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Hosea has several metaphors he works with to talk about the relationship between God and God’s people and this one is the best. It’s a story of childhood and parenting and love as the story of the joy of New Life. Raising watching a child grow is about their experiencing new discoveries, that everything in the universe is new discovery, that everything is out there to learn, and new strengths and personalities show up every day. and we, the adults in their lives, see the world anew through the eyes seeing it all for the first time. We watch as babbling turns into words. As erratic leg movements become hesitant and unbalanced first steps.
At its best, it’s my niece at 3 years old running down the hospital hallway to me jumping into my arms at the celebration of her being a big sister. It often seems like or it might have seemed like as soon as she could talk she said things in opposition come on from the moment she could walk she ran in the other direction. It’s the joy and the Heartbreak of parenting of loving a tiny human.
Because that’s the goal and the pain of loving and caring for tiny humans as they grow into adults. Growing is about differentiating from the adults, to become people with our own ideas, experiences, with our own chosen values. And to get there means making mistakes, failing, falling down, taking the wrong paths, dark paths of causing pain intentionally or not to ourselves and others. Growing up is figuring out who we are apart from the adults who love us.
But for the adults who love a toddler, a teenager, an adult, that is a hard reality. And it’s hard to see the coming destruction, the dead ends, the cliff they are running toward, and uncertain of how they will get back. We understand the desire to punish, to yell and scream, to force and compel, to build a tower to protect, to contain.
Hosea tells a story of God, a metaphor, an image, characteristics. That is what our scripture is, stories of how they, and we, think about God. And I know, there are a lot of stories God vengeful or angry or violent, but Hosea’s is a parent, nurturer. And it any ways it makes sense.
We began in fall with Sacred Artist and Architect, who designed, made, painted, built the world around us–every tree and flower, mountain and sea, river and desert. Then Potter took clay and made people, creatures. In a moment of intimacy, the Potter bent close and breathed life into the creatures. The Holy Parent showed the world to the creatures, walked with them in the garden as they took their first steps into the world together. The Divine Parent was filled with hopes and dreams, was excited to show them the wonders of the universe, to see the marvel in their eyes.
We met the Promise Maker and Keeper gave a son to Abraham and Sarah. The Presence in the Darkness met Isaac’s son Jacob in the at the river’s edge and Fire met Moses on a mountain. The God Who Hears heard the calls of the oppressed and the Liberator lead them out of captivity into a new land. The God of Covenant gave a rule of life, a way of living in community as liberated people. The King Maker gave them David, uniting the people who had been living as separate. The Bringer of Fire returned to Elijah to reveal again their presence in this world. But it wasn’t perfect. And as soon as the humans could walk, they ran away, did their own thing. And then they came back, and ran again. The human creatures went their own way, Sarah laughed in God’s face, Jacob was a trickster, those liberated responded in fear of the unknown, the Covenant was lost, forgotten, abandoned again and again. The kings failed to live into their calling, and the kingdom united was torn apart.
They were given everything they needed to live well in community and in connection with the God who made them and yet again and again they tried to live life their own way, without the confines of the expectations, the life that looks different than their neighbors,
There is no instruction manual for parenting. There is no book that tells you all the things you’re going to need to know, all the possible things this tiny human is going to do or say, the ways they will fill your heart with love and pain, how they will confuse you and confound you, and what to do when you’re on your last nerve.
There is no instruction manual for what it means to be God to a people you made, taught, called, gathered, liberated, and established. There is no book Adoni was given to explain what to do when the people call to go back to Egypt when freedom scares them, when the young man so filled with wonder becomes king and gets caught up on his own seeming unquestioned power. When the lessons you taught about caring for those on the margins of society are forgotten, ignored, for the purpose of raising even higher the powerful. There was no book the Divine Parent could scan through the index to see exactly what to do next.
God the Architect, Artist, Potter, Promise Keeper, Liberator, and Covenant Maker, God grew too, taking on these characteristics, talents, these creations, God was learning how to parent, care for, lead these people. The easy answer is for a god force, to make creation act a particular way. But the difference is, who is this God and what are their characteristics? If Adoni is a god of love, love is not coercive, it does not force, control or manipulate.
To love is to let the children, the humans, choose their own way, choose another god. Love is to let the humans, children, choose the path that might be painful, hard, rocky, dark, uncertain. To love is to let them find their own way.
And so I get yelling. I would get where God is full of disappointment and pain and frustration and the ability to wipe us all from the earth and to remove all the safeguards and send in the enemies to punish. To ground us. To send us to our room without supper, to turn around from the front seat and yell in frustration. God goes through all of that, like a parent who loves their children, who wonders what they can do, who, before they get lost in their anger remembers how much they love.
God remembers how much they love, chooses love, chooses compassion, again and again. Creator, Artist, Potter, Covenant Maker, remembered they are also Love.
God is Love. Above all else, God’s name is Love. And chooses again and again to be present with people, even as they walk away, even in the valley of the shadow, even in our hurting others or ourselves, even in choosing the hard path, the difficult path.
No matter. No matter what we have done. No matter what we have worshiped. No matter the path we are on. No matter what hurt we have caused. No matter what is happening
today or tomorrow. No matter, no matter, no matter, you are loved. You are loved. You are not being punished. You will not be punished. You not be coerced into following, forced by fear, not manipulated. You are loved by God.
And there really is no manual to being human. You are going to make mistakes, travel down difficult roads, but you are not alone. You are not abandoned. You are loved.
The rules we’re given are to love, as hard and as much as possible. To remember that when the Potter formed us in the Potter’s image, breathed into us, we were filled with Divine Love. That is the rule to live by, that is the covenant, that is the image we are made in. Love. Love that doesn’t abandon us, that doesn’t turn on us, that doesn’t leave us, that doesn’t punish, that loves and is love and calls us to love.
The Divine Love remembers compassion, moves in compassion, is compassion, calls us to compassion.
You are made in the image of Love. You are love, you are loved. and there is nothing, nothing you can do to lose that love. Receive that love, feel that love, embrace that love, remember that love, live that love.