Normal>I speak to you in the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit – Amen
The days are surely coming …
The days are surely coming…
Twice in the Old Testament reading today we heard that statement from the prophet Jeremiah, “The days are surely coming”
If you were be walking along the streets of your neighborhood this time of the year,
With the grass, trying to return to green again,
The early spring bulbs starting to poke through the cold garden beds
And maybe some of the trees are showing the first signs of buds on the dormant branches,
And you were to meet up with a friend of yours and say “the days are surely coming”,
I would think that the first thing that your friend would think about was all the beautiful weather we have enjoyed this week
And the real hope that winter won’t return – that Spring has arrived
And with that the opportunity to be outside more often.
Maybe, if they’re not a spring person, but a summer person, they would be thinking of that spring in the gateway to summer,
The first taste of the warm weather, the start of the BBQ season.
If you were to say that same phrase downtown or around any university or college campus this time of year, You might get one of two responses,
Either a look of heaviness as a result of all the end of year work,
From either the teachers or the students,
Or you might have someone looking past the busy time to the upcoming break and what they might be able to do with their free-time,
Something missing over the long school year.
I know myself; this is near the end of the kids, hockey and Ringette seasons
And Kelly and I and maybe the kids are looking forward to the end of weekends spent in an arena
Looking forward both with excitement and nervousness on behalf of the kids
Hoping that they will do well in their play-offs
Consider the phrase “the days are surely coming” in this setting, a church,
And the first thoughts might be to the excitement of Palm Sunday with the choir’s Easter Cantata,
The anticipation of that troubling remembrance of Good Friday
And the glorious victory of Easter Sunday…
And the excitement of the children’s pageant the following week
But, to the point of OT reading, what was Jeremiah thinking about – when he was called by God to be His spokesmen and make the statement “The days are surely coming”!
With the land of Judea (the southern kingdom) being taken over by the Babylonians,
Many of people taken out of Jerusalem and forced into exile,
With the northern kingdom of Israel haven fallen to the Assyrians over a century ago.
With prophets for the last several generations and earlier prophecy from Jeremiah speaking of how the Jews had failed God in the covenantal relationship,
How they were being plucked up, broken down, overthrown, destroyed, punished for their sins against God,
That God was using the Babylonians, to punish them.
I am sure that Jeremiah and the 6th century B.C. Jews were thinking about their situation, seen a plainly as possible,
That God would begin creating something new.
“The days are surely coming” would have been seen as a message of hope in a time of exile.
Over the history of the church it has been viewed with different lenses.
(Staging note: here I will put on a pair of glasses which have had the word “Jesus” in very large font attached dangling in front by two wires)
For those of you in the back which might not be able to see what it is that attached to my glasses, it is the word “Jesus”.
You see Jeremiah speaks of the Days surely coming where there will be a ‘new covenant’,
And Christians when Christians look at the Old Testament they look through lenses that see all of God’s work pointing towards Jesus. (Take off the glasses)
It has been seen through-out the ages since, that this prophecy is a prophecy for the Messiah.
In the New Testament, the writer of Hebrews in chapter 8 includes this very section of scripture and presented it as prophecy for Jesus.
Justin Martyr, a Christian convert in the 2nd century wrote of this passage in that context,
Clement of Alexandria in the 3rd century.
Matthew Henry, a well known bible commentator of the 17th century,
John Wesley of the 18th century
And the people that choose this part of the bible for Lent leading up to Easter.
All through-out Christian History this prophecy of the new covenant has been seen as the foretelling of the manifestation of Jesus Christ.
Yet, when examined in its fullest, there are those that question whether we can see the fruits of this prophecy in today’s age or any previous age.
There are still Priests and Pastors, there are still teachers of bible, and there are still evangelists of the good news.
Do we see a world around us with God’s imprint on every heart?
Do we have an age of people that no longer need others to teach them of God?
Has this prophecy been fulfilled?
Or is it for an age still to come,
Are we awaiting a second coming of the Lord?
Which of these four ways are we to understand the Jeremiah’s prophecy?
Which way is the right way to understand it? (Pause)
The answer to this I believe to all the scenarios is simply – “Yes”
Yes… all four of them are correct.
Certainly God is capable of inspiring Jeremiah to more then one meaning over time.
It is true that although the Jews were in exile,
They did experience a return from exile.
