Posted on Mon, Apr 11, 2011
April 11, 2011 Stacey Midge
29th Day of Lent Jeremiah 31:31-34
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israeland 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 landof Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israelafter those days, says the Lord: 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.
There is a verse from another Old Testament prophet, Amos that tends to show up in my life with unusual frequency: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). It started appearing when I was in college and new to this Christianity business, in my favorite worship song, at my dorm Bible study, and in my religion classes. It popped up repeatedly during seminary as an assigned text for classes and sermons. For my ordination, I let the minister who was preaching choose his text and surprise me - and guess what passage he read! Something similar happened at my installation to my first congregation. By the time I accepted the call to this church, I had fully accepted that this verse was meant to be key to my ministry, and included it as part of my installation here.I also had it tattooed on my ankle for the fifth anniversary of my ordination. Now, tattoos are sort of controversial, especially for a minister, and I got a lot of questions about this one. But the fact is, these words have so shaped my sense of calling and direction in life that I wanted them literally written on me, so that they would be there always, so that I would never forget them.
Unfortunately, I do forget them, even though they are permanently printed on my body. I don’t look at my own ankle all that often. The pain and novelty have faded. After three years, I take that marking for granted and barely notice it most of the time. In that, I’m not much different from the people to whom Jeremiah is speaking. They keep forgetting about their relationship with God, or taking it for granted. God’s presence just keeps slipping their minds.
God promises them a new covenant - a tattooing of the heart, if you will - in which their relationship with God will be simply known, God’s presence as close and tangible as that of human loved ones. They will not have to be taught or reminded; they will know.
Of course, in the busyness, uncertainty, and distraction of our lives, we can tend to forget about that internal tattoo, and lose sight of our identity as God’s people. And yet, God keeps making that same promise, over and over: “They will be my people, and I will be their God.” That promise is for us, written on our hearts more securely and permanently than any tattoo. Thanks be to God.
Constant and faithful God, keep us mindful of your presence during this Lenten season and throughout the year. Help us to be attentive to your provisions that sustain us to your promises that hold us in hope. Amen.
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