Monthly Archives: June 2019

30 June – God’s happy ending

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Pentecost 3

Hosea 11:1-11
Psalm 107
Luke 9:51-60

In a sentence:
Despite what we see, we are part of God’s work in God’s love

Everybody likes a story with a happy ending, and the preaching of Hosea is something of a happy ending story – at least, ‘on paper’. We have that story summarised for us this morning in chapter 11, in its move from covenant to betrayal to punishment to promised restoration.

The story begins with the touching intimacy God enjoyed with Israel, and they with him:

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son…
…I was to them like those
who lift infants to their cheeks.*
I bent down to them and fed them.  (11.1,4)

From there we hear of the betrayal – Israel’s turning away from God – and then of the judgement: the rage of the consuming and devouring sword.

The turning point of the drama is found in God’s coming to himself:

11.8 How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
…My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
9 I will not execute my fierce anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and no mortal,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.

And finally, there is a promised restoration:

11.10 They shall go after the Lord,
who roars like a lion;
when he roars,
his children shall come trembling from the west.
11 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.

Here we have our ‘happy ending’.

And yet…for whom is it a happy ending? By the time of the promised return, the sword will have done its devastating work. Those who are crushed under the great weight of the Assyrians have no happy ending. And the text does not suggest that only the guilty – or the especially guilty – fall in this way, such that it is the less guilty who benefit from a change in the divine heart.

What, then, is actually promised here; what is the content of the happy ending for those who heard of it in advance and did not see it realised? The temptation is strong to ‘spiritualise’ the promise at this point. This we can do with the notion of a time and place outside messy history when all things are restored; we’ve come to call this ‘heaven’. Thus, while it might be the case that a few will experience some realisation of God’s promises in this world, those who don’t will experience it in the next. The idea of heaven is a way in which we can make personal the content of such promises as Hosea makes here, if they don’t quite reach us – personally – in time. ‘In the end’ comes to mean beyond the end. If I don’t survive the sword, heaven can still make me a beneficiary of the promise.

But this reading of the ending won’t do for Hosea. He sees the love God has for Israel, the judgement which is brought to bear on them, and the promised reconciliation as each being as real as the other. If God ‘really’ loves Israel here and now, and if there is a ‘real’ judgment here and now, then the promised return home is also ‘real’ in the same way.

But home-coming will not be realised for all who hear the promise. God promises to stand Israel back on its feet but it will not be all of old Israel. Again, it is not that the bad Israelites are gone and the good ones remain to start again. The promise is to no individual but to Israel as a whole: Israel as the object and the sign of God’s love.

This is to say that the divine promise is not here – and perhaps is not ever – quite about us as individuals: about you and me, here and now, isolated from the whole sweep of God’s life with creation. God is not a ‘solution’ to whatever here-and-now problem we have, is not a cure for whatever we think might ail us, is not a promise for this or that outcome in our lives.

Most of us know this, typically from bitter disappointment. But, just as typically, our disappointment springs from misunderstanding what God brings.

For, in fact, what God brings is ‘Israel’ and not merely any one of us as part of Israel (or of the church). Israel is the concrete and tangible object of God’s love – the subject of the divine covenant and of the prophets’ tirades. But Israel is also the not-yet fulfilled sign of that love, and so not quite any particular Israel or Israelite. ‘Israel,’ as the object of God’s love is us here and now, sometimes achieving, sometimes failing. Israel as the sign of God’s love stands where we want to be – this is the promise of coming to God and coming to ourselves which is not yet realised for us, and we look to see realised in others. Our healing is in theirs, who are yet to come.

This will become important later in our reflection on the Hosea’s call to justice and fairness but, for now, let’s note that it is not different from what we considered last week. There we saw that life comes from ‘overhearing’ an exchange which is not, in the first instance, quite about us. This week we see that, in God’s dealings with Israel – even for those within Israel itself – it is not quite about them, or us.