It is also true that in Jesus, God fulfilled His prophecy and created something new
In Christ there is something truly new, Never before has God come as a man
The new covenant is seen in the light of an entirely new creation – Christ –
Presented is not merely a different spin on the same ‘law bound’ relationship between God and man …But God coming as man
And God sacrificing Himself for His creation to create a new covenant.
It is new because God revealed the covenant in an entirely new manner.
Thirdly, it is true that Christ did not come only for 1st century people,
But established a covenant with all Christians’ through-out history,
That we are each to relate with God in a new transformed way,
Transformed personally and individually
Finally, it is also true that Jesus promised and Saint Paul spoke of a new era,
A new age when Christ will return.
So there are many ways in which to understand Jeremiah’s prophecy.
New Covenant …great… new is good
But what is the new covenant all about,
What does it mean?
What is important of the new covenant?
In comparing the covenants, we can see that there are important factors that are the same.
Both this new Covenant that Jeremiah speaks of… and the foundational Sinai covenant (the covenant given to Moses on Mount Sinai)
Both are initiated by God;
Both are God centered,
They focus our attention towards God;
Both are directed to the same people,
The chosen people of God,
To the exclusion of others;
And finally both are not merely instructions from God,
– They are covenants,
They require the people to respond by obeying the laws set forth by God for a relationship with Him.
However, the new covenant is unlike the old covenant in several key ways.
First, it will be written on their hearts,
Therefore keeping it will be up to each individual.
Next a person’s lifestyle will be a witness of God,
As it says that they will know me,
And the understanding here is of the deepest sense for ‘knowing God’ –
Knowing God by given your assent both in your mind and your actions.
The covenant will be a for the forgiveness of sin,
God will remember their sins no more,
More then a sacrificial system for atoning of sins,
As God will wipe the slate clean - remembering their sins no more.
Finally (by looking ahead two verses from the passages read today) we will see that this covenant will be forever
– The fixed order of the universe.
Jeremiah describes the old covenant,
The covenant made with their fathers has been broken.
As God’s spokesmen, he states “my covenant which they broke”.
He speaks of this broken covenant even though He – God –
Was like a husband to them.
God through Jeremiah uses the most translatable image of a covenantal relationship,
A relationship requiring responsibility on both sides,
- Marriage… And shows how this relationship was broken.
How the bride, the chosen people,
Didn’t live up to their part of the covenant.
The old covenant was also different, in that it was written in stone,
Which was sealed with the sacrifices of animals for the atonement of their sins?
I have this image,
Maybe put there by the Michelangelo’s painting,
Of the finger of God, etching the stone tablets with the commandments on them,
The tablets in which Moses brought down from Mount Sinai.
On those tablets, the first and greatest law of them all,
Restated best in Deuteronomy 6 and repeated in the gospels
“4Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” (Deut 6:4-5)
Then change that image to God finger writing a new covenant… on our hearts
– my heart
– your heart
– God's law written on my blood cells, on every neuron.
I have this image that – if we were to have a microscope powerful enough to see a an atom completely,
It would say in fine print
“Made by God – return to sender” (pause)
I consider the words of Christ on the cross suffering for us…For our sins,
Sins which we daily continue to transgress
Christ’s words… “it is finished” (John 19:30b)
And I think of the work of the new covenant being written on our hearts,
That we are branded for God.
From the world of science, we have neurological studies, which tell us that we are hard wired for God.
From the work of Wilder Penfield – Michael Persinger – Andrew Newberge,
Each from a variety of spiritual perspectives,
An atheist, a Jew and a Christian.
We have studies that tell us that we are hard wired to “a God impulse”.
Apparently it is in our right temporal lob, which is a gateway to limbic system,
When stimulated with direct electrical impulse and also done with an electro magnetic source,
There is nearly universal sense of ‘other consciousnesses’
And this is most generally stated by each person to be ‘a sense of God’
We are branded by God with this God impulse.
As we await “the days surely coming” (conclusion - read slowly)
Of the end of term
Of new opportunities
Of triumph - that is Easter
Of a new era - where God’s writing on our hearts will be visible by our witness to the world.
Consider how you can respond – now – today
To be God’s visible presence in this age
To show the world,
To your family and friends
To be witnesses of God’s forgiveness,
Knowing that God will remember no more all that is ugly in you.
Respond to the new covenant promised - in the days surely coming
Respond to Christ’s words – ‘It is finished’ - Thanks be to God - Amen!