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Pentecost 8 Proper 13C August 4, 2019

Hosea 11:1-11
Psalm 107:1-9, 43
Colossians 3:1-11
Luke 12:13-21

Last Sunday, Our Lord taught us how to pray. He told us to call God “Abba,” which translates not as “Father, “ or “Mother,” but as “Dad” or “Mom.” We are called to address God just as Jesus does, in an intimate, familiar way.

In our reading this morning from the prophet Hosea, we have the opportunity to meditate together on God as our loving, divine parent.

God says “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” God called God’s people out of slavery in Egypt, but after they reached the promised land, they began to worship alien gods such as Baal. a fertility god, and other idols as well.

God says, “Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms, but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love, I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks.”  

These words describe God’s unfailing parental love for God’s children, in this case the people of the Northern Kingdom. But the people are not following God. They are straying far from the law. During the ministry of Hosea, the gap between the rich and poor continued to widen; people did not take care of each other; there was constant war with the Assyrian Empire, and finally, the Assyrians conquered God’s people. Our reading reminds us that God guided the people home from that experience of exile.

God is upset about this to the point of anger, but God says, “I will not come in wrath.” Even though God’s people are being faithless, God loves them. As they suffer, God suffers with them. Biblical scholar James D. Newsome writes, “The suffering God of Hosea anticipates the suffering Christ of Gethsemane and of Calvary’s cross  (Newsome, Texts for Preaching Year B, p. 452.)

Our reading from the letter to the Colossians calls us to set our minds on things that are above, not on earthly things. We are called to get rid of things like anger, malice, slander, abusive language, and lying. In making the choice to follow Christ, we have stripped off the old self and have clothed ourselves in the new self. Elsewhere in the epistles, we are called to put on Christ, to clothe ourselves in Christ.

 What a difference it makes when we speak the truth, when we act from compassion, when we lift each other up instead of tearing each other down. Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 describe the qualities that we show when we are truly following Jesus—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Our reading concludes by saying that, as we grow into Christ, as we become more and more like our Lord, differences of race, religion, class, and national origin dissolve and we become one in Christ.

In our gospel for today, Jesus is preaching and teaching and someone from the crowd asks our Lord to settle a dispute over a family inheritance.

Our Lord takes this opportunity to warn us to be careful about greed. Greed was one of the things tearing up the society in the Northern Kingdom and leading to its fall, and, of course, it is one of the seven root sins. In our own society, we also have a widening gap between the rich and the poor, and we receive constant messages that tell us the accumulation of wealth and power are what life is all about.

Jesus tells a stunning parable. The land of a rich man—notice Jesus says “the land of a rich man” not “a rich man.” The land, God’s creation, God’s gift to this man, produces great abundance. There is so much that he runs out of buildings to store the produce of the land. Does he think of giving anything to those less fortunate? Apparently not. Does he thank God for God’s many blessings? No. He does not talk with God at all. His entire dialogue is with himself. 

He decides to tear down all his buildings and build new ones to hold this bountiful harvest. He says, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” Is it wrong to relax and eat, drink and be merry? Not at all.

But where is God in all of this? Where is our Lord’s call to us to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves?” This man tells his soul that there is material wealth to last for many years and it is now time to celebrate, but material things are not what nourish the soul. The man dies that night.

Jesus says, “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” What does it mean to be rich toward God?

Biblical scholar Richard P. Carlson writes, “Being rich toward God entails using one’s resources for the benefit of one’s neighbor in need as the Samaritan did. Being rich towards God includes intentionally listening to Jesus’ word as Mary did. Being rich toward God involves…giving alms as a means of establishing lasting treasure in heaven. Life and possessions are a gift of God to be used to advance God’s agenda of care and compassion, precisely for those who lack resources to provide for themselves.” Feasting on the Word Year C Vol. 3, p. 315.

What are our readings telling us today? Our lesson from Hosea expresses God’s tender and unfailing love and care for us, even when we are straying far from God. As St. Paul tells us in his Letter to the Romans, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.” Our reading from Colossians calls us to focus on the things that are above, becoming more and more like our Lord. In our gospel, our Lord calls us to treasure every moment of this life and to live lives that are cross-shaped. We are called to reach up toward God and to reach out to share God’s love with others. Amen.

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