“No Longer”

July 28, 2013
Hosea 1:1-10 Colossians 2:6-19 Luke 11:1-13

On a pleasant summer day a tiny new life was being born among the leaves of a silkweed plant. A tiny egg was breaking open and an even tinier baby caterpillar began to make his way out. First he ate the shell that had so recently held him and protected him and then he began to eat the leaf on which it sat. As the days and weeks went by, the caterpillar ate more leaves, and then still more. He ate so many leaves that he moved to other silkweed plants and ate from those as well as whatever other leaves tasted good to him. And as he ate, he grew, and as he grew, so did his appetite. But one day, when he was so large that it was absolutely astonishing to think that he had ever come from that tiny egg, his appetite abruptly left him. Driven by forces within him that he didn’t understand he began to spin silk from his tail, an ability he never even knew he had. He attached himself to a branch and spun and spun until he was covered up from head to toe (or head to tail) and then fell into a deep sleep. Several weeks later he roused from the strangest of dreams and struggled to escape from the web with which he had entombed himself. At first he pressed through a small hole, but it was just enough to squeeze through, or so he thought. While he felt that he could have easily pushed himself through the hole that he had made before his long nap, he now found that his own body was strange to him. He forced himself through the hole a little at a time but doing so required great effort. Each advance required so much strength that he had to rest after only the smallest of gains had been made, but finally, after hours and hours of effort, he finally emerged from the web of silk that he had spun. As he rested in the sun he turned to look at himself and realized that what he had been, he was no longer. While he had been born a caterpillar and had lived his entire life as a caterpillar, he was, no longer, a caterpillar but was now something else entirely. As Christians and as the church, we use the story of the caterpillar in many ways but often there is real truth in doing so. Throughout scripture there is a message not only of change, but of transformation as God works through flawed and imperfect human beings. Jonah was a prophet of God who was not filled with the kind of mercy and grace that we would expect. He hated Israel’s enemies so much that when God commanded him to preach in Nineveh, he ran the other way instead. Only after God made it very clear that there were no other options did Jonah do as God commanded and, even then, he did so reluctantly. And still, God transformed the people and the culture of Nineveh and they bowed down and worshipped the God of Israel. But God is not only in the business of transforming Israel’s enemies. More often than not, we discover that God is in the business of transforming the lives and the hearts of his own people… In Hosea 1:1-10 we discover one of he more extreme examples… The word of the Lord that came to Hosea son of Beeri during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel:
2

When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” 3 So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

1

4

Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. 5 In that day I will break Israel’s bow in the Valley of Jezreel.”
6

Gomer conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call her Lo-Ruhamah (which means “not loved”), for I will no longer show love to Israel, that I should at all forgive them. 7 Yet I will show love to Judah; and I will save them—not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but I, the Lord their God, will save them.”
8

After she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, Gomer had another son. 9 Then the Lord said, “Call him Lo-Ammi (which means “not my people”), for you are not my people, and I am not your God.
10

“Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ 11 The people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together; they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel. God commands his prophet Hosea to marry a “promiscuous” woman as a symbol and a metaphor of God’s marriage to his people. Hosea’s new wife, Gomer, is described as a promiscuous woman. Some have taken this to mean that she was a prostitute, but that isn’t necessarily true. A promiscuous woman could have been a woman who was divorced because she was unfaithful to her husband, or a single woman who was caught having sexual relations with men who were not her husband but in any of these cases, Gomer was damaged goods. No one would want to be married to an unfaithful woman but through Hosea’s marriage, God reminds his people that he is married to a people who are damaged goods, a people who have been unfaithful to him. Through the children of Hosea and Gomer (it is interesting to note that only their first child is said to be born to “him”, perhaps meaning that Hosea was only the father of the first child) God tells Israel that God intended to punish his people for the evil that they had done, that he was about to cut them off from his love… and yet… there was hope. Even in the midst of announcing that God is about to cut them off, God also promises that they will one day be called “the children of the living God.” In the midst of God’s divorce from Israel for her unfaithfulness, God promises to bring them back together again in unity. In the middle of God’s curse, he includes a promise of rescue, of hope, of healing, and of transformation. What they are, is not what they will become. With the coming of Jesus Christ, God begins to heal the nations, not just Israel, but all people from every tribe, every nation, and every language. Jesus begins to draw all people to himself and restore unity to God’s people. In Colossians 2:6-19, Paul writes these words… So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
8

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
9

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. 2

13

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
16

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. Paul says that “in Christ you have been brought to fullness.” You have been completed through the work of Jesus Christ. You have been marked and set apart. No longer are you “a work in progress,” a half finished project that looks and feels incomplete, imperfect, and mostly useless. Paul says that God made you alive with Christ when Jesus triumphed through the power of the cross. What you were, you no longer are. Knowing that we have been transformed, in Luke 11:1-13, we discover that our adoption and our friendship with Jesus has privileges that we should not forget… One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
2

He said to them, “When you pray, say:

“‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”
5

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
9

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
11

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” 3

Luke tells us that, because of our friendship with God, through his son Jesus Christ, we are given the privilege to trade on our friendship. Because we are friends, and indeed, family, we are able to ask for what we need without fear that we will annoy God into ignoring us. Luke says that “because of friendship”, because of “shameless audacity,” God will give us what we need. The story that Luke tells is of asking a friend for bread after that friend had locked the doors and gone to bed at night. Remember that houses in ancient times were not like the houses we have today. Not every member of the family had their own room and in fact, in many cases, the living room was somebody’s bedroom. At night the furniture would be pushed aside and bedding would be unrolled on the floor and members of the family would be asleep in front of the door. The man who was in already in bed would have to light a lamp so that he did not step on sleeping family members and then step over those who were sleeping and move whoever was in front of the door. Certainly by the time he had done this most of the family would be awake, grumbling and grouchy… and yet, because of your persistence, because of your “shameless audacity,” because of your friendship, he would get up and get you the bread that you need. For a more modern picture of this sort of shameless audacity you might think of the popular television show “Big Bang Theory” where Sheldon continually knocks on Penny’s door at all hours of the day and night (knock, knock, knock, “Penny?”, knock, knock, knock, “Penny?”, knock, knock, knock, “Penny?”) knocking over and over and over again until poor Penny answers, often bedraggled, in her pajamas, and half asleep. Not because she’s happy about it, but because of their friendship and because of Sheldon’s shameless audacity, Penny comes to the door and helps Sheldon with whatever problem that he is having. Luke says that God is like that. You are no longer what you once were. You are not yet what you will become. But what Hosea, and Paul, and Luke, and all of scripture wants you to remember is this: You are a child, and a friend, of God who never needs to be afraid to pound on the door of heaven at all hours of the day and night, to ask for the things that you need. Knock, knock, knock, “Jesus? Knock, knock, knock, “Jesus? Knock, knock, knock, “Jesus?

4

You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry heights in Massillon, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at subscribe@trinityperryheights.org. If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online). These messages can also be found online at http://www.scribd.com/Pastor John Partridge. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.