The Seventh Sunday after Trinity: Life in Jesus the Messiah
July 23, 2023

The Seventh Sunday after Trinity: Life in Jesus the Messiah

Passage: Hosea 14:1-9, Romans 6:19-23, Mark 8:1-9
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The Seventh Sunday after Trinity: Life in Jesus the Messiah
Hosea 14:1-9, Romans 6:19-23, & St. Mark 8:1-9
by William Klock

 

Hosea—these days we call him the Prophet Hosea, but then he was just Hosea, although not for long—Hosea lived in the midst of a wicked and idolatrous people.  God’s people had been split since the death of Solomon, the kingdom of Judah in the South and the Kingdom of Israel in the north.  Judah had its own problems with wickedness and idolatry, but compared to Israel Judah was a downright goody-two-shoes.  Hosea could walk through the city and see it all: drunkenness and sexual impurity of all kinds.  People mutilated their bodies and took their own sisters as wives.  Everywhere there was a general disregard for torah.  And the King.  Those were politically turbulent days, but instead of trusting in the Lord, the King made forbidden alliances with pagan nations and played the game of international politics and intrigue.  But worst of all was the idolatry.  There was a temple to the Lord at Bethel and another at Dan (and that was a problem in itself), but all over Israel, whether in the towns and cities or at the “high places” out in the country, there were temples and altars to Baal and to his consort, Asherah.  The Levites at Bethel and Dan went through the motions of worshipping the Lord, but as Hosea looked around him it seemed most people had devoted themselves to this pagan sky god and his fertility goddess wife.  Sacred prostitutes spilled out of the temples and into the street, enticing the Lord’s people to what should have been unthinkable.  To Hosea it seemed like just about everyone in Israel, from the King down to the labourer in the market, had forgotten who they were and to whom they belonged.  They were the people who lived with the Lord in their midst.  They were the people chosen and called to show the nations the greatness of the God of Israel.  But no one cared about that anymore.  There was little difference anymore between an Israelite and an Assyrian or a Phoenician.  And to those pagans, the God of Israel was a joke—powerless, jilted by his own people, no one to be feared.

 

And then the Lord spoke to Hosea.  And the Lord told him to go and find one of those prostitutes spilling out of the pagan temples, to take her, and to marry her.  He wasn’t just going to give Hosea a sermon to preach; he was going to make Hosea himself an object lesson.  “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord” (Hosea 1:2).

 

Hosea’s life was to become a graphic reminder to the people of Israel that when the Lord had rescued them from Egypt, he had made her his people, the way a husband takes a bride.  He had loved her.  He had cared for her.  He had lavished good gifts on her.  And in return she had prostituted herself to other gods and forsaken his house.  In the same way, Hosea loved his wife, Gomer.  But repeatedly she abandoned him for other men and for her former life of prostitution.  Repeatedly Hosea went after her, buying her out of her bondage, restoring her to his house and to his loving care.  And in between he preached to Israel, reminding them of the Lord’s love and the Lord’s care and of the Lord’s faithfulness.  In between he preached to Israel and called her to repentance—to turn aside from the Baals and the Asherahs and to return to her first love, to return to the Lord.  To remember who she was and to whom she belonged.

 

Through Hosea the Lord warned the people that their betrayal would be costly, but he also reminded them of his love for them and of his faithfulness.  And he made them a promise.  We read part of that call and promise as our Old Testament lesson this morning.  Hosea 14:1-9.

 

Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,

         for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.

Take with you words

         and return to the Lord;

say to him,

         “Take away all iniquity;

accept what is good,

         and we will pay with bulls

         the vows of our lips.

Assyria shall not save us;

         we will not ride on horses;

and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’

         to the work of our hands.

In you the orphan finds mercy.”

I will heal their apostasy;

         I will love them freely,

         for my anger has turned from them.

I will be like the dew to Israel;

         he shall blossom like the lily;

         he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon;

his shoots shall spread out;

         his beauty shall be like the olive,

         and his fragrance like Lebanon.

They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow;

         they shall flourish like the grain;

they shall blossom like the vine;

         their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?

         It is I who answer and look after you.

I am like an evergreen cypress;

         from me comes your fruit.

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;

         whoever is discerning, let him know them;

for the ways of the Lord are right,

         and the upright walk in them,

         but transgressors stumble in them.

 

The Lord called his people to repent, to turn aside from their idolatry, but he also promised that one way or another, he would heal their apostasy.  He will make them the people he chose and called them to be—his witnesses to the nations.