There is a drama unfolding, at the heart of which is Israel as object and sign of God’s love and commitment. Israel is central to the drama and so the story unfolds out of Israel’s engagement with God. But the principal protagonist is God. What brings God to the people in reconciliation is God himself. This we see in what we called earlier the ‘turning point’ in the drama unfolded in chapter 11. The saving moment is not the return home at the lion’s roar but when God remembers: when Israel was a child, I lifted him to my cheek.

The promised restoration of the community is a word not only to the community itself but to God. The tangible Israel to which Hosea preached is the object of God’s love; future, restored Israel is a sign, pointing to what must not be forgotten – most of all by God. To say that there will be a restoration of Israel is to say more about God’s future – that God will continue to be one who lifts a beloved child to cheek – than it is say something about the future of any one of us.

None of this is to say that what actually happens here and now doesn’t matter, or that we as individuals don’t matter to God. The rage of the prophets for justice and fairness in Israel is there precisely because the needs of any one of us matters.

But Israel – and, with care, the church with Israel – is part of something bigger than what it seems to be at any point. For the most part we see only ourselves, and promises sound mostly to be about an extension of ourselves. Yet God’s promise springs from coming to himself: ‘How can I give you up…?’ What is promised is the extension of God.

This has, perhaps, been a rather challenging reading of what is happening in Hosea’s 11th chapter, and I suspect it still needs to be refined at a couple of places. But the point is perhaps well summarised in this way: the promise which God makes despite the felt presence of the consuming sword of Israel’s enemies is that God’s cause – which is Israel’s very reason for being – is not going to be lost in the disaster falling upon them. The promise is not that anyone of them will survive but that even after all that God will be the same God who began this adventure, doing the same things toward the same end, and that means there will still need to be an Israel to lift to the cheek.

The word of promise then – the thing which believers believe – is that God will triumph over – and for – God’s people.

Our lives are to be oriented toward that promise, that triumph, because the promise is that even we who do not see the promised land ourselves are part of what God is doing.

We do not know what God’s work will finally look like but our lives are a part of it, even now when it is not fulfilled. As we move further into Hosea we will see that this is what drives the call to justice and fairness in Israel.

Until then we turn to God’s turning to himself and hear him declare, ‘How can I give you up? I will not…’

23 June – Eavesdropping

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Pentecost 2

Hosea 1:1-10
Psalm 85
John 16:12-15

In a sentence:
God speaks to us by speaking to others

‘The Daily Prophet’ is the news rag in the extraordinary world of wizards and witches conjured up by JK Rowling in her Harry Potter series. There it serves in the way our own newspapers do, both advancing the common good and keeping it down, subject to the politics of its editors and the fears of the people. For better or for worse, Harry Potter and his exploits are often front page headline news in ‘The Prophet’.

If we were to imagine a different ‘Daily Prophet’ in eighth century Israel which gave account not now of wizarding news but of the oracles of purported prophets of God of the day, on which page would you imagine that Hosea’s preaching might feature? For then, as now, projections from the signs of the times would have been across a very broad spectrum, each voice refracting what seemed to be happening through a theological and political lens different from the others, each coming to a different conclusion. Would Hosea have been a page one or a page five prophet?

‘The word of the Lord that came to Hosea son of Beeri, in the days of…’

As we will see over the next few months, this was a concrete and specific word in a context very different from ours. Hosea makes a lively and vital address to his people in a time swirling with prosperity, religious and moral aberration, and looming geopolitical threats. Yet part of the liveliness of his preaching is that no one knows that God speaks through him. Is his word truly headline news, or just the odd-spot? No one knows at the time, and we can’t even speak here of the need to have ‘faith’ that Hosea speaks as God’s voice, for that speech was being heard for the first time in a context of plausible contradiction.

As it happened, the events unfolded in the way Hosea said they would and so Hosea’s interpretation of those events became an authoritative reading of the history, in retrospect. More important than this, however, is that Hosea’s interpretation became an authoritative interpretation of the character of God and of the relationship between God and Israel.

