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My Husband; My Wife

Children's sermon
For July 28, 2019:
  • My Husband; My Wife by Dean Feldmeyer — Even when we have been unfaithful, when we have been dysfunctional and destructive, when we have been mean, and hateful, and all those things that make us so disgustingly human, even then, God brings us home from the back alleys of sin and covers us with grace.
  • Second Thoughts: Ask, pray, love. by Chris Keating — Jesus implores the disciples to seek God’s kingdom rather than the twisted, manipulative kingdoms of the world.
  • Sermon illustrations by Mary Austin, Ron Love and Bethany Peerbolte.
  • Worship resources by Chris Keating.
  • Children’s sermon: Name Tag, You’re It! by Tom Willadsen — This is kind of related to the Hosea 1:2-10 reading, though I’m not sure you want to mention it too explicitly.

Dean FeldmeyerMy Husband; My Wife
by Dean Feldmeyer
Hosea 1:2-10, Psalm 85, Luke 11:1-3, Genesis 18:20-32

Jereboam, king of Israel, and his priestly advisors, were all in love with Assyria.

After all, since the days of his great grandfather, Jehu, nearly a hundred years ago, Israel’s alliance with Assyria had made Israel rich and beautiful, powerful and prosperous. The military was the envy of the entire region. The stock market had never been higher. Unemployment was at an all-time low. The rich were getting richer and the poor were, well, not quite as poor as they used to be. The middle class was expanding, small business owners were happy as clams, and the status was agreeably quo.

Only one problem: All that wealth and comfort had led Israel to become morally bankrupt. The Israelites had abandoned the tenants of their religious faith. After all, who needs YHWH when you’re young and rich and beautiful and you have Assyria on your side, right? Who, indeed?

Into this moral muddle, God calls Hosea to preach the people back to faithfulness and righteousness. But what, exactly shall he say, what image shall he use?

He looks into the mirror and sees the answer: His own dysfunctional family. That will be his pulpit metaphor to bring Israel back to the Lord.

In the Scripture
His wife is an unfaithful crack-addicted prostitute. No doubt his family tried to warn him: Can’t you see, she’s a mess? She may be off the stuff now but you’ll never be able to trust her. She’ll leave you and the kids and go right back to that life — sooner or later, it’s bound to happen. And you, a prophet of the Lord. How’s it gonna look?

He may have even considered the possibility himself.

But he loved her. Her name was Gomer bat Diblaim and he loved her. 

So he married her and they had three kids and they settled down and he prophesied against the king. Not much of a job, admittedly, but hey, he was called to by the Lord, God.

So dedicated to it was he that he named his three children prophetic names: The firstborn son was named Jezreel after the site where his great, great grandfather, Jehu, massacred the army of the Omrides, and killed their king, Joram, and Joram’s mother, Jezebel.

His second child, a girl, he named “No Mercy.” He said it was as a sign to Israel that God was going to show no mercy to them if they did not come back to the Lord.

And his third child, a son, he named Lo Ammi, which means, “Not My People” because God was going to punish Israel’s apostasy by abandoning them and denying that they were ever his people.

One might imagine how the kids felt when their mother shouted their names to call them home from the marketplace every evening. The teasing they received in middle school must have been unbearable. Yeah, thanks, Dad.

So, okay, maybe he went too far. Maybe he was too severe and brought his work home a little too much. Maybe it was bound to happen no matter what he did but, as predicted, she ran away. “R-U-N-D-O-F-F,” to quote the movie, “O Brother Where Art Thou.”

Hosea, being a prophet and all, tended, according to scripture, to over react and he took it out on the kids:

“Turn away from your mother,” he tells them, “leave her and rebuke her for what she has done! She is no longer my wife and I am no longer her husband. Tell her to remove that whorish makeup from her face and tell her to stop flaunting her body and sleeping with other men. Go ahead, tell her!

“Because if she doesn’t, I’m going to strip the clothing I bought her right off her body and take her out into the desert and dump her there, naked as the day she was born, where she’ll become as burnt and barren as the desert. Let her die of thirst and exposure, I don’t care!

“And you! How do I know you are even mine? You are probably the children of one of the men she slept with when she was selling herself on the streets, when she said, ‘I’ll go find some men who love me, who will wine and dine me and give me expensive clothes and rich wine to drink.’”
(Hosea 2:2-5 – my paraphrase)

Yeah, pretty harsh, huh?

Of course, he doesn’t actually do any of the things he threatens to do. He relents. He goes into the city and searches the back alleys and the crack houses and the whore houses until, finally, he finds her, beaten and strung out, raped and abused.

And, looking upon her, he remembers the love they had at first and he takes her home where he nurses her, gently, back to health. And when she is finally, fully awake, when she opens her eyes and looks at him, she says, quietly with the little strength she has left, “My husband.”

He answers the only thing he can say, because his love for her is so great. When all is said and done, when ripping pain of betrayal and the white heat of anger have abated and cooled, he still loves her and he says all that is left to say, “My wife.”

It’s not all over, of course. It seems, if we read between the lines, just a little, that his children became just as rebellious as his wife. They ran off, as well, and he had to go get them, too. He had to bail them out and pay their fines to defend and protect them as any loving parent eventually does.

He doesn’t want to, of course. All he wants to do is walk away and let them suffer the total weight of their own bad choices or, at the very least, smack them upside the head and ask, “What were you thinking?” and tell them this is the last time he’s going to do this.

