“The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
31:32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt--a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD.
31:33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
31:34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the LORD," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
All week, I have had this question rolling around in my head and it’s this: What would it look like for us to have a new covenant with God?
The book of Jeremiah is an interesting text, it’s set in Jerusalem and it predicts the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian empire and the exile of Israel. It’s an interesting mix of warnings, prediction, crazy dream descriptions and messages of hope for what will be.
In our reading this morning we hear an offering of hope: a new covenant, by a God who seems relentless in their pursuit of us, no matter how often or how big we mess things up. A God who loves us so much that they seem willing to renegotiate the terms of our relationship over and over again.
There are at least 6 Covenants with God in the Bible and it could be argued that there are even more but here is a rough overview:
The first is what happens at the beginning of creation in which humanity is asked to care for all of creation and told go on and create more humans, more life.
The second is with Noah after the flood and it is between God and all living things, in this covenant, God says that they will never again get so angry with us that they will wipe us all out, which is of course what happened in the flood story – and this covenant is sealed with a rainbow.
The third is through Abraham in which he is given land for his descendants and is told that they will be a blessing to all.
The fourth is with the people of Israel through Moses, in which a set of laws are given that Israel is asked to follow and in return God promises to love them and to treasure them.
The Fifth is with David which names him and his descendants as royalty and it is from this line that the messiah will come and God will bless them.
The Sixth is the new covenant which is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, in which God shows up in the form of Jesus; who shows us what God is like and how we are expected to live as followers. The promise here is that we don’t have to be afraid of the death that is offered through following the ways of this world, but that there is a new and different way to live that is rooted in love.
And so I ask again: What would a new covenant with God look like? Over 2000 years after the death of the one who came to show us how to live – how are we doing with the covenant that we are meant to be in?
Because I’ll be honest, I feel sad about the news of the world right now – maybe I’m just weary – maybe the pandemic is getting to me – but I don’t think that’s it.
I am sad about the latest announcement from the Catholic church about blessing same gendered unions, I don’t care that it was a big deal for them even to have the conversation. Love is not a sin.
And I am sad about the killings of the women in Atlanta.
I am sad that women are still expected to be responsible for their own safety and can expect to have men following them around – that I worry about my daughter walking the streets alone.
I am angry about rampant racism that seems to be alive and well around us – that it continues to invade our discourse about the pandemic among other things.
I am weary and sad that we have not yet figured out a better way to be.
Maybe Lent is as good a time as any to be honest about these things.
A covenant is more than a promise. It’s bigger than just an agreement. It is binding; a legal agreement. By agreeing to a covenant, we are committing to a way of being and it is not to be taken lightly.
And I feel like what we have in all of these examples of covenants in the Bible, is the story of a God who is in relentless of pursuit of us. These are examples of one who loves us so much that they are willing to keep trying to find ways to be in relationship no matter how many times we go back on our word, no matter how often we forget our commitment to our Creator or each other. This is the story of the one who loves us into being and keeps on loving us and keeps coming close and keeps showing us how to live, despite us.
And I do mean despite us. Despite our actions and our words, despite racism and sexism and patriarchy. Despite the church continuing to make hurtful statements about and towards the LGBTQ2S+ community, despite God’s insistence and our ignorance to the fact that we are all – Every. Single. One. Of. Us. Made in the very image of God and resembling God in our very beings in our own particular ways. Each of us walking around like little windows of what God is like, no matter our race, or gender, or who we love – despite the rules we keep making for ourselves that are not rooted in love or the covenant that we have with God.
So, what would a new covenant with God look like?
What will it take for us to take this covenant seriously? At what point do we look around and realize that our call is just to love ourselves, creation and each other and not to continuously seek ways to divide ourselves or to yield power over each other or continuously attack each other and the rest of creation?
Because we have everything we need to do this well. We have examples to follow and a scripture filled with stories of redemption, love, loss, shared meals, how to do economics and why sharing is important, to name a few of the lessons. We even have examples of covenants with God rooted in promises of who we could be and the potential for God’s laws to be written on our hearts, so that we can do and be better.
And we have a God who loves us, always in all places and at all times.
So, one last time – what would a new covenant with God look like?
We are headed towards Holy Week and Easter – after this season of Lent, of consideration, perhaps a fasting of some sort, or study or focus on your relationship with God – what do you know now?
With the hope of Easter and the possibility of leaving our homes once more on the horizon, what do you want to be different in the world around you? How will you participate in it?
How will you live out the laws that I believe are written on our hearts: the knowledge of your belovedness and mine?
How will you continue to care for each other and yourselves? How will you tend to creation?
Maybe this is as good a time as any to consider the possibility of being intentional about our covenant with God – to live out our part of the agreement – to confront those parts of ourselves or our communities that seek to divide, to ensure power over rather than welcoming the stranger and an equitable sharing of resources.
It’s a time to look out for each other – to notice our bias and to work to overcome it.
This covenant that we are in is binding and it is based on and in the love that God has for us, and that we are called to show to and for one another.
These hopeful words that we hear from Jeremiah this morning. They are rooted in the possibility that even when we have messed up, even when the world is falling down around us – there will be a new way - another opportunity to enter into covenant with the one who loves us through our relationships with each other – because that is where it happens – ours is a faith that is lived out with each other, through our actions and our words, by what we support and what we do not – by what we say and leave unsaid, by that ways we stand with each other or stand by and let things happen.
So, maybe, as we prepare to enter into holy week and the promise is Easter – we might also consider the covenant we have committed to through our baptisms, through our discipleship with a God who loves us and pursues us relentlessly, who forgives our iniquity and remembers our sins no more.