And so Hosea’s voice did not fall silent with the collapse of the northern kingdom. His oracles were preserved and became a tool for interpreting the prospects and then the fate of the southern kingdom, Judah, 140 years or so later. Now Hosea’s voice is heard differently. It has the authority of the events of 722 behind it. Back then a great divorce was said to be coming, and Assyria executed the judgement. But now there is a different dynamic in reading Hosea. The question is no longer, Is Hosea correct? This is already held to be the case, given what had happened in the north. The question is now, Do Hosea’s oracles apply here and now, in Judah, in relation to the threats and opportunities of the new situation? And in what way do they apply?

Again, events affirmed that they did apply, and this is reinforced by Jeremiah, Ezekiel and others who expanded upon the work of Hosea, Amos and Isaiah a century before. We hear Hosea and the other prophetic writings today on account of this ancient Jewish affirmation, taken up without question by the early church and retained by the church ever since as ‘witness’ to God’s work in and for the world.

All of this is to say that Hosea does not now address us directly, particularly if we simply decide that, for a while, we’ll sit with him and hear what he said. Our hearing of God’s word to Israel through Hosea is more like an eavesdropping on a conversation. If what Hosea said to Israel all those years ago is a word to us today, it is indirectly so.

Yet this indirect ‘overhearing’ of what passes between God and Israel is not just a matter of our being at a bit of a distance from the action and having to do deep interpretative work to get to the heart of the matter. There is certainly going to be plenty of that but, more importantly – and to exaggerate only slightly – our overhearing another God-conversation is the only way in which God communicates with us. Our relationship with God is always a matter of being ‘caught up’ in a communication which is not, at first, one which involves us. To be ‘saved’ is to overhear something someone did not first say to us.

We touched upon this last week, although it was hardly clear at the time. There we heard – as again this morning (John 16.12-15) – that the Spirit realises for us all that is of Jesus and – in Jesus – all that is of the Father. But prior to our receiving this communication of God to us through the Spirit, another communication has already taken place between the Father and the Son: ‘All that the Father has is given to me,’ Jesus says. This exchange between the Father and the Son does not, in the first instance, involve us. The Father and the Son are ‘in communication’ whether we are in the picture or not. That is all the names Father and Son denote: that these two, in the Spirit, are oriented toward each other in giving and receiving. The gospel is that the same Spirit is given to us to make ours what was not in the first instance about us.

Though Hosea would have little notion of what we call the Trinity, when we confess in the Creed that the Holy Spirit has ‘spoken through the prophets,’ this speaking does not in any way precede or go around the cross and all that Jesus’ ministry brings, even though Jesus comes after the prophets. The tension in Hosea between Israel being now ‘my people’, now ‘not my people’ (Hosea 1) and promised again to become ‘my people’ is the same tension in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus. The old prophets do not only suffer – in some cases, at least – as Jesus later did, they proclaim him and his suffering.

To listen to the prophets, then, is to listen to what is happening in the very heart of God. What is happening in God preceded us and so is something which doesn’t need us. Yet, because of what love is, that divine discourse of love creates and embraces in a single motion – creates and embraces even us.

It will take us some time to come to a fuller account of what this means, and this is one of the strengths of working in detail through a text as we will do over the next couple of months.

But for today it is enough to understand that we are here – that we are created – because there is already a conversation going on which is worth hearing. Our lives are a matter of tuning into that exchange – connecting into God by connecting into God’s conversation with those who went before us – and becoming ourselves a conversation which others will need to overhear.

Let us, then, in the weeks to come with Hosea, open ourselves to the word of the Lord which came to him, that we might learn the word which will come to us today, and the word which God will make of us. Amen.

