Grace Is True

On November 10, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Grace Is True Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Hosea 11 Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. I often hear well-meaning Christians say that grace is a new testament concept, or the […]

Grace Is True
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Hosea 11

Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

I often hear well-meaning Christians say that grace is a new testament concept, or the God of the Old Testament is angry and punishing but the god of the new testament is a god of love and grace.

Newsflash…Jesus’ god is the god of the bible he knew, and the bible he knew is what we call the old testament, the Hebrew bible. If Jesus speaks of a gracious god, he learned about that god from what we call the old testament.

In Genesis 21, Hagar has been thrown out of her home.

Hagar was Abraham and Sarah’s slave. She was then forced to be Abraham’s concubine. A surrogate mother for Sarah who had been unable to conceive.
But when Sarah did conceive, Hagar went from being a commodity to a perceived threat, and she was thrown out of her home with no resources.

In the desert, facing probable death, God showed Hagar a well in the wilderness. In the midst of unfairness, injustice, oppression, and betrayal…God was with Hagar. After discovering that lifesaving well, hagar also found a community and a new home. Comfort in a moment of anguish, a well in the wilderness, was a moment of grace when it was desperately needed.

In 1 Kings 17, there was a terrible drought. A widow was about to make her last meal. After that, she and her son would just wait to starve to death. The prophet Elijah came to the widow and asked for food. She told him she only had enough provisions to make some flat cakes as a last meal for her son and herself. Graciously, she decided to share her last meal with the prophet, and from her act of generosity a miracle of provision occurred. The flour and oil that she had which was just enough for one last meal lasted throughout the drought, and she and her son did not die. God was in the act of sharing. God was in the act of courage. God’s amazing grace was present in the time of need.

And we all remember the story of Jonah. Jonah went to Ninevah, the capital of Assyria, to preach their destruction. He got to Ninevah by way of a big fish, or sea monster. The story shouldn’t be taken literally, but its point is powerful. Jonah told the Ninevites that God was angry with them and was going to destroy them. But God did not. God was more gracious than Jonah wanted to believe. The Assyrians were an abusive empire, and Jonah didn’t like them. He pretended to believe that God didn’t like them either, But when God didn’t destroy them, this is what Jonah said:
“I didn’t want to come to Ninevah, God, because I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God…abounding in love…”

Jonah knew that God was love, and that love was by nature, gracious. He didn’t like it, but deep down, he knew it.

If we haven’t found grace in the Old Testament, we haven’t looked carefully enough. Yes, there are wars and smiting and finger wagging, but in spite of the imagery imposed by patriarchal times, the message of divine grace comes through, time and again.

We see that again when we read the prophet Hosea. Poor Hosea is married to a woman named Gomer. Hosea couldn’t get Gomer to stay home nights. Basically, Gomer would get picked up for solicitation and Hosea would always pay her bail.
Hosea was hurt, and humiliated. He could have left his wandering wife, but he loved her too much. No matter how much she hurt him, betrayed him…he couldn’t abandon her. Today we would call Hosea desperately co-dependent and suggest he check out a support group, but what Hosea did, instead, is use his heartbreak to help people understand the love and grace of God.

Hosea couldn’t abandon the woman he loved, no matter how she behaved; and God, Hosea believed, would never abandon us, no matter what.

Hosea knew his community didn’t always live up to the love ethic, didn’t always welcome the stranger, didn’t always love neighbors, didn’t always seek to keep the Sacred at the forefront of their consciousness. They turned to the false gods of nationalism, greed, racism, xenophobia. They worshiped cruelty and called it divine.
Hosea imagined this must have grieved God, and so, he imagined God being like a jealous husband raging against the unfaithful spouse, saying threatening things like, “One day you’ll call me and I won’t answer. I won’t care anymore!”

But that’s not God. God wouldn’t even snuff out the capital of a cruel empire. God moved the heart of a hungry widow to share what little she had and then helped her survive. God directed Hagar to a well in the wilderness. God is love and love is gracious.

So Hosea imagines God remembering: “I taught you how to walk. I bent down to feed you, like a nursing mother. I can’t give up on you. My love for you is too strong. I’m the holy One. I am with you. I will not show anger.”

That’s grace. That’s who God is.

There’s not a spot where god is not.
There’s not a place beyond god’s grace.
There’s not a time that’s not sublime.
God is all-in-all.

People have been abused, neglected, rejected, terrified, belittled, demonized, and dehumanized in the name of God. And, many have left religion, or even tried to leave God. But the prophet Hosea tells us that god is love and love is gracious and even if in our pain we turn from faith, the love that god is will never turn from us.

I hope you fall in love with God, but if you’re not there yet, I hope you will hear this: God is in Iove with you and that will never change, because Grace is True, and this is the good news. Amen.

Divine Love will never let me go.
I am amazed by divine grace.
And I am thankful.

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