Musings Sermon Starter Uncategorized

The Wisdom of a Covenanting God


When I contemplate my little life, I marvel at God’s extraordinary patience. With me, yes, and also with the rest of humanity. How is it that God has remained steadfast in God’s love for us? I mean, how many times does God have to spell out what we need to do to live in peace before we grasp it? I can’t even get through a day without losing patience with someone or something (usually some electronic device that I can’t make work). How has God made it through millennia without smiting the entire planet and starting over?

Winter weariness has definitely contributed to my thought pattern, but my thinking is more a result of contemplating covenant. God has covenanted with humanity for longer than we can remember. I think about Noah and the covenant that stated a truth not understood then or now – God does not destroy. To participate in this covenant, human beings should also refrain from destruction of one another and the planet. Look how well we’ve done that! Then there was Abraham. God promised Abraham a multitude of descendants who would become great nations. Abraham got his descendants but God is still waiting for the great nations to emerge. We haven’t even begun to try to walk blamelessly before God with any consistency.

With the echos of “do not destroy” and “walk blamelessly,” we come to the covenant God made with Israel at Sinai. The Ten Commandments. So, if we want to refrain from harm to one another and Creation and we want to be blameless before God, all we need to do is follow these Ten Commandments. Simple enough. God must have thought so. Moses must have thought so. Yet, we human beings can’t make it through a day without breaking at least one commandment. Then we have the audacity to blame God or someone else for our inability to live in Love. All I can do is shake my head and marvel at God’s tenacity. God hasn’t given up on us yet.

Paul reminds us that God’s foolishness is beyond human wisdom. Good thing, too, or we’d all be dust by now. God foolishly loves the whole of Creation. So much so that God continued to expand on the covenants of old. God keeps making them bigger, bolder, more dramatic to see if we will ever catch on. Instead of paying attention, we point and say that even Jesus got angry and flipped over some tables. Right. Jesus got angry and did something to restore justice. He didn’t just post on social media that the situation was horrible. He went to the money changers and kicked them out of the Temple courtyard. Jesus didn’t do this because he was having a bad day. He did this because people had failed to live in Love and were profiting off of the poor. Jesus tried to show us how to live in Love, a Love that does not abuse its privilege but ensures that all are valued, particularly in God’s house.

In case you can’t tell, I’m in need of some soul reviving. Perhaps you are as well. The world is an exhausting place and trying to live into the Covenant writ large in Jesus takes a fair amount of energy. I wonder what it would take for us to trust in the perfection of God’s ways enough to experience the sweet life that would flow into us. Wouldn’t it be something if we could live without destruction, be blameless before God, honor and strengthen the community around us, and take action to ensure justice for all of God’s beloved? I know these things are easier said than done. We have a few millennia of practice behind us and we have yet to succeed.

The good news here is that God’s steadfast love truly does endure forever. While I feel like humanity might just be running out of time, I’m not sure God would agree with that assessment. As we journey through the wilderness, barrenness, chaos of this Lenten season, perhaps we can search out the places where God’s love breaks through all our foolishness. Perhaps we can look around us and see the signs of God’s continuing covenant with us and be thankful. Perhaps we can join with others to create communities of faith committed to embodying Love, the very opposite of our tendencies toward destruction, self-focus, and individual needs. Maybe this will be the Lent in which we give up our human foolishness (that insists we don’t need God) and embrace God’s foolishness (that insists on Love)…

For further sermon ideas, try here.

RCL – Year B – Third Sunday of Lent – March 4, 2018
Exodus 20:1-17
Psalm 19
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
John 2:13-22

Photo: CC0 image by jacqueline macou

liturgy Prayer

A Prayer of Confession as Lent Begins


One:  Holy One, we gather at the edge of the wilderness, reluctant to go forward. We do not want to give up favorite foods, time on social media, set aside our phones, or make any other sacrifices that would lead us closer to you. We are comfortable in our routine and our ambivalence. Seeking you might mean we have to change.
All:  We confess our reluctance to change our lives, even for your sake.

Left:  God of all nations, we stumble when we encounter someone who is “other.” We forget that all people are created in your image and your covenant of love is for the whole of Creation. We want to believe that your love is for us, and those just like us. We want to stay where we are and not move to where your love in our hands could do the most good. Going where you call might mean we have to change.
All:  We confess our reluctance to change our lives, even for your sake.

