The Inter-Connectedness of God, Land and People

Lectionary 1st Reading Psalm 2nd Reading Gospel
Anglican lectionary:
Hosea 1:2-10
85
Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)
Luke 11:1-13

NOTES ON EACH READING

Hosea 1:2-10

Human unfaithfulness to God

When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, ‘Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of vilest adultery in departing from the LORD’.

The book of Hosea reveals the intimate relationship between God, the land and Israel, as well as employing a widespread biblical picture of God as creator (Ps 139:13; 15; Job 1:21; 38:28-29). Hosea refers to the land (’erets) as Yahweh/God’s house(hold) (Hos 8:1; 9:15), it is the place where Yahweh, Israel, plants and animals dwell (see Hos. 4:3) but it ultimately belongs to Yahweh (Hos 9:3).[1] The land is seen as the source of nurture for Israel who are God’s son(s) (Hosea 1:10), as well as being seen as Israel’s mother who conceived them (Hosea 2:1-2, 4-5). As such, God desires offspring who will serve and worship only him. When his children (Israel) are faithful, he blesses them and the land with fertility of offspring and agricultural produce (Hos 2:8) but when fail to keep their commitment to God’s covenant the land is unable to produce a good harvest (8:7-10). [1] The land is not just a vehicle for God’s work, it belongs to God (Hos 9:3).

Even though the early verses in Hosea speak of God’s judgment and rejection, the last verses (10-11) reveal glimmers of hope that God will be gracious and willing to forgive. This promise of restoration is found in the name Jezreel, whose name initially meant God scatters (v4) referring to God’s judgement on Israel’s kings. In v10 ‘God scatters’ now has a positive interpretation which refers to sowing or planting. Thus, we see glimmers of hope ‘yet’ suggests that the threat of punishment would be for only a limited time, and a period of blessing would follow.[1] Verse 11 (and 2:22-23) speak of the restoration of land, vegetation and people (2:22-23), thus emphasizing God and Israel’s intimate association with the land.

 Psalm 85

God restores the land / harvest

This Psalm is a communal prayer for the renewal of God’s mercies to his people at a time when they are once more suffering distress. Many believe vv1-3 refer to the return from exile and that the troubles experienced are those alluded to by Nehemiah and Malachi. Verse 12 suggests that a drought has ravaged the land and may reflect the drought with which the Lord chastened his people in the time of Haggai (see Hag 1:5-11).

The people remind God how he showed favour to the land and restored the fortunes of Jacob. They ask God to do this again so that faithfulness will spring forth from the earth.

Colossians 2:6-15

Living out Christ’s Lordship over all; (link to 1.15-20)

In Colossians, Paul refutes the various hollow and deceptive heresies in the Colossae church and challenges them by endorsing the belief that Christ was one with the Father when the earth was created, and thus continues to be intimately involved in creation.

The disobedience in the church relates in particular to a spirituality that focuses on heavenly things rather than things on this earth. As a result, they have a dishonouring attitude to God’s creation as well as devaluing Christ’s Lordship over heaven AND earth.

Paul’s response is to stress the supremacy of Christ; that Christ is the very image of God (1:15), the Creator (1:16); the pre-existent sustainer of all things (1:17); the first to be resurrected (1:18); the fullness of deity in bodily form (1:19;2:9) and the reconciler of ALL things in heaven and on earth (2:8).

Luke 11:1-13 

Teaching on prayer – praying ‘your Kingdom come …on earth’.

This prayer teaches that God is not separate from the world. Nor is he banished to a remote heaven, removed from earth. He is not simply living up in heaven, instead he is very much involved in this earth.

‘Your Kingdom come … on earth’ does refer to the final establishment of God’s rule over his creation, but here Jesus is emphasizing the centrality of the kingdom in the present age (the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’). In other words, ‘come more completely’ until its full and final consummation. Importantly we must not equate the coming of the Christ’s return with environmental destruction.

Jesus does not want us to utter these words by rote (as can commonly happen), but instead wants us to practice as illustrated the parable found in verses 5-8. Here Jesus urges a boldness (or persistence) in prayer, not because God will not answer but as if he would not. Verses v9-13 gives us assurance that God does answer prayers.[1]

We need therefore to pray as the Lord’s Prayer teaches, that Jesus has conquered all evil powers and authorities in our own lives and in our societies. These evil powers are behind the destruction of God’s creation. Luke reminds Christians that we must pray humbly, persistently, with sincerity, and authority.

SERMON OUTLINE

The theme of God’s judgement and mercies that affects both the land and the people, is found throughout the Old Testament. For Hosea the land is not just real estate where the drama of salvation is played out or where Israel receives agricultural blessings – the land is a major participant in the story. Hosea assumes that God, land and people are bound together as an interconnected whole.[1] When anything in the relationship goes wrong it affects God, the people and the land. Disobedience brings God’s judgement on the people as they have disregarded their covenantal relationship with God and instead become self-serving, arrogant and wicked.

However, there are glimmers of hope evident in Hosea (1:10-11) that reveal God will be gracious and willing to forgive. There is a similar message in Ps 85 where the people remember God’s past mercies and therefore can realistically pray for God to forgive and restore them again.

Paul’s rebuke to the Colossae Church is necessary for the Church today as they continue to endorse a neo-gnostic attitude causing Christians to view creation as merely a stage on which Christ’s redemptive story takes place. Earth is put on the backstage and therefore considered not important. These idolatrous beliefs and practices have led, and continue to lead to much destruction and suffering in the human and non-human world.

In summary these passages have a clear message for Christians today. The Church must acknowledge the Lordship of Christ over the whole cosmos. Christians have been called to be carers of God’s creation and therefore must readily acknowledge this responsibility as humans and non-humans suffer the dreadful consequences from climate change and environmental destruction. Those living in the developing world are already suffering immensely. We must cry out to God for his mercies, forgiveness, and ask for wisdom so his Kingdom will come … on earth as it is in heaven and thus bring about the restoration to his creation.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

Video Resources

SECTION FOUR : AN ILLUSTRATION TO GO WITH YOUR SERMON NOTES

Reflection Questions 

  • Hosea and Psalm 85 remind us of the clear connection of God, land the people. Does your church exercise this connection in its ministry?                                                                                  Could Chris Wright’s illustration of this interrelatedness with a triangle that places God at the top, land (earth) on one side and Israel (people) on the other side where all are intimately related be a helpful way to help Christians understand this connection?                                     
  • Given that Paul speaks of Christ being the very image of God, the pre-existent sustainer of all things, what implication does this have when we see the environment and non-humans being destroyed by human greed, waste and misuse of the land?
  • While we may despair over so much destruction of God’s earth, what comfort and glimmers of hope can we find in these passages?
  • How do any of the four texts help you to understand better our responsibility to protect the environment?
  • It is popular today to picture the inter-relationships of the environment in terms of a house or oikos, from which we derive the prefix for ecology. Is this a helpful idea?

Sally Shaw

I live in South Australia. From 1985-2007 health work in the Cambodian refugee camps and Cambodia. Completed Master of Education, Master of Ministry (ecotheology) & finishing a Doctor of Ministry – designed an experiential arts-based workshop to assist Christians to connect their faith with creation care. Director of A Rocha Australia.

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