But, as he tries to decide what to do, he remembers when they were little, when they were toddlers and how much he loved them. And he remembers a poem about such a time:

“When they were children, I loved them and I rescued them from trouble. But the more I loved them, the more they went away from me. They made bad adolescent choices, like sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to images.

“I taught them to walk and held their hands; but they did not realize it was I who healed and held them. They didn’t remember that it was I who led them with cords of kindness, with ties of love. They didn’t realize that it was I who fed them and I who picked them up when they fell and cried and it was I that held them close to my face.” (Hosea 11:1-4, my paraphrase.)

And, remembering, again, the love he had at first, he relents.

“How can I give you up, my children? How can I turn you over to the system that will grind you up? How can I treat you like criminals, like Sodom and Gamorra? My heart breaks. My desire for compassion warms my whole being.

“No! I will not give up on you. I will not act out of my anger and resentment. I will love you and forgive you for I am not a judge in a court of law. I am your father who loves you unconditionally.”
(Hosea 4:8-9, my paraphrase)

Later, he will borrow from this, his own experience, and use it as a metaphor for God’s experience with Israel. He will work his own embarrassing family life into his sermons and hope that the hearts of his listeners will be moved even as God’s heart has been moved with love and compassion when Israel, God’s wife and God’s child, has been unfaithful and disobedient.

In the News
Darling you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
If you say that you are mine
I'll be here till the end of time
So you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?

—“Should I Stay, or Should I Go” by The Clash

Should we stay or should we go?

The president insists that if you disagree with your government and especially its leaders, you should get out of the country. Just leave. Take your stuff, and get out. You aren’t welcome.

Of course, others insist that this is ridiculous. Criticism of our government is an American right, they say, maybe even a duty. Does the constitution not guarantee us the right to petition our government for the redress of grievances? (First Amendment)  

Those are grievances we’re redressing, there, not satisfactions and agreements. One doesn’t petition the government in order to pay it compliments and tell our elected officials they are doing a great job. No, that kind of thing is left to campaign rallies. Petitions are usually put forward to ask for or demand change. And you have to be present to make a petition.

So, we have answered the Clash’s question, at least in part. We should stay.

So don’t look for “the Squad” to be leaving any time soon. Right now they have a duty to their constituents to fulfill and they’re doing it as they see proper.

Not everyone agrees with those ladies, however.

According to a 2014 study by the Mexican National survey of Demographic Dynamics and referenced by the Pew Research Center, more Mexicans are leaving America for Mexico than the other way around. And here’s the real shocker: More Americans are moving to Mexico than Mexicans are moving to the U.S.

At last count, around 800,000 American citizens are currently living in Mexico and the number is growing, and, “the trend has become an increasingly significant phenomenon that has started to [positively] affect Mexico's economy and culture."

And, interestingly, this figure could be highly underestimated because most of these Americans are undocumented. And Mexico doesn’t care!

Now, no one is arguing that 800,000 is a landslide or a huge rush of people but it does show that a significant number of Americans are answering the Clash’s question: “Go.”

When your government has become intolerable to you, when it no longer represents you, when it seems insensitive to your needs and out of touch with your values, what do you do? When your neighbor can offer better climate and friendlier people and better, cheaper health care, and a lower cost of living, what do you do?

Do you stay or do you go?

Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts have chosen, like Hosea, to love that which hates them, to embrace that which is shoving them away, to serve that which denigrates their service, and to fight the good fight for empathy and freedom and, yes, for love.

They are not running away.

They are not hiding behind a shouting, angry, hateful mob.

They are not playing the victim card.

They are not moving to Mexico.

They are staying and doing the hard and often hurtful work of love.

In the Pulpit
Right now, thousands of members of the United Methodist Church are recoiling from the pain they suffered this Spring when the denomination decided to deny marriage and ordination to LGBTQ persons and to severely punish pastors and church leaders who didn’t comply with the ruling. How will they respond to their hurt? Will they stay or will they go?

Some churches are preparing to leave the denomination; some individuals have already done so.

Others are waiting, hoping and praying for a miracle at the 2020 General Conference that will reverse the denomination’s stand. Whether or not the miracle comes, some will stay, some will go.

Plenteous research has shown that many young people have already made their decision. They have gone. They have decided that Christianity, as they experience it, is anti-gay, anti-science, anti-sex, and anti-dissent, and they want nothing to do with it. They have opted to become what they call, “spiritual but not religious,” just another way of saying that they have decided to go.

Understandably, some will not want to take the exploration of this text to the political extent that I have, but it would not be inappropriate to ask the question, “What do we do when the things, the people, the institutions we love most, push us away and reject us?”

Most of us have experienced it in our lives at one time or another. We’ve been dumped by a girlfriend or boyfriend. We’ve been rejected for a date or even a friendship. We’ve been denied a well-earned, well-deserved spot on the team or in the play.

As adults the rejections are of a different type but no less painful. Perhaps even more so.

We’ve been laid off from a job or denied a promotion. We’ve been cheated on or lied to. We’ve been abandoned or denied acceptance and love.

We’ve been disappointed or betrayed by a friend or an institution we trusted. Or maybe even, like Hosea, by a spouse.

And we have to decide how we will respond.

Shall we stay or shall we go?

The texts offered above suggest a path that may lead us through such considerations. Along the route we find grace and acceptance, empathy and love. And we find prayer, the kind of prayer that helps us ask and listen as well as the kind of prayer that launches us into action that seeks and searches and knocks.

However we choose, we are invited by scripture to remember that even when we have been unfaithful, when we have been dysfunctional and destructive, when we have been mean, and hateful, and all those things that make us so disgustingly human, even then, God brings us home from the back alleys of sin and covers us with grace.

