Year C, SUNDAY 17  

24-30 July

 

Luke 11: 1-13.                                                             (Sermon 1: “A Master Class”)

Colossians 2: 6-15

Hosea 1: 2-10                                                                          (Sermon 2: “Two Love Stories”)

Psalm 85

 

GATHERING AND FOCUSSING

 

We are here,

in the name of Christ Jesus.

 

So ask right now,

and it shall be given to you.

Seek right now,

and you will find.

Knock right now,

and the door will be opened.

 

OR -

 

If you, though corrupted, know how to give good gifts to your children,

how much more

will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.

God’s salvation is at hand for those who stand in awe,

bringing glory to dwell in our land.

 

Ask and you will receive,

seek and you will find.

Faithfulness shall spring up from the soil

and righteousness shine down from the sky.

 

 

COMING BEFORE GOD

 

Holy God,

            we come asking for more of your Spirit in our lives,

            we come seeking a clearer understanding of your will,

            we come knocking for doors of opportunity to open,

            we come, knowing that you are always more ready to give

            than we are to receive

Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen!

 

FACING OUR SIN AND TRUSTING GOD’S REDEEMING GRACE

 

My sisters and brothers in the family of God, let each of us renew our trust in the saving grace of Christ Jesus.

 

Let us pray.

 

Holy, awesome Friend, some of us have come here feeling hassled and corrupted by the pressures and temptations of life. We need help.

Please forgive and restore us.

 

Holy Friend, some of us have come here feeling not so much sinful as frustrated by our clumsiness and stupidity. We need help.

Please quieten and reclaim us.

 

Holy Friend, some of us have come here feeling neither sinful nor stupid, but rather care-less or even cynical about ourselves and others. We need help.

Please confront and redeem us..

 

Holy God, we thank you that our judge is our saviour and our saviour our judge. You best know what needs rooting out or disinfecting, pruning or nourishing, weeding and nurturing.

By the grace of Christ Jesus, may we be saved from all that is ruinous and re-established in all that is healthy and strong. For your love’s sake.

Amen!

 

ABSOLUTION

 

Holy Scripture declares: “God did not sent his Son into the world to condemn it, but that the world through him might be saved.”

So ask right now,

and it shall be given to you.

Seek right now,

and you will find.

Knock right now,

and the door will be opened.

 

In the name of the Son I declare to each repentant soul: Your sins are forgiven!

Thanks be to God!

 

PRAYER FOR CHILDREN

 

            God’s Love

 

Dear God,

if even our parents can still love us

when we have been naughty,

how much more do you love us!

 

Thank you for never being put off by our sins,

thank you for sending Jesus to prove your love,

thank you for gathering us back into your loving arms.

Amen!

 

PSALM 85

 

 

God, you have always blessed this land,

            you restore the health of its first people.

You forgive those who treated them so badly,

            you are wiping out all the shame.

You have held back from fierce reprisals,

            you are giving us another chance.

 

Continue to reshape us, healing God,

            and don’t get impatient with us.

It isn’t like you to be relentless,

            or to make our grandchildren pay.

Please revive our faith and love, 

            that we may again enjoy you.

 

Display your dependable love, God,

            and give us complete liberation.

For you promise to speak peace to us,

            to all who renounce their folly.

Your healing is with those who get serious,

            and glory shall return to this land.

 

Unbroken love and fidelity will meet,

            justice and peace will kiss each other.

Trust will grow up from the earth,

            and justice will smile from the sky.

Yes, God will give us all that is best,

            and our earth will be most bountiful.

True goodness will be like a pathway,

            allowing God to walk among us.

 

                                                            ©  B.D. Prewer 2000

 

 

SO MUCH MORE

 

Ask

and you will receive

more than you bargained for.

Knock

and there will open up

a door to even more.

 

Seek

and you will find

that which cannot be found.

Give

and you will realise

you tread on holy ground..

                                    ©  B.D. Prewer 1994

 

 

SERMON 1: A MASTER CLASS

 

Luke 11: 1-13

 

Many people become frustrated and disappointed with praying. It does not seem to work for them. Maybe some of you are in that position?

 

Today I offer you a “master class.” We have a lesson in praying from an expert. Some tips from that Rabbi of Nazareth whom we name as our Christ and Saviour.

