The Last Word

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Hosea 1:2-10
Colossians 2:6-19
Luke 11:1-13

This week’s lectionary readings invite a nuanced continuation of the theme developed last week by Jessie Larkins, who juxtaposed God’s blistering and apparently final judgment upon Judah from Amos 8 (vv. 1-12) with the very different message of Colossians 1:15-28, where judgment is leveled not so much against a people as an idolatrous way of life that the Cross of Jesus makes it possible to abandon. Again this week we are offered a word of prophetic judgment (from Hosea) and a reiteration of the author of Colossians’ account of what transpires in the cross. However, in both texts we discover a delightful comedic turn that opens to us the possibility of seeing ourselves and our world in surprising new ways.

The passage from Hosea is the familiar story of the prophet’s commissioning. Hosea is told by the LORD to marry a prostitute and have children with her; their marriage is to be a metaphor for Israel’s relationship to God, inasmuch as “the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.”

The names given to the three children made by the marriage are all indicative of God’s impending judgment on Israel: The name of the first son, Jezreel (“God sows”), is evocative of God’s judgment on the house of Ahab and Jezebel, which came in the form of an extremely bloody coup d’etat which began in the valley of Jezreel. The second child, a daughter named Lo-ruhamah (“not pitied”) suggests God’s mercy toward Israel is being withdrawn. This is affirmed when another son, Lo-ammi (“not my people”) is born; this name portends not simply the LORD’s withdrawal of mercy, but his outright abandonment of the covenant—“for you are not my people and I am not your God.”

Judgment, however, is not the last word in the passage. Read more

Treading Silently Near Tender Hearts

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Hosea 1:2-10 OR Genesis 18:20-32
Colossians 2:6-15
Luke 11:1-13

When I was in college I read Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, a modern retelling of the book of Hosea. I was terribly curious what all the fuss was about, and was rewarded 400+ pages later with an icky feeling. Either I was supposed to feel like a well-loved slut or this book smelled like kitsch religious patriarchy repackaged in 1850’s stereotypes.

It has been so many years that I almost forgot the book existed, until I came across the readings for the Tenth Sunday After Pentecost (Year C). There we find Hosea’s prologue staring at us, waiting for a response. I went back and revisited the page for Redeeming Love to see how it was currently being received. Of most interest were the one-star ratings, and the reasons given. I naively expected that some sane people would read the book and reject it on the grounds that it denigrated women. I was instead shocked to find that the only people who seemed to hate the book hated it on the grounds that there was too much flesh and sex, which made it dirty and sinful, like a trashy romance novel disguised as Scripture. Read more