Archive for July, 2012

HOSEA 4 ~ Praying the Scriptures

Jul. 19th 2012

A Daily Collect: “Justifying Lord, you have seen that there is no faithfulness or loyalty in the land, for we lie, cheat, and murder, or we are, at least, complicit when others do so in our name. Lead us to mourn our sin and restore us to right knowledge and understanding, so we may not come to ruin. This, we pray, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (based on Hosea 4)

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HOSEA 3 ~ Praying the Scriptures

Jul. 18th 2012

Devotional Reflection:

In reading vs. 2 of Hosea 3, I was moved to remember a ministry that we learned about at the United Methodist Church’s quadrennial youth gathering (Youth 2011): Loose Change to Loosen Chains. “Loose Change to Loosen Chains (LC2LC) is a student-led campaign for elementary to college students to combat modern-day slavery while learning about the reality of injustices today”. LC2LC learned from Real Simple magazine how there is $10.5 billion in loose change lying around American households. So, as they imagined a world with no modern -day slavery, they imagined what they could do even if they collected just a fraction of this amount. In partnership with International Justice Mission (IJM), LC2LC will use the money donated through this program to rescue victims of slavery and other forms of oppression.

While Hosea uses the metaphor of whoredom for Israel unfaithfulness, the metaphor breaks down when we come face to face with the realities of prostitution, human sex trafficking and modern day slavery, where vulnerable people are forced into situations we can’t even imagine for ourselves. In Hosea 3, the message is that God’s redeeming love is constant. I say, for us who believe ourselves to be beloved Children of God, why don’t we do more to redeem those whom society has forsaken. Why don’t we be on the move to bring release to the captives and to let the oppressed go free? LITERALLY.

There are several programs that are seeking to combat human and sex trafficking. If you simply google, “human trafficking” or “sex trafficking” you will get an immediate listing. For some statistics on human trafficking, you can do the same. You can do something; even with the loose change in your pocket.

In Christ, Pastor Shandi

 

A Daily Collect: “Redeeming God, your loving grace is surely unmerited and unconditional, for you freely offer us it in the midst of our faithlessness. Have your precious Spirit ignite in us an impassioned love for you, so that we may no longer seek you but know that, right now, we are in blessed communion with you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (based on Hosea 3)

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HOSEA 2: Praying the Scriptures

Jul. 17th 2012

A Daily Collect: “Merciful and loving God, you created us in your image and made an everlasting covenant with us; yet, too often we pursue false gods to our peril while you graciously bid us return. Remind us of your steadfast love for us and show us the life of faithfulness, so that we might come to know, for once, the way of justice and righteousness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, we pray. Amen” (based on Hosea 2)

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A Devotional Reflection – HOSEA 2

Jul. 17th 2012

It is day two of reading Hosea and already I am having a hard time moving beyond the very human dimensions of the metaphor Hosea uses to describe the Divine-human relationship. I feel compelled to comment on what is troubling me before I move to write my collect for the day.

In my very first pastoral appointment, I received a call from a couple from the community that wanted to get married. This would be my very first wedding to officiate. I was rather thrilled and nervous at the same time. I scheduled a series of pre-marriage counseling sessions with the couple, something I had never done and had only learned about in a couple of sessions at local pastor’s licensing school. When the counseling sessions began, I noticed almost immediately that something did not feel right. As I counseled the couple, I noticed that the woman seldom said a word. The man would speak for her and answered every question, even when I would address the woman directly. I even tried separating the couple, in one of the sessions, to conduct individual one-on-one sessions; but, even then, it felt as though I was hearing rehearsed responses to my questioning. I decided to proceed with the wedding, agreeing to officiate, even though something in my spirit was deeply troubled. I had not yet learned the courage to say, “No, I cannot officiate your wedding.” All I had for evidence were a few signs and the troubling in my spirit. To make a long story short, the story ended with the woman finally finding the courage to escape to a battered women’s shelter. The man was arrested and had a court appearance the last I had heard. I had spent one too many times with the couple after the woman had been hospitalized yet refusing to press charges.