MtE Update – June 21 2019

  1. Our second quarter study groups are now underway — not too late to join! details are here; note that the Tuesday group has been shifted to 730pm. 
  2. THIS Sunday June 23 Craig will begin a series of sermons in Sunday worship on the book of the prophet Hosea. See here for a bit more information; the  video links on that page give a quick overview of the context and themes of the book.
  3. NEXT Sunday June 30 there will be a congregaional update meeting on progress with the MtE buildings project, from 1130am for about 30 minutes or so. The meeting will be informal (no decisions to be made).
  4. The latest news from the Synod’s JIM Unit (June)
  5. You might be interested in some historic (early 80s, late 70s?) photos around Nth Melbourne, including a number of the Curzon St property.
  6. The focus text for this Sunday June 23 will be Hosea 1.1-10, with particular interest in 1.1; Psalm 85 complement this, with Luke 6.26-39 as the set gospel for the day.

Old News

  1. If you have an interest in donating to Hotham Mission’s work before the end of the financial year, follow the prompts here
  2. Hotham Mission is running another fund- and awareness-raising BBQ at Bunnings in Brunswick on June 22 (Saturday). Volunteers are sought — especially for the busy 11am-2pm time slots! Contact Joey if you can help! 

Advance Dates

  • June 30 – Update after morning tea on buildings project progress
  • August 18 – Sunday Conversation – Lentara on the Asylum Seekers Project

16 June – The simple Trinity

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Romans 5:1-5
Psalm 8
John 16:12-15

In a sentence:
Trinitarian faith expresses what God must be like if love is to be possible.

Despite the fact that Christian trinitarian doctrine has not often lent itself to comprehensive expression in less than several hundred pages, John’s gospel this morning puts all of the ‘dynamic’ of that doctrine into just a few words.

John can put it so briefly because is concerned only with the ‘What’ of the dynamic of salvation which eventually becomes fully developed and defended ‘doctrine’. Argued doctrine is usually about the ‘How’ of what is believed – how to make sense of God-things. This involves intersecting such simple statements as the New Testament makes about God with the vast and complex theories we bring with us about what the world is and what a god could be. In this way we sometimes seek to ‘prove’ trinitarian doctrine.

But we will stay with the simple What this morning: the Spirit will glorify Jesus by taking all that Jesus has – which is all that the Father has – and giving it to the disciples. To borrow from a chapter or so back: to see Jesus is to see the Father (John 14.9), and the Spirit makes it possible for us to see Jesus.

This pretty much sums up the church’s interest in trinitarian doctrine. Without Jesus there is nothing to look at, without the Father there is nothing to see, and without the Spirit we wouldn’t know what we were looking at in the first place.

In itself, this is straightforward as a set of connections, whether we believe it all or not. The question then becomes, what does it mean to believe it?

Believing, here, cannot mean simply reciting the creed happily as a set of things to which we give assent, agreement. This is because ‘the things of the Father’ which Jesus brings are not a series of beliefs. What Jesus has is the Father. This, then, is what we have.

Yet having this is not clearly relevant to every other thing we have, until we place flesh on those connections – our own flesh.

One way of doing this is to consider the Eucharist. Here we pray for the gift of the Spirit, that the elements of bread and wine might be for us ‘the body and the blood’ of Jesus. That is, we pray for what Jesus describes in our reading: when the Spirit comes, it will bring me. The prayer for the Spirit – for the ‘Remembrancer divine’, as we’ll sing later – is a prayer that the Spirit will ‘declare’ Jesus to us, make him and his benefits present to us through these elements and through our consuming of them together.

But there is one more thing to add to this. Eating the Eucharist does not ‘save’ us in the narrow sense that the elements might be a kind of medicine. Rather we eat and drink, as the prayer goes, that ‘he may evermore dwell in us, and we in him’. The ‘in him’ is the clincher. Clearly Jesus is ‘in us’ because we have eaten and drunk of him, if even in only a figurative sense. But this does not account for our being ‘in him’. To be ‘in him’ at this point is to speak of the effect of his being in us: ‘in him’ means becoming as he is.

This is the truly confronting thing of Christian faith. Cut apart from what Jesus promises with the Spirit, trinitarian doctrine looks quite foolish and unnecessary.

