Rev’d Jonathan Gale
Hosea 11: 1 – 11
God’s Compassion Despite Israel’s Ingratitude
When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
2 The more I* called them,
the more they went from me;*
they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
and offering incense to idols.
3 Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them up in my* arms;
but they did not know that I healed them.
4 I led them with cords of human kindness,
with bands of love.
I was to them like those
who lift infants to their cheeks.*
I bent down to them and fed them.
5 They shall return to the land of Egypt,
and Assyria shall be their king,
because they have refused to return to me.
6 The sword rages in their cities,
it consumes their oracle-priests,
and devours because of their schemes.
7 My people are bent on turning away from me.
To the Most High they call,
but he does not raise them up at all.*
8 How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
9 I will not execute my fierce anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and no mortal,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.*
10 They shall go after the Lord,
who roars like a lion;
when he roars,
his children shall come trembling from the west.
11 They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt,
and like doves from the land of Assyria;
and I will return them to their homes, says the Lord.
Colossians 3: 1 – 15
The New Life in Christ
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your* life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.* 7These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.* 8But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive* language from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11In that renewal* there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord* has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.
Luke 12: 13 – 21
The Parable of the Rich Fool
Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ 14But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ 15And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ 16Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” 18Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” 20But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’
21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’
On this day when we have conflated Social Services Sunday, Harvest Festival and a focus upon stewardship; on this day when we consider God’s provision for creation and the natural response of creation to the goodness of God, it is worth simply contextualising this most pragmatic care of God and the joyful response it engenders within us.
By contextualising I mean having a look at where this all came from. Well it all goes back to creation as so much that is profound in Christian spirituality does. It goes back to God making a good creation, a creation that caused God to look upon his craftsmanship and express his pleasure with it.
The zenith of the creation story is the formation of humankind. The man is placed in charge of the garden (he is given stewardship over the earth) and his delight in it all reaches a crescendo when he sees the woman, and he exclaims, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” (Genesis 2: 23b)
The reciprocal delight that exists in the early creation account is tangible.
We leap ahead to the story of Abraham, who upon defeating a federation of kings, approaches Melchizedek King of Salem, a mysterious almost Christ-like figure whom the writer to the Hebrews describes as Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever. (Hebrews 7: 3). Abraham spontaneously gives Melchizedek a tenth of the plunder and Melchizedek blesses him.
The principle of tithing (of giving a tenth of one’s bounty to God) is introduced.
This principle is concretized years later in the Law of Moses – the terms of the Old Covenant between God and Israel established at Mt Sinai. Here its use is more specifically determined as support for the tabernacle (i.e. the temple) activities and support for the priesthood.
The system of tithing is associated with joyful worship (especially in Deuteronomy 26) and even with having a jolly good time. In Deuteronomy 14: 26 the Israelites are instructed to 26spend the money for whatever you wish—oxen, sheep, wine, strong drink, or whatever you desire. And you shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your household rejoicing together.
The system of tithing becomes in some instances a measure of spiritual maturity – clearly then as now, the pocket was the last thing to be converted – and is epitomised in the stern words of the prophet Malachi, who gets frustrated with Israel’s ignoring the covenant, specifically this business of giving to God.
But you say, ‘How are we robbing you?’ In your tithes and offerings! 9You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me—the whole nation of you! 10Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. (Malachi 3: 8a – 10)
Jesus too focussed on the reciprocity involved in giving 38give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.’ (Luke 6: 38)
We could go on following Paul, the early church, the medieval church and the reformed church. All see in giving an almost reflex and joyful action by the Christian because there is a profound understanding of the immense goodness of God’s giving to us.
In more recent times the idea of giving of our time, talents and substance has been framed in terms of responsible stewardship, rather than on any legally binding measures based upon Scripture. And as we heard earlier, that is a principle established at creation.
With Paul (who understood the concept of grace better than most) we understand the imperative of gratitude and grace engendering a gracious response in giving. This would include both consistent giving to the church (the old idea of the tithe) and giving to specific needs (the old idea of specific offerings towards the poor). These are embedded in the teaching of Paul and in his practice.
Today we have Bishop Jim preaching at the 10.00 a.m. service. Our Offerings today will be directed towards The City Mission, an organisation dear to the bishop’s heart. The City Mission is an Anglican organisation that does stalwart work in relieving poverty amongst people in Auckland who live in poverty.
We are no longer a rural community as the Israelites once were, but the idea of harvest is still relevant in our consideration of the bountiful lives God has provided us with in his goodness. Let us remember Paul’s words to the Christians in Corinth whom he had asked to contribute towards a special collection for the Jerusalem poor:
5So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you, and arrange in advance for this bountiful gift that you have promised, so that it may be ready as a voluntary gift and not as an extortion.
6 The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. 9As it is written,
‘He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
his righteousness* endures for ever.’
10He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.* 11You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; 12for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.