Steadfast Love

March 13, 2021

Hosea 6:1–6 | Luke 18:9–14 | Psalm 51:15–20

New Year’s resolutions for me last about two hours; my Lenten disciplines may be maintained for two days before I forget or give up. My self-discipline is sorely lacking, and I don’t seem to be very good at accepting imposed limitations. A friend, who could have been speaking for me, once told me, “Nobody can tell me what to do…not even me.” How comforting then to read that God does not require sacrifices. “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

Easy, right? Well, maybe not.

First, I’m muddying the meaning of sacrifice. I think God doesn’t care whether or not I give up chocolate. The sacrifice referred to in Hosea and the psalm is about paying homage to God by offering back a portion of what God has given to us.

Second, sacrifice is not a bargaining chip. The psalmist offers burnt offerings, sacrifice and oblations if God will rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, even after recognizing that God takes “no delight in burnt offerings.” The Pharisee in Luke boasts of his fasting and tithing, but his hubris is not rewarded. His love is for himself rather than for God.

And finally, it’s not always easy to love steadfastly. To love steadfastly is to overcome expectations, judgements, disappointments, disagreements. To love God steadfastly is to know God and to have faith in God. And as in all that God asks of us, steadfast love does not come with a manual. To borrow from Father Tim’s sermon last week, “You gotta do the work!”

So here we are, back to the central message of our faith: Love is what God desires. Love is what Jesus taught. Love is what binds us together. Love is an act of faith; faith is an act of love.

If even I can’t tell me what to do, maybe love can.

Sally House