 

The disciples came to him asking: “Master, teach us to pray.”  He dealt with their question in three phases.

 

First: he gave an example of prayer.

Secondly: he told a story about a man who needed bread at midnight.

Thirdly: he talked about a parent responding to a child’s request for food.

 

Today I am going to try and follow this simple lesson Jesus gave.

 

LESSON 1: AN EXAMPLE OF PRAYER

 

The Lord’s Prayer, we call it. We are so used to it that it is hard to look at it afresh. But if we make the effort, we will notice two things:

 

It is incredibly brief, and yet remarkably broad.

 

Now that is something! During my life there have been times when I have suffered from some marathon pray-ers. I don’t know who holds the record in the Guinness Book of Records, but I suspect that some of the long-winded contestants I have known would at least get an honourable mention. Sincere it certainly may have been, but one needed hard training to survive the experience of being a witness to the event.

 

In contrast, Jesus covered everything in about 30 seconds. Now that is brief! Only one who is supremely qualified can offer that concentrated wisdom.

 

Yet is also broad. There is nothing narrow, limited, or introverted about it. Think about how much ground Jesus covered.

 

 

First: His prayer is God centred, not self centred. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” It takes us away from the weakness and folly of humanity, to the glory, power and love of God. It puts God first. Here we have worship; not religious self indulgence.

 

Secondly: The prayer expresses hope and concern for the world. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as in heaven.” This lifts us above immediate frustration and petty wants to the ultimate well being of all. Our eyes are taken above the ant hills to the lofty mountains of God’s destiny for humanity.

 

Thirdly: Now we come to a request that we (not I) may possess the basic necessities for existence. “Give us today our daily bread.” It is prayer for basics, not for luxuries. It is also a prayer for the world family, not a short sighted request for my needs. This is very unlike some of the “want lists” that sneak into our prayers.

 

Fourthly:  Our own spiritual needs.  After the request for basic physical necessities, comes one for our spiritual, personal needs: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”  We seek the mercy of God to set us free. To liberate from us from both the crippling burden of own sins, and from the self-inflicted damage which the inevitable consequence of nursing grudges against others.

 

Fifthly:  May God pity our weakness. The final sentence is a cry from the depths of the human heart; a recognition of our frailty in the face of trials and temptations.: “Do not put us to the test but deliver us from evil”. We pray to be saved from both the blatant temptations, and the subtle ones that are always at hand.

 

End of lesson 1.

 

(Remember that I said it took Jesus about 30 seconds to say this brief prayer? Ironically, it has taken me a least five minutes to make these few comments about it!)

 

A STORY: A MIDNIGHT REQUEST FOR BREAD.

 

Lesson 2.

 

The second lesson in this master class comes in the form of a story. At midnight a man has an unexpected guest arrive seeking hospitality. But there is no food in the larder.  He has a neighbour who is a friend, one he feels he can dare go to in the middle of the night. (Mark this! Midnight?  The neighbour must be a really kind guy!) So he goes and knocks on the door, waking the poor fellow up. The neighbour is not exactly thrilled to be dragged from his bed. Nevertheless, because of the benign impudence (Greek: anaidian) of the request, he gives the petitioner the bread he asks for.

 

“There!” says Jesus. “Ask, seek, knock.... at any time of day or night. You will not be ignored by God.”

 

It is important to note that in this story, an analogy for prayer, the request is not for himself but for another. The midnight prayer is for a needy traveller. There is nothing selfish here. It is for  the needs of other travellers through life for whom we are told to ask, seek and knock on God’s door.

 

The story is not about nagging God for more goodies for ourselves. It is about loving others.

 

End of prayer lesson number 2.

 

LESSON 3: PARENTS AND GOD: HOW MUCH MORE!

 

The third lesson fro  the Master pivots on the words: “How much more”. 

 

Jesus talks about being a good parent.

 

If a child asks for a fish to eat, a parent will not give her a snake. If an egg is requested, the good parent will not put a stone on the child’s plate.

 

Contaminated by evil though we are, we know how to give good food to our children. (Well, most of the time! Don’t let us get started on junk food!) “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give.”

 

You will notice again that Jesus is talking about basics. Good food, not luxuries for the over pampered. Fish and eggs were the main source of protein in the common person’s diet. Not barramundi or coral trout, but plain stubby little fish from Lake Galilee; the ones now called St Peter fish. And eggs; not caviar but common hen’s eggs.  Basics.

