Letters

Responses to the Hosea Service Series for Advent

Of all the articles I have written and published, none has elicited so much response to me personally and professionally as those (RW 53) “Amazing Love” Advent resources on Hosea and the related HomeLink meditations. I received more than three dozen calls, e-mails, or notes from pastors and worship committees from all over North America—Oregon, Washington, California, Florida, Arkansas, Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and many more-who requested more information or copies of the four Advent sermons on Hosea; some contacts from unordained folk were about the HomeLinks. Furthermore, I have had the unexpected privilege of continuing to correspond with several formerly unknown colleagues who have reported on how the Advent services based on Hosea as preaching texts “worked” in their congregations (see next two letters).

My own life and ministry have been surprisingly enriched by this entire experience. Thus I thank you for My own life and ministry have been surprisingly enriched by this entire experience. Thus I thank you for your help in the preparation and production of the materials you asked me to write. I pray that a few more people have been reached by the adamantine grace and love of God portrayed in Hosea as nowhere else in God’s incomparably rich Word. May God bless your continuing work and worship.

James C. Dekker
Thunder Bay, Ontario

It has been an awesome experience preaching on Hosea for the past month based on the service plans in RW 53. The night before I preached the first sermon, I learned why I couldn’t lay this peculiar prophet aside and preach something “sweeter and nicer” than immorality and indiscretion during this season of Advent.

When I delivered the script to the mother of the family who was to light the first Advent candle the next day, she asked me if I had spoken to another member who has been her long-time friend, a woman who “needs your help to deal with an issue with her daughter.” I let her know that her friend had confided only superficially about her daughter but gave me no specifics. Then she told me “everything,” concluding by saying, “I told her she needs to get back to church tomorrow because she needs spiritual support to deal with her problems.” My heart dropped! I shared the passage of Scripture I would be using in the sermon the next morning, then said her friend had to be told before she got to church. The lady immediately called her friend and handed me the phone. I told her that I knew everything and had something she needed to know—my sermon topics for Advent.

I explained that the hope and love that undergirded the message of Hosea could give her the very support she needed to deal with her daughter’s problems (yes, her daughter was a prostitute and dealing drugs), but she would have to be able to hear the story first. If Gomer could be transformed by the glory of God, so could her daughter.

By the grace of God the mother and father came every Sunday of the series except the last and missed only then because she was ill. I have visited with the family, including the daughter, and we continue to pray that God’s grace will win out in the end.

The second Sunday spoke to a family about a son that was having trouble “finding himself.” The third lesson, the Second Honeymoon, spoke strongly to a family that has had some marital problems. The wife e-mailed me to let me know how much the sermon had meant to her. The final Sunday was a message of hope to all of them! Praise the Lord.

After the shock of the first Sunday, struggling to get the words out of my mouth with the mother and father of a prostitute sitting in front of me, the messages began to take their own form. It was clear where I needed to go with them. Thank you so much for sharing your series! Surely, I needed to preach Hosea this Advent. We also used the HomeLink devotionals, which were enjoyed by all.

Rita Wilson, pastor
First Presbyterian Church
Alma, Arkansas
revrita@prodigy.net

Dear Pastor Jim and Thunder Bay brothers and sisters at Hope Church:

On this Sunday, November 28, when, like ours, many churches will begin the “Amazing Love” Advent Series and HomeLink meditations, I give the Coming Christ thanks for all the hours you have invested in makOn this Sunday, November 28, when, like ours, many churches will begin the “Amazing Love” Advent Series and HomeLink meditations, I give the Coming Christ thanks for all the hours you have invested in making these Advent resources available for many other churches. May God be praised and his people greatly blessed. May these efforts yield much blessing to Christ’s body.

John Byker, pastor, and the congregation of
Mount Vernon (Wash.) Christian Reformed Church

The Stump of Jesse for the Christian Year

We appreciate the ideas and leadership provided by RW. Thanks for all you do. Here’s an idea for you. Enclosed you will find pictures illustrating a theme that was incorporated in Haven CRC’s worship planning for Advent through Pentecost.

We began with a praise service before Thanksgiving illustrating the church year and the colors of the liturgical year. With banners hanging throughout the sanctuary, we began our Advent series focusing on the messianic promise in Isaiah. Using the imagery of the “stump of Jesse,” we secured a gnarled stump; the children gathered around it for children’s messages and teaching as we watched it grow. As we entered each season of the Christian year, we added new dimensions to the stump, watching it begin to grow into a tree. By the time of Epiphany it had begun to develop green shoots. The pieces we added to the stump each season used the colors for that season. As you can see on the picture, by Pentecost, the stump had sprouted a healthy vine that entwined the cross. Adding doves and butterflies, caterpillars and blossoms all helped to give many visual lessons.

The stump has now been retired, but it served as a powerful metaphor for the Haven congregation as we journeyed the Christian year.

Henry Lengkeek, pastor
Zeeland, Michigan
hlenke@havenchurch.org