I come to these texts with a whole lot of busyness in my head and thinking this post one more thing on my list to get done before boarding a plane early in the morning. There is so much buzzing around in my brain that I hardly expected to hear anything when I finally sat down to listen to this week’s readings. The good news is the whispers of the Spirit are so much more powerful than the noise in my brain.
In each of these passages I hear a call to return to God, to reclaim, and re-member the power inherent in being God’s people. The Hosea texts moves from God’s anger to God’s compassion. The people of God had forgotten their God and fooled themselves into thinking human ways were God’s ways. As a result, Israel was scattered until they could hear God’s call to return home, to return to holy ways.
It would be easy to compare today’s Christians with those ancient Israelites. We could match them sin for sin without doubt. I find myself wondering if we are scattered and held captive by the god’s we have made or are we beginning to hear the compassionate call to return home? Some of both, perhaps. We would do well to examine our lives, individually and communally to find out if we are living more in fear and scarcity or more in gratitude and abundance.
If the Hosea passage doesn’t speak loudly enough of God’s love for God’s people, the verses from Psalm 107 spell it out clearly. “God’s steadfast love endures forever.” We would do well to remember that God calls the wanderers home and feeds the hungry and quenches the thirsty. It is God who has saved God’s people in the past. God has a strange way of repeating these saving acts so we would do well to recall our faith history, pay attention, and “consider the steadfast love of God.”
Of course, the words of Qoheleth aren’t exactly uplifting and might not, at first reading, sound like they have anything to do with the power of being God’s people. However, they really say something important. Toil and strain for the sake of earthly gain are all vanity. Anything we do that does not strengthen the human spirit or the Holy spirit is really quite empty. If we fail to recognize God’s love for the whole of creation, how can our lives have any lasting value? How can the work we do be anything other than meaningless? Let us return to seeking justice, offering kindness, living in gratitude to honor our creator rather than the more fragile gods we so easily construct in our image.
The verses of Psalm 49 echo the sentiment of the Ecclesiastes passage. Here is a clear reminder that wealth, privilege, and power are fleeting. I think there are some politicians out there who know this. We can hear it in their words that come from a place a fear, a place that needs to protect what is and keep those in power where they are. There is a bit falseness in some of the fervor. We can hear some of this same fear in those who deny racism (or worse in those who endorse it) as those who have been powerless for so very long refuse to remain silent. May we all have the grace to find our value and see the value in those around us without regard to wealth, power, and privilege.
If we are wondering how to do this, Colossians tells us. As Christians we “must get rid of … anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language.” What great advice! How do we really embody Christ and reflect the love God has for all God’s people? Stop with the nonsense that so freely flows from our mouths from time to time. I would also guess that if this passage were written today it would say something like: In Christ there is no longer Christian or Jew or Muslim or American or European or Immigrant or Black or male or Transgender or any other label we place on each other to figure out who the sinners are. We tend to forget that “Christ is all and in all.” Imagine what the world would be like if we re-membered this!
If we haven’t heard it by now, the Gospel lesson emphasizes how foolish we are to treasure anything other than love – love of God, self, and neighbor. Everything else is far too fleeting. You know, that vanity Qoheleth lamented.
Where is the Spirit guiding you? Do you hear a call to be God’s people or something else?
Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. You can find links to her blog, vlog, and books at Beachtheology.com.
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