Ask, pray, love.
by Chris Keating
Luke 11:1-13

We are surrounded by the contrasting cries of two kingdoms. Across our nation, politicians solicit votes by telegraphing coded messages that result in a heatwave of racial slurs and xenophobic rage. Heralded by racist dog-whistle politics, crowds at rallies cry “Send her back.”

Meanwhile, those called by Jesus cry “hallowed by your name your kingdom come.” It’s a difference of prophetic proportions; a gap promulgated by politically charged rhetoric and changed realities. The cries of President Trump’s supporters to deport Somali-born Congresswoman Ilham Omar mark a shameless moment in American politics. According to columnist Michael A. Cohen, it’s a time when the racial dog whistle has become the racial steam whistle.

Jesus’ followers are also called to shameless persistence, albeit in very different ways. His words are neither encrypted by, nor encoded by, bigotry. His teaching on prayer is not rooted in an anxious quest for personal success. Instead, he equips the disciples to be bold in seeking the things which will cause the kingdom to flourish. Rather than shaming others, Jesus calls for a shameless pursuit of justice and hope.

President Trump’s language demeans political opponents, shaming them through targeted attacks on their positions, and suggesting that the four women hold anti-American views. It’s the latest — and perhaps most prominent — of a form of political speech known as “dog-whistling,” the high-pitched silent whistles which nonetheless broadcast a signal to a politician’s base.

Many saw it as an invitation to the political right to push back against electoral efforts of immigrants, persons of color and others with ancestral roots in non-European countries. It was a shameless ploy, even if the President later walked back some of what had happened. The “send her back” cries led to the House of Representatives to issue a rare censure of the President’s words.

Dog whistling is a common technique which arose from the field of political polling. Researchers took note when respondents seem to see or hear things in questions which were not originally intended. It’s the technique behind coded language like “family values,” “immigrants,” and “bad hombres.” The phrases encourage followers to instinctive reactions often based on fear. It’s a stunning reminder of how political kingdoms are often built on foundations of emotion-based reactivity.

The liturgies of political campaigns compound these code words into potent calls for action. In that sense, they exhibit a bold shamelessness carved from raw anger. The dog whistling of politicians summon their followers, building upon histories of racial injustice and marginalization.

Jesus’ followers, however, are summoned by other language. Jesus calls the disciples to follow him in announcing God’s reign. For Luke that means proclaiming the good news to the poor and opening the eyes of the blind. The disciples are invited to see the work God is doing along the margins of society. Jesus’ words are transparent, encrypted only by grace and an invitation to live abundantly. The disciples receive these messages and are led by the Spirit into acts of mercy and compassion.

Like President Trump, Jesus’ words also confer an identity upon his listeners. It is a vastly different sort of identity, however. Rather than focused on hatred and fear, the identity confirmed upon those who seek to follow Jesus is formed by the confidence that God’s love offers all that is needed. The spiritual formula is simple: ask, pray, and love.

The disciples have been faithfully watching, and in Luke 11 they ask Jesus for instructions on prayer. His response is framed by a sort of shamelessness that offers its own form of boldness. Disciples’ petitions to God are audacious in nature, framed by acts of diligent asking, searching, and knocking. The midnight petitioning of bread from a friend in 11:8 is better rendered as “shameless” than “persistent.”

Commentators note that the shame-based values of Jesus’ day would have compelled a response from the sleeping friend. The friend would rather lose sleep than lose face, and would have felt obligated to answer even the most annoying of calls. The result is a reminder of God’s deep desire to respond to our calls. God’s response emanates from the deepest part of God’s being.

In contrast, the charged responses of identity politics are reactive in nature. When the President calls out the “squad of four” liberal congresswomen, tweeting that they are incapable of loving the United States, it lights a fuse for both his supporters and opponents.

Activist Padma Lakshmi notes that the words of Trump’s chanting respondents are like a saber puncturing her heart. “Those words, those hurtful, xenophobic, entitled words that I’ve heard all throughout my childhood, stabbed me right in the heart,” she wrote. “They echoed the unshakable feeling that most brown immigrants feel. Regardless of what we do, regardless of how much we assimilate and contribute, we are never truly American enough because our names sound funny, our skin isn’t white, or our grandmothers live in a different country.”

She called it “Charlottesville 2.0”

Jesus’ followers know something else: it is language that stands in opposition to the audacious reign of God, a kingdom defined by abundance, graciousness, forgiveness and justice.

Mary Austin
From team member Mary Austin:

Luke 11:1-13
Prayer — answered and unanswered
The lesson from Jesus about prayer leads to a lot of doubt and frustration when our prayers aren’t answered. It’s never as simple as it seems in this particular scripture. Religion writer Jonathan Merritt talks about his journey with God through deep physical pain. He recalls: “My struggle with chronic pain began out of the blue. One gray December day, I woke up and couldn’t feel my hands. I wrung my arms, shook them violently. Held them under hot, then cold, water. No sensation. I’m a full-time writer whose typing hands pay the rent. Panicked and bewildered, I called my doctor.” “Probably carpal tunnel syndrome,” she said. “The symptoms only grew worse, and then he began to struggle with panic attacks.”

Desperate, he consulted with “an army of health practitioners: orthopedists, neurologists, chiropractors, nutritionists and even a Hasidic Jewish healer. My medication list grew as fast as my symptoms: anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, nerve pills, painkillers, antiepileptic drugs, sleeping pills, healthy doses of Lexapro and Xanax to stave off a nervous breakdown. I broke down anyway. Pain assailed me every moment. I awoke to pain, worked with pain, dined with pain and fought for sleep in spite of pain. My routine fell apart. My social life disintegrated. I felt tormented and alone. Even God seemed to abandon me. First I pleaded for help. Then I raged. Finally, still in pain, I gave up and figured God didn’t care. I mostly stopped praying, stopped going to church.”