 

This week I’ve been working on restoring an antique camp stove I’ve had around for a while.  It’s not a run-of-the-mill stove and I’d been delaying because I was having trouble finding a paint that matched the original colour.  But last weekend I found a perfect match at the auto parts store.  It was expensive automotive paint—not the cheap stuff they sell at Home Depot or Canadian Tire—but since it’s kind of a special project I decided to go for it.  And it started out okay.  I sprayed the paint and the colour was pretty much perfect, but the colour itself was pretty thin.  They say to shake the can for one minute after the little mixing ball rattles.  I warmed the can a bit and shook it for ten minutes, thinking that maybe they’d been on the shelf for a while and the pigment had really settled in the bottom.  No change.  I started wondering if the cans were short on pigment or something.  What I managed to paint looked great, but it took a lot more paint than expected, so I ran out.  I went back to the store for another expensive can, got home, shook it like crazy for ten minutes just to be sure.  And I started spraying.  And this can was full of colour.  But the first thing I noticed was that it wasn’t quite the same colour.  And then I noticed that it wasn’t laying down smooth.  No matter what I did, it left a rough and blotchy texture on the surface.  And, of course, to get the colours to match, I had to spray the new paint over everything I’d already painted with the old paint.

 

And as I sat there looking at this mess of a project, I got discouraged and frustrated.  I’d invested a lot in that paint and had high hopes for what it would look like and in the end it failed me.  It didn’t do what it was supposed to do.  And it got me thinking about Hosea and Gomer and the Lord and Israel.  I invested in some cans of paint.  The Lord invested in a whole people.  I expected that paint to make an antique stove look good and to show off my handiwork.  The Lord expected Israel to show his goodness and glory to the nations.  I thought about giving up on that paint—throwing the stove back into the electrolysis tank and stripping it back to metal and starting over.  But that’s not what the Lord did with his people and it wasn’t what I was going to do with that paint.  A sent photos to a friend who used to work painting cars and he said, “Clear coat covers a multitude of sins.”  He’s right.  So I sat down with those stove parts and some water and some fine-grit sandpaper, and I spent hours wet-sanding.  I sanded and sanded until the paint was smooth and my hands were stained green.  And when I was done it looked awful.  It was smooth, but it cloudy and swirly and covered in fine scratches.  But it was ready.  All it took was one can of clear coat and a few minutes of spraying.  Clear coat covers a multitude of sins.  It fills in the fine scratches and imperfections and somehow it always comes out with a smooth, glossy finish.  It never fails.  The next evening I put everything together on the workbench and it looked great.  You’d never know what a mess it had been except for all the green under my fingernails.

 

And because I’m a preacher and the story of the God of Israel and his people is always on my brain, I thought about my friend’s joke about clear coat covering a multitude of sins (He’s not a Christian and had no idea the source of the phrase, but I hope maybe he’ll hear this and good things will come of it!) and then I went for a bike ride and the whole time I was thinking about how similar clear coat is to Jesus and the Spirit.  I know on some level there’s a heresy in there, but that’s the problem with every analogy and I wasn’t taking it that deep.  That expensive green automotive paint was Israel.  The Lord bought her out of Egypt, delivered her from Pharoah, and displayed to her and to the rest of the world his goodness and generosity in—at least a little bit—the same way I bought those cans of paint and showed the people, or at least the cashier at Lordco, the depth of my pockets.  And as the Lord set Israel to work to be a witness to his glory, I started spraying that paint to be a witness to my own handiwork—to photograph and post to the lantern and stove collectors’ forum on the Internet and on YouTube—to the great acclaim of my fellow collectors.  And just like Israel, that paint failed to perform.  It didn’t meet my expectations.  It made me look incompetent.  If I’d posted photos on the Internet without explanation, people would have mocked me for the sake of that paint that wouldn’t do what it was supposed to do.  Not so unlike the nations that mocked the Lord, the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of his people—although certainly with far greater consequences.  And the sanding.  The hours and hours of sanding, scuffing up, knocking down, smoothing out that paint that just would not behave.  And not unlike Israel, even when I was done and everything was ready, it still looked awful—not at all what I expected.  The Internet would have mocked me even more if they’d seen it and thought that was the finished project.  But then the clear coat that covers a multitude of sins—at least in my own mind, so much like Jesus the Messiah, God himself, sent to be the faithful Israelite.  To give his life for the sake of their sins, his shed blood—dare I say—like the clear coat, filling in all the scuffs and scratches to the point you’d never know just how unfaithful that paint—or Israel—had been to its purpose and mission.  And then that gloss it leaves behind.  Even if that expensive paint had done everything it was supposed to do, even it went down flawlessly, it would never have look as perfect and as glossy as that damaged, roughed-up paint looked after it was clear-coated.  Kind of like the people of God.  Even if she’d kept the torah, a people with the divinely given law carved on stone tablets will never show forth the glory of the Lord the way a people filled with his own Spirit will show forth his glory.

 

And so I took some photos and I posted them in the lantern and stove collectors’ forum and the likes and the comments with glowing praise started rolling in.  Brothers and Sisters, that what’s supposed to happen with the nations, when the world see the handiwork of the God of Israel, the work of Jesus and the Spirit, in his people.  That’s why you and I are here today.  Because God disciplined and renewed his people by his Son and by his Spirit and that new people became witnesses of his glory.  In their story the nations saw the faithfulness of God and through their proclamation they heard how it was done through Jesus the Messiah and God’s own Spirit.  And they came and gave him glory and believed in Jesus and that divine clear coat covered them just the way it had Israel, and they became—and eventually you and I became—part of the people of God and part of that community meant to continually witness his glory.

