It is such a blessing to be back with you after sabbatical! I have enjoyed catching up with many of you this past week and look forward to seeing those of you who have been away on summer adventures.
As we look forward to Sunday, I am particularly struck by Hosea 11: 1-11.
"....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.
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...."
The prophet Hosea here is at his most poetic as he envisions God as a loving parent and Israel as a young child. God has a vivid memory of nurturing, loving, encouraging and feeding Israel in infancy. God is heartbroken remembering the deep connection with young Ephraim now that he has turned his back on God. God remembers and God is deeply grieved that Israel has exchanged the freedom of divine love for the enslavement of false gods.
Anyone who has ever loved a child with abandon- a mother, a father, a grandparent, an aunt, an uncle, a foster parent, can relate to God's pain in this passage. God has given this child God's love, God's very self, and Ephraim has rejected that love. God is both heart-broken and angry.
And when we think of ourselves as the rebellious Ephraim, we can also relate. Who among us fully appreciates all of the love that the parent figures in our lives pour into us? And we often blind to how very much God pours into us.
But God never ever gives up on Ephraim, despite God's anger and grief. Ephraim will have to suffer the consequences of his waywardness, but God will love him and guide him home.
"...How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel? ...
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."
We are experiencing the pathos of this passage on so many levels today- in our families, in our communities and in our nation. There is so much that is broken, but God never forsakes us. God's steadfast love endures forever.
I look forward to reflecting on Hosea's words together this Sunday.