“Today,” he says, “my pain is mostly gone. My relationship with God is restored. I write, publish books and travel to public speaking engagements as I did before. I am, you could say, healed. Or is that the right word? Certainly it’s tempting to tell my story as a kind of miraculous healing. After all, that’s the kind of story a person of faith might gravitate to. I see my experience differently. If there was a miracle, it was a miracle born out of struggle, despair, hard-won knowledge and a willingness to question everything I once thought true. Pain, I have learned, is a teacher. A hard teacher but sometimes a necessary one…I actually began thinking about pain as a teacher when I was at my absolute lowest point. By that time, I’d been in pain for more than a year. I was with a friend, waiting in a pharmacy for yet another prescription.

“Do you think God is doing this to you?” my friend asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I hope not. All I know is that it feels as if pain is some kind of teacher. I just don’t know what the lesson is yet.” “That was the hardest part, not knowing why this was happening or how I was going to get out of it.”

“A short time later, I was visiting a friend who rented a room in his apartment to vacationers. A Portuguese woman renting the room happened to overhear me talking about my misery — pretty much all I ever talked about.” “The same thing happened to me,” she said.

“Surely not, I thought. The doctors had told me they’d never seen my array of symptoms and had no explanation.”

“I was told I had fibromyalgia,” the woman said. “I was put on disability. I thought I’d never work again.”

“You’re not in pain anymore?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “And it’s thanks to a doctor right here in New York. His name is John Sarno. He writes about the connection between the mind and the body. You should try one of his books.”

“Mind? Body? What was she talking about? I looked up this Dr. Sarno. He’d begun treating patients for back pain in the 1970s. He noticed that there was often no correlation between patients’ symptoms and the physical condition of their backs. Some had pain but no underlying physical problem. Others had slipped discs and other abnormalities but little pain. One thing many of his patients did have in common: huge amounts of stress and unresolved emotional conflict. Sarno concluded that, at least in some cases, chronic pain can be caused by more than physical symptoms. Resolving problems in the mind sometimes resolves problems in the body.”

This was all alien to him, and he had grown up with people who said faith and prayer were enough. Still, he was desperate enough to see the doctor who recommended a therapist. “Still skeptical, still desperate, I saw the therapist. To my surprise, I found myself weeping in her office and talking about all sorts of things that seemed to have nothing to do with the numbness in my hands or my inability to sleep or the pain that tortured me every day. Over the course of many months, I told the therapist about the strictness of my upbringing. About the idea I’d absorbed that God is mercurial and wrathful, loving only those people who are perfect and follow the rules…The more I told, the more I began to see not only how much psychological pain had built up inside me over the years but also how frightened I was that maybe the pain was punishment from God or a sign that I was doing something wrong. Or, worst of all, a sign that God didn’t care and had turned his back on me.”

The therapist recommended meditation and contemplative prayer, “sitting quietly in God’s presence rather than coming to him with a laundry list of requests. I tried it. It felt strange at first. A bit boring and frustrating. Thoughts and fears clamored noisily as I sat. The more I did it, the more the clamor fell away and I felt myself surrounded by something I had never experienced before. A loving presence larger than my fretful mind. Larger than my pain. Larger than everything.”

Through that he discovered a “God who did not demand perfection. A God who did not give up on me and never turned his back on anyone. A God who always kept this central, defining promise to humanity: I am here…And yet, as I regain my health, I am grateful for what I learned.

“I learned how to pray again. I learned that, like everyone else, I experienced hard things growing up but that those things do not have to rule my life today. I learned to accept myself as I am and that I don’t have to be perfect to be loved…Doubtless I will know pain again as I get older. I am ready for it now. Walking with God, I know I will not be alone. And so I will not be afraid.”

* * *

Luke 11:1-13
Unanswered Prayer
Jesus’ words about prayer in Luke’s gospel raise the question of what happens when our prayers aren’t answered. What happens when it’s not as simple as ask, seek, knock? Author Bob Hostettler says that something is happening in our connection with God, even when a prayer doesn’t seem to be answered. He says, “Sometimes prayer doesn’t work. That may be an unpopular — even blasphemous — statement. But it’s more or less true, from our human perspective at least. We pray for a healing that never comes. We ask for something to change, and it doesn’t. We plead for answers we never get. But even when a prayer isn’t answered, it still “works.” My five-year old grandson, Ryder, sat at the dinner table, nearly in tears. He glared at the three remaining chicken fingers on his plate. His mother had told him to take three more bites of his food — just bites, not even the whole thing — before he could be excused from the table. He complained and cried as though eating three bites (of a food he normally enjoyed) would threaten his very existence.

I sat down beside him. I tried to encourage him, to no avail. 

Then he straightened and looked at me, bright-eyed. “You could eat my chicken for me.” 

“No, buddy, I can’t. Your mom said you have to eat three bites.”

“But if you eat it, she’ll think I did.” 

“But it would still be disobeying your mom. And it would be a lie for us to let her think you ate them.”


“No, I’m sorry, buddy. But I’ll sit here with you for as long as it takes. We can talk or we can sit quietly, until you manage to eat three more bites.”

“His heartfelt entreaty didn’t work. But we sat together and talked a little until he finally managed to finish his meal.”

