“An Unbreakable Covenant: Freedom or Not?”

Sermon – 10-25-20 – Reformation Sunday – Cycle A
Scriptures – Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 46; Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36
Sermon Title: “An Unbreakable Covenant: Freedom or Not?”

Forgiveness by grace through faith! This is the main discovery that led the Reformation in the late 1400s and the early 1500s. Martin Luther and other students of the Bible, being translated from Latin into German by Luther, realized that many of the trappings of the church were against the good news of the Bible. The church was charging people money to have their sins declared forgiven. Also, the church was observing the belief that ordinary people could not speak and relate directly with God. In our case, we can be thankful for Ulrich Zwingli as well as Martin Luther, for freeing us in our relationship with God.

We cannot earn or pay for forgiveness from God. It is our faith in God that brings God’s grace upon us and in us.

When we sin, we are slaves to sin. We are in bondage to that sin. It has a hold on us. It limits us. There is no sense of freedom. It rules our thoughts. At least it should be a weight upon us if we have purposely or accidentally harmed a relationship between ourselves and another human and between ourselves and God.

A hurting and damaged relationship needs to be healed. If not, we and the other person or persons are crippled in all of our endeavors during that time. Sometimes we can accept or initiate this healing in a simple way like baking an apple pie for the person. Sometimes, the healing is a bit more challenging, especially since a scarcity of time has removed baking from my life. Sometimes, it can be a favor that we offer – a task that we can do, a commitment that we were trying not to make but now we feel offering the commitment would free us from this bondage and bring healing to this jagged relationship.

We berate ourselves every few minutes – when we wake from sleep, maybe even during our sleep, when we should be happy about other things in our life, We look at the situation from many angles. Was it really our fault? How could we handle the situation if we are given another chance? Scenarios pass through our minds. How would someone else have handled it? How would God have directed us if we were pliable enough to listen to God instead of our own willful impulses?

Does this sound exaggerated to you? Perhaps you have never had this feeling of bondage. Maybe you are able to “brush off” damaged relationships as though they never happened. Good for you! Do not let me be a downer for your day. Please enjoy! However, you may be interested in understanding how God promised his people, the Israelites, and therefore us, through Jeremiah, that he would always “have our backs” from that time forward.

There is so much knowledge and wisdom to be gained from our Jeremiah passage. The good news is if we don’t think of all the angles and gifts in this passage, we can find Hebrews 8:8-12. It is a repeat of the Jeremiah passage. Hebrews is the wonderful book in the New Testament that is a review of the Hebrew people, God’s people, but this time in the light of Jesus. By the time we get to Hebrews in the New Testament, we have seen Jesus as baby, as wandering minister, as hanging on the cross, as resurrected on the third day, and as ascended in return to the Father.

Forgiveness has taken on a whole new reality. I see the cross scene as the action of God’s promise or covenant. It is challenging to read that scene without feeling the depth of the sacrifice of Jesus to complete the promise that God made in Jeremiah 31. The laws of God are written on our hearts but not to be followed by will power and obedience but as a desire to accept God’s love and influence in our lives.

When this truth hits our minds, we realize that it is freedom in our hearts! We want the best for each other, for all of creation. It is not a legalistic arrangement. It is not a sin-by-points situation. When we do find ourselves in an estranged relationship because of something we did or said or did not do, it is we who want to “make it right.” It is not God as judge. It is not necessary to have a jury. We know we did wrong and we want more than anything to bring light and love to this estrangement.

It is nice to read about this “I have your back” covenant from God. But it is a blessing to feel this covenant in our hearts. Our hearts verify this truth. When God helps us to restore a relationship, we move from the darkness of separation into the light that happens when we step aside and let God guide us in the renewed fellowship of whatever depth. We are free of this draining slavery of separation. We are free to be the persons God created us to be! Hallelujah and amen!