Right: Peaceful and loving God, we sit back in silence while gunshots echo through our schools, our streets, our houses of worship. We tell ourselves that violence won’t touch our lives and that there is nothing we can do to prevent innocent deaths. We offer our thoughts and prayers to the victims of violence and wait for you to fix what we have broken. Responding with Christian love might mean we have to change.
All:  We confess our reluctance to change our lives, even for your sake.

Left: God of Creation and Covenant, we do not trust in your steadfast love. We do not trust that all your paths are steadfast love and faithfulness. We insist on having our own way. Satin does not have to chase us out into the wilderness, our own fear and foolishness will have us worshiping at the Tempter’s feet more often than we want to admit. Listening to you, believing we are Beloved, might mean we have to change.

All:  We confess our reluctance to change our lives, even for your sake.

Right: Merciful and patient God, we have failed to listen to you. We have let fear take hold of our lives more often than not. We have listened to those who would tell us that your love and your covenant with all Creation has limits. We have dismissed the needs of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. We have denied the power of white supremacy and racism. We have turned away those who are hungry or homeless. We have devalued LGBTQ+ people. We have mistreated people with disabilities. We have ignored people with mental health challenges. We have not served our neighbors nor loved them as we love ourselves. Opening our lives to you might mean we have to change.
All:  We confess our reluctance to change our lives, even for your sake.

One: God of the mountain tops and ocean depths, we need you as we make this journey to Jerusalem. We are powerless over the gods of our making. We are easily fooled into believing that human ways are better than holy ways. We do not want to give in to all that tempts us. We yearn to trust you and believe that your love for us has no limits of quantity, quality or duration. We as that you would meet us once again as we endeavor to confront the Tempter and try again to live into your great love for us. We know we need you. Give us the courage to seek you in wilderness places in our lives. Teach us to know your ways even as…
All:  We confess our reluctance to change our lives, even for your sake. Amen.

RCL – Year B – First Sunday in Lent – February 18, 2018
Genesis 9:8-17
Psalm 25:1-10
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:9-15

Photo: CC0 image by Hans Braxmeier

Musings Sermon Starter

Covenant Without End


I’m guilty of romanticizing fall. When Labor Day rolls around I’m flooded with nostalgia and a sense of excitement. I have an urge to go out and buy new clothes and new shoes. My Facebook feed is flooded with first-day-of-school photos. And my mind creates false images of joy and happiness from my youth. While it’s true that I liked school, I hated shopping and having to try on clothes and shoes and never getting quite what I wanted. School was also a mixed bag. I liked the routine and the structure, my friends, and classes. On the other hand, I was often teased and bullied and felt left out and different from my peers.

Yet, here it is after Labor Day once again and I have the same sense of excited anticipation that I’ve had since Kindergarten. These days my feelings center on church rather than school, but they are much the same. What will this new program year bring? What will the joys and challenges be? However, my familiar sense of anticipation is tempered by recent and on-going events. The superstorms of last week have given way to bigger superstorms this week. Wildfires continue to burn throughout Montana. The President has called for an end to DACA. The wider world is filled with chaos, some predictable and some not at all. I’m also coming to grips with a health diagnosis that is as much a relief as it is a concern.

Enter Moses. I wonder if Moses had any sense of excited anticipation as he prepared to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. In the midst of plagues and Pharaoh’s anger, God informs Moses that it’s going to get messy. Yet, through the messiness and misery the people of Israel will learn a new song and experience new life. God will keep God’s covenant (yes, there was a covenant before Sinai) with the people. Will the people keep their covenant with God?

Through the blood of lambs, the people will be marked and spared. God will save Israel again and the nation will be restored, eventually. Yet, God alone won’t save the people; they will have a ton of work to do. Not the work of Pharaoh’s slaves, but the long, slow, intense work of transformation. First, they will have to slaughter a lamb (goat or sheep doesn’t matter) and they may have to share with smaller households. Then they will mark their doorways. And they will eat, eat quickly and be ready to move. After that, the hard journey will begin, should they be willing to leave behind everything they have known and follow Moses into the wilderness.

It’s no wonder that the Last Supper took the shape it did with this story of Passover fresh in Jesus’ mind. Eat this bread that is broken for you, a body given for your wholeness (remember those lambs shared between households). Drink this cup poured out for you, blood shed for your forgiveness (remember that God has saved you). Do this to remember my love for you and my commandment that you love one another. Moses led the people of God out of slavery in Egypt into a journey that would take a couple of generations to complete. Jesus led the people of God out of Roman captivity into a journey that has yet to be finished.