Domestic violence is a reality all too common in our society. And what is often surprising is how seemingly good people can commit such heinous acts against people they purport to love. But, there can be no excuse for such behavior and acts of aggression. Sexual violence and domestic abuse is Sin and an evil that should not be accommodated. It is difficult for me to read scripture that portrays God as a jealous husband who can punish his lover for her unfaithfulness. I get it, that, we must understand the culturally conditioned context in which the biblical word is written; but, I can’t help but wonder why, in God’s infinite wisdom and illumining Spirit, God could not transcend culture by prompting the writers to do justice to God’s character.

Nevertheless, thanks be to God that, in my reading and interpretation of the same scriptures, I can appeal to the Holy Spirit to cause me to rise above the very human dimensions of the biblical text as I seek a Word from the Lord for my life today. I must confess that even I, a pastor’s kid now a pastor himself, am guilty of the propensity to Sin and violence. I am ashamed to admit that in a past relationship I argued with a girlfriend so terribly that, in my anger and the heat of the moment, I threatened her and wished her dead. Of course, I did not mean it, but just having the thought scared me to death. I allowed myself to lose control and let my anger consume me. Everyday I regret my loss of control and feel so ashamed that, I often feel like I cannot atone enough for my sin.

As I read and pray through Hosea 2 today, I am ultimately reminded of the greatest Sin I can commit: to fashion and portray God after my own image. While metaphors can be helpful to understand something about my relationship with God, I am cautioned against taking them and using them uncritically, for I may just be portraying God after my own image. I am not sure that the grace of the incarnation, of the Word becoming flesh, meant that I could now make God appear like me, not even like my best self. I am created to be in the image of God (not the other way around) but God is bigger than any metaphor I could use to describe who God is, even in relationship to me. And so, in the end, all I can do is to shrink before the mystery of who God Is and pray that God shows mercy (ruhamah) on me, and counts me as one of God’s own (ammi).

In Christ, Pastor Shandi

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HOSEA 1~ Praying the Scriptures

Jul. 16th 2012

A Daily Collect: “Gracious and merciful God, your love for me is patient and steadfast, even when I turn away from you, seeking other gods for lovers. Have pity on me, and forgive my unfaithfulness. Restore me to your trust so that I may be counted among your beloved, the children of your flock, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (based on Hosea 1)

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Prefacing Hosea

Jul. 16th 2012

Thank you for joining me in reading through and praying through the scriptures. Over the last months, I have been reading through the prophets. Today, I begin reading through the book of Hosea. The book of Hosea has been a difficult book for me to read; and so, I felt that it was appropriate and necessary to offer a prefacing commentary on the book. The following notes are taken from Gale Yee’s commentary in the New Interpreters Bible Commentary.

 

The prophetic book of Hosea provides a vivid and passionate look at the covenantal relationship between God and Israel, employing two metaphors from human relationships: the husband/wife relationship in marriage and the parent/child relationship. In biblical tradition, different metaphors are used to capture the unique covenantal relationship between God and Israel. The use of biblical metaphor seeks to draw from the bonds of human relationships (e.g. between king and servant, lord and vassal, etc) to communicate different facets of the covenantal union. The book of Hosea was the first to employ the metaphor of husband for God and casting Israel in negative female imagery as God’s adulterous wife. However, interpretive problems arise when the metaphorical character of the biblical image is forgotten.

In particular, the marriage metaphor for the covenant between God and Israel becomes problematic for women who continue to be victims of sexual violence and abuse. Hosea’s marriage metaphor arises from a particular ancient social context. The husband/wife metaphor of the God/Israel covenant in the book of Hosea Is embedded with specific, culturally conditioned notions of what it means to be male or female and how each should behave in a particular society. Present-day Euro-American societies are quite different in their understanding of marriage and gender relations. Thus, understanding Israel’s institution of marriage and its laws regarding adultery in marriage becomes critical to interpreting Hosea.

Regrettably, I am not able to walk us through an interpretive study of Hosea at this time (My plate will be full with preparing for Sunday worship, leading the Saturday Men’s studies and the Disciple Bible study on Genesis). My objective is simply to read through the book devotionally. However, I did not want to do so without acknowledging the challenges we might face as we read through the book together. Should the metaphor and imagery in the book present significant challenges for you, I want you to know that I am available to accompany you and share in your questioning and reflecting. Feel free to reach out to me and to others as you encounter need. Above all, I want to affirm for you that God is gracious to wrestle with you as you wrestle with the text.

