Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
Relationships! Just using the term conjures myriad images and feelings to flash through my mind. We have relationships of so many different types and with such different levels of importance and impact on our lives that we find it difficult to define “relationship” without caveats. Each relationship fits a need in our life so no two relationships are the same. Likewise, each relationship comes with its own set of rules and challenges. Our relationship to God and God’s relationship to us may be the most challenging of them all, but when we look at today’s scriptures a fair question to ask ourselves is, “Does it have to be that difficult?”
Hosea’s time as prophet in the split nation of Israel and Judah came during a time of political turmoil in Israel. In addition to the political turmoil, the people had incorporated local religious practices into worship, violating God’s commandment. Hosea’s family, specifically the names of his children, symbolically represented the consequences that unfaithful behavior would have on the people of Israel. The degree to which the Jews in Israel violated the covenant with God invoked the use of harsh language for infidelity. Whoredom described the behavior of the people in worship because they also worshiped other gods.
In the Colossians passage we are reminded that even under the new covenant, God comes first. Historical practices in Judaism are put aside and human traditions are excluded. Only those things that are found in Christ’s teaching have room in the way we follow him. Paul, as is often his habit, presents a litany of things to avoid without saying anything specific about what to include: we are to do as Christ taught as guided by the Holy Spirit.
Luke offers one of the most powerful passages on God’s relationship with us. The lesson about how and what to pray is not only a model for praying, but also a guideline for our relationship to God. First we remember God’s place in our lives. Second we request that our needs (not wants) be met and thank God for doing so in the past. Finally we are to consider how we treat the people around us. One more time Jesus is restating his great commandment, “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Everything we do as Christians comes back to the idea that we reflect God’s love for us in the way we serve those around us. We make it far more complicated than God ever did. Those complications with their rules and interpretations takes Christ and his teaching out of first place in our worship and replace it with human generated religious tradition- exactly what Paul warned us against in Colossians. That behavior is no different than the spiritual adultery Hosea confronted.
After naming the various punishments the nation of Israel would face, Hosea promised that in the end those who were forsaken would again be called, “Children of the Living God.” The same promise applies to us today. When we live in relationship to God the way he desires, we carry that title still today. Because our human relationships are so complicated, our human minds want to apply the same rules to the relationship with God in spite of his repeated protestations to keep it simple.
Keep it simple: Love God; love your neighbor as yourself.
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts. www.commontexts.org