Marriage is a special and unique relationship so in our readings today God uses this close and unique relationship to describe his relationship with his people.
As we know, marriage can turn into a disaster, and hence in the land of the rich and famous the prenuptial agreement is almost a given. I wonder what the lawyers would make of one of the worst non pre-nup. Marriages as described in Hosea.
A marriage that saw Hoseaâ€™s wife turned to prostitution and sold her body for money. Their relationship was broken. In Hosea 2 we read:
â€œBut now, call Israel to account, for she is no longer my wife, and I am no longer her husband. Tell her to take off her garish make-up and suggestive clothing and to stop playing the prostitute.â€
Hoseaâ€™s marriage was a reflection of Godâ€™s relationship with his people. The unique relationship of God with his people had completely broken down. The people had left him and were chasing after other gods. What particularly hurt God was that everything his bride (the Israelites) had accumulated had come from Godâ€™s loving and caring hands: both her daily needs and her special treasures.
â€œShe doesnâ€™t realise that it was I who gave her everything she has â€“ the grain, the wine, the olive oil. Even the gold and silver she used in worshiping the god Baal were gifts from me.â€ [Hosea 2:8]
It is amazing that God creates people to populate this flourishing earth, gives them everything they need and more, and yet these ungrateful people turn their backs on him and chase after the treasures, which become their gods. Everything they receive is from the generous hands of God â€“ even their very bodies. Everything they might crave and lust after is his generous work. The creative genius of God is seen in every plant, and animal; every drop of life giving rain; each newborn baby, and the daily food we enjoy. But people prefer the gifts to the giver.
The bridegroom wants what is best for his wife and children. He wants his bride to be faithful to him and showers her with gifts but she prostitutes herself and chases after other men. Even the children are not his own.
â€œAnd I will not love her children as I would my own because they are not my children. They were conceived in adultery.â€ [Hosea 2:4].
There are many people today who live as if they have no husband – or God – even though everything comes from his love and care.
But God doesnâ€™t give up on his bride â€“ his people. He wins her back with a love so costly that people might say, â€œWhat a waste of a great love!â€ Godâ€™s love never gives up reaching out to people. That is the key message of Epiphany.
Even though only a few people visited the child Jesus, and they were foreigners from far away, Godâ€™s love doesnâ€™t give up in reaching out to people. He doesnâ€™t look at the few who turn up, and give up in disgust. He continues to reach out like the arms of the cross reach out in love to encircle the earth and everyone who lives on it.
Thereâ€™s a saying of cheap grace by some towards others they see as accepting it a little too unrespectfully. Godâ€™s love isnâ€™t cheap! The bridegroom is tortured to death, and blamed for the brideâ€™s unfaithfulness. He gives up everything he has for his bride. This is the love that won you and me. In Isaiah 62:4,5 the Scripture announces:
â€œNever again will you be called the Godforsaken City, or the Desolate Land. No longer will you be called â€˜Forsakenâ€™, or your land be called â€˜The Deserted Wifeâ€™. Your new name will be â€˜the city of Godâ€™s delightâ€™ and â€˜the Bride of Godâ€™, for the Lord delights in you and will claim you as his own. …Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.â€
God spoils us! We receive everything from Godâ€™s caring and generous hands: just like a devoted bridegroom loves to spoil his bride with expensive gifts and provide for her. Like a bride, we can be proud of our God, and count on him for our future together. We are the bride he loves to spoil.
What an important day a wedding is! It can be one of the most important turning points in oneâ€™s life. Itâ€™s a time for celebration, and feasting and gathering together with friends and relatives. As we heard in our gospel today, the first miracle Jesus performs is to make the new start to a marriage a social success. He provides hundreds of litres of the best wine. He comes up with the goods where the bridegroom and his family had failed (explain). God cares about us and our relationships!
We belong in a special relationship with God. His loving care and concern for us never end. Any weakness in the marriage relationship is on our side. It can hurt him in many different ways, but he never gives up. In the wine at the Lordâ€™s table we receive the best he has. The cup of wine offered to us isnâ€™t just to forget our troubles: it is given so we can remain united with him forever.
Our earthly marriages are limited. We are reminded of this in the words of the marriage vow, â€œTill death us do partâ€. In the unique relationship we enjoy with God, death can not separate us. In fact the opposite happens. Death brings us closer together. It unites us with Jesus in perfect love.
In a marriage partnership it is probably true to say one can never fully understand oneâ€™s partner. In some aspects the partner can still be a bit of a stranger. So it is in our relationship with the God who loves us.
On our journey together we donâ€™t always know what he is thinking or planning. We live in a relationship of trust. Part of this trust is that God knows better than we do about important things like love and forgiveness, and our future.
A future that sometimes is not as planned like that of this groom who after 11 years of being gainfully employed and approaching married did a tally of his possessions and most surely saw that I did not need a prenuptial clause in the wedding papers as a fading old falcon as some second hand furniture did not amount to a great deal of material value. A collective total of asset worth that amounted to less than I had been given playing country football. 11 years of wiping out brain cells even though I didnâ€™t have a whole lot to spare, and 11 years times and situations that maybe I had to travel, yet was changed when my bride to be â€œre-introducedâ€ me to our Lord Saviour.
Now 21 years later I can clearly see God at work before I properly knew Him, just as I can since.
Times even when He let me be boxed in with my own shortfalls and mistakes that I had no option than to go a certain way. To travel a road Iâ€™d prefer travel not, but a road that always seemingly against the odds ended in a positive way that I would not have guessed nor planned for.
Roadâ€™s where we all travel with God where not He, but we if anyone put in a prenuptial agreement to our Father to act and provide as we think He should.
The wisdom of the Lord like that spoken to Gideon who though having 32,000 men at his disposal, was told by the Lord to attack the enemy the Midianites with no more than 300 hundred of them.
Three hundred against the opposition camp in what the bible describes as â€œpeople laying along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels without number as the sand that is on the seashore.â€ Odds said to be off 450 to 1 yet with some crafty bluff tactics had the Midianites shaking in their boots as they ran for their lives.
The wisdom of the Lord and the road before us that sometimes we all travel like that of Jacob who though only needed to cross the road to become Israel, decided to take the long route with God constantly steering him back to the relationship that God had planned.Â For I know the plans I have for you,â€ declares the Lord, â€œplans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
A future here and a picture given to the end of our time on earth as pictured in the New Testament like a bridal party waiting for the groom to arrive.
Until then, we live in hope and trust in our Lord through faith. Faith that He is with us when decisions and situations are against the type. But faith that see us when he arrives knowing of and living in His perfect love. Our God is love. Now we know him a little – from a distance as it were. But through Jesusâ€™ death, he has claimed us as his promised bride. Then our own death will mark the beginning of the closest and greatest relationship possible with the God of love. Our old self will have disappeared completely. We will be the perfect bride for the perfect bridegroom. We shall be united forever in perfect love with God and live with him in his home. It is the best union one can ever enjoy-today though it may seem overcast, and in that tomorrow when the clouds give way that we clearly see to the unencumbered rays of sunshine radiating from our Saviour Jesus Christ-and know not only through faith, but through touch, feel, sound and smell see that yes, when there was only one set of footprints on that sandy beach-they surely were not ours, but that of the Lord carrying His most precious cargo. His cargo not of gold, jewels or diamond that was in honour His to have, but that to what He had to have that could only be bought with the cost of His own life. That which is you. That not only you who He knows by name, but you who He knows as His brother or sister in both this life and in the one to come. Praise be to the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Amen.