Nothing much has changed for the people of God since Hosea was commanded to take Gomer as his adulteress wife.
In the Old Testament reading we hear: 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 the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord.” (Hosea 1:2)
The people of
Nothing much has changed. We are God’s people; the church is Christ’s holy bride. Yet we continually find ourselves running after other gods, jumping into bed with the very things that will kill us. Ironically though, sometimes we think that our actions are acceptable to our holy husband — as if our lewd conduct makes us more desirable to him.
However, while we were in bed with sin, death, and the devil, Christ came for us. And still as we are lured back under the sheets by our sinful natures, the world, and the devil, Christ still comes and pulls back the covers revealing the reality of our natures. But even still, he offers forgiveness and his hand in holy eternal matrimony.
One of the lewd gods we find ourselves in bed with today as a church and as individuals is still the same old temptation; it just has a new disguise. Psychology is the new bed mate, but once the clothes are taken away, it’s just the same old deception where God is pushed out and our felt needs become the driving force of our faithlessness.
Ironically though, these days we lead this lover out of bed and into our churches thinking that this self-satisfying service is somehow pleasing to God. We end up calling this faithlessness our act of faith and worship. We’re deceived into thinking that this is what being a Christian is all about, but really it’s idolatry. God is pushed out, and our focus becomes what we’re doing for God. But only if we’d open our eyes we’d see that it’s not God we’re worshipping, but really it’s a deceptive worship of self leading to death.
So as we’re tempted to focus on ourselves, and sing the many shallow songs about what we’re goin’ to do for God, which only justify our focus on ourselves. And all the while, as we’re forgetting who we really are as sinners, and as we’re ignoring why Christ crucified should be central to our worship and God’s service to us, Jesus still comes to us. He still comes to take his holy bride by the hand and lead us back to him and back to his way of life. And his way not only gives us peace in this life, but it also gives us eternal life.
Like Hosea, he knows your reality. He knows that the church, like Gomer, struggles with sin and unfaithfulness. Yet he calls us to leave our desire to please ourselves. He calls us away from the craving to justify our sin of personal fulfilment or the pursuit of happiness. These things water down the reality of our sinful nature so much, we actually end up living in denial of who we really are. And even worse, things become so confused, that the holy things God puts in place get treated by us as if they’re evil. So powerful is the perverseness of our faithless prostitution.
As a guess I would have it that most of us if asked, if the world is getting better or worse, would freely admit that yes things are getting worse. The world is getting more and more corrupt, life is getting harder, and our society is being burdened and won over by more and more consumeristic and psychological junk. So then why should the church turn to follow the world and its ways to feed its faith and fill its pews?
Why are we tempted to look at marketing strategies and human centred psychology over against the faith-building food of God, in a Christ-centred Calvary-centred gospel? Is it not important with what we’re fed? And yet we think the ways of the world, and our felt needs, are more relevant; we’re led to believe the junk of the world has greater nutritional value than God’s way.
Yet Jesus still comes to his church. Jesus calls us to repentance and guarantees forgiveness to all through his death and resurrection. Jesus calls us to see the psychobabble reality of our age, and the powerless false worship of the “what I am going to do” self-worship. He calls us to return to the power he has won through the cross, given freely to us as true faith by the Holy Spirit in his word.
And so we have access to God the Father because God the Son still comes. Jesus takes the church as his holy bride calling us to himself. He calls us to repent of our self-centred ways of idolatry and live in the forgiveness won in his way at the cross. As the church’s husband, Christ has made the ultimate sacrifice for us at the cross, and it’s through his innocent sufferings and death that we’re saved from our faithless deeds which lead to death.
God named the reality of who we are, but also his gracious will for us, when Jesus gave us his prayer — the Lord’s Prayer. It a common deception in the church today that one must pray from the heart, or else the Holy Spirit is not in us. Once again the grace of God is hijacked by man-centred psychology, turning prayer into what we’re going to do for God — our work and our power! However Christian prayer is the Spirit led response of God’s children; the power of God that moves us according to his will, changing us, by acknowledging our weakness and trusting in his almighty power.
We can learn a lot about ourselves and God from the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer Jesus gives us as a gift, which is so often overlooked in favour of shallow empowerment prayers prayed to coerce God into justifying our will. In fact, when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we join in with Jesus, who is before our Father in heaven. It is Christ with us, in us, praying the prayer, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
That’s why we have the right to boldly say to God, “Our Father”. Because in Christ that’s exactly who he is. But when we discard God’s way in favour of our own way to God through self-worship, through our own works, we have no right to stand before God, nor name him as our Father.
The prayer that Jesus gives us, states facts — God’s name is holy, in fact his being is completely holy. How amazing it is that through Jesus we have access to his Holy Father, we can boldly come before him, knowing we won’t receive the wrath we’re due because of our lewd and unholy conduct with the many other gods we’re tempted to worship!
The next fact stated is one of God’s almighty power. The Father’s kingdom will come and his will, will be done. It is done despite our sinful deeds — even our best or greatest deeds which are still even tainted by sin. As Luther says in the Small Catechism, we pray that his kingdom will come also to us, and his will, will be done also in us. And these come to us when we believe he who gave us this prayer, gives us access to the kingdom through his blood spilt on the cross and through the bestowal of the Holy Spirit in his word.
Then we pray for daily bread. If God would go to such trouble sending his Son to die for us, to save us and make the church the bride of Christ, wouldn’t he then also sustain us in this life until he comes to take us into his kingdom forever? Yes!
Not only does he feed us with physical food for our physical and spiritual bodies, but in praying this very prayer we can trust that the fullness of the Godhead dwells in us. God fills us with the food of faith in his word, leading us away from ourselves towards him, his will, and his kingdom.
The next three things might come as a bit of a surprise being in the Lord’s Prayer. This is Jesus’ prayer, and yet here he focuses us on forgiveness for our sin, the possible reality of temptation, and deliverance from evil. What is Jesus saying about us? He names the reality of you and me, that we, the church, are Gomer — unfaithful, adulteresses, prostituting ourselves to other gods. But this is Jesus’ prayer — here he took ownership of our idolatrous ways as if they were his ways and took them to the cross.
Therefore, having done this, for me, for you, for us wretched bunch of sinners known as the church — the kingdom, the power, and the glory are surely his alone, right now and forever. Because of Jesus we stand as one in him, called out of ourselves into the community of the church and boldly say “OUR Father”, for Jesus’ sake, yes! Let it be so! Amen!