A Covenant Service

SERMON # TWO JANUARY 2018

Exodus 24: 3 – 11, Jeremiah 31: 31 – 34, Romans 12: 1 – 12 and Mark 14: 22 – 25. 

A Covenant Service

 

“God of grace,

through the mediation of your Son,

you call us into a new covenant.

Help us therefore to draw near with faith

and join ourselves in a perpetual covenant with you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen”

In our everyday lives we seek to define the relationships we are in by describing them in various ways and we try to live according to how we describe our relationships. For instance, we may define our relationship as a marriage relationship and we live it by being loving and caring and so on. Yes, there are times when we do not get it right! If we do this with our everyday relationships because it is very important to us, how much more should we not attend to the nature of our relationship with God even though we know we do not always get it right! 

The relationship between God and God’s people is defined as a covenant relationship. Very briefly and put simply: It describes a relationship between a dominant party, God, and a lesser party, God’s people. On the one hand God promises to love, care, protect and provide for God’s people and on the other hand, God’s people promise to be obedient to the laws God puts in place to help God’s people to experience God’s love, care, provision and so on and so forth. We can say much more about the nature of the covenant relationship between God and God’s people. For instance, it also include provisions for punishment should the people not obey God’s laws and blessings when they do. 

Perhaps in our everyday lives we are well aware of this kind of understanding of what our relationship with God can be like.

However, it seems that with Jesus the nature of the covenant relationship has changed.  It is as if Jesus brought about a change in the ingredients of the covenant relationship. If the marriage relationship between two people is based on only the respective duties they have to perform something would be wrong. For instance, if all they ever talk about and are concerned about is whether he has done this and she has done that, then something is missing.  What about their love, trust, and patience and so on? They ask of each other; how is it with our love and trust? Rather than; how is it with us sticking to our respective duties/roles? Both are important but there is a shift in focus and the relationship stuff becomes more prominent. All the laws God has put in place for God’s people to live happily are important yet with Jesus we see that those laws are always subject to what is also important, namely, the things we would rather fill our relationships with. Things like love, patience, trust, fidelity, forgiveness, repentance and so on. The laws can then find their rightful place as helping us to give expression to our love and so on.     

Looking at Jesus we see what is involved in defining our covenant relationship with God. We see what the covenant relationship can look like so that the relationship between God and God’s people can be what it is supposed to be like. If we take our everyday relationships seriously enough to asks the right kind of questions how much more with our relationship with God? With Jesus we see that the covenant relationship can be characterised by:

First, it is always more than the laws we live by. Jesus said things like: Do not commit murder but I tell you……! In other words, we must always seek to do more than what is required. It is not too difficult to obey the rules and stop there. Any good citizen of the country does this! We must not commit murder but also not hate another. This is a bit more difficult.    

Second, it is always taking a stand against how the world would define relationships. Often relationships are defined in ways that leads to oppression and exploitation amongst others. Jesus on the cross took a stand against the ways of the world.

However, what has not changed with the covenant is God: God’s forgiveness, goodness and love and mercy and patience and all about God’s nature. Jesus’ death is the ultimate symbol of how God has remained steadfast in God adherence to God’s side of the covenant relationship. God’s deep forgiveness when we do not get it right. The covenant relationship is also about forgiveness and new opportunities and newness and reconciliation. It says that all is not lost when we have moved away from our side of the relationship.

It is important that for a five year old boy or girl we lay down the rules. But eventually they must grow up and grow into the ‘deeper things of life’ as it were. At first our relationship with God can be about what is on paper or tablets, ancient and modern, but eventually it must come from the heart!

“Eternal God,

Forgive us form not having remained faithful to your covenant with us,

yet in your faithful and enduring love

You call us to again share in your gracious covenant in Jesus Christ.

Today, in obedience we hear and accept your commands;

in love we seek to do your perfect will;

with joy we offer ourselves anew to you. Amen.     

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