Tumbling in the Sand
I didn’t record the sermon this week, but I sang the gospel using Luther’s rules for the chanting of the Gospel. A practice run before worship is below. The sermon is roughly transcribed following.
Audio of Gospel: Chanted Gospel of John
I will make a new covenant …
I can’t imagine how hard those words were for Jeremiah.
A new covenant.
A new thing.
Most of this book of Jeremiah is filled with destruction and woe—
the destruction of Israel
the exile of Judah
the city of Jerusalem left in ruins
it’s temple destroyed.
The promises of God seemingly gone.
The things that had been — destroyed, forced out of the people’s hands.
And then, these words—I will make a new covenant.
These words seem so full of promise,
but they must have tasted bitter on Jeremiah’s lips.
Bitter for what had been lost—or what would yet be lost
They must have stung with the tears of the broken covenant of old,
the longing & nostalgia for what had been.
It could not have been easy for Jeremiah to proclaim this radical new promise.
“I will make a new covenant …”
“But now the righteousness of God …”
I can’t imagine all that Paul gave up to get to the point where he could write these words.
A Pharasee who knew the law and the prophets,
who had invested his life in the promises of God found in the promises of the law.
And more than that—a faithful Jew,
whose loved ones—friends, colleagues
lived, breathed, embodied, were, in fact, the way it used to be …
to proclaim “but NOW” was to turn away from so much—to let go of everything.
I cannot imagine how much Paul let go …
And we even get a sense of Paul’s agony in the letter of Romans as he writes about wishing he were accursed if those that he loved, his people could instead be saved in Jesus.
Even as Paul ties in the tradition of the law and the prophets—he knows he is letting go of what was …
His passion for this new covenant was washed in tears of pain for what was left behind.
“But now …”
We come from a long tradition of having to turn and let go of what has been.
To see what is now
To see what new thing God is doing
to see where the Spirit is leading.
We follow in the footsteps of Jeremiah
and reformer after reformer
calling us, often through tears for the loss of what was, into something new
into something fresh and alive
and full of promise and hope.
But still, tinged with the sorrow of what has been lost.
Don’t ever think that the changes of the past were easy or not mixed with tears, frustration, or even blood.
But, we are called to this same journey.
We are called to this new covenant.
We are called to this “But now”
The freedom that Jesus talks about is not just a freedom from personal sin—but from our pasts
that may be filled with beauty and life but are also filled with things that bind, with sorrow and loss.
And even more—the past, in all its beauty and life can still bind us because it is not the “But now” of God
because it is not the living present of the community
because it is not the love of God written on live, beating hearts now.
And so we are called, in faith, even through longing and tears, to turn to a new promise
a living hope
the “but now” of God.
And, no, it’s not easy.
And, no, it won’t be without fear or doubt or stumbling or frustration or anger or any of those things
but as we turn ourselves toward the uncertainty of the new,
we can take the words of Pope Francis to heart— that God is not afraid of new things.
And so even as we journey along a path we do not know
Even as we become a new community together,
not knowing what will be
or how it will all work
or what God has for each of us let alone all of us together
We know that God already goes before us
that God already walks with us
that God is already writing new words and promises on our hearts
And that no matter how we stumble or fall, God will never, ever let us go.
Featured image: Photo by Rick Harris of abandoned church in Detroit. Taken from Interview with Architectural Photographer Rick Harris, a blog post on daminion.