from which the verses come. And, given current cultural sensibilities, what your parishioners may know of Hosea is likely viewed as patriarchal, misogynistic and akin to child abuse. The tasks for this Sunday will require a great deal of work to get to the fruitful core of the message of Hosea 1:2-10. But, it can be done.
Some thoughts on how to do this:
Be upfront and honest about what the text does not voice, while acknowledging what your parishioners are likely thinking as they hear this passage read. Hosea, Gomer and the brood are presented as actors on the stage dramatizing the relationship between God and Israel. The text is unconcerned with any of these actors aside from their relative parts. Within this passage, God is the only voice heard. We may wonder how Hosea felt about taking on an unfaithful woman as his wife. We may wonder why Gomer was unfaithful and how motherhood did or did not change this. We may wonder how the children lived with such painful monikers despite their relative innocence–notwithstanding their relative’s guilt. The scripture does not wonder about these things. It directs hearers and readers right past these concerns. A faithful Biblicist will acknowledge our natural inclination toward these questions while directing us to dive deeper into this incarnational metaphor as the text clearly wants. Ask your parishioners to suspend their concerns about gender, parenting and praxis and just listen to the text. The recognition that Hosea the prophet does not even speak within these first 10 verses may assist them. This passage is to be visualized as Hosea lives out this metaphor. This passage is to be heard as God speaks from heartfelt sorrow and pain.