He concludes, “We may not always get our preferred answers to our prayers. We may feel at times as though God isn’t listening, much less cooperating. But prayer still works in such times. It continues the conversation. It reminds us that He is there. And even when — for whatever reasons — we don’t get the answers we crave, prayer still brings comfort and strength from being in His presence and knowing we are not alone.”

When we ask, seek and knock, we grow closer to God, even if the answer doesn’t come in the form we imagine.

* * *

Luke 11:1-13
A Train Station in Prayer

As the world remembered the anniversary of D-Day this summer, a writer remembers an unusual experience of prayer when the invasion was announced in Washington, DC. Charles E. Wilson tells about the day.  “Thousands of people criss-crossed back and forth through Washington’s Union Station that morning back in 1944. The high-ceilinged central waiting room was alive with a tense excitement that was reflected on the faces and in the quick footsteps of the wartime commuters coming to the capital. There was a sense of expectancy in the air. For weeks, months, one word had been in people’s minds. It hung in the air, almost touchable, just out of reach: Invasion. I stood there on this morning of June 6, 1944, waiting for a friend and scanning the faces of the commuters as they poured out of their trains and into the station. There was no announcement on the loudspeaker, no Extras were shouted, there was no visible source of the news: but suddenly the scurrying and the criss-crossing stopped, the loud hum of a thousand conversations ceased, the news passed from friend to friend, from stranger to stranger: ‹What is it? What’s happened?’”

“The Invasion’s begun... they’re landing in Normandy.”

“A hush fell over the waiting room. I was aware of little things — the soft tread of the few people still walking, the stream of sunlight that fell into the waiting room as it does in a cathedral. While I stood watching, it began. First it was a woman who, right there in the station, dropped to her knees and folded her hands; near her, a man knelt down. Then another, and another, until all around me people knelt in prayer before the hard wooden benches of Union Station. What were we praying for that morning of the Invasion. For Jim, for Franz, or for Giovanni — or just for peace. Perhaps for no reason at all, except that in the hush we felt the need to pray. The quiet lasted for no longer than a few minutes. Then, slowly, the woman rose to her feet. The man next to her rose, too, cleared his throat and walked off rapidly as if he felt a sudden embarrassment. Within seconds the station was alive with movement and talk again. But for those of us who witnessed the hush, Union Station will always have a special meaning: we were there on the day the railroad station in Washington, DC, became a house of worship.” [This story first appeared in the June 1958 issue of Guideposts.]

* * *

Hosea 1:2-10
Posie? Milo?

It’s safe to say that the names Hosea chooses for his children are never going to make the Top Ten list…in any year. For anyone looking for baby names, the web site Nameberry has some suggestions. The website just identified Posie and Milo as the top baby names for 2019, according to a new ranking spotted by HuffPost. To be clear, names like Isla, Freya, and Aarav — all of which made the top 100 list — are not among the most common names being selected by parents. Nameberry is more interested in keeping track of the names that are trending at any given moment, which depends on the number of page views each name gets. “While this list is not a measure of which names babies actually received in that month, it’s far more current than official baby name popularity lists and also can work as a tool for predicting which names may be destined to become more popular in the future,” Nameberry writes on its website.

Looking back, “Olivia and Atticus were the top names of 2018, but they both dropped to third place on the girls' and boys' lists, respectively, for 2019. For the girls, Posie and other classic, nature-inspired names like Rose, Iris, Ivy, and Violet seem to be making a comeback this year. As for the boys, Eastern names like Aarav (of Indian/Sanskrit origin), Aryan (of Indo-Iranian origin), and Bodhi (also Sanskrit) cracked the top 20.”

Coming trends include biblical names, but probably not the ones Hosea chose.

* * *

Hosea 1:2-10
Names With Meaning
If you want to choose a name for child (or cat or dog — we don’t judge) with a particular meaning, you can choose the attribute you're seeking and plug it into a web site to get the names with that meaning. Want a name that means courage? Light? Winner? The site will give you the names.

Or perhaps you want the meaning of more common names.  You can easily find out that John is a form “of the Hebrew name Johanan "God is gracious." The name is of great importance in early Christianity and was given to John the Baptist, John the Apostle, and the author of the fourth gospel. Many saints and a total of 23 popes also had the name.” or Jennifer: “Of Celtic (Arthurian) origin, a Cornish form of the name of King Arthur's unfaithful Guinevere. At the beginning of the 20th century, the name was merely a Cornish curiosity, but since then it has become enormously popular all over the English-speaking world.” Pity your friends named Barbara, which is Greek for "foreign woman.” People named Richard fare better: of Germanic origin, it’s derived from roc "power" + hard "strong, hardy."

* * * * * *

Ron LoveFrom team member Ron Love:

Genesis 18:32
Then he said, “Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.”
When Kevin Spacey was accused of sexually abusing a number of young boys over the years, he was banished from Hollywood. The movie All the Money in the World, at a cost of several million dollars, reshot the scenes that Spacey was in, having replaced him with another actor. Netflix filmed the sixth and final episode of the House of Cards absent of Spacey’s presence. In June 2018, less than a year after his banishment, Vertical Entertainment released the movie Billionaire Boys Club. It is about wealthy boys involved in a Ponzi scheme. Spacey plays the supporting role of Ron Levin, a con man. Vertical Entertainment is unapologetic about using Spacey, as he appeared multiple times in the movie trailer. The company said in a statement: “We hope these distressing allegations pertaining to one person’s behavior — that were not publicly known when the film was made almost 2.5 years ago — do not tarnish the release. We don’t condone sexual harassment on any level and we fully support victims of it. At the same time, this is neither an easy nor insensitive decision to release this film in theaters, but we believe in giving the cast, as well as hundreds of crew members who worked hard on the film, the chance to see their final product reach audiences. In the end, we hope audiences make up their own minds as to the reprehensible allegations of one person’s past, but not at the expense of the entire cast and crew present on this film.”

