This was a sermon given by my friend, Lauriston Avery, at The United Methodist Church of Danbury on 31 July 2022
The Scripture readings for this message were from Hosea 11:1-11 and Luke 12:13-21
The hymns for this Sunday were “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” (UMH #140), “Seek Ye First” (UMH #405) and “Take My Life, and Let It Be” (UMH #399).
Thank you for having me again, I am praying Kim is recovering well now, and that you won’t need me back again so, so soon!
Trigger warning, though. I plan to ask a lot of questions, hard questions, today. And I don’t have any of the answers!
First question: Who’s your god?
Every time I asked myself that as I was preparing for today, I heard the song by the Zombies . . .do you remember it? . . .
What’s your name? (What’s your name?)
Who’s your daddy? (Who’s your daddy?)
He rich? Is he rich like me?
Has he taken (has he taken?) any time (any time) (to show) to show you what you need to live?
. . . It’s the time of the season for loving . . .The Zombies – Time of the Season
Our scripture lessons deal with the human understanding and ambiguity of love, does it come from an earthly place or a divine place? Are we completely conscious of what we are doing in this life? Are we really connecting with God, or are we replacing God with something else? Do we know what we need to live?
So, who IS your God?
Is it Golf? My husband used to regularly skip church on Sunday and I would sit on the edge of the bed and show first my left hand, then my right hand and say “Golf? or your immortal soul? Golf? or your immortal soul?” ~it didn’t dissuade him from taking up his golf clubs (and not his cross) I’m sorry to say.
Is your God an ism? Communism or Socialism or Capitalism or Woke-ism or Progressivism, or Liberalism or Conservatism or Libertarianism? Do you think that society could be made right if ONLY we would adopt one of those isms, that there, in that societal construct, would be the answer to everything, all our problems?
Or maybe your sexuality is your God. Is your gender identity the most important thing about you? Do you live into your fantasy, or do you live into your fidelity?
Is Roe your God or is Dobbs your decision? Does God legislate a woman’s body or does God have an investment in a fetus’s chance at life? Is this complex situation an impossible one for we, who love God, to forgive one another?
How about fear, is fear your God? Are you afraid of what the world can do to you, or what a virus can do to you? Are you paralyzed by your fear, or do you flaunt your fear in dangerous risk taking?
Are you yourself your God? Do you depend on only yourself? Are you fully self-reliant in your own capabilities and depend on your own strength and productivity for your security? And how’s that working out for you?
Is politics your God? Tell me are you on the red team or the blue team?
We have an event every summer in our community called Shakespeare On The Sound. One year they performed Henry the fifth, and my dear friend took her young sons to see the play ~but they only got to see the first act and went home at intermission because it was too late for them to stay up. The next morning, she went to get her son out of bed and he popped up and he said “Mom! Who won? The red team or the blue team?” The play was about King Henry of England always at war against France. We seem to perpetuate that endless war, don’t we? What about us? We always seem to be at war between our red team and our blue team. And yet if we look at the things, we each accuse the other of, well it’s the same thing! When we are divided along those tribal lines, we seem to always achieve the same outcome: more division, more war, less love, more death.
Is no-God your God? I have a friend on Facebook who is an avowed atheist and anytime I post anything relating to my faith he comes and gives it the good old atheist attack ~he doesn’t take it kindly when I say to him “It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe in God because God still believes in you.”
My atheist friend’s God is Science because he won’t believe anything until it can be absolutely proved empirically and for him the heavens are NOT telling the glory of God, that’s not evidentiary enough proof for him that God exists. (Say “evidentiary five times fast!)
In our Hosea passage the prophet points to his community still believing in the gods of Baal ~do you know what they did to worship the god Baal? They used to take their children and sacrifice them in the fire. This remains a continuing problem today, in the crime of human trafficking. The sacrifice of children goes on today and it’s just as horrific as it’s described in our Hebrew Scriptures. God did intervene when Abraham took Isaac to sacrifice him at the altar, in the fire. That was an important moment when God definitively eliminated the horrible practice of child sacrifice, God demonstrated his compassion and his loving care for his people. God rescued them, called them out from slavery in Egypt! But Hosea laments, that they continued to turn away from God, and they continued sacrificing their children to Baal.
But it is the true God, who is our God, who is bigger and more compassionate and eternally persistent than all these other false Gods, Hear O children of Israel, because our God is all, and in all. And yet, we, the heritage of Israel, we continue to turn away.
In our Gospel lesson Jesus is first confronted by someone who asks him to intervene with his (likely) older brother, to divide the inheritance with him. In those days, the eldest brother always got a double share of the inheritance. Jesus sternly calls him a word that means generically “human.” (The word would have referred to both men and women) He referenced Moses here, who intervened when two Hebrews fought with each other, but Jesus rejects the idea that he is a second Moses; he is not their judge and ruler, as the two Hebrews fighting demanded of Moses, but Jesus is their teacher, and savior.
Now he tells the story of the man who kept building bigger barns and relying on his harvest filling them; and it’s God, the true God, who laughs at him and who calls him “dummy!” Literally, dumb, like a statue, unable to speak, senseless in fact, a statue, an idol, a no-god. A fool! Because your soul is required of you tonight! Your immortal soul is required of you, and all you’ve got are bigger barns and NO TIME to eat drink and be merry. And all your wealth, whose will they be? An unanswerable question for sure. Maybe all those crops will become that younger brother’s inheritance, who was mad about his older brother’s double share.
Apparently, this human, foolish, dummy, fails to recognize that his immortal soul is at stake, that he is himself the harvest, and not his barn full of crops. God shouts at him “You can’t take it with you!” It’s worthless chaff, if you don’t have God.
I like to imagine Jesus telling this parable in true comedic style and that those who are listening to him might’ve been “rolling on the floor laughing out loud” because they were well aware of the fragility of life and they were well aware of how often, as the Yiddish saying goes, “Man plans, God laughs.”
And I imagine God, the loving father, and the doting mother in one, who, as described in Hosea, has taught his beloved Israel to walk, who took them up in His arms, but they did not know, they did not realize, that their God, their mother’s kiss, has healed their wounds, that it was God, God’s self, that led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love, who lifted them to God’s cheeks, it was God who bent down to feed them.
How can we resist the love of God? The overwhelming, never-ending reckless love of God, who sings over us? Who breathed his own life-giving spirit into us? Who has been so, so good to us? Who has been so, so kind to us?
Oh these unanswerable questions, this deep and delicious mystery that we try to name and call God, our Yah-Weh, the breathing in and breathing out of God’s own spirit that is our source and sustaining life, our only source, our only sustaining spirit, this gift, this human life that is just wind, just spirit, the only Way, the only One to help us to find the true treasure, which is the divine life, a life richly blessed in God.
Even though we, God’s children, continue to turn away, to rebel and seek other gods, God loves us more than any human parent could, God’s love for us is unfailing, God’s love is a love that will not let us go.
Who’s our God? God is our God. The God, the One God, that is so much greater than any human thought or idea or thing or achievement. When we add up all we can do, God is greater than that, and God is requiring our immortal soul today, tonight, all days and all nights, because when we turn, return, toward God, there is no greater riches than to be at one, in God’s Love.