Lent 4: A New Covenant

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

We have looked at the covenant God has made with us over the years.  Starting with the Covenant made with Noah, Abraham and Sara, Moses, David and now we come to the greatest covenant of all – the one made with us through Jesus.

This might be the hardest to understand.  Sure we can see the covenant made with Noah not to flood the world again.  We can understand the covenant with Abraham and Sarah, that their names change and from them come many nations.  The covenant made with Moses was to the Israelites to help them establish a community and finally the lineage from David to Jesus.

Too often I hear people talking about their relationship to God as though they’re bargaining with Him. They are convinced that “if” they do certain things or believe certain things they will be assured of God’s blessing in return. It sounds as if they are talking about a contract rather than a covenant. Maybe you have felt that at some point in your life.  I know I have — only if I work hard, say a few more prayers, read the Bible more God will love me and then everything will be okay.

But with a covenant it is God who initiates the covenant and sets the terms.God always keeps his covenants. We can refuse his terms and walk away if we wish, for me — knowing that God is always there for me, that God loves me, that God knows my name, even in the hard times that brings me hope and comfort.

Again and again God comes to God’s people to offer a new covenant in an attempt to save them from themselves. Again and again the covenant is rejected or broken. Again and again the covenant offer is made. God never gives up on us.God is not reestablishing a covenant instead God is giving them a new covenant.  What is new about the new covenant?

In the new covenant God does all of the giving! God will put the teachings on the hearts of the people.  We don’t have to read about what we should do or not do because everyone will know the Lord.  God will do whatever is required so that he can keep the bond with us open forever.

The way was laid for love to fill the gap promises never could. Click To Tweet

At the heart of this covenant is God’s decision to forget — to forget Israel’s sinfulness and betrayal. God does not just pass over, absolve, or forgive this time around, God also forgets, erasing even the memory of sin.And yet it sounds like the God of Israel, the One who neither slumbers nor sleeps, chooses to forget.Wait a minute —  Has God really forgotten their sins? The whole “golden calf” incident, just forgotten? And the worship of foreign gods — entirely wiped clean? Can God really forget?

I sometimes wonder, in fact, if part of Israel’s problem at this point in the story is precisely that they can’t forget. They can’t forget what it’s like not to trust God. They can’t forget what it’s like not to be so afraid. They can’t forget the times that they have ignored or forgotten God.  The times that they have turned their backs on God or on one another.And so God does what Israel cannot: God forgets. God refuses to recognize it. In response to all the things they have done to hurt God, God forgets and calls them faithful. In response to their sin and brokenness God’s memory has been erased.  God forgets.

And if God forgets, might we also?If you will —  Imagine a difficult memory.  Something you wish that God would forget: an unkind word or deed of which you were ashamed.  A hurtful thing that you said to someone, or an action that you took against them.Whatever first comes to your mind when you think about that will work.  Also think about one thing you wished you could forget: some slight or hurt or betrayal or disappointment that continues to weigh heavy on your heart.

Hold them in your hands, feel the weight of this sin, this hurt and pain in your hands — something you have been holding on too for so long, something you want, you need to let go.

Read the words from Jeremiah.  Read about God’s intentional forgetting again and as you read those words let go of the thing they wished God would forget because, indeed, God already has.

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. 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. 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. 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.

Now the other thing that you are holding on too – I invite you to think about this over the next coming week.  Imagine what it would be like to let this other piece go.  If God can forget, can you?

By God’s grace, you will no longer be held captive to that difficult memory.God has forgotten our sin, God has forgiven us and that is seen in our baptismal promise, in the bread and wine we have at communion and on the cross.It is the promise of God, that God will be with us that God will hold us in the good times and in the bad and that God will give us the strength to carry on even when we feel we have nothing left — this is in the new covenant that God establishes for us through Jesus Christ.  Amen

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