First Lesson: Jeremiah 31:27-34
27 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals. 28 And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the LORD. 29 In those days they shall no longer say: “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” 30 But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge.
31 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. 32 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, though I was their husband, says the LORD.
33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after 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. 34 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.
Gospel Lesson: Luke 18:1-8
1Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’ “ 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Sermon: Internal Guidance
The prophet Jeremiah said we have an internal navigational system. The people of God did not need to read God’s laws from tablets of stone. God’s way is written on our heart. We have been given a spirit of God’s law… (31:31-34).
“Character” has to do with who you are when nobody is looking. Character is who you are down, deep. Or as Jeremiah said, character is “written on the heart.”
Jesus taught his disciples to be persistent, not to lose heart, to seek justice even in the face of adversity. How is that working for you. Do you believe that you have a just judge, a favorable God, who stands with you?
Jeremiah looked forward to the day when there would be a restoration of the people and the land. We are given a deep knowledge of God’s ways, if we will only listen to our heart. We know what God wants. The question is, do we trust? You know what is right and what is wrong. God speaks. We know what is wise and what foolish. We know the reward and we know the cost.
Jeremiah believed that God is full of love. As the people went into Exile, it seemed as if The day of Yahweh was a wrath-filled judgment. But Jeremiah reminded them that God’s ways are ways of healing and restoration.
The future is a gift that God gives us. Yahweh is planting and restoring.
In that new day, said Jeremiah, there shall be a whole “new covenant.”
God will enter into a new arrangement with God’s people. The old lessons, the way of the law written on tablets of stone, are characterized by a long string of failures. The new covenant is successful because it is written on the heart of the people.
Israel and Yahweh are linked together. The separation, Exile, that the people suffered would be healed (Jer 31:34). No matter what we have done to separate ourselves from God, we have the opportunity for restoration.
It is not our doing… It is God’s doing.
God loves us, and God is persistent. God never leaves us without light, without guidance, without the possibility for restoration. There is hope because that’s the way God does things. Hope is not determined on what we do to bring about restoration, not determined by our faithfulness, not determined by our intelligence, or our knowledge. Our hope is the hope that Jeremiah knew. Our hope is in God’s steadfast love and ceaseless determination to be in relationship with us.
Good character is not determined by obeying rules, it is a matter of the heart.
When I was in seminary we learned about situational ethics. We learned how to analyze situations, weighing alternative courses of action, and applying reason to determine the right course of action. Ethics is about the careful, rational deliberation of the question. Ethics is also about a deep listening to the heart and mind. Ethics is about a “deep listening” to the community, a deep listening of the scriptures, a deep listening of the culture and traditions that shape us, and a deep listening to our experiences as we seek an answer to the question: “What should be done in this situation?”
Jeremiah, calls this deep listening the “new covenant” written on your heart. It is more than just sentimentality… it is about deep listening.
God empowers you to do the right thing. We need to be willing to dig deep, do the work, and to listen to God’s Spirit. Deep within you is a divinely implanted sense for discernment… but it takes deep listening.
What choices are made when no one is watching? We make pledges, we make commitments, we say we will do one thing over another. We make contracts and we enter into agreements. But what will we do when no one is watching? Are we willing to be deep listeners? Are we willing to do what we need to do to make the right ethical choices? Are we willing to make the necessary sacrifices? Are we willing to listen to God’s law written on the heart, our minds, our experiences, through our instruction, and within our very being?
What will we do when know one is watching?
But we also believe that Ethics is also a matter of what God is up to?
Jeremiah’s vision of a “new covenant written on the heart” points to our true hope, that God loves us. God loves us enough to free us from the misfortune of our actions. Where we fail, God is able to make right. We will need to live out the natural consequences – but God will continue to love us. On the tablet of the human heart, God can erase our poor choices.
The question becomes, so what now? Will we learn? Will we make better choices this time around?
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, believed that there wasn’t much that couldn’t be cured by getting busy in Christ’s work, going where Christ goes, and doing what Jesus calls us to do.
“Every morning should get out of bed, look out the window, and ask ourselves, “What is God doing to make the world a better place?” What is God doing in the world, and how can we align ourselves with God’s work?
Every day is a fresh start. Every day is a new opportunity. Every day is a gift for us to be made new.