The story of Passover is one that is hard for us to understand with our Twenty-first Century ears. We want to shy away from the blood or the possibility that God would murder all Egyptian firstborns. When we get trapped by our desire to read the story literally, we fail to hear its deeper meaning. Living in covenant with God is messy and scary and cannot be done alone. Households may have to come together and share resources to make sure all have enough. God is also very likely to ask us to leave behind the predictable routines of living in captivity and live for a time with discomfort. We might even be asked to ignore the raging of Pharaoh and the plagues of our day and step into an unexpected, perhaps unwanted, position of leading people where they are reluctant to go.

For many of us September is an exciting time of new programs, new initiatives, and renewed hope. This year such excitement might be tempered by the climate – both literally and politically. Is this not how the ancient story goes? This is not the first time the people of God have lived with storms and oppression. This is not the first time that chaos threatens to pull apart the comfortable lives we live. As in the days of old, God hears our cries. God knows our hearts. God feels our yearning for liberation. God has shown us the way of covenant.

Will we share with households that may have less? Will we love our neighbors as ourselves? Will we remember with more than nostalgic warm-fuzzies the fullness of our communion story? God, as always, honors God’s covenant with God’s people. How do we live into our covenant with God?

Perhaps this is the question for us as seasons change and our programming and ministries gear up once more. Perhaps we should let ourselves be filled with excited anticipation because we know that God always keeps God’s covenant. Perhaps God is, once more, teaching God’s people a new song so that we might hold up our end with a little less complaining and a lot more love…

RCL – Year A – Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 10, 2017
Exodus 12:1-14 with Psalm 149 or
Ezekiel 33:7-11 with Psalm 119:33-40
Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 18:15-20

Photo: CC0 image by Лариса Мозговая

Musings Sermon Starter

Seeds and Shovels

2016-09-30 11.13.45.jpgOn the morning of my third Christmas, my brother woke me before the sun was up to tell me that Santa had come. We went downstairs in the dark and it was true. In my family Santa didn’t wrap the presents he left. Gifts for my brother were on the left side under the tree and mine were on the right. I remember seeing a Barbie airplane and a few other things that were quite exciting. Then I saw her.

She was a dark-haired doll about a head shorter than I was. She was dressed in a red velvet dress with white lace. Her eyes opened and closed and her small mouth showed teeth. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that she was a walking doll. While my parents slept, I walked with that doll in a constant loop from the living room, to the dining room, down the short hallway, and back to the living room.

Long after my mother told me that the doll had been hers and wasn’t really meant to be played with, I saw the necklace she was wearing. It was a tiny globe hanging from a gold bow on a gold chain. Inside the globe was a little round thing that moved around when I shook it. My mother explained that the necklace had also been hers and it contained a mustard seed. Strangely, I don’t remember any further explanation. My young self was apparently satisfied with knowing it was a seed in there.

Many years later, I learned the significance of the mustard seed and wondered why my mother had given it to me. She wasn’t a woman of faith; on a good day she was agnostic. On all days she wasn’t fond of organized religion in general and Christianity in particular. It must have been hard for her when I fell in love with church and sought after God with the innocence and determination only found in young children.2016-09-30-11-14-10

I still have the doll and though her clothes are different, the mustard seed necklace is still there. I’ve wrestled with the mustard seed image over the years. Moving mountains or mulberry bushes seem an impossible task. Yet, I think about all that has happened in my life and what I was able to endure because of faith. Childhood trauma, depression, eating disorder, rape, divorce, coming out, homophobia in the church… so many things that if I did not believe in God and God’s love for me, I would not have gotten through them. These are mountainous things in an individual life.

I remember Dr. James Loder telling the class that faith is a yes or no question. One either says, “Yes, I believe. Help my unbelief.” Or “No, I don’t believe.” It isn’t a quantitative question. How does one measure faith, really? Maybe when we deem the mountains insurmountable and there are no trees growing in the sea, then we know that faith is absent. So when we see someone climbing out from under the weight of tragedy and pain or thriving in an impossible situation, then we know that faith is there.

It’s easy to see this in an individual life. But what of the wider Christian community? Where is faith when we are lulled into complacency or fail to act because we are overwhelmed? Mountains are moved one shovel-full at a time with many faithful hands pitching in. There is so much hatred and fear, violence and destruction, in the world. We can move this kind of mountain if we work together. I really do believe this is possible.

