Summary: Only God is permanent: our covenant with God becomes real when it moves from our brains to our hearts.
Deep in our Hearts
The Reverend Anne Benefield
Geneva Presbyterian Church, March 29, 2009
Introduction: Beginning in 598 BCE (Before Common Era), King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered Judah and exiled many of its leading citizens to Babylon. The fall of Judah was complete in 587, when Jerusalem was destroyed and the second wave of exiles was taken to Babylon. In the midst of national disaster, Jeremiah prophesies that God will renew the promise that God had made through Abraham and confirmed in the Exodus. God’s law will no longer be an external agreement that can be broken by people’s unfaithfulness; the new covenant will dwell in the very being of each person.
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. 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. 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 with in 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.
Prayer: Speaking in every heartbeat, You come with a word for us, O Lord. It is an eternal word and it is a word for today. May that word be written on our hearts that we might serve You in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
This passage has two words that call out to me: covenant and heart. They stand together. The new covenant is written on our hearts. It is a covenant for all eternity and for today. First, I’d like to talk about what it means that we have an eternal covenant with God. There is only one thing that is eternal: the love of God. In the love of God the world was created. In the love of God Abraham and Sarah were chosen as the founders of the covenant people. In the love of God the prophets spoke to God’s people calling them to faithfulness. And in the love of God Jesus became human and wrote the covenant of God on our hearts.
Nothing but the love of God is permanent. We set our hearts on the stock market only to find that nothing is permanent but the love of God. We set our hearts on our jobs only to find that nothing is permanent but the love of God. We set our hearts on perfect marriages and families only to find that if our homes are not built on the love of God, nothing is permanent.
A young man walked into a photography studio with a picture of his girlfriend. He wanted the picture duplicated. The owner of the store noticed the inscription on the back of the picture which said, “My Dearest Tom, I love you with all my heart. I love you more and more each day. I will love you forever and ever. I am yours for all eternity.” It was signed “Diane,” and it contained a P.S. “If we ever break up, I want this picture back.”
With God there is no P.S. And nothing can stop the love of God. In a cemetery in Hanover, Germany, is a grave on which was placed a huge slab of granite and then a slab of marble was cemented on top. The rocks were fastened with heavy steel clamps. It belonged to a woman who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Yet strangely, she directed in her will that her grave be made so secure that if there were a resurrection, it could not reach her. On the marker were inscribed these words: “This burial place must never be opened.”
In time, a seed, covered over by the stones, began to grow. Slowly it pushed its way through the soil and out from beneath them. As the trunk enlarged, the great slabs were gradually shifted so that the steel clamps were wrenched from their sockets. A tiny seed had become a tree that had pushed aside the stones.
The dynamic life force contained in that little seed is a faint reflection of the tremendous power of God’s creative word that will someday call to life the bodies of all who are in their graves no matter where they have been buried.