* * *

Hosea 1:9
“for you are not my people and you are not your God”
For Pride Month in 2018, major retail outlets produced clothing, hats, tote bags and other items in support of Gay Pride. Target, Levi-Strauss, H&M are among many other companies who participated in the movement. The problem arose when they outsourced the manufacturing of the items to countries where homosexuality is persecuted and, in some countries, illegal. These countries include China, India, Bangladesh, Turkey and Myanmar. Dean Malka, the president of Swish Embassy, a clothing retailer based in Toronto that caters to gay men, manufactures most of his clothing in the United States. The rest are made in Britain or Latvia. Malka said. “It doesn’t bother me that H&M or Primark produce pride memorabilia. In fact, I think it’s a positive indicator of where our community has arrived in terms of acceptance. It does bother me if they are sourcing from countries with no LGBT protections. If a company like ours can make the right choices to source from countries with at least basic protections for LGBT rights, I don’t see why they couldn’t.”

* * *

Hosea 1:6
I will no longer have pity on the house of Israel or forgive them.”
Dylan Roof, on June 17, 2015, two months after purchasing an illegal.45-caliber handgun, killed nine people attending a Bible study at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. A South Carolina judge, Richard M. Gergel, concluded that the policies and procedures of the FBI permitted the purchase. He said the bureau was engaged in “abysmally poor policy choices,” and its background checks were “hopelessly stuck in 1995.” Calling the current background check system “a sham,” the judge added, “No need to review the facts as everyone is in agreement that grievous bureaucratic errors were made arising from apathetic negligence.” The judge was firm in his decision when he said, “The record reveals that the FBI’s background check system is disturbingly superficial, excessively micromanaged by rigid standard operating procedures, and obstructed by policies that deny the overworked and overburdened examiners access to the most comprehensive law enforcement federal database. Reports by the FBI’s Inspection Division and the then FBI director, James Comey, make much of the fact that the examiners adhered to every policy and procedure of the agency. Since little is required, it was hardly difficult.” James B. Comey, the FBI director, responded, “We are all sick this happened. We wish we could turn back time. From this vantage point, everything seems obvious.”

* * *

Luke 11:13
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, the owner of the Washington Post, and the richest man in the world, embarked on a philanthropic project in September 2018. Two months before the midterm elections he donated $10 million to the “With Honor Fund.” The organization supports military veterans running for Congress who vow to take a cross-party approach to governing. The group endorsed 33 candidates running in 2018 – 14 Republicans and 19 Democrats. By the year 2021 Bezos has plans for Amazon to hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses, calling them “incredible leaders.”

* * *

Colossians 2:8
“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.”
Nike has long relied on controversy in marketing an image of edgy youthfulness. The company had Charles Barkley declare that he was not a role model and Tiger Woods remind people that some country clubs would turn him away because of his skin color. It dressed the tennis player Andre Agassi in jean shorts. In the first week of September 2018, Nike returned to that tradition, revealing Colin Kaepernick, the polarizing former NFL quarterback who knelt on the filed during the National Anthem, as a face of a major new marketing campaign honoring the 30th anniversary of its iconic “Just Do It” slogan, a move that may prove to be its most controversial yet. Nike’s base of young customers and fans, according to analysts, signals that political stances could be seen as winning issues by some brands. Nearly two-thirds of individuals who wear Nike in the United States are under 35 years old, and are much more racially diverse than the baby boomer population. Those buying the products are millennial and Gen Z customers, and those consumers want their brands to take visible, social positions, and this was an opportunity for Nike to do just that. In the end, there might be two simple explanations for Nike’s move: money and attention. Mr. Kaepernick’s jersey was among the top 50 in sales during the second quarter of 2017, even though he was not on an NFL roster. The ad, called “Dream Crazy,” features Mr. Kaepernick and other star athletes in the Nike stable, including Serena Williams and LeBron James. It implores viewers to dream big, using the inspiring stories of those stars and of everyday weekend warriors who overcame illness or disability to triumph athletically. The slogan of the ad campaign has Kaepernick saying, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

* * *

Colossians 2:12
“raised with him through faith”
In May 2012, statistician Hans Rosling is recognized for his contribution to advancing the public health in Africa. His contribution is to use statistics to change people’s perception of the health problems and how they can be resolved. Rosling said of his work, “I am not an optimist.” Rather, he would like to be defined as a “possibilist.”

* * *

Colossians 2:12
“raised with him through faith”
In the May 2012 publication of Time magazine, the editors devoted a special double issue to the 100 individuals they presently considered to be the most influential in society. The managing editor, Richard Stengel, opened the issue with a commentary. He noted that the word influence, “originates from the medieval idea that a magical liquid emanates from the stars to influence our actions on earth.” He stated that today influence comes “from the magical ability of technology and social media to overcome time and distance and reorder our perceptions.”

* * *

Psalm 138:3
“On the day I called, you answered me”
“So you understand the roaring wave of fear that swept through the greatest city in the world just as Monday was dawning — the stream of flight rising swiftly to a torrent, lashing in a foaming tumult round the railway stations, banked up into a horrible struggle about the shipping in the Thames and hurrying by every available channel northward and eastward.” In this descriptive passage, H.G. Wells, in his book The War of the Worlds, describes the fear of the Londoners as the Martians approach their city. Terrorized, the residents scurry to leave the city. Their movement is so fast and furious it is as if the people have become a tidal wave of a rushing water of fear.