 

And yet somehow, despite all that the Lord has done for us, we still need to be reminded who we are, to whom we belong, and what he’s called us to do and to be.  Last week we heard Paul’s words from Romans 6, reminding us of our baptism.  In the waters of baptism, he writes, we have died and risen with the Messiah.  We’re like Israel, passing through the Red Sea.  When she went in, she belonged to Pharoah, slaves to the Egyptians, but when she came out the other side she belonged to the Lord, free to serve him in his goodness, his bride and a beloved member of his household.  In today’s Epistle, Paul carries on a few verses later, again, Romans 6:19-23.

 

For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

   For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.   But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed?  For the end of those things is death.  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

 

Remember that Paul was writing to an audience that was mostly Jewish or at least steeped in the Jewish scriptures and in the Jewish identity.  When Paul wrote about slavery and freedom, the first thing that came to mind was the Lord’s deliverance of Israel from her slavery in Egypt.  There had been a time when their ancestors had no choice but to obey the will of Pharaoh.  But as Moses led them through the Red Sea delivered them from that bondage, so Jesus has led us through the waters of baptism and delivered us from our bondage to sin.

 

That doesn’t mean that the life we have in Jesus is always easy.  The Lord led Israel through the wilderness before taking her into the promised land and Jesus leads us through a wilderness of our own on our way to the age to come.  He promised that his disciples would be rejected—some would even die—on account of him.  We live in the overlap of the ages, but the Lord has a purpose in that.  We, his church, are his means of proclaiming the good news about Jesus and we are witnesses of his glory to the world so that the nations will believe and give him glory.  When it’s finished, I’ll post my finished stove project to the Internet and everyone will like the photos and post comments giving me praise for what I’ve done.  Do you ever stop to think that the Lord is, right now, doing the same sort of thing with us?  He’s bought us with the blood of his Son, he’s washed away our sins, and he’s filled us with his Spirit, regenerating our hearts and renewing our minds.  He’s made us new creations and he’s sent us out into the world and the world is supposed to see his new creation in us and glorify him and believe.  When the world looks at the Church, it’s supposed to see, to have a foretaste, of God’s new creation and of the age to come in which all the pain and sorrow and sin and tears—even death itself—have been wiped away and everything set to rights.

 

Before Jesus washed us clean and filled us with the Spirit we were slaves to sin and sin leads to death and we see it all around us.  It’s the way of this fallen world.  But in Jesus and the Spirit the Lord has set us free, in Jesus and the Spirit he is sanctifying us—that means he’s making us holy, making us into the people he intends for us to be—stripping away the old, worn paint and the rust, cleaning off the grime, sanding and prepping, painting and sanding and painting and sanding and clear-coating and all of that until his handiwork is perfect and holy and fully witnesses his glory—and causes the whole world to take note and not just to like and comment, but to come to him in faith to worship and to praise.  And one day the Church will be everything he’s working to make it and one day we will have proclaimed the good news about Jesus everywhere, and then every enemy will be defeated and this in between time will finally come to an end as the age to come finally arrives in all its fullness—like Christmas when all the decorations are finally up and the tree is in the living room and the presents are ready to be opened and the turkey’s on the table.

 

In the meantime, in this overlap of the ages, Brothers and Sisters, we need to remember who we are and to whom we belong.  We need to remember the hope that lies before us.  Even having been washed by Jesus and filled with the Spirit, the false gods of the world and the lusts of the flesh can be tempting.  Like Gomer, leaving her loving husband and returning to her old life of prostitution.  Like the Israelites in the wilderness.  We grumble.  And our bellies grumble and we think back with longing on the fleshpots of Egypt, forgetting that in Egypt we were slaves to sin and subject to death.  Brothers and Sisters, look around—or as Paul wrote in last week’s Epistle, “consider”, “reckon”, look around you, look where you’ve come from and do the math.  The presents may still be in the attic and the turkey may still be in the oven, but thanks to Jesus and the Spirit all the signs are there.  The Christmas lights are up, there are ornaments on the tree, and we can smell the turkey roasting.  Trust him.  Everything about the story shouts at us that the Lord is faithful and fulfils his promises and so we know that Jesus will finish what he has started.  And if the Gospel lesson today tells us anything, it’s that the Lord will always look after his people in the wilderness.  He fed Israel with manna from heaven.  He fed the multitude with seven loaves and a few small fish.  Brothers and Sisters, come to his Tablet his morning, eat the bread and drink the wine, and remember that he will feed us too.  Here he reminds us what he’s done for us through the death of his Son and the gift of his Spirit.  Here he reminds us who we are, of the family to which we belong, and of our hope—where we’re headed.  Here he lovingly feeds and clothes us, so that the world might see his faithfulness and give him glory.

 

Let’s pray: Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things:  Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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