For the common good

31 July 2016
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 13C (RCL)
Hosea 11:1-11
Psalm 107:1-9, 43
Colossians 3:1-11
Luke 12:13-21

Hosea contains some of the tenderest imagery for God, along with some of the most calamitous prophecies. God is torn between tenderness and punishment — I suppose like many a parent. “I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.” God is portrayed as a mother lifting her child to nurse it. Even though Israel has continued in its unfaithfulness, God is unable to give vent to the divine anger. The prophet Hosea seems to be turning away from the imagery of the vindictiveness of God. The New Testament will complete this turn.

The two New Testament lesson seem to focus on greed, though that term might need some definition. Continue reading “For the common good”

One for the road

25 July 2016
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 12C (RCL)
Hosea 1:2-10
Psalm 85
Colossians 2:6-19
Luke 11:1-13

We continue with the long narrative arc in our Old Testament lessons of the work of the prophets in Israel. Hosea is remarkable for his use of the metaphor of marriage for the covenant between God and the people. God tells Hosea to take a prostitute for a wife. This is probably a cult prostitute associated with the worship of Baal. Baal is a loan word in Hebrew which simply meant husband. Baal was one of the Canaanite gods of fertility. The cult of Baal was meant to secure the fertility of the land, and of flocks, and of the community. There would be a certain amount of irony in using Hosea’s marriage to Gomer as a metaphor for the relationship between God and the people. Continue reading “One for the road”

Famine for the Word

17 July 2016
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 11C (RCL)
Amos 8:1-12
Psalm 52
Colossians 1:15-28
Luke 10:38-42

Amos is a cheery fellow. His fourth and final vision is a bowl of summer (ripe) fruit. There is a word play here, which the NIV captures by translating “The time is ripe for my people Israel”: ripe and end are cognates in Hebrew. Amos paints a very grim picture of the day of the Lord. For her treatment of the poor and the helpless, God will make an end of Israel. The crowning crime is the sale of the poor for a pair of sandals. The exchange of sandals served to finalize a land transaction (see Boaz’s purchase of Elimelech’s land in the book of Ruth). The rich are buying the land of the poor in exchange for food. This is precisely the situation Joseph initiated in Egypt which led to the slavery of the people. Israel is becoming Egypt. Continue reading “Famine for the Word”


10 July 2016
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 10C (RCL)
Amos 7:7-17
Psalm 82
Colossians 1:1-14
Luke 10:25-37

Amos was not a polite man. Rage seldom expresses itself politely. Amos expresses God’s indictment of the various lands surrounding Israel and Judah, and a reader who believed that God had chosen Israel and Judah as God’s special possession would expect Amos to shift from indictment to consolation when her turns his words toward God’s chosen. Instead, he includes them in the list of indicted nations, and on the same charges: oppression and abuse of the poor and helpless. When, in God’s name, the prophet finally says, “You alone have I favored among all the families of the earth,” it is only to tell them that God will punish their crimes more severely, because they should have known better. Not what they would have wanted to hear. Continue reading “Neighbors”