Thursday, October 31, 2019

Reformation 2019

Jeremiah 31:31-34

31The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32It 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.

33But 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. 34No 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.

Along with the day of Pentecost, Reformation is a major – "wear red" – festival of the Holy Spirit. Two years ago we celebrated Reformation 500; we continue in a church that's still reforming—a reforming church that now includes the Roman Catholic branch of Christianity. Martin Luther insisted worship and hymn-singing in the vernacular was a mark of the true church. As a church of the Reformation we also can be a vernacular church in the sense of speaking the common cultural language of the people; we can present Christianity (that's so very other than business as usual, other than status quo) with vocabulary and symbols everyday regular people understand.

Instead of different scriptures for each lectionary year, every year Reformation repeats the same four readings. Today we'll look at the prophet Jeremiah's proclamation of God's new covenant with all creation.

God's covenants or agreements with humanity and with all creation are a prominent feature of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament and continue into the New Testament / New Covenant scriptures with Jesus Christ, God's ultimate covenant. Covenant comes from co-venire, coming together, and was a familiar concept in the Ancient Near East. Old Testament covenants include Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David... creation itself was an act of covenant. Last spring on Lent 4 we specifically talked about covenants.

A new anything implies an old one, but this is more a new location than it is a new agreement. We've discussed how the heart in Hebrew biology isn't the location of emotions we consider it in the contemporary, post-enlightenment global west. In Hebrew biology and bible, heart goes beyond will or intention to include reason, wisdom, creativity, discernment, etc. (and also emotion). Jeremiah announces a covenantal word about the neighbor. This new proclamation of God's eternal covenanting relates to creating and sustaining community by following the guidelines God gave the people with the commandments; it will become natural and almost instinctive because it will embodied as part of everyone's being.

The people received the commandments as words of grace in the wilderness on their way to settling in the promised land—not when they reached their destination. The commandments shape the people (that's us!) into rocking an anti-imperial lifestyle, into ruling and governing themselves by considering each other's needs, by not making gods of money, power, fame, or material stuff. God is the ultimate ruler, yet the commandments allow us to live as self-governing people. Maybe particularly with this being Luke's lectionary year that includes a fair amount from Jeremiah, we can view this new covenantal location as an opportunity for neighborology. After all, this newness supremely is about the neighbor, about creating and sustaining community by observing the Ten Words or Commandments of the Sinai covenant.

This new covenant location is an incarnate, enfleshed one. We discussed the role of our hearts in our bodies. Everyone realized when your heart stops beating you're dead. Among other aspects of hearts, Barbara told us a healthy heart is soft and vulnerable. Great image for relating to each other and to our neighbors!

Jeremiah 31:32 – the people broke the Sinai covenant of the ten commandments in a double sense: by shattering the stone tablets they were written on, and by not following them in their daily lives. Verse 33 – God and people literally belong to each other. Verse 34 – God for-gives (the reverse of give) so completely it's as if God totally forgets our wrongdoings.

Luke 22:20 Jesus – "This cup is the new covenant in my blood." This probably was the third cup, the cup of blessing or redemption after the Seder meal. It evoked or re-membered the rescue from Egypt and also referred to Isaiah 53:12 with the servant whose life is poured out.

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