God Keeps Coming into the World in Love

by Lowell Chilton

A sermon for the people of Christ the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, San Jose CA.
The text is Hosea 11:1-9

The sword rages in their cities,
it consumes their oracle-priests,
and devours because of their schemes.

The land is divided.

The northern kingdom, Israel, has been in a period of relative peace, both internally and externally. The king who reigned over this time of peace, Jeroboam II, has died. There is now a time of great confusion and violence.

Kings keep being assassinated.
The Assyrians are encroaching on the borders.
Egypt is being invited to help combat the Assyrians.

The world is a terrifying and confusing place.


The land is divided.
Political conversation is more sideshow than substance.
Prisons are full and getting fuller.
Gunfire erupts in schools, newspaper offices, movie theaters and churches.
A busy marketplace in Beirut becomes a place of smoke, fire, and death.
A funeral in Baghdad, already a time and place of grief and death, explodes in fire and shrapnel.
A rock concert becomes a slaughterhouse.
The world is a terrifying and confusing place.

Today and yesterday and long ago, the world is a terrifying and confusing place.

It is hard to see God, much less to turn toward God.

Long ago, the prophet Hosea spoke of God:

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.

God claims us, just as God claimed Israel, as beloved children. Our baptism is a public declaration of this claim, but it is not an exclusive claim.

God has not only claimed us in this room,
not only members of the ELCA,
not only professed Christians,
not only Americans,
not only human beings;
God has claimed all of creation as God’s own beloved.

Each of us is claimed by God—alongside all of creation—as a beloved child of God.

And God calls to us and longs for us to turn to God.

The more I called them,
the more they went from me;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
and offering incense to idols.

Now, as then, we keep running from God.

We turn away from God, even as God reaches into the world to reveal God’s self to us.

In the beginning, God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden, and they turned away.

When God’s people were slaves in Egypt, God spoke to Moses and carried the people out of oppression.

And yet while God was speaking to Moses in the desert, giving Moses instruction on how to maintain community and live as God’s faithful people, God’s people turned away.

When God once again walked in the world as Jesus Christ, God’s people turned away.

When God continues to reveal God’s self to us, we continue to turn away.

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.

God continually acts in the world with love and grace, continuing to come into to the world and feed the world.

In the time of the exodus, God fed the people with manna. In the time of the incarnation, God fed the people with bread and fish. In our gathering together, God feeds us with heavenly food; food that gives us courage to go out into the world and follow the bands of love and cords of human kindness.

They shall return to the land of Egypt,
and Assyria shall be their king,
because they have refused to return to me.

The sword rages in their cities,
it consumes their oracle-priests,
and devours because of their schemes.

My people are bent on turning away from me.
To the Most High they call,
but he does not raise them up at all.

We are quick to respond to violence with violence.

In response to the massacre in the Bataclan Concert Hall Friday night, some of the public leaders in our country called for more guns. Donald Trump in particular claimed that “nobody had guns but the bad guys.”

We continue to turn from the love of God and turn toward structures of human invention to feel safe, structures which become infested with sin and result in the diminishment of our neighbor and of our community.

In an attempt to feel safe, we create systems of surveillance and of search and seizure that lessen the humanity of the people of our country.

We continue to fail to love God and to fail to love our neighbor.

We know that we are turning from God,
and yet we continue to turn from God.

We feel the pain and violence of our world
and wonder if it is deserved,
for we know we have turned from God.

Some may even teach that this is God’s judgement for our turning away from God.

Or that violence is God’s will to bring about right relationship with God.

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.

I will not execute my fierce anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
I am God and no mortal,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.

God says NO, this violence is not my doing.

God says NO, this violence is not my will.

God’s heart recoils at the very thought of perpetrating such violence against God’s creation.

God is God, not constrained by our limited concepts of justice and righteousness.

And God does not come into the world in wrath.

God comes into the world in love.

No matter how much we keep turning away;
no matter how much we keep hurting each other;
no matter how much we keep hurting God;

God keeps coming into the world in love.

We who gather in this place celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As we celebrate this life, death, and resurrection, we must remember that, as the prophet says, God does not come into the world in wrath.

We must remember that God comes into the world in love.

In this love, God invites us into action. God invites us to work with God to heal the world, not to tear it apart.

God invites us to call on our leaders
to act for peace, justice, and love around the world,
in all corners of the world,
not just in places which we like to visit.

God invites us to recall God’s long history of salvation,
to act in the world today,
and to look for the world to come.