Lament is an appropriate response when we come up against a mountain that buries us. We can lament racism and every other ism and phobia out there, but if we do not endeavor to rid society of them, then we fail to recognize the power of faith to transform and create new life.

A tiny mustard seed grows into a sizable bush, such power and potential lies dormant within it. God has repeatedly demonstrated the power and potential of God’s steadfast love. As difficult as it can be, especially in an election season, to trust that God is present, mountains are movable, and mulberry bushes could grow in the sea, it’s far better dying slowly because the mountains of hate lie so heavily on us that there is no room for the breath of life.

Church, we can move mountains when we work together and trust God to lead us from lament to new life. There is no better message for a week when we will intentionally remember that people all around the world will gather at Christ’s table. We will be united in our desire for renewal and nurture and in the promise to live in the covenant of love that was broken and poured out for us. Maybe we should all come to the table with a mustard seed in one hand and a shovel in the other just so we don’t forget the power that lies within us and what we are called to do with it.

If you are looking for sermon help, here’s my other reflection on the texts this week.

RCL – Year C – Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost – World Communion Sunday – October 2, 2016
Lamentations 1:1-6 with Lamentations 3:19-26 or Psalm 137 or
Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4 with Psalm 37:1-9 and
2 Timothy 1:1-14 and
Luke 17:5-10

Photos: CC-BY-NC image by Rachael Keefe


An All Saints Day Reflection

I’m taking a little break from the events of the world this week. There’s plenty going on and lots of preachers and bloggers who will be exploring how we show our love of God, self, and neighbor in a world filled with chaos. Instead, I’m going to focus on the reading from Ruth, All Saints Day, grief, and the anniversary of my ordination, not necessarily in that order. (If you are looking for sermon help or my thoughts on a variety of lectionary texts, try here.)


The words Ruth spoke to Naomi are chasing around in my head, “…Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God…” Ruth offered Naomi unconditional love, a promise to remain family even though she did not have to. There’s strength and beauty here that I wish permeated more of our relationships with one another. There is also a sacredness in the possibility that says we can choose family where our own might be inadequate or nonexistent.

I grew up in a church that did not observe All Saints Day at all. Later, I encountered congregations in which All Saints was a time to remember the members who had died in the previous year and this is fine. However, All Saints Day feels more personal for me because it is the day on which I was ordained. Each year on November 1, I spend some time taking stock of my ministry – where I have been, where I am, and where I might feel called to go – and I think of all the many lives who have touched and shaped mine.

As I reflect, this year feels quite a bit different from other years. Part of this is because I’ve moved to Minnesota which is quite a ways from all the places I have lived before. When we were talking about the possibility of relocating, my wife echoed Ruth’s words, “Where you go, I will go…” And I’m grateful. Following God’s call is challenging enough without a reluctant spouse.

Another significant reason that this year feels different is that my mother has died. She wasn’t exactly supportive of my call to ministry so it is not her support and influence that I miss. I’ve had to let go of the idea that she would someday come to a service and see that I was born for ministry. Somehow, though, in trying to prove to my mother that ministry is the right call for me, I’ve managed to prove it to myself. When I was called to my first church, I was convinced that they had made a mistake in choosing me over the other 26 candidates that they considered. My mother agreed with me. In spite of my mother’s lack of support and understanding, I can honestly say, I no longer have doubts about my call to ministry…

Of course, the other big difference is that I am serving a congregation as the full-time settled pastor for the first time since coming out in 1998. There is a powerful affirmation here that is long over-due. I’m just grateful that the church and the world are changing so that neither being a woman nor being bi-sexual is a reason to exclude a person from pastoral ministry. I hear the essence of Ruth’s words in the church’s growth toward inclusivity. “Where you go…”

There’s a lot tied up in the twenty-third anniversary of my ordination. I feel like I am surrounded by all those who have journeyed with me. Those from the church of my childhood who welcomed me and taught me the true power of being church… Teachers who encouraged me to develop and use my talents… Professors who challenged me to think beyond the words on any given page… Friends who stood by me, particularly in the wilderness times… Parishioners who embodied Christian faith simply and fully… Therapists who helped me discover my own strength… Colleagues who share the costs and joys of discipleship… The countless who invited me to accompany them in their most difficult times… The list is endless… All the ways in which my life has been shaped by those who embodied Ruth’s words to Naomi are beyond my knowing. I’ve been given home, family, faith and so much more. I could not be more grateful to God for the whole of the journey!

