Scripture Reading - Jeremiah 31:31-34
Jeremiah 31:31-34 (New Revised Standard Version)
31 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. 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. 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. 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.
One: The Word of Life. All: Thanks be to God.
We’ve been on a journey together this season - a time of exploring God’s healing and wholeness...a calling to remember ourselves as Holy Vessels of God’s love - and to remember that as we move toward healing, the gift is not just to see ourselves in that light, but to desire that gift of wholeness for each other and for all of creation.
Over the past four weeks of Lent, we’ve written our brokenness on pieces of seaglass and placed them on the altar as an offering to God. They’ve been here over this season as a reminder of the ways that we are a broken people, each of us seeking healing, and as a reminder of how we have a God who yearns to make us whole.
We’ve talked about the ways God gathers us together - like a beachcomber collecting seaglass - and holds us for safekeeping. We acknowledged the ways that God accounts for each one of our tears and struggles and heartbreaks and in gathering us together provides us with a safe space for healing. And yet, we remembered that not everyone experiences this gift of community - that there are those in our world who do not have safe spaces because of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, their ethnicity, or their gender.
We’ve talked about stories - about how our stories become clear as they come into contact with the life-giving water that Jesus has to offer. Claiming our stories - in all their beauty and brokenness - not only leads to healing for ourselves, but can point others on the pathway to wholeness.
Last week, we talked about how community can allow our true selves to shine as part of something bigger that God is doing in the world. There’s power in a community that helps us create new and different pictures about our lives - different than the ones we’ve told ourselves or had imprinted upon us...and transformation can happen when one small piece becomes a part of a whole.
This week, we are reminded that our journeys toward healing and wholeness all take place in the context of relationship - relationship with the God who is present with us, loves us, bears with us in all things - and continues to offer us the grace we need as we become the people God created us to be.
We see God’s relationship with humankind all throughout the scriptures, but I find the language around covenant particularly helpful. We talk about the promises God made with various individuals and communities in the Bible as covenants - where both sides agree to uphold certain commitments and agreements. The stone tablets with the 10 Commandments - which were part of this covenant - were kept in a box called the Ark of the Covenant that moved around with them before the Temple was constructed.
However, again and again in Scripture, the Israelites can’t seem to keep up their end of the covenant God made with them. They worship other gods. They fail to care for the orphan, the stranger, and the widow among them. They exploit the poorest in their communities. They constantly struggle with God and with each other. They mess up time and time again - and yet God’s covenant love remained with them - even when they broke the laws and commandments. Even more, as our Scripture passage this morning points to - God is willing to enter into another covenant with this people - one that isn’t based on laws or words, but is within the very souls of the people - a covenant based on intimate knowledge...on forgiveness...a covenant that doesn’t need a physical reminder - stone tablets in a box, laws written on stone - but a covenant that resides within the deepest parts of their being...written on their hearts.
It’s a covenant that we understand was made through Jesus - his life, teaching, death, and resurrection - in the ways he demonstrated a new way of being and living with one another and with God, in the ways he offered of himself as fulfilment of God’s love, in the ways he gave of himself to those who were hurting...those who were broken...and restored them to life….and in the ways Jesus continues to offer reconciliation and restoration for each of us as we claim God’s promises - God’s covenant - for ourselves.
Claiming that covenant for ourselves - allowing that knowledge and love of God to rest fully in our hearts, opening our lives to the healing God has to offer, becoming fully the people God created us to be - is a journey. Much like the Israelites, it’s one we often don’t get right. We mess up, we get hurt or hurt others, we fail to live in to the hopes and dreams God has for us - this is why we regularly in worship have a time of confession together - and yet God is always present with us. God never gives up on us. God always keeps those promises - that no matter what we may experience in this life, God’s love will never go away. God’s grace will never leave us. There always can be resurrection.
This journey of healing and wholeness is messy and difficult - especially in a community when we’re constantly rubbing up against each others’ growing edges. It’s a slow and difficult process - one that takes time and attention but can’t be forced or hurried. It’s a process that can be full of unexpected twists and turns, of two steps forward and one step back. It’s not linear or even necessarily logical. And yet - God is with each of us. God is present, binding up our wounds, drawing us closer together, bringing us into deeper relationship with God.
Much like jewelry from seaglass...using wire to suspend...or to wrap around with decorative spirals and beads...God makes something beautiful out of our broken places, out of the twisting and the turning.
Our scripture passage from Jeremiah ended with “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. 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.”
If this is something you want to be true for you in your life - no matter if you’ve been on the journey for your whole life or aren’t sure you want to be on that pathway - if deeper relationship with God is something you are yearning for...as we sing our next hymn together, I invite you to come forward, and you’ll receive a seaglass pendant that we spent time making yesterday. Each one has been prayed over - that it might be a reminder of God working in your life, creating something beautiful from the broken places...a symbol of God’s continuing healing power and presence.
Let us remain seated as we sing together number 394 in the red hymnal, Something Beautiful, and come forward as you are moved to do so. You are also invited to stay at the communion rail for a time of prayer.
May God continue to write words of love...hope….mercy...and grace on our hearts - may we rely on God’s promisesof healing and wholeness to guide us - and may we continually allow God to work our lives - broken as they are - into things of beauty. Amen.
Pastor Melissa Yosua-Davis has been serving the community of Chebeague and its church since July 2015. She currently lives on the island with her husband and five year old son and 2 year old daughter, along with their yellow lab. Read here recent sermon excerpts, thoughts on life and faith, and current announcements for the church community. She also blogs at Going on to Perfection.