* * *

Colossians 2:7
“just as you were taught”
Dwight Moody was working as a boot salesman in his uncle’s store, Holton Shoe Store, in Boston in 1855. Edward Kimball, the proprietor’s Sunday school teacher, was determined to win Moody’s soul for Christ. One afternoon Kimball found the eighteen-year-old working in the stockroom. Kimball took the opportunity to witness to his young friend about Jesus. Dwight L. Moody accepted the invitation to surrender his life to Christ and became one of the greatest evangelists of the 19th Century.

* * *

Colossians 2:7
“just as you were taught”
Avvakum was the founder of what became known as Russia’s Old Believers. They openly and vehemently opposed the changes to the theology and liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church that was being instituted by the patriarchs. They considered such changes to be the corruption of the church, moving the church toward the beliefs and practices of the Easer Orthodox Church. Considered a heretic, Avvakum was sentenced to live in a pit above the Arctic Circle. After 14 years of this ordeal, he was burned at the stake on April 14, 1682.

* * * * * *

Chris Keating
by Chris Keating

Call to Worship
One: God calls us to sink our roots deep into the loamy, fertile ground of Christ’s love.
All: Jesus shows us God’s splendor, and raises us to new life!
One: Abounding in thanksgiving, we live our lives according to all that Jesus taught us!
All: Jesus shows us God’s splendor, and raises us to new life!
One: Holding fast to Christ, we experience growth that comes from God. Let us sing praise to our God forever and ever.


One: Let God’s name be hallowed forever!
All: God gives us our daily bread, forgives our sins, and gives us all that we need.
One: Ask, and it will be given you; search and you will find; knock, and the door shall be opened.
All: God gives us our daily bread, forgives our sins, and gives us all that we need.
One: Let us worship God.

Collect/Prayer for the day
God of never-ceasing love, we praise you for your unending mercy. Gathered from the summer’s burning heat, help us to seek refuge in you alone. Offer us the assurance of your promises and encourage us to seek your kingdom’s promises, so that our lives may be rooted in the ways of your Son Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray, Amen.

“Holy God, We Praise Your Name”
“Alleluia! Sing to Jesus”
“What A Friend We Have in Jesus”
“Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim”
“I’ve Got Peace Like a River”
“Lord, Listen to the Your Children Praying”
“For the Bread Which You Have Broken”
“Seek Ye First”
“Somebody’s Knocking at your Door”
“Make me a Channel of Your Peace”
“God is So Good”
“Spirit of God, Descend upon my Heart.”

“Stand, O Stand Firm,” (Marty Haugen/John Bell)
“You are our Father, You live in heaven” (Australian/Aboriginal version of the Lord’s Prayer)
“Holy One, our only home, hallowed be thy name.” (Native American version of the Lord’s Prayer.)

Call to confession:
Paul says to us, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him…rooted and built up in him and established in the faith.” In humility and sincerity, let us confess our sin to God.

Unison:  Gracious and always giving God, you regard the lowly, and preserve us from our enemies, and you taught us to offer you our prayers. We confess that we have not always sought your forgiveness. At times, we have taken pride in our efforts to undermine your hopes for human beings and our planet. We have not listened to all that you speak to us, nor do we seek your guidance for our lives. We admit that our lips have betrayed us and have not hallowed your name. We have taken more than our fair share of resources and have placed our faith in kingdoms which are not eternal. Forgive us, Lord.  Let the taproots of our faith become immersed by the never-failing hopes of the Gospel of Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon:
Hear the good news! The promise of the gospel is that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; Christ rose for us; Jesus Christ reigns over. Believe the good news! We are forgiven, Amen.

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
As the disciples implored Jesus, so do we ask you now: “Teach us to pray.”

We praise you for the fullness of your steadfast love and offer you the thanksgivings of our hearts. Your faithfulness is sure, and your judgments wise. Your name is holy, praised above all other names in heaven and earth. We thank you for giving us all that we need: for daily bread and sustaining hope; for persistent grace and promised forgiveness; for deepest joys and the opportunities of opened doorways.

Hear the prayers of our hearts as we raise them to you. You have made us alive in Christ, so encourage us to be persistent in prayer. Help us to ask you for our daily needs, and to let your kingdom grow within us and around us. May the Holy Spirit come to us, offering us comfort and strength, guiding us in the ways of peace and lasting hope, through Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.

Name Tag, You’re It!
by Tom Willadsen
Hosea 1:2-10

You will need two packs of Post-It® notes. On one pack write a lot of different names that people are often called. Better yet, think of them as labels.

On the second pack write “Beloved Child of God” on all the labels.

Ask the children what their names are. Some might give their complete name as it appears on their birth certificate, for example: “Thomas Carl Willadsen,” others may give something like “Tom Willadsen,” or “Tom W.” it will depend on their ages and their comfort with the presenter.

Ask them what they call their parents, “Daddy,” “Dad,” “Honorable Father,” (I had a friend who taught his daughter to call him that.) “Mom,” “Mommy…”

You might get more variety with what they call their grandparents. You want to get them to understand that there’s always a connection between one’s name and one’s identity. A lot of people have nicknames that only special people can use for them. For example, I am the only person in the world who calls my niece “Niecee Bean.”