But there is something much more foolish at that heart of the matter, which is that the Word did not just become flesh – a couple of thousand years ago, around Christmas. It becomes flesh – our very flesh – here and now. The foolishness of faith is in the notion that God might lift human beings to such heights, for how could mere mortals as us be crowned with such honour, as our psalmist today wondered (Cf. Psalm 8)?

It is not only in the Eucharist that we encounter this understanding but the Eucharist is especially rich in language and symbol which make the point. We pray that the Spirit make Christ present to us in the elements, and we speak of becoming what we eat – Christ’s Body. This ‘Christ’s Body’ is ‘Word made flesh’, but now our very ordinary flesh lifted up, filled out. We become here what we have prayed for: an ‘on earth’ which is ‘as it is heaven’.

Jesus says, ‘When the Spirit comes it will announce to you all that I am. And I will be yours, and all that is the Father’s will be yours, in me’. This is not information about God. It is the promise of transformation of our bodies into the body of God in the world.

Now that is a foolish and even dangerous thing to say. And so it must seem that it cannot be true. And yet it is.

The only safeguard in place is the consequence of such a claim for those of whom it is said – for us. It is not for nothing that John – the evangelist who most encourages this kind of problematic thought – is the one who states most explicitly and pointedly the ethic which corresponds to such thinking: Love one another. Why? Not because love is good. But so that ‘the world may know’. And may know what? That God has sent the Son, that we might find ourselves in him.

We don’t need several hundred pages of theological ‘How’ and all the necessary political and ethical qualifications to prove the gospel’s bold assertion about God’s trinitarian presence to the world in the Body of such bodies as ours. The proof of the gospel of God is in the love God’s body manifests. Trinitarian is a question to us as much as it is a statement we might make: Is there love here?

What leads to trinitarian thinking is the experience of that divine love which crowns even us with glory and honour. What flows from trinitarian thinking is an answering love which receives God’s embrace and, as the body of God, extends it towards others.

‘When the Spirit comes, it will declare to you all which is mine, which is all which is the Father’s. And your joy will be complete. And love will be the only response which can make sense of it all.’

Let us, then, strive ever more earnestly to prove what we confess, in love which startles, as God is startling.

By the grace of God, Amen.

MtE Update – June 13 2019

  1. Our second quarter study groups are now underway — not too late to join! details are here; note that the Tuesday group has been shifted to 730pm. 
  2. Sunday June 23 Craig will begin a series of sermons in Sunday worship on the book of the prophet Hosea. See here for a bit more information.
  3. If you have an interest in donating to support Hotham Mission’s work before the end of the financial year, follow the prompts here
  4. Hotham Mission is running another fund- and awareness-raising BBQ at Bunnings in Brunswick on June 22 (Saturday). Volunteers are sought — especially for the busy 11am-2pm time slots! Contact Joey if you can help! 
  5. The most recent Synod eNews (June 6) is here.
  6. If you would like to do some background reading on the texts for this Sunday June 16, see the commentary links here



9 June – On not being religious

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Genesis 11:1-9
Psalm 104
Acts 2:1-12
John 14:8-17

In a sentence:
Our calling is not to religion or spirituality but to a reconciled humanity, the gift and glory of God

‘God’ is probably the most useless word in the Christian vocabulary.

I mention this only because this morning I want to lead us into a reflection on the second and third most useless words among our faith-words: ‘Spirit’ and ‘religion.’

The uselessness of these necessary words is in that they are so compromised by common use that they are not – by themselves – able to point to what we hope they might point to.

‘Religion’ is, these days, a dirty word. There’s the friendly neighbour who believes in God (or something godlike) ‘but I’m not religious’. By this she means that she is not overbearing in her beliefs, is not likely to try to impose them on anyone, or is not into churchy prescriptions for how to pray or worship. Here ‘religion’ is merely an unappealing way of approaching God.

Then there’s the larger scale aversion to religion on account of its apparent capacity to stir strong emotion and even violent behaviour. This is religion as potentially dangerous. The danger is particularly present when religious fervour does not correspond to other fervours – when the wider community or the nation as a whole is not religious in the same way and so religious conviction is divisive of the whole.