 

Please note the precious gift Jesus assumes we will be asking for: How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.

 

This is the real thing: More of the Holy Spirit, more of God intimately working in and through us.

 

More of God’s Presence.  More of God’s love, truth and comfort. More of his justice, wisdom, compassion and joy. 

 

This is the good gift God wants to give to those who ask.

 

Maybe we don’t always want more of God. We want more of our own plans and purposes, ambitions and comforts. Maybe we want more of our pride, stubbornness and ego.

 

Perhaps we are afraid that if we have more of the Holy Spirit in our lives we may need to change in unpalatable ways. Maybe we prefer our religion in moderation rather than in complete dosage, and therefore we limit the depth of our asking.

 

How much more is God ready to do for you?

 

End of lesson 3. in this Master class.

 

 

LET’S SUMMARISE

 

Jesus gives three lessons in  prayer:

 

1. An Example: A prayer that is God centred and cares about others as well as ourselves.

            It is our Father in heaven who is worshipped,  from whom our daily bread requested,

             our sins forgiven, and to whom in times of temptations we turn fro help.

 

2. A Story: A man who for the sake of a hungry guest, wakes a neighbour at midnight asking

            for bread. God is open morning, noon and night as we pour out our hearts in concern

            for others.

 

3. A Comparison: Earthly parenting and God’s parenting.

             How much more will God give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.

 

Maybe daily times of prayer are not so difficult? Not so onerous and many seem to think?

 

If any should find it an onerous duty, the cause may be a lack of self honesty?

 

It could be that we do not really want to learn

            the lessons Jesus has given us?

Or maybe we are reluctant to embrace the risks

            involved in asking God for more of the Holy Spirit?

 

What do you think?

 

 

SERMON 2: TWIN LOVE STORIES

 

Hosea 1: 2-10

 

In the little Book Of Hosea, we have a very odd love story.

In fact, we have two love stories. They come from the 8th century before Jesus.. It is story of misfits. Of goodness choosing depravity for a partner, of wisdom embracing folly, of faithfulness marrying unfaithfulness.

 

My “take” on the story is not the only valid interpretation.

Let me warn you that what we have in the pages of Hosea are only fragments of the whole story.  The Hebrew text is incomplete. And even these fragments are jumbled in places. But it is enough for us to try piece together some of the unusual events in the life of the prophet Hosea..

 

THE STORY

 

A loving, decent bloke called Hosea.

A prophet of the Living God to the kingdom of Israel. He believes it is time to get married. God is leading him in this direction.

 

So what does he do?

Does he go to the local Jewish marriage broker and ask for a suitable partner? Not this Jew.

 

Hosea gets a bee in his religious bonnet about the matter.

He reckons God wants him to marry a particular type of woman. Hosea hives off and chooses a wife from among the street girls. His choice falls on a prostitute named Gomer. They are married and set up home together. The holy man and the harlot.

 

It must have given the tongues of the town gossips plenty to wag about!

I have a hunch that the things they said about Hosea were not compliments. I wonder did that “odd couple” ever receive any invitations to dinner among the upright people of the town? Not likely, eh?

 

Did Hosea really expect this mismatch to work?

Against the odds? Evidently he did. Hosea seems to be one of those rare people who reckon that faith and love can redeem any situation. Where others get high-jacked by cynicism, this prophet of God makes room for hope.

 

So how in fact did things turn out?

The arrangement appears to have worked for a few years. Three children were born to this unusual marriage. Two boys and a girl. Hosea gave them quirky names, but that is another story.

 

We pause here in the saga and ask: What was Hosea on about?

Why did he enter into this mismatch of a marriage? Could there ever be anyone else who would make such an odd choice for a marriage partner?

 

 A GOD WHO IS DECIDEDLY ODD

 

Hosea is not the only quirky person.

There is one other person who is also this odd. One other person who chooses to make a marriage out of a mismatch. That person is God.

 

Hosea’s whole life was wrapped up in God.

What he was doing as a prophet was to try and reflect the character of God. Hosea was responding to a God who makes an unexpected, and from a reasonable view point, a most unwise choice.

 

God choose to “marry” beneath his class.

