Sermons

Summary: The story of Hosea is a love story and a picture of the grace of God. But it’s also a bit of a shocker. It was the talk of the town back in Hosea’s day and that’s what God intended. He wanted people to take notice.

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Our Outrageous God

Hosea 3

Matt 20 vv 1-16

Have you ever noticed that people get to look like their pets?

It is said that a vet can tell a lot about a dog owner he has never met just by observing the dog. What, I wonder, does the world learn about God by watching us his followers here on earth?

If you watch the Simpsons you will know that Homer and Marge have a next door neighbour Maude Flanders who is portrayed as a born-again Christian. In one episode, Homer greets Maude “I haven’t seen you around in a couple of weeks. Where have you been?”

“Oh,” Maude replies cheerily, “I’ve been away at bible camp – learning how to be more judgmental.”

BANG

The scriptwriters anticipate millions of viewers around the world erupting with laughter because that’s so close to the truth as they see it. How come? How has the media stereotype of a Christian become someone who is a superficial hypocrite, pushy and moralising, and out of touch with real life?

Someone has said

The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians: when they are somber and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths.

When a bomb exploded in Enniskillen in 1987, it could easily have been another brief news report that was quickly forgotten – one in a long series of bombings in N Ireland. What made it unforgettable was the response of one man, himself injured in the blast, and whose daughter died as a result of her injuries. From his hospital bed, grieving the loss of his daughter Marie, Gordon Wilson said this

I have lost my daughter, but I bear no grudge. Bitter talk is not going to bring Marie Wilson back to life. I shall pray, tonight and every night that God will forgive them”

The world listened and was flabberghasted . A newspaper said later “ No one remembers what the politicians had to say at that time. No-one who heard Gordon Wilson will ever forget…

When Jesus told the crowds Love your enemies, he gave a reason for doing so

Love your enemies said Jesus and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your father in heaven. And that’s the whole point. We have a God in heaven who loves his enemies. And in case we’re in danger of forgetting, lets just remind ourselves that each one of us at some stage has been the enemy of God. Unless we’ve embraced what Jesus’ death means for us, we’re still an enemy of God. That’s the bad news. But the good news is that God’s love is overflowing for his enemies. No matter where you are in your relationship with God, he will never love you more than he does now. And no matter how often we turn away, no matter how much we disappoint Him, he’ll never love us less. Because the bottom line is that God’s love for us is not dependent on our behaviour. It’s unconditional and unlimited. I’m quite sure I’ve made this point from the pulpit before and I’m not about to apologise for saying it again because I believe it’s a message that our hearts need to hear over and over again. I know it’s a message my heart needs repeated often. In a society where relationships are broken because people can’t forgive each other, where people are paralysed by guilt and feelings of inadequacy, this message is vital for our health and well-being. We need constantly to be reminding ourselves that although you and I are deeply flawed individuals, God’s love for us says nothing about how good we are and everything about how good He is. We often tie ourselves in knots as we try to earn His love by our acts of service. Any service we do for God is just that – it doesn’t affect His love for us which is constant. For many people this undeserved love is just too outrageous. They can understand that God might love nice middle-class people who behave in a certain way but surely there has to be a line drawn somewhere?


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