The divisive dimension of religious conviction is one cause of a more subtle and so much less obvious sense in which ‘religion’ functions as a category in contrast to ‘secular.’

It is in this use that the word ‘religion’ becomes particularly useless – or worse than useless – for Christian attempts to make sense of its faith to itself and to the wider community.

When we hear the word ‘religion’ in contrast to the secular we are instantly made to think of a reality smaller than the whole: the religious within the secular. Whatever a modern western liberal society understands itself to be, it is not as a ‘religious’ reality but as a ‘secular’ one. The sphere of ‘religion’ sits somewhere within the larger sphere of secularity.

‘Religion,’ then, and ‘spiritual’ interests, mark us off from each other at a level below the overarching realities we have in common.

And now we come to our texts from this morning – in particular Genesis 11 and Acts 2. The relationship between the readings themselves is that one is the answer to the other. In the mythical story of the Tower of Babel, human division arises from God’s response to the attempt to overstep the proper boundaries of human existence. Not content to be named by God, the people seek instead ‘to make a name for themselves’ and build a tower up to heaven. God responds by scattering humankind, confusing language, and so setting in place the very divisions which such things as religion seem to embody and reinforce so effectively for us.

In contrast, the story of the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost relates a miraculous overcoming of these divisions of humankind. The preaching of the apostles strangely bypasses the natural divisions of language: though they preach in their own native tongue, the apostles are heard by people from many lands in their own languages. The confused babble of Babel becomes the clear speech of Pentecost. (Just in passing, this event is not ‘speaking in tongues’ – glossolalia. Glossolalia, St Paul remarks, in fact brings confusion and requires translation, the opposite of the Pentecost experience; cf. 1 Corinthians 14).

But this is to say that the Pentecost experience – as a ‘spiritual’ or ‘religious’ event – precisely does not correspond to divisions in human society. It breaks those divisions down. If, as its critics argue, religion represents and reinforces human division, then the gift of the Spirit of Christ is an anti-religious event. Perhaps the only positive way we could put it (in contemporary parlance) would be to say that that Pentecost is a truly political event, in the sense that it overcomes human division to establish a human city or polis in which all speak a common language.

Pentecost does not, then, make the already religious even more so by injecting a more potent Spirit and, thereby, exacerbating the differences between us with even more religious fervour. Historically there has certainly been plenty of that but Pentecost is the possibility that political differences might be dissolved, not aggravated. The peace and human unity today’s vocal critics of divisive religion strive for is in fact already there in the events of Pentecost.

This is to say, then, that Christian are neither religious nor spiritual people, in the sense in which those words are usually heard. This is the reason ‘religious’ and ‘spirit’ belong on our register of useless words, however necessary they might seem.

The pathos of all this, of course, is that it is impossible for Christianity not to be ‘a’ religion in a secular world, not to be a pursuit of ‘spirit’ in a material world. The wider world cannot comprehend this, and neither can the church most of the time. How can it be true that such a small part of the whole could be anything more than just a part? How could what we do here on a Sunday morning – or every morning, afternoon and night, if we wanted – be crucial for everything else?

The thing about the divisions in human society is that they are always matters of the past. The Babel myth captures this for us: we are divided now because there was a point at which we parted company and that parting has remained insurmountable. The Babel story locates the cause in human pride and divine correction (we would have to say, divine grace) both of which continue, but it is history which divides us from each other. The Pentecost story looks like this as well, in that it is also in the past and looks like the energy behind another separation – that which opened between synagogue and church, another ‘making a name for ourselves’.

But while the Pentecost story (not unlike the election of Israel itself) enters our imagination as an historical event and then quickly becomes our past, it brings a content which concerns our future. The community which concerns itself with this spirit looks forward to a politics like the Day of Pentecost, and not back to the beginning which makes it distinctive from other communities. The religion which springs from this orientation is not a religion of withdrawal into a separate identity springing from past events. The religion of this spirit points toward its own coming irrelevance, when the vision it has been given is realised.

