New Covenants

Friday, May 25, 2012 — Week of 7 Easter, Year Two

Bede, the Venerable, Priest, and Monk of Jarrow, 735

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 965)

Psalms 102 (morning) // 107:1-32 (evening)

Jeremiah 31:27-34

Ephesians 5:1-20

Matthew 9:9-17

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

In the Ten Commandments and again in the covenant begun in Exodus 34, we hear ominous words of judgment passed down from generation to generation. God speaks as one who will visit the iniquity of the parents upon the children to the third and fourth generation.

During a time of national threat and chastisement, Jeremiah’s generation feels the weight of that curse. In the early years of Jeremiah’s vocation, the good King Josiah had inspired a revival of faithfulness and observance of the Law. But Josiah died suddenly in battle, and political and religious hopes unraveled quickly. The people became disillusioned and helpless. Much of Jeremiah’s testament gives words to their misery and suffering.

But now, Jeremiah speaks words of hope. He says to them, You’ve seen the tragedy — “I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil.” Now God is planning good — “so I will watch over them to build and to plant.”

Throw off the helpless feeling of doom, the destiny to live out the curse of your ancestors’ wrongdoing. The rules have changed. No longer will you speak the old folk maxim “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” But now, each will be responsible for your own actions and not inherit the curse from your parents.

Jeremiah speaks of a new covenant. The law will no longer be a set of external words of instruction, but an internal presence in your hearts. You will know God intuitively, immediately. You will no longer reference the external teachings, but God will live in your heart.

That religion of the heart is what we aspire to. At the feast of Pentecost, Christians say that God’s Spirit, God’s own life is in us at the center of our being. We are made one with God in the Spirit. We call that our new covenant. It releases us from the curse of the past through forgiveness and regeneration. It guides us into a new future through the indwelling of the Spirit.

Today, let us walk in the Spirit. Let the intuitive presence of God guide and lead us. It is our inheritance. It is our blessing. God is with us. Jeremiah’s hope has come true in the gift of the Spirit through Jesus: “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.”

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