Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sermon Together for All Time

Audio link: (opens Soundcloud online) Sermon-together-for-all-time

February 5, 2017 Together for All Time Pastor Carol P. Taylor

Jeremiah 31
“The days are coming,” declares the  Lord,
        “when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
        and with the people of Judah.
32  It will not be like the covenant
        I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
        to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
        though I was a husband  to them,”
declares the  Lord.
33  “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
        after that time,” declares the  Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
        and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
        and they will be my people.
34  No longer will they teach  their neighbor,
        or say to one another, ‘Know the  Lord,’
because they will all know  me,
        from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the  Lord.
“For I will forgive  their wickedness
        and will remember their sins  no more.”

Jeremiah, known as the weeping prophet, was quite young when called, prophesied at the beginning of the Babylonian Exile. He foretold and then witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.. remember the people believed that God actually lived in the when it was destroyed, God had no home. God was no longer with them, or so they believed. Jeremiah was called to remind them that God was indeed with them even though the temple was gone and the people were in doubt and fear and so falling away from their beliefs and worship.

God's promise so important, it was given to Jeremiah AND to the prophet Ezekiel several years later! I will be their God, and they will be my people.

This prophecy was for the people living in exile, yet it is also a prophecy of a future time, when these promises would be fulfilled once and for all!

He uses imagery of marriage, the people being the bride! The covenant is a marriage of God and God's people-but not a legal contract. It is a a contract of the heart!

But, as happens so often when times are hard, the people fell away, fearing that they had been deserted by God.

There is a lot of use of marriage and wedding imagery in the Bible. The symbolism of marriage and of the wedding, is something that people across generations can identify with! The 'marriage' the covenant of God and God's people is an ideal, that is often not realized. Just as any relationship between two people has it ups and downs and challenges, the covenant between us and God has it's ups and down. WE have ups and downs. As Jeremiah promised- God is always here for us.
In the Bible in Revelation, the vision of heaven is of the New Jerusalem, the city...(the home of THE PEOPLE OF GOD!) as a 'bride adorned for her husband!”

in the Gospels, several time Jesus refers to himself as the bridegroom. ..and he spoke of heaven being a wedding banquet! When we are all finally united with God, through Jesus, it will be a huge celebration!

And since his disciples and followers didn't quite get it... finally on the evening before he was arrested. He told them 'This is my body given for you” “this is the blood of the new covenant!” This story is told in the 3 synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. John, written many years later, told other parts of that story. He told of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, at the last supper, and then telling them I am the vine you are the branches, abide in me and I will abide in you. The story was also told by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth... from 1 Corinthians, chapter 11, (part of this will sound very familiar!)

1 Corinthians 1123 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. (may God add a blessing to this reading of His holy word. Amen)  

We read the bible, we pray, we come to worship, we take communion, regularly, over and over, because we fail over and over. Once we have prayed and taken communion, it's not a one and done... because we will mess up again. As our lesson reminds us, we may even mess up DURING the communion, if we are not sincere about it!

Because WE, limited, finite, imperfect human beings can not fathom the unlimited, infinite, perfection that is God. Even though we have Jesus to show us―The Son of God, who gave up heaven to be with us, to be like us, we still can not quite imagine the perfection of God.  We can only see partially... as though we are looking at one facet of a beautiful diamond! We were created in the image in God...but we are not God. We are individual children of God, one facet of God. I think God just loves diversity. On our travels, Martin and I remark on the variety of nature, how many different kinds of trees, birds, in creation! God must just love diversity, he made so much of it! We are God's children, each of us an image, one facet of God. Each of us, every human is one of God's children and God loves every single one! 

So why does Jesus call this a new covenant? Does it replace the old covenant? Does it throw out “They will be my people and I will be their God!?” no not at all. This is not new in the sense of wiping out the old, it's a fulfillment of the original! It's bringing the covenant to its completion! All the stories of Abraham, Moses, and Jeremiah were steps along the road, part of the process! Now it is finished! “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

Let me give you an example... I know someone who is doing some remodeling. When the work is completely done, they won't be living in a NEW house. They didn't bulldoze part of the house and start over! But they will have some rooms that are new..rooms that are better than ever, done to their specifications, fulfilling the promise that those rooms had before, but only now are just as they hoped!!

So too is the New covenant with Jesus. Jesus over and over in the Gospels used metaphors that people could understand, I am the bread of Life, I am the Good shepherd, I am the Light of the World! Jesus came to be with everyone, even regular people..not kings and governors, but ordinary folks living ordinary lives! And on the last night of his life as a human, he said “This is my Body given for you...” We are to take in communion... to be part of ourselves... to internalize that love.

Since Jesus was known to dine with 'tax collectors and sinners' (as we heard this past Sunday) and welcomed all to the table, not just at the Last Supper, but all thru the Gospels, we who profess to be His followers, must do the same. Just as our church has open table for Communion, our doors must be open to one and all. and so too must all kinds of 'doors' of our homes, places of worship, and our nation. Most of all, the doors of our HEARTS!

Speaker at a Presbyterian mission event...Rev. Jon Brown, pastor of  Old Bergen Church  in Jersey City, New Jersey―a union church of the Reformed Church in America and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ―at Thursday’s worship service of the  Association of Presbyterian Church Educators  (APCE) annual event meeting Jan. 25-28 in Denver, Colorado, this week.

Using the example of his daughter’s kindergarten assessment, he relayed the story of one of the questions asked of her, “What do you do when you want to go into a room that is dark?” His daughter replied, to the amazement of the instructor, “You hold someone’s hand.”
“The teacher looked at the booklet, flipped to the back, back up to the front, then she looked across the room and said to me, ‘It’s not in the book but it’s the best answer I’ve heard all day,’” Brown said.
“What do you do when you want to go into someplace that is dark? You hold someone’s hand,” he said. “That is what we do as the people of God. That is what we do as people of faith. Some people call it covenant. Some people call it community. Some people call it relationship or trust. It is how the church demonstrates to the world that God is with us in the chaos. We hold someone’s hand.”

After a mosque in the small town of Victoria, Texas,  burned to the ground  last weekend, the local Jewish and Christian communities there have come together to help those affected.
Members of the B’Nai Israel temple gave the keys to their synagogue to the Muslim community so they would have a place to worship,  USA Today  reports, and four churches in the town also offered space for the mosque's Muslim congregation to hold services, according to  NPR.

Children from the local Catholic school in Victoria also visited the mosque on Wednesday, forming what the Islamic Center called a "human chain of love and peace,"The students also presented the Muslim community with a tree.
"The tree will be planted in the grounds of our new mosque & prominently displayed to remind us of this beautiful moment," the post reads. "This is the spirit of love where the cross hugs the crescent."

Some call it covenant. Some call it community. Some call it relationship or trust

God says I Love You. “I will be their God and they will be my people!” “I am with you always, even to the end of time”!
This is why we worship together. Why we do mission and outreach together, helping the organizations that help our neighbors in need... we do it together. As individuals, as a church, with other churches and other organizations. Jesus said where 2 or 3 are gathered together in my name, I am there with them. When we hold someone's hand...Jesus is with us. God's son, God's own self, came to earth to be with us in every way possible! And then after his death and resurrection, gave us the Holy Spirit to empower us to truly be together with God and all of God's children for all time!

May it be so today, tomorrow and always. Amen.

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