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Sermon Illustrations for Proper 12 | OT 17 (2019)

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Hosea 1:2-10
A Canadian alternative music group called Borg Queen had a song relevant to this text, lest we be too quick to condemn the prostitute Gomer. The lyrics tell us:

We all have a price someone will pay
Don’t give it away, Don’t give it away
You and me are a commodity
And we’re all whores in our own unique way.


Yes, we practice prostitution. We flit from one interest to the next, from one commitment (the latest parlance is a “chapter in our lives”) to the next. Martin Luther offered some thoughtful reflections on why such an awareness is good for us and our spiritual lives:

This should serve God’s purpose to break our pride and keep us humble. He has reserved to himself this prerogative, that if anybody boasts of his goodness and despises others... He will find that he is not better than others, that in the presence of God all men must humble themselves and be glad that they can attain forgiveness. (The Book of Concord (Tappert, ed.], p.432)

The first Reformer makes another profound point, reminding us why these insights about our sin are so helpful for our spiritual lives:

For a person cannot praise God only unless he understands that there is nothing in himself worthy of praise but that all that is worthy of praise is of God and for God. (Luther’s Works, Vol.11, p.144)
Mark E.

* * *

Hosea 1:2-10
How confusing this passage of scripture can be. We forget that at the time Hosea prophesied there were two kingdoms: Israel and Judah. God is speaking through Hosea to urge the northern kingdom, Israel, to turn back to God and to cease their alliances with the Assyrians. This is a scripture with a difficult message. Israel, you are turning away and although you number as the grains of sand, God is not pleased. The political and faith implications are clear. In a deist culture, political practices need to align with faith practices and the call of God. In our culture, the perversion of this connection with political power and faith can result in mass incarcerations, genocide, and annihilation of whole genders, sexual orientations, and ethnic groups. I do not believe that is what God intends for us. Grappling with this text we might want to remember that the words of Hosea are from the 8th century BC, spoken to Hosea’s people in Hosea’s time. It reminds us to align ourselves with God and to express God’s love, compassion, grace and blessing to all.
Bonnie B.

* * *

Hosea 1:2-10
This is a very confusing passage. Why does God command one of his prophets to marry a woman who was a sinner — an adulterer? She will bear children who are blessed by  the Lord. God names the one son after a city that was destroyed. It just seems like the God I know.

One of my former wives who had committed adultery in one of my former parishes married an older man and she became a pastor. One of her sons is also a pastor in Canada. She was accepted in the Canada Synod.

Even Mary’s husband married her so she wouldn’t have a bad reputation. Her son was a blessing to everyone on earth. God works in mysterious ways and all we can do is show love.

Some may need their church to untangle messages like this one for us.
Bob O.

* * *

Colossians 2:6-15 (16-19)
I’m convinced there are a lot of people who are held captive by philosophy and empty deceit. They live in fear of imagined dangers or fictitious peril. I saw that dramatized on a Twilight Zone episode called “Ninety Years Without Slumbering.” The show first aired on December 20, 1963, but is still relevant today. In the episode Sam Forstmann is an old man who thinks he will die if his grandfather clock stops ticking. He spends all his time working on the clock, upsetting his family with his obsession. The main point of the episode is how Forstmann is held captive by a belief that is not based in fact. The episode ends with these words, “Clocks are made by men, God creates time. No man can prolong his allotted hours, he can only live them to the fullest.”

In our text today, we find Paul warning the Christians at Colosse about not being held captive by “philosophy and empty deceit according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.” Grounding our beliefs in anything or anyone but Jesus can lead to confusion and chaos.

Where are your beliefs rooted?
Bill T.

* * *

Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)
Doxologies are found in almost every book of the New Testament. These were doxologies that were used in worship in the first century church. Now, hearing the doxology read in a letter, congregations would understand why the author of the letter wanted to give glory to God. They could sing a doxology of praise when they learned of the letter’s message of forgiveness, of the message of salvation, of the message of a personal God. It is for these reasons that we today sing doxologies in worship.

The use of hymns and doxologies for emotional expression was always a part of the liturgy of the early church. The Fourth Ecumenical Council, also known as the Council of Chalcedon, was a church council held from October to November in the year 451. Chalcedon was an ancient maritime town in a region of the Roman Empire in northwest Asia Minor. At this council we were afforded the Latin hymn of praise called Te Deum, with the English translation being “A Song of the Church.” The hymn begins with this stanza:

Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ,
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father


“A Song of the Church” is a hymn of praise and adoration. It is a hymn that expresses our devotion and submission to God. “A Song of the Church” is most certainly a hymn we could sing in our worship service today.
Ron L.