I hope that you, too, are blessed with home, family, faith and more as you remember and give thanks for all the saints who have touched and shaped your life.

RCL – Year B – All Saints Day – Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost – November 1, 2015
Ruth 1:1-18
Psalm 146
Deuteronomy 6:1-9
Psalm 119:1-8
Hebrews 9:11-14
Mark 12:28-34

Emerging Church Prayer

A Lenten Prayer for Mercy

In the midst of all that is, I cry out to you, O God. My words hold anger and outrage over the acts of hatred down the street and around the world. I want you to change the hearts of those who perpetrate violence and evil on innocent lives and those who condone separatist and racist views. I challenge you to write your law on their hearts.

Until I hear my own voice. Then I pray for your mercy. Forgive those times when I have remained silent when another is victimized. Or the times when only anger motivates me to utter words the feed only the dark places in me and around me. In these moments, my sins are clear even to my unseeing eyes. Have mercy on me, according to your steadfast love.

Even as I ask for mercy, I know that I come seeking you when it is convenient for me. While I want to condemn those who claim to know you and act with so much hatred, I realize that I am not much different. Like those Greeks who came long ago to see you after you raised Lazarus, I come calling your name. I wish to see you, not as you are, but in a way that makes me comfortable. Show me your ways that I will remember your word.

Deep in the wilderness of this season, it is easier for me to rail against the sins of others than to acknowledge my own. I can denounce politicians and policy makers for ignoring the needs of prisoners and immigrants, the homeless and the lost, the asylum seekers and the broken ones. Yet, how often I have failed to see you in their faces! I can be so quick to judge and so slow to show your mercy. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit with in me.

Guide me through the darkness that lurks just waiting for me to turn from your light. I would honor your covenant of love and grace. Grant me the courage to let go of all those things that prevent me from bearing much fruit. You offer your mercy over and over again. This time, may I live in your grace long enough to pass it on to another.

Write your law upon my heart, O

Christ have mercy on me.


RCL – Year B – Fifth Sunday in Lent – March 22, 2015
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 51:1-12 or Psalm 119:9-16
Hebrews 5:5-10
John 12:20-33                                                  Image from Used with permission.

Emerging Church Musings Sermon Starter

10 Commandments 2.0

Typically, progressive Christians don’t talk much about the Ten Commandments. I’m not sure why, exactly. Maybe we think they don’t have so much to say to us. I think they do so I’ve written them as they might be if they were given today. The idea came out of a text study with colleagues earlier this week.


Exodus 20: 1-17

Then God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

                                                           Then God spoke these words:

                                                            I am the Holy One your God, I have given my life for                                                                     you, to save you from yourself. Do not choose gods of                                                                  your own  making as they will not give you life.

 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

                                                         Do not put your faith in things made by human hands.                                                                They will leave you alone and disappointed. The                                                                            devastation can be felt for generations. If you love me, the                                                          God who is love, your children will be blessed with love for                                                          generations to come. 

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

                                                       Do not use my name frivolously. Every time you do, you                                                             diminish the awe and wonder I bring to each moment. You                                                         also devalue yourself each time you devalue the One who                                                             made you.

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work — you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

                                                       Take a Sabbath. You need a day to rest your body, your                                                              mind, and your spirit. The world will continue in all its                                                                busyness, that is not an excuse for making time to rest and                                                          remember that I am your God, that you are my beloved                                                              child, and worship heals your spirit.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

                                                       Honor your parents. Forgive them for their mistakes and                                                            their wrongs and you will find freedom and peace.

You shall not murder.

                                                        Do not murder anyone or commit acts of violence toward                                                           another. Peace never results from violent words or actions.

 You shall not commit adultery.

                                                       Do not enter into a sexual or romantic relationship with                                                              anyone who is not free to be in relationship with you. The                                                            pain it will cause you and others will be more than you                                                                realize.

 You shall not steal.

                                                     Do not take anything that belongs to another. You will cause                                                      unnecessary hurt and have to deal with the guilt and shame                                                      that could result.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

                                                     Do not lie – to yourself or anyone else. Lies have a way of                                                            consuming you and destroying relationships.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

                                                     Do not let jealousy or envy distract you from what is                                                                    important. You do not need possessions to prove your                                                                  worth.