Remember, as we devotionally read through the scriptures, we are asking two simple  questions: 1) what stands out for you (images, words, verses, etc) and why?; 2) what do you believe God might be saying to you through that?

I pray and hope that this journey will be an enriching journey for you. Thank you for deciding to covenant with me and share this journey with me.

In Christ, Pastor Shandi

 

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Invitation: Walk With Me?

Jul. 16th 2012

He said to me: Mortal, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it; and in my mouth it was as sweet as honey.(Ezekiel 3:3)

When I was in Seminary, I experienced the distinct blessing to be invited into a covenantal relationship with a fellow classmate. His name was Kevin. Kevin and I became friends when one day, during lunch, he asked me if I would be interested in entering into covenant with him for daily devotions, prayer, and accountability. He said he had been praying about whom he could share this journey with and, in his prayers, I had come to mind, even though we had not been friends for long before that. What he did not know is that I, too, had been praying for someone with whom to share the journey. Although we were essentially immersed in biblical and theological study as part of our seminary studies, we both felt that something was missing. We desired a deeper spiritual practice that would nurture us personally and would be distinct from any assignments we had to do for classes.

With the answer to our prayer, Kevin and I covenanted to wake up at 6:00am every morning to read scripture and to pray together. (We were not morning persons). As our practice, we would select a book of the Bible to read through together. In our meetings, we would read a chapter a day. (Sometimes it felt as though the chapters were reading us, so early in the morning). We did not engage in anything complicated – no theological discussion, no historical critical thinking (we left that for classes). Each morning, after reading the chapter for the day, we would ask one another two simple questions: a) What (words, verses, or images) stood out for you and why? b) What do you think God is saying to you through it? That was all!

After sharing our reflection and discernment, we would ask each other for any prayer requests. Then, we would close in prayer, praying for one another and giving thanks for the Word God had spoken to us that morning. On average, we spent 30minutes in devotions. On really good days (when we were awake), we could spend an hour and, maybe even follow it up at lunch or dinner or a coffee break during the day. Then, about once a week, we would meet at a Starbucks to hold one another accountable as we shared our triumphs and struggles during the past week. Words cannot begin to express how much of a transforming experience this was for me. Through this experience, I filled my heart’s stomach with the Word of God; tasted it and found that it was sweet as honey.

I share this experience with you for two reasons: first, I hope this can be a model that you can use with your family and friends if you’re not already engaged in personal devotions and prayer. Even if you do your own private devotions, I challenge you to invite at least one other person to share this journey with. I cannot tell you how many times I felt God speaking to me through Kevin, through his reflections and discernment. This experience taught me that: We need one another.

Second, I share this experience because I wish to invite you to share in my journey. Those of you who are “friends” with me on Facebook may remember that during Lent, I read through the Book of Isaiah. I read a chapter a day, and with each chapter, I wrote one or more prayers based on the scripture for that day. To write those prayers, I simply asked myself the same two simple questions that Kevin and I asked. As I listened for what God was saying to me, I transformed it into prayer, using the words and images from the scripture to form my praying words. The experience with Kevin taught me that we can find help and accountability along the way once we begin sharing such a journey together. Sometimes I get too busy or too lazy to read my chapter for the day. But, when I know that someone else is depending on me and waiting for me, I am less likely to skip a meal that would enrich my spirit. So, I am writing to invite you to enter into covenant with me.

Beginning on July 16, I invite you to join me in my journey and read through the scriptures with me. I have been reading through prophets. On July 16, I will start reading through the book of Hosea, and later Joel, Amos, etc. As I did through Lent, I will post on my Facebook Wall (and hopefully the church website) at least one prayer based on the chapter for the day. I invite you to read a chapter a day with me. I invite you ask yourselves the same two questions. And, if you wish, I invite you to post your reflections and discernment on your Facebook Wall (or comment on mine). I invite you to walk with me as we journey on along the way of discipleship.

As we eat and have our fill, I pray and trust that you and I will taste the Word of God and find that it is indeed sweet as honey. Come walk with me?

In Christ, Pastor Shandi

 

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