Fifth Sunday in Lent, March 25, 2012
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. 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. —Jeremiah 31:33b-34
Do you remember when you first encountered God? I’m not talking about knowing God in the intellectual sense, of mastering a theological principle or applying a historical/critical approach to a biblical text. What I want to know is when you first felt the presence of God in your very bones. When did God seize your heart and fill your life with Logos and meaning?
Perhaps a Sunday school teacher showed you through his or her life the reality of God’s presence in the world. Maybe you sensed God at work in the symbiotic spark of a summer church camp bonfire. Whether the Divine imprint occurs in the swell of song, in an experience of visual art, or in the mutuality of spiritual friendship, God seeks out those cracks in our individualistic armor in order to write a deep and lasting knowledge on our hearts. No matter what happens thereafter or what storms rock our life, God is present, as close as each breath we take.
The prophet Jeremiah, writing in a time of exile and brokenness, brings good news of God’s desire to renew the covenant with the wayward people of Judah. There is hope after devastation; with God there is always a future even when poor choices, greed, and selfishness have led to punishing consequences. Despite great personal sacrifice and difficulty, God’s faithful prophet perseveres in bringing the divine word to a broken yet beloved nation.
Yes, no longer will teaching the law be a matter of rote memorization, of legalese and reasoning, of hedging and rationalizing. The Creator of the universe intends to forgive, to wipe the slate clean, and to make a new plan for a hopeful future. God will, in effect, tattoo a holy identity on each heart; from now on a divine identity is embedded deeply in humankind’s DNA, and all will need and come to know God both intimately and communally. It is a powerful image and an even more powerful reality.
These words are equally applicable today. In a world where Christianity no longer lays claim as the majority stakeholder on the spirituality and religion block, these prophetic utterances signal that God is not done with us. We were made to be in relationship with God, and God will find a way to bring us home. Like Jeremiah, we are called to be a prophetic voice standing in the breach between this troubled world and a grace-full God and persevering in the faith by which we have been called to witness.
In a world of sound bites and ever-changing reality, Jeremiah’s example reminds us that perseverance is our goal. Our words of truth run counter to the cultural ethos and message, but we must never cease to tell the story and proclaim the hope of God’s enduring promise.
Christians see the fulfillment of this new covenant in the heart of Jesus through whom God has planted new life within our own hearts. By this sacred indwelling and implicit expression of the Divine One, we are equipped to go into the world to live this good news in our everyday lives and ordinary encounters. Just as God forgets our sin and wipes us clean in the waters of baptism, so we remember and know in order that we may proclaim this amazing news to the world. We go so that all may experience God from the inside out. Blessings on the journey–inside and out.