This is the message that I presented at Walker Valley UMC for the 8th Sunday after Pentecost, 29 July 2001. The Scriptures are Hosea 1: 2 – 10, Colossians 2: 6 – 19, and Luke 11: 1 – 13. I also presented the message at the Stone Church in Cragsmoor, NY.
The title for this sermon is a two-edged statement. In some respect I see the Gospel reading in the sense of what Jesus said that day when he taught the disciples the Lord’s Prayer. "Ask and it shall be given."
But when you ask, be bold in asking and ask only for what is needed. Jesus used the boldness of the neighbor to see what was needed as example of the boldness one should use when asking God for something that is needed. But only ask for what is needed because we shall receive only that which is spiritually beneficial.
This parable also suggests, at least to me, that we can be the means by which other’s requests and prayers are answered. The passage in the Lord’s Prayer "do not lead us into temptation" is not meant to suggest that God leads us into sin as a test of our faith and loyalty but rather to suggest that to avoid sin, we must go where God leads us. And if that means that we must help others because they have requested help, so be it.
It is said that Eleanor Roosevelt personally supported a number of students financially. One student remembered getting a personal check for $75 monthly from her, even long after she ceased being First Lady.
It might have been a lot easier for her to refer him to some giant scholarship program and perhaps even write a nice recommendation letter. But because she was personally committed to education she supported students she felt worthy. More than twenty-five students received funds out of her personal account to meet their educational needs. She was the answer to their requests.
I have seen the reverse of this too many times to count. Whether it was in education or in private industry, I have seen people not do something because it wasn’t their job. If you say you are committed to a project then you must be willing to meet the demands of the project, not merely pass on the details to someone else.
I think that is why we have the Old Testament reading for today. The commentary on the chapter points out the Hosea quickly discovered that being a prophet was not easy task. More often than not, the Lord required His prophets to perform difficult and even humiliating object lessons as a compliment to their message. We read today that Hosea was told by God to marry a prostitute and to give his children names symbolic of the problems Israel was having at that time.
Hosea named his first born son Jezreel as a reminder of the atrocities that had occurred at that city. God was to judge Israel for these sins, apparently through a military defeat at that sin. If you will remember, every time Israel went into battle without the blessing of God, they suffered a terrible and humiliating defeat. Hosea was to name his second child, a daughter, Lo-Ruhamah, which meant "Not Loved." This was a sign that God was temporarily removed his love from Israel. The third child’s name was Lo-Ammi or "Not My People." This was God’s way of telling the people of Israel that their covenant was in danger of being broken.
I can imagine that Hosea must have said to himself that he didn’t ask for this. And I don’t think there is one of us who would disagree. The same is true today. We look at all that is around us and we wonder why it occurs, why God lets such bad things happen. But that is the same as the neighbor inside the building hearing his neighbor knock and asking for bread. What shall we do?
We must also remember that God never intended the punishment inflicted on Israel in Hosea’s time to be the final judgment. Hosea’s task was to show the people of Israel that they had been unfaithful in upholding their part of the covenant relationship with God. Through Hosea God announced that He would use severe judgment to free His people from the spiritual stupor and get their attention.
And while we might think that God intended to end the covenant relationship, we always know that has never been nor will it ever be the case. God’s intent is always to restore His people. When they repent of their sins, when they come to God and ask forgiveness, then life becomes better.
God loves us as His people and He will allow nothing to ruin this relationship and He will do everything to preserve it. Paul points out that Christ’s actions were solely to show this love and to maintain the relationship between God and us.
That is why the first thing that we should always ask for, the thing that God wanted from the Israelites in Hosea’s time, was forgiveness. The Israelites were told that if they repented their sins and turned away from their former ways, the glory of the kingdom of David would be returned to them.
Paul very vividly pointed out that everything Jesus did was so that all would be forgiven. What was expected of the people then and was expected of the people today was that we do God’s work, that we were to hold to the faith that has saved us.
But we must also remember that there are times when others ask and we are in turn asked by God. Sometimes the task that we are asked to do is not one we desire but in doing it, others will come to know Christ. As you go out this week, remember that you will get what you ask for. So ask for what you need and remember that you may be the means by which others get what they ask as well.