RCL – Year B – Third Sunday in Lent – March 8, 2015
Exodus 20:1-17
Psalm 19
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
John 2:13-22

Photo from Used with permission.


Covenant Again



An invitation to join in the eternal dance,
to wrap our lives with sacred song,
to be still and known and loved

Everlasting, unbreakable, irreversible
no matter what we do or don’t do,
a gift offered to the whole of Creation

All any of us has to do is accept –
accept the love, the forgiveness, the mercy –
and hold nothing back

That’s the hard part.

We want to hold everything back
most of the time and can hardly believe
that we are loved by a God
so steadfast, so enduring, so merciful
as to claim us and call us Beloved

The rhythm of the universe sings praises
to guide us to the sacred promise
that can save us from our selves
if we are willing to risk everything
to gain everything

Yet something in us resists the idea
that we are made in love for love,
that we don’t need hatred, fear, or violence
we just don’t sit still long enough
or often enough to know

God waits for us
over and over again
God waits for us
for us to return to the eternal dance

RCL – Year B – Second Sunday of Lent – March 1, 2015
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Psalm 22:23-31
Romans 4:13-25
Mark 8:31-38 or Mark 9:2-9

Photo from Used with permission.

Emerging Church Musings Sermon Starter

Noah, Jesus, and a Little Thing Called Covenant

People are generally impatient. We don’t like to wait in line or slow down if the person in front of us is slower. We complain when worship runs over the allotted time. We click agree without paying much attention to the stated terms if we are in a hurry to get to the webpage we want. We order things instantly on-line rather than drive to the store. Many prefer texting over any other form of communication. If an article is too long, we skip to the end. We are in a hurry most of the time.

2013-02-17 11.12.11

Strangely, enough, our general lack of patience and attention to detail is evident in the little snippet we read this week of the Noah story. God is very repetitive in making the covenant with Noah. Over and over again, God says that God will make a covenant not to destroy the earth by flood again, a covenant with Noah and all future generations, with the birds of the air, the beasts of the earth, with every living creature, and with the earth itself.

I think we missed it. Rainbows or not, a multitude of generations have missed this all-encompassing covenant God made. The funny thing about covenant is that it is not one-sided. God agreed not to destroy the earth by flood and Noah opted in. Presumably, agreeing not to destroy the earth as well. Then humankind proceeded to develop increasingly more effective ways to kill each other, wipe out whole species of living things, and significantly damage the earth as well.

We aren’t much better at covenant than we are at patience. Covenant is a sacred promise, a promise involving God and at least one other party. We have not done very well with our end in upholding the covenant from Noah’s days. The proof is everywhere we look. Drought in California, record-breaking snow in the Northeast, wars across the globe, and a whole lot of other destruction happening. Things could change, but most people are reluctant to put in the time to effect real change in the environment, in conflict-resolution, in healthier living.

There are even some who will say that the covenant made in Christ nullified all covenants made before. This strikes me as a weak excuse to go on being ambivalent or even apathetic about making necessary changes. When God made the covenant with Moses, it was a series of statements to be clear that God was including the whole world in the promise not to destroy the world again. Noah agreed on behalf of all future generations. Jump ahead a few thousand years and we get to Jesus. John’s Gospel at least makes it very clear why the incarnation, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus happened:  God so loved the world. Sound familiar?

The promise of abundant life, the covenant made through Christ, is an upgrade from the covenant made with Noah. God isn’t just promising not to destroy humanity or the rest of the world in this covenant. God is promising to flood the world with love. When we claim Christianity, we are entering into this covenant. We are making a sacred promise not just to avoid destruction, but, moreover, to embody love. Love for the whole of creation. God is tricky that way. We humans are impatient and don’t pay attention to the fine print very well.

2013-02-09 22.01.31Lent is an excellent time to reflect on what it means to be in a covenant of love with God and one another. As we fast from food, carbon, electronic gadgets, shopping or whatever else gets in the way of us encountering the sacred in everyday life, we should use that time to figure out how we can better hold up our end of the deal. God will go on loving us no matter how poorly we live into the covenant given us in Christ. That’s a given. However, it’s also a given that the world could do with a whole lot more patient attention to the ways of love and far less impatient, hurried ways of destruction.

Why not make love for ourselves, our neighbors, our God, our world the spiritual practice for Lent?

RCL – Year B – First Sunday in Lent – February 22, 2015
Genesis 9:8-17
Psalm 25:1-10
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:9-15