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     Sermons | Passionate worship

    This sermon was preached by the Rev. Keith Cardwell at Swift Presbyterian Church.

    Dec. 22, 2019 | Fourth Sunday of Advent

    Living in God’s Fullness
    Hosea 14

     O NE MORE ANALOGY from Hosea, just in case the unfaithful lover failed to grab your attention. Or if the wayward child illustration didn’t resonate with you.

    Today, in the final chapter of Hosea, there is a look toward what can be. I won’t say it’s the future, it’s the potential future for the people of Israel. What’s possible. A future for you and me, as well. A future of flourishing abundance and beauty.

    God proclaims to unfaithful Israel and to wayward you and me:

    “I will heal their waywardness
    and love them freely,
    for my anger has turned away from them.

     † † † 

    THIS HEALING, THIS LOVE, this turned-away anger will result in lush meadows, aromatic flowers, productive land. It’s a metaphor of a blessed creation. It’s the picture of vibrancy and healing and abundance and nurture.

    Lilies will blossom. Tree roots will grow deep. Olive tree blooms will fill the air with fragrance. Grain and wine will fill the barns and barrels and be highest quality.

    Of course, that’s a poetic picture of living in God’s fullness. Living in obedience with God.

     † † † 

    WE OFTEN HAVE A NEGATIVE IMAGE of total faithfulness and commitment. We give up this. We forsake that. With the “this and that” being “good” things, at least in our eyes. Do away with pleasures for the austerity of faithfulness.

    That’s a distorted reality.

    There will be new birth, fresh water that we may grow, and that we may be fruitful and flourish. Imagine what your best can be. Imagine what life would be like with complete faithfulness to God. Spiritually refreshed. Comforted. Fruitful in good works. Content. Complete. Full. Living in love and harmony with others and with nature. Free of worry. Free of conflict. Free to be and live in the rich and glorious fullness with God. Gracious. Forgiving. Grateful.

    This image takes me back to the beginning — to creation — to the garden. Walking with God. Talking with God. All needs cared for by God’s love and grace.

     † † † 

    WHAT DOES THE PICTURE of God’s fullness look like for you?

    Hosea 14 says this can be yours. You can be like the lilies of the field in all their splendor. You can be aromatic, durable, and desirable like the towering cedars, if you return to God. And God, in his grace, will help you return.

    Return, Israel, to the LORD your God.
    Your sins have been your downfall!

    Say to God:

    “Forgive all our sins
    and receive us graciously….”

     † † † 

    THERE IT IS. Confession. The way to peace. The answer to anxiety and fear. The end of uncertainty. The way out of anything and everything that keeps you in dry and barren lands, exiled or imprisoned. Confession. True repentance and reformation of conduct.

    Say to God:

    “Forgive all our sins
    and receive us graciously…”
    Assyria cannot save us;
    we will not mount warhorses.
    We will never again say ‘Our gods’
    to what our own hands have made…”

    Say to God:

    “Forgive us.” “Forgive me.”

    We have been unfaithful and rebellious. The gods of our making will never be the answer. The gods of military might will never be the answer. Political power, our own perseverance, the work of our hands, alliances with Egypt or Assyria — or whatever today’s equivalent might be — will not return us to the Garden. God alone is enough.

     † † † 

    WHAT A CONFESSION! We give ourselves completely to you, Lord. Apart from God we can do nothing; apart from God we are nothing. God’s never-changing love for Israel will one day bring about her repentance and restoration to His full favor. We have hope in that promise as well.

    This prophecy of God’s bountiful blessing looks to Christ’s righteous and generous rule. John the baptizer proclaims:

    “Jesus is the one who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)

    We give ourselves completely to you, Lord. Apart from God we can do nothing; apart from God we are nothing. God’s never-changing love for Israel will one day bring about her repentance and restoration to His full favor. We have hope in that promise as well.

    This prophecy of God’s bountiful blessing looks to Christ’s righteous and generous rule. John the baptizer proclaims:

    “Jesus is the one who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)

     † † † 

    SO, IN ADVENT AND AT CHRISTMAS, we also must look forward to Good Friday, to the death of God’s Son, and Easter, to Jesus’ resurrection.

    Jesus sacrificed himself — but in dying brought new life, abundant life. A life fragrant and sweet. A life strong and sturdy. A life obedient because of God’s generous love.

    — Keith Cardwell   

    «Say to G0d: ‘Forgive us.’ ‘Forgive me.’»

    SCRIPTURE FOR THE DAY

    ►This is the Word of God for the people of God:


    Hosea 14
    Holy Bible, New International Version


    Repentance to bring blessing
    14 
    [a]Return, Israel, to the LORD your God.
        Your sins have been your downfall!

    2 Take words with you
        and return to the L
    ORD.
    Say to him:
        “Forgive all our sins
    and receive us graciously,
        that we may offer the fruit of our lips.[b]

    3 Assyria cannot save us;
        we will not mount warhorses.
    We will never again say ‘Our gods’
        to what our own hands have made,
        for in you the fatherless find compassion.”

    4 “I will heal their waywardness
        and love them freely,
        for my anger has turned away from them.

    5 I will be like the dew to Israel;
        he will blossom like a lily.
    Like a cedar of Lebanon
        he will send down his roots;

    6  his young shoots will grow.
    His splendor will be like an olive tree,
        his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.

    7 People will dwell again in his shade;
        they will flourish like the grain,
    they will blossom like the vine—
        Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon.

    8 Ephraim, what more have I[c] to do with idols?
        I will answer him and care for him.
    I am like a flourishing juniper;
        your fruitfulness comes from me.”

    9 Who is wise? Let them realize these things.
        Who is discerning? Let them understand.
    The ways of the L
    ORD are right;
        the righteous walk in them,
        but the rebellious stumble in them.

    — This is the Word of the Lord.
    — Thanks be to God.


    Footnotes:

    a.  Hosea 14:1  In Hebrew texts 14:1–9 is numbered 14:2–10.
    b.  Hosea 14:2  Or offer our lips as sacrifices of bulls
    c.  Hosea 14:8  Or Hebrew; Septuagint  What more has Ephraim


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