* * *

Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)
There’s a rare word used in verse 8 of the passage “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit….” The Greek word sulagogein translated “take captive” in the NRSV or “snare you,” as it appears elsewhere, refers to the capture of booty by robbers, including kidnapping human treasure. The lure of philosophies and magic which desire to capture and carry us off may seem like something of an alarmist overstatement, but Colossians wants us to focus on Jesus Christ as Lord, and not Jesus Christ who guides us to better nutrition, or greater wealth, or serene tranquility. Nutrition, prosperity, and inner peace are good things, but they are not co-equal lords with Jesus, or even Lords of our life worthy of lesser worship. Jesus Christ is the Lord.
Frank R.

* * *

Luke 11:1-23
A June 2017 poll conducted by Barna Research found that, despite the growth of the Religiously Unaffiliated, 79% of Americans had prayed within the last 3 months.  And so Jesus’ lessons on prayer in this text remain timely.

Jesus teaches the Lord’s Prayer in this lesson. Many of us have heard of John Wesley’s remarks about the Lord’s Prayer being the perfect prayer, a model for all prayer since it contains no “I’s.” (Works, Vol.5, p.332). Martin Luther stressed the importance of prayer, claiming that Christians need to be constantly in prayer just as the pulse of a living person is always beating (Luther’s Works, Vol.24, p.89). We might add that just as you’re dead when your pulse stops beating, so a Christian without prayer is spiritually dead.

Of course prayer is not something we do alone. It is the Holy Spirit who often does the praying for us, as those of us who do not feel efficient in prayer can celebrate. About this matter, Luther writes:

For wherever the Spirit of grace resides, there we can and dare, yes, must begin to pray. (Luther’s Works, Vol.24, p.88)

This awareness gets you and me and out of the way in our praying, so that we are more focused on God. John Calvin nicely makes this point:

... no man had sufficiently earnest desire to promote the glory of God unless (so to speak) he forgets himself and raises his mind to seek God’s exalted greatness. (Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol.XVI/1, p.318)

Good advice for what kind of prayers we should offer.
Mark E.

* * *

Luke 11:1-13
Reflections and teachings on prayer appear in the gospels to edify us, to prepare us for our intimate relationship with God. In this text, Jesus calls God, Abba, which we translate as Father, but is, actually, the more informal Daddy. This familiarity was foreign to the disciples and most of the people of the first century. God was to be revered and feared, to be kept at a distance. Yet, Jesus teaches the disciples, and us, to use the familiar and the familial in prayer. We are to come before God as children, inheritors of the realm of God, members of the family. Yet, Jesus goes on to teach even more about the persistence of prayer — using the example of a neighbor who finally meets a request based on the persistence of the one asking. Be persistent in prayer. Ask for what you need. Seek God in all circumstances. Be strengthened by faith and prayer. These are practices that form us, develop us as faithful followers of Jesus. May it be so.
Bonnie B.

* * *

Luke 11:1-13
Sometimes the Lord’s Prayer is the only one we know. That is the one he taught us. That shouldn’t stop us from praying other prayers. There is always something we need to ask him for or about.

My folks gave me a little plastic thing with that verse “…Knock and it shall be opened…” One time I had a real temptation as a movie producer before I became a pastor. A man came over from the bay area to my studio in Sacramento, California. My income was up and down depending on the opportunities that came to me, but this man offered me $800 a day, one day a week if I came down to him in the bay area to film. That was a fantastic amount especially back in the 1950s when I got it. The only problem was that the sample he left was the most filthy porno you can imagine. It gave me a great temptation and my partners and I had one month to decide. I had stopped going to church after I graduated from college, but I still had a small faith that stayed with me. I decided to follow that little plastic thing and knock to see what the Lord might say.

God did not answer my knock for the first couple days, but on the third I glanced down at my coffee table and there was an RSV translation of the Bible my folks had given me. I flipped the pages so my folks would think I was reading it, but it occurred to me that that Bible might be where God was answering my prayer.

The next couple days I asked God a question and then opened the Bible to see if he was answering. It was a surprise to find the answer on the first day, and I was beginning to wonder when he answered me again on the second day. I wasn’t prepared for the third day when I asked him about my temptation. And there, lo and behold, was the passage that told about Jesus being tempted by Satan who promised him the whole world if he would worship Satan. He rejected the offer and then I knew I would have to reject the offer made to me.

The Lord provided for all my needs after that. He provided so much that, out of gratitude for the blessings, I started to give to those who I met that were in need.

The church is one place where we can learn more about what the Bible is telling us. God’s Spirit is God’s greatest gift to those who need it.
Bob O.
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