Return, Israel (You and me) to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you, and return to the Lord. Say to him: “Forgive all (my) sins and receive (me) graciously, that (I) may offer the fruit of (my) lips.” Hosea 14:1-2
Assyria (or any other power I turn to) cannot save (me); (I) will not mount warhorses (strategies of my own design). (I) will never again say ‘(My) gods’ to what (my) own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion.”
RE-ceive and be RE-stored
I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger
has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel;
(he/she) will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he/she
will send down his/her roots; his/her young shoots will grow.
His/her splendor will be like an olive tree, his/her fragrance like a
cedar of Lebanon. People will dwell again in his/her shade; they
will flourish like the grain, they will blossom like the vine—Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon.” Hosea 14:4-7
As we begin our sermon series on Acts this Sunday, remember that the church and the gift of the Holy Spirit was given so that we could return, repent, receive and be restored into community with each other and in communion with God. This is why Christ came, and God’s passionate longing for our connection with him is peppered throughout the book of Hosea.
During Lent it is good to remember the cost of this gift that Christ gave to us which is the ability to return home to him again and again…to repent of our sins, receive forgiveness and finally be restored to God. This gift cost Christ his very life.
Jesus wants us to understand and respond to the “again-ness” of our need to return, to repent, and to receive his forgiveness and restoration. The fact that we are “prone to wander” may embarrass us, but it is no surprise to God.
I heard once about a beached whale that was moved to an aquarium in an effort to save his life. The whale always swam to the north-facing corner of the tank towards the direction of the ocean even though it was many miles away. There was something in him that knew which direction he needed to be headed, even without an ocean around him. The momentum of life tends to spin us in all directions. Like the whale, we are designed to seek out that “true north”, to respond to the longing to return and hold fast to the truth of Christ’s love for us. The words of Hosea 11 invite us to confess our sins, and return to the Lord” so that we can experience God’s love afresh.
REPENTANCE begins with confession but includes an intention to change. Repentance means to turn away from something in order to leave it behind. We confess and we use our volition to go in a new direction. We can do this because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. One of the gifts of repentance and forgiveness is that we don’t have to carry the weight of our sins on our
backs. Jesus fell as he carried the cross. The weight was on HIS back. He takes it off of ours. Repentance offers freedom to let go of what has held us in bondage, leave it behind and experience the freedom offered through forgiveness.
RECEIVING & BEING RESTORED: Receiving the Father’s love and forgiveness offers us a new identity. Even as we repent, the invitation is to receive again the love and power that is ours as we embrace the truth that we are God’s beloved. Hosea tells us that God longed to be like the morning dew to his people, Israel. He offered them renewal and understood that they would need that fresh gift every morning - again and again – so that they could be restored again and again. So do we!
Questions for Reflection
From what or where are you being invited this Lenten Season to return?
From what are you being invited to repent? Hosea’s challenge to “take words with you” reminds us that confession written or spoken (aloud or in our minds) grounds our confession in reality and keeps it from being simply a fleeting thought. Perhaps you would like to write out your confessions during this season.
These materials have been adapted from a Wellspring Lenten Retreat purchased by WVPC