Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Readings Hosea 11:1-11; Psalm 107:1-9,43; Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21

In ancient Israel about 1900 B.C.E. geologists tell us that the area around Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed by an earthquake followed by fire.  The earthquake exposed some oil and gas deposits that ignited into a consuming fire.  The people of the day, and those who passed on the memory of that time associated the fire and brimstone and quake with God’s wrath, with God’s punishment.  Today that area is around and under the Dead Sea. 

Hosea, in our first reading, recalled that day, and voicing for God, wrote — 

How can I make you like Admah?

How can I treat you like Zeboiim?

… I will not execute my fierce anger…

For I am God and not mortal… 

And I will not come in wrath. 

Unfortunately, St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians forgot that our God is not a God of wrath when he mistakenly wrote —                                                                                                     

…the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.

And unfortunately, many, too many, have followed in the mistaken footsteps of St. Paul talking about God’s wrath, even into our own day.  The God we know, the God who is manifest in Jesus of Nazareth, is the God of tenderness, the God of love, the God of gentle guidance. 

Hosea, voicing for God, wrote–

I led [my people] with cords of human kindness,

with bands of love…

my compassion grows warm and tender…

The psalmist wrote —

Let [my people] give thanks to the Lord for his mercy

and the wonders [God] does for his children.

For [God] satisfies the thirsty,

and fills the hungry with good things.

Hosea and the psalmist knew the God we know in Jesus of Nazareth, the God of tenderness, the God of love, the God of gentle guidance.                              

And we are invited, we are encouraged, we are supported, by the Holy Spirit to be like our God, tender, loving, and gently guiding. 

As many of you know I coached soccer for many years and still am a student of the game.  My favorite players to watch are the forwards, those who line up closest to the opponent’s goal, and who are relentless in moving the ball forward.  When opportunities present themselves, they shoot, and shoot, and shoot some more.  They try, and try, and try, knowing that as a team they may only score once, or twice, or three times in ninety minutes of play.  In pursuit of a goal they fail, and they fail, and they fail with incomplete passes and missed shots on the goal.  Yet they continue to pursue the goal; they continue to press for the ball that goes into the back of the net.  For ninety minutes they are relentless. 

Returning to St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians, he encouraged them to —

…seek the things that are above…

Set your minds on things that are above. 

St. Paul encouraged the Colossians to be Holy, to be the Holy People of God.  In the current day Episcopal Church, we don’t hear much about striving for Holiness.  We don’t talk much about pursuing Holiness.  I think we need to change that.  I think we need to add emphasis to pursuing Holy lives as well as pursuing social justice. 

Will we reach perfection, will we reach Holiness?  Of course not, yet like the forwards in soccer, we can relentlessly pursue Holiness, pursue tenderness, pursue love, pursue gently guiding others. 

There will be days for each of us when God will invite us to stand up and be counted among the saints.  There will be days, when like the farmer in the parable of Jesus when our very life will be demanded of us.  We live in times that are demanding.  Indeed, in our times we are invited by God to unveil and share our tenderness, our love, and our gentle guidance. 

Let us pursue Holiness with all our hearts, with all our minds, with all our souls, and with all our strength.  And God will be with us; God will be with us. 


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