proper 24C: of diapers and covenants

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Eschatology / Exodus / Lectionary / New Testament / Old Testament / Pentateuch

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

When my parents first took on the responsibility of parenting me, they made some implicit promises – to me and to society at large. They were promising to feed me, change my diaper, stay up with me when I cried through the night, and nurture me with parental love.

They didn’t have to sign a dotted-line – and neither did they look me in the eyes and say that they would do this, so help them God. It was a given.

But, they were promises to be kept, and they were.

And, those promises couldn’t just stay the same. When I was five years old, they still had to ‘feed me,’ but not in the sense of putting a bottle or spoon in my mouth when I cried. The promise changed, implicitly, to making nutritious food available to me to consume – and to make sure that I ate all my veggies so I could grow up ‘big and strong.’ They no longer had to change diapers, but they had to care for my tiny body in different ways. And, when I was five, there was a new promise: they promised to educate me, to get me to school properly dressed and with a lunch box in hand.

As the years went on the promises changed over and over again. Soon the promises had to do with making sure I was acquiring and maintaining appropriate relationships with my peers – in cub scouts and in church. Later they promised to drive me day-in-and-day-out to youth group, to choir practice, to drama rehearsals, and they promised to sit on sunny days and miserable days on cold bleacher seats and watch me run around the track.

And, of course, that all changed again when I went to college, when I began my adult life, when I got married, and when we had kids of our own.

The relationship between a parent and child is one that is meant to embody love, devotion, and dedication. But, the ways that that love and devotion are manifest change. The core of the relationship never does, but how it’s lived out changes as each stage of life is entered and an old stage of life expires.

The same is true of God. God has loved us since the moment that He created us. That love has never changed – but how that love is manifest has changed over and over again. God related to us differently in Eden than He did in Egypt. Differently with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob than he did in the time of Jesus. And, differently with the early church than when the Heavenly City of Zion will one day descend and a new heaven and a new earth is manifest.

After the flood waters receded God made a covenant with Noah, his family, and all creation. He would never flood the earth again. The sign of the covenant was the rainbow that was set in the sky.

Years later he talked to Abraham, and told him that he would be the God of his family forever-after, and that he would give them a land. And Abraham’s side of the covenant – and the sign of the covenant itself – was circumcision. All Abraham’s family forever-after was to be circumcised.

Then God enriched the covenant with Moses on top of Mt. Sinai with the giving of a new law, and the coming promise of a land flowing with milk and honey, and the abiding presence of God.

And then, on another mountaintop, God ratified a New Covenant with all people, as Jesus died on a cross. And the sign of this covenant was bread broken, and a cup of wine shared, for the forgiveness of sins.

The story of God and humanity is a covenant-story. And the story tells us, and shows us, over and over again, that God always seeks to be in relationship with us. And, admittedly, the story also shows how we always try to wriggle out of the deal. And, yet, God never stops the pursuit.

And, because humanity is constantly growing, and evolving, and changing (and finding new and creative ways to sin) God’s relationship with us is always changing and evolving.

His love never ends. That love never changes. But, how he loves us, and how he seeks us in relationship, and the very terms of the relationship are always in flux.

How has your relationship with God changed through the years? How do you
imagine your relationship with God will continue to change?