This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on January 22nd, 2017.
A quick glance at this passage might not inspire one to preach from it. The more complete form includes the entire poem through verse 7, but here we only get part of that message of hope. Plus, the entire poem was part of the lectionary reading for Christmas Eve, so if you happened to preach that night, you had a passage from the prophets that was primed and ready to be used as a referent to Jesus. So it makes sense to skip over this one and jump to the Matthew or 1 Corinthians text. However, turning this stone once more might reveal more than we expected.
The Christian calendar tells us we are in the season of Epiphany – the third Sunday after Epiphany, to be exact. Technically, though, Epiphany is a displaced part of Ordinary Time. We are not in the process of preparing for or celebrating the birth, death, or resurrection of Jesus. We are simply figuring out what it means to live in the world that has seen a great light. The difficulty with this, though, is that for many of us and for those in our congregations that great light is often hard to see, hard to hear, and even harder to understand. This passage sparks dissonance in the lives of many people as we struggle through the every day. As preachers, though, we are called to speak a word from The Word. We are to point towards what we see and hear in God’s Word as it comes to us. Speaking truth is becoming a lost art, but we are not simply encouraged to do so, we are commanded to (Matthew 28:20).
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on September 11th, 2016.
When reading the word “desert,” our minds quickly imagine sandy landscapes and a scorching sun. This passage paints imagery of the burning winds of the desert that blow fiercely from the bare heights stinging all in its path. The text creates vivid descriptions of a desert that can be creatively explored. This could be a frozen, barren wasteland with stinging, icy winds that burn like the scorching sun upon the skin. Most likely the imagery comes from a middle eastern desert storm, a dry, dust bowl where sand covers the sun leaving the land in utter darkness. No creatures can be found for even the birds have fled, flying south. Nothing will grow, and nothing will live in the waste and void. Jeremiah is returning the listener to Genesis chapter one where the earth was formless and empty. This Hebrew phrase is only seen in Jeremiah 4:23 and Genesis 1:2.
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.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on May 29, 2016.
The lyrics of the old hymn are:
He didn’t bring us this far to leave us. He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn’t build His home in us to move away. He didn’t lift us up to let us down.
Faith is often strengthened and rejuvenated simply by remembering what God has done. There is great merit in the admonition to “count your many blessings; name them one by one.” God is faithful. Not sometimes. All the time. God is love. Not as a whimsical emotion, but as the very core of His being. The prolific songwriter, Dottie Rambo, said it like this:
Roll back the curtain of memory now and then. Show me where You brought me from and where I might have been. Remember I’m human and humans forget, So remind me, remind me, Dear Lord.