He  chooses those unsavoury little creatures scrambling around on planet earth who are called human beings. He chooses them to be soul mates. And from within the range of races and nations, God chooses a minor and cantankerous tribe called the Jews to be the agent of bringing all nations into the light.

 

Imagine the host of angels watching this take place.

Out of all the choices in the universe and in the heaven of high heavens, God chose to marry himself to humanity. Why humanity? And if humanity, why the Jews?

 

It was not as if human beings, were likeable.

They were not decent, wise, loving creatures, with light and love flowing amongst them like an ocean of bliss. It was not as if God fell in love with their beauty or their goodness. They were in fact, to quote Jonathan Swift, a race of “odious little vermin.” Yet God chose to marry the harlot named humanity.. To make vows to her and cherish her with his whole being.

 

Hosea had his Gomer. God had humanity.

 

This is amazing stuff, you know!

Amazing grace from the very beginning!  To make an play on the words of Charles Wesley: Amazing love, how can it be, that you my God, should chose nerds like me?”

 

 

THE BROKEN MARRIAGE

 

How did Hosea’s marriage work out? What was the progress report on the odd love affair?

 

We cannot be 100% sure.

 

It seems likely that Gomer left Hosea .

She slipped back into her old ways. She became an adulteress and then went on the street again, plying her trade as a harlot. One could say she preferred depravity to salvation. (Who does that remind you of??)

 

Hosea would have been deeply hurt.

Who would not be?  It must have been a heart-wrenching event. Perhaps he arrived home one day to find her missing. No prior warning.  No goodbye note. Just Gomer’s best clothes and her make up missing. His love had remained firm. Her love  was fickle. Sadly, that is the way things were.

 

I guess there were neighbours who said “I told you so.”

“Oil and water can’t mix, they will revert to their separate ways. Forget her and get on with your life.”

 

At first hurt and rejected, Hosea may have become angry.

Hurt would turn to anger at the spurning of his love by Gomer. He had given her everything, and she repaid him by making him the object of public ridicule. Some anger? O yes, I reckon!

 

Yet maybe the hardest thing of all was that he still deeply cared.

Hosea was the type of person who continued to worry about the well being of  Gomer. In spite of the wrongs she had done him, he still loved her and longed for her rehabilitation.

 

OUR FICKLENESS AND GOD’S FAITHFULNESS

 

Once more we have here a reflection of God and humanity.

Like Gomer, our faithfulness proves disastrously fickle. God always keeps his side of the covenant. On our side we fail badly and often. The glitter of the world draws us away. And we go on the streets again, as it were.

 

Maybe at first we feel guilty.

But every new wilful action lessens our sensitivity and we develop a tough hide.. Before long we look back and mutter to ourselves.: “That religious phase was bunk. It was a folly thing to think we could be God’s partner. It’s much better to do what comes naturally.”

 

That’s how it was with Israel in the era of Hosea.

Like all the true prophets he cried out against the unfaithfulness of the Hebrew people. They had become like adulterers and harlots. They chased other fashions and other gods. He knew how hurt and frustrated God must feel. And what drastic steps God might need to take.

 

 

Hosea believed that God would severely discipline his people.

Israel must certainly suffer for playing the harlot in the sight of the nations. Repeatedly he poured out his frustration at the brazen infidelity of a people had been called to be the agents of God’s light in all the world.

 

Nevertheless hope did not die.

Maybe, just maybe, God still loved Israel in spite of her wilfulness? Perhaps there was still hope for redemption? Anger was mixed with love?

 

Hosea does seem to understand.

In a wonderful passage (chapter 10, which is to be read next Sunday) Hosea changes the metaphor from marriage to that of a relationship between a mother and wilful child. He thinks of God as a loving mother, who fed the child at her breast, cradled it in her arms, taught it to walk, but now sees it set on its own wilful ways. Such love cries out in  anguish:

            How can I give you up, O Ephraim!

            How can I hand you over, O Israel!

 

REDEEMING LOVE

 

The comes another remarkable turn of events.

Hosea felt impelled by God to go and look for Gomer. You will find the incident in Chapter 3.  He went out to find and recover his fickle and degraded wife.

 

Evidently Gomer had sunk low.

