When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them,
the more they went from me;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
and offering incense to idols.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them up in my arms;
but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness,
with bands of love. (Hosea 11:1-5)
The message of Hosea is even more striking than that of the other prophets when it comes to family and bodily metaphors. God's message to Hosea is that God's people have betrayed the familial relationship in choosing to follow other gods. We too follow other gods, sometimes harming others with our greed and misuse of others, and sometimes only harming ourselves. Regardless of how we get into sin and separation from God, getting out is always as easy as turning toward God's mercy. The God who led Israel with "cords of human kindness" will lead us back as well.
Beyond our own reconciliation with God, however, we are also called as Christians to reconcile others. We do this by recognizing our own sin and imperfection and showing by our repentance the way to be reconciled to God. We do not do this by judging others' sin, for if Jesus is not willing to judge in this week's Gospel (Luke 12:13), we certainly should not be setting ourselves up as the arbiter of other people's sins. Our role in the reconciliation of the world is to be those "cords of human kindness" that help others to return to the right relationship with God.
There are many ministries in the Episcopal church that represent this kind of loving support for turning around lives harmed by sin, greed and exploitation, but one of my favorites is Thistle Farms, a personal care product business started by an Episcopal priest in Nashville, TN that helps women escape situations of abuse, violence and trafficking by providing shelter and work as well as healing opportunities. Many of these women are victims of others' greed and our society's willingness to treat some of its most vulnerable citizens as at best invisible and at worst as resources to be exploited. Some have made poor decisions that they are recovering from. All are beloved children of God who need places of hope and people willing to realize that healing is from God and to share that with others.
Watch the Traveling the Way of Love video about Thistle Farms here: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/twol/turn
In Christ's peace,