Seventh Sunday after Trinity                      18 July  A.D. 2021

Psalms 18:1-20          First Lesson. Hosea 14      Second Lesson. Romans 6:12-18


                               Lord of all power and might, who are the author and 
                               giver of all good things; Graft in our hearts the love
                               of thy Name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with
                               all goodness, and of thy great mercy keep us in the same;
                               through Jesus Christ our Lord.        Amen

                “Come back to God”

O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.
2 Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.
3 Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.
4 I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.
5 I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.
6 His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon.
7 They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.
8 Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found.
9 Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.

 Our Old and New Testament readings are so much like a back to back instruction manual; a problem-solution formula. In many ways this formula if you would, is what can help a New Testament Christian understand the importance of the Old Testament.  As we read New Testament passages, especially the letters of Paul and the four Gospels, we will read direct quotes from Old Testament records, mostly in the fulfillment of prophecy of the coming Savior.
As you read the passage from Hosea you see the promise of the Lord to those who repent. You see a sweet reward to those who turn from their wickedness and live.  
   In the first verse Hosea beseeches the reader to return to the Lord thy God. And he even explains why, you have fallen by thine iniquity.  How plain is that?  
  The next two verses Hosea explains how the Lord will heal the iniquity of them who turn to Him and also explains the futility of looking to manmade concepts that will not save them.  Horses, foreign powers or works of their hands will not save us. 
  Hosea ties this idea up all the blessings that come from being healed of backsliding or turning back to God.  This is very much a visual and scent driven idea.  The shadows that provide cool shade, the life giving corn, the refreshing wine and the fresh smell of cedar or fir trees.  Almost reminds you of that quip; ‘...as fresh as a Carolina pine forest..’   There is something refreshing and cleansing that comes from the scent of pine or fir or cedar. 
  Then Hosea wraps this whole healing process up with a word to the wise. “Who is wise and he shall understand these things? (He who is) prudent and he shall know them. For the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.” 
  He writes of all the blessings of coming back to the Lord and then as a final warning he lets us know what happens to those who transgress the Lord. They shall fall.

   Now let us see the other side of this equation: the need to yield oneself to the Lord, in mind, body, and soul...in other words; everything must be given to the Lord.  Because we are His and should always desire to do good.  He became sin for us and by doing that very act on the Cross he made us fit to be alive from the dead and our bodies to be instruments of righteousness unto God.  Wow, what a wonderful idea.

   As Paul writes this letter we can see that he is looking down through the ages to a time when there will be decisions to be made.  ‘Do I follow God or do I follow the World?’  He frames that concept this way. ‘...know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness...’. 
      He doesn’t pull any punches, you either are for God or not, no in between. And no doubt of the consequences of obedience to sin: DEATH.   If you look back at verse 13 you see that we are delivered from death (the dead). That of course because of the work on the Cross by the death, burial, and resurrection unto LIFE by Christ Jesus.
     Paul gives us a positive boost in the last two verses of this passage.  
17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

  In conclusion we see what happens when we turn from our wickedness and live as depicted by Hosea’s writings. Then we read what St. Paul wrote as to the promise of following God, not yielding to sin, being alive in Christ and being instruments of righteousness unto God; we are left with a positive note.  Follow God and live. 
 We understand that daily we are to ask God to forgive us of our sins and daily we are to walk in righteousness; because He has forgiven us of those very sins.  This will make us servants of righteousness. The very thing that we are to do as followers of Christ the Lord.

Let us pray: 

Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that Thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of Thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Almighty and everlasting God, the Comfort of the sad, the Strength of sufferers, let the prayers of those that cry out of any tribulation come unto Thee; that all may rejoice to find that Thy mercy is present with them in their afflictions; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Lord bless us, and keep us. The Lord make His face to shine upon us, and be gracious unto us. The Lord lift up His countenance upon us, and give us peace, both now and evermore. Amen.

                    

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