She had become the sex slave of another man. Literally a slave; owned by this fellow. If Hosea wanted her back he would have to buy her. We are told that Hosea bought her for 15 shekels and a measure of barely. Half price in fact, so low had Gomer’s market value fallen. Thirty shekels was the usual price of a slave. Gomer was redeemed for 15 shekels along with some measures of grain.

 

Hosea took this slave woman of depreciated value back home.

He installed her once more as the mistress of his household. His God believed in redeeming love. Hosea sought to be like God, and to some degree he certainly was.

 

THE LOVE OF THE REDEEMER

 

In a beautiful way, this love of Hosea foreshadows the love of God.

That exquisitely painful love which would be shown in its ultimate fullness when Jesus of Nazareth came amongst us, full of truth and grace.

 

Hosea believed that God would never give people up.

They would not be left to rot in their own folly and rebellion. God’s love would do at least as much as Hosea felt impelled to do for Gomer.

 

God’s love did not ever end for the human race.

Nor for his servant Israel. The covenant of God with humanity will never be discarded from God’s side of reality. Christ Jesus came to make that certain, and to be the enduring witness to the new marriage of grace..

 

STAKE YOU LIFE ON IT

 

So Hosea was right. God will not give us up.

Not now. Not ever. Christ Jesus crucified, testifies to this unbreakable covenant of love. God is committed to the astounding mismatch. By redeeming grace, we become God’s partners once more. Hosea believed in redemption. He gained that insight from his God.

 

Bless you, Hosea, for preparing us for Christ!

 

We are redeemable.

No matter how often we fail through foolishness, not matter how many times we fail through wilfulness, God does not wipe his hands of any of us. We, the fools and rebels who prostitute our gifts and energies to many other masters, have a God who comes looking for us in the dark places. God comes calling our name , not to treat us like dirt and condemn us, but to reclaim us as soul mates. Even if it costs God everything.

 

That is the Gospel. That is the amazing truth. Bet your shirt on it! Go for broke on it! Stake your life on it!

 

The God of Christ Jesus is “ever faithful, ever sure.”

 

 

PRAYER: GIVING THANKS TO GOD

 

We give thanks to our God, not because it a duty, but because it is our privilege and joy.

Let us pray.

 

For earth, sea and sky, and all that lives in them: Giver of life we thank you.

 

For the long story of the human race, for its hunger of things divine, for your help when it wandered into trouble: Giver of life we thank you

 

For law makers who limited in injustice, prophets who spoke your hard truth, poets who psalmed your praises, and peacemakers who resolved conflicts: Giver of life we thank you.

 

For Christ Jesus, completely one with us yet completely one with you; who lived with us, died for us, and rose as the first fruit of a mighty harvest. Giver of life we thank you.

 

For the intimacy of your Holy Spirit, forming and constantly reforming your church, fostering the word and way of Jesus until this very hour: Giver of life we thank you.

 

God most generous, God most wonderful, glory be to you in the church, through all creation, and in the highest heaven. Now and always.

Amen!

 

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

 

There are millions of God’s children in dire need, this very day.

Let us pray for some of them.

 

God our most holy Friend, we pour out our hearts to you for this world, for all its people with many and changing needs.

 

We yearn for violence to cease, and for justice and peace to become real in every community.

 

We desire poverty and homelessness to be abolished and disease to be eradicated.,

 

We feel for all the unemployed and all who work in degrading professions.

 

We covet a society where the youth are not corrupted and the elderly not neglected.

 

We want the resources of the land sea and air to be used more prudently, so that our grandchildren, and theirs, may have a good inheritance.

 

We long for an Australian nation that takes a lead rather than mimic the faults of larger and more powerful nations.

 

Holy friend, especially help each of us to respect and cherish every person, both in the church and in the secular community. Make us flag bearers for your new world of integrity, hope, faith, compassion and joy.

Through Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

Amen!

 

 

STEPPING OUT WITH GOD

 

Go out into the world in peace and love.

 

If you want to be more high Spirited:

ask and you will receive,

seek and you will find,

knock and the doors will open.

 

Ask not for challenges to match your wisdom

but for wisdom to match the challenges

 

In the name of the Three Person’d  God, I bless you.

More saving grace than you can contain,

            more providential love than you can measure,

            more friendship than you can ever fully explore,

will be with you now and ever more.

Amen!