Christian faith is concerned with the strange dynamic of remembering our future. As a ‘remembering’, we recall and retell things which have already happened. But what is remembered – election, cross and resurrection, the creation of the church with the gift of the Spirit – these are a promise of what is yet to come.

We live less from a particular historical religious and spiritual impetus than towards the future that impetus imprints on us. ‘What does all this mean?’ ask the amazed crowds. In contemporary parlance, what it means is that when the Spirit of this God comes, there is neither religion to separate us nor the secular to hold us together. There is just the Spirit, and just us – God ‘all in all’ – united in understanding and amazed because of it.

We might finish simply, then, with a prayer: that the church which God created by the gift of God’s own unifying Spirit might rediscover in itself the reconciliation of difference this Spirit brings, might know this healing as God’s own work, and might become an instrument in God’s hands in the world, not to its own glory, but that it might fade into the background of a reconciled humanity, the gift and glory of God. Amen.

MtE Update – June 4 2019

  1. Our second quarter study groups commence this week; details are here; if you have not already, please let Craig know if you are planning to come…. NOTE, however, that the Tuesday night sessions will now not begin until next Tuesday, June 11.
  2. The most recent Presbytery News (May 31) is here.
  3. Later in June Craig will begin a series of sermons in Sunday worship on the book of the prophet Hosea. See here for a bit more information
  4. Check the lists in church for details of the ‘Dinners for Eight’ coming up in June and July.
  5. The Justice unit at the Uniting Church  : Refugee Week and Healing for the Climate Movement
  6. If you would like to do some background reading on the texts for this Sunday June 9, see the commentary links here

Old News

  1. Advance Dates
    1. June 22 (Saturday) Hotham Mission Bunnings BBQ – volunteers sought! 

Hosea – Love lost and found. Sermons in 2019

Over the months of June to September(ish) in 2019, Craig will be preaching through a series of sermons on the book of Hosea.

    The prophet Hosea preached to the northern kingdom (‘Israel’, ‘Ephraim’ Samaria) in the eighth century BC. His preaching spanned many years, from times of great prosperity in Israel up to the imminent threat of war with Assyria, with no small amount of local political anarchy in the meantime (Hosea 1.1 lists a turnover of five kings). Assyria overcome the northern kingdom in 733-32 (BC), with Samaria falling in 721.

    A striking and, to modern ears, somewhat disconcerting image which dominates Hosea’s preaching is that of marital unfaithfulness expounded with the powerful language of whoredom and prostitution. Hosea’s personal life becomes a model for the relationship between Yahweh and Israel when Hosea is told to take ‘a wife of whoredom’, ‘for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord’ (1.2). The theme of Israel’s unfaithfulness is then developed in terms of adultery and seeking other ‘husbands.’ The children of this union are given names which symbolise the impact of Israel’s turning away from God.

    The charge of unfaithfulness is brought with anger and hurt on God’s part, and with the threat of dire consequences. At the same time, Yahweh’s willingness to forgive and be reconciled, by which Israel returns as ‘wife’ in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy (e.g., 2.14-23), is also a central theme of Hosea’s preaching.

Preparing for the series:

  • The best introduction to Hosea is to read the book itself. It’s not long and a half hour might get you through it. Plan to do this a few times through the series!
  • A short animated video introduction can be found here, which summarises the book a little simplistically nevertheless tells the story pretty well (how much can you expect from 7 minutes!?).
  • A more sophisticated introduction (with Isaiah) can be found in this lecture
  • So far as commentaries go, the ‘Interpretation’ series provides reliable introductions to biblical books for those who don’t need a full-blown scholarly treatment. The volume including Hosea can be found here, among other sources. Beeby’s commentary is a bit more expansive but still very accessible (here, among other places). A more general volume on the prophets, such as Brueggeman’s ‘The prophetic imagination‘ might also be helpful.

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