In the Bible there are a number of people whose name changes reflect profound changes in their lives. Two examples you might want to mention: Jacob — “He deceives,” or “he pulls the heel,” became Israel, “he contends or wrestles with God.” Simon became Peter, because when Peter identified Jesus as the Christ/Messiah he said of Peter, “On this rock I will build my church.” (“Peter” means “Rock” and even in French “Pierre” is “rock.” “Pierre” is Peter). Seconds later he said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan,” but you need not go there this morning.

Ask them if they have ever been hurt, or angry at a name someone called them. (The week I’m writing these thoughts there are a lot of people calling one another “racist,” and there is really no more insulting thing one can say about a white American that he’s racist, or “a racist.”)

In our society there are people who have to put labels on people and group them as though all left-handed people or hard of hearing people or blind people all have the same experience. I tend to call these people “Labelers.” [Pause here while that one sinks in…see I just labeled people as “Labelers.” It’s subtle, I know.]

Put your Post-It® note labels on the kids.  Have words like “Little” “Funny” “Silly” “Serious” “Responsible” “Kind” “Old” “Tall” “Musical” — maybe have several of these for organist, soloist, choir members. These are labels that people put on other people, sometimes based only on what the person looks like.

Now, pull out the second pack of Post-It® notes, all of which say, “Beloved Child of God.” Everyone gets one. They’re all the same! Because we’re all the same in God’s eyes!

If you’re not preaching this morning, and you’ve got a strong relationship with the preacher and the preacher can take a joke — have a label that says “Wordy” or “Verbose” for the preacher of the day. This is humor — and therefore risky — but in the right context it’s a lot of fun.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Immediate Word, July 28, 2019 issue.

Copyright 2019 by CSS Publishing Company, Inc., Lima, Ohio.

All rights reserved. Subscribers to The Immediate Word service may print and use this material as it was intended in sermons and in worship and classroom settings only. No additional permission is required from the publisher for such use by subscribers only. Inquiries should be addressed to or to Permissions, CSS Publishing Company, Inc., 5450 N. Dixie Highway, Lima, Ohio 45807.
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New & Featured This Week


John Jamison
“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (vv. 25-28)

* * *
John Jamison
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (vv. 31-33)

Hello, everyone! (Let them respond.) Are you ready for today’s story? (Let them respond.) Great!

[If you are using the monitor or cuff.]

The Immediate Word

Katy Stenta
Mary Austin
Dean Feldmeyer
Quantisha Mason-Doll
Christopher Keating
George Reed
Thomas Willadsen
For November 28, 2021:

Emphasis Preaching Journal

Frank Ramirez
Of course, we never quite return to the way things were -- because we have been changed by good fortune or bad. As we make sense of a world that has known the 2020 pandemic there are several things that can’t be undone, regardless of medical advances and a return to whatever we choose to call normalcy. First, not all of us made it through. Some of those who survived are not returned to full health. More important, the damage done by uncivil discourse, the sharp exchanges by those holding radically different views cannot be easily undone.
Bonnie Bates
Mark Ellingsen
Bill Thomas
Frank Ramirez
Jeremiah 33:14-16
The English poet Alexander Pope wrote, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast. Man never is, but always to be blest.” But where does man turn when hope dries up?”
Frank Ramirez
Of course, we never quite return to the way things were -- because we have been changed by good fortune or bad. As we make sense of a world that has known the 2020 pandemic there are several things that can’t be undone, regardless of medical advances and a return to whatever we choose to call normalcy. First, not all of us made it through. Some of those who survived are not returned to full health. More important, the damage done by uncivil discourse, the sharp exchanges by those holding radically different views cannot be easily undone.
Bill Thomas
Bonnie Bates
Mark Ellingsen
Frank Ramirez
Joel 2:21-27

The Village Shepherd

Janice B. Scott
Roly lay on the stone floor with his head on his paws. He wondered how much longer it was until it was time for food. Feeding time was the best time in the whole day, because then the humans came and rubbed his head and spoke to him and made a fuss of him.


Terry Cain
David O. Bales
Note: This was originally published in 2006.

What's Up This Week
A Story to Live By: "Signs" by David O. Bales
Sermon Starters: "Would We Recognize Him?" by Terry Cain
"Where Is The Church?" by Terry Cain

What's Up This Week
Peter Andrew Smith
David O. Bales
“The Feast Awaits” by Peter Andrew Smith
“Yes, Jesus Loves Me” by David O. Bales
“Preparing For Thanksgiving Day” by David O. Bales

The Feast Awaits
by Peter Andrew Smith
Joel 2:21-27

Margie sat on the edge of her bed. She hated this place and wished she was still in her own home. She should have fought the boys harder when they insisted she come here. She tried to hold the tears back, but they began to roll down her cheeks.


Cynthia E. Cowen
Today we enter the season of Advent. The countdown has begun as we once more anticipate the celebration of the birth of Christ. Advent is a time to prepare, not just our homes but our hearts. What joy floods our hearts as we sing "Joy to the world, the Lord has come!" The Son of God entered our world so quietly -- no one, except those searching the heavens, saw the star that announced his birth. However, today's gospel tells us that when Christ comes again, it will be a like a hurricane or a tornado. The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not shine. Stars will fall from the sky.
Robert S. Crilley
Some of you may be excited to learn that this morning's scripture lesson contains a benediction. "Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with his saints" (vv. 11-13). That is a benediction.
Frank Ramirez
First Lesson: Jeremiah 33:14-16

Theme: Empires Come And Go -- God Lasts

Call To Worship (Psalm 25:14)
The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes his covenant known to them.


Special Occasion