New Covenant, New Creation

Jeremiah 31:27-34
“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. 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. In those days they shall no longer say:

“The parents have eaten sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”

But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge.

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 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.”

Jeremiah envisioned a covenant relationship with God that was directly from God as an act of creation and forgiveness of sins, putting all individuals in a relationship with him and holding all individuals accountable for their own actions (“but all shall die for their own sins…, 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.)

I believe the later Christian development of the idea of Jesus’ substitutionary atonement for the forgiveness of sins is an unfortunate solution to a problem that never existed: the original sin of Adam and Eve imputed to the rest of mankind. Jeremiah offers a solution directly from God that requires no intermediary or imputed/alien righteousness.

Like the original covenant, the new covenant was kicked off by an act of Creation by God, and Genesis creation language is here too: “God will sow human and animal seed”. And covenant language: “I will be their God and they shall be my people.”

I believe that in scripture, we find ancient beliefs which bear witness to realities that have always been true. What Jeremiah believes about Judah and Israel, I believe has always been true about all of creation. I believe that we’re all born into a covenant with a divinity that creates and recreates based on covenant faithfulness to love and forgiveness. Because forgiveness is necessary for existence and creation in the world we live in, right? I believe forgiveness transforms us continually into the Divinity that creates us, making us the Divine agents of New Creation.

Trinity

One of the things that trips me up about Christianity is the whole traditional theism thing. I don’t want to have to choose between Baal, Zeus, Yahweh or another personal deity from the pantheon. I was talking to my friend Alan about that last night and he said, “yeah I’ve really been gravitating towards the idea of the Trinity as a mysterious relationship that we’re invited into.”

I believe the Trinity is Christianity’s greatest contribution to the divinity conversation. To me, the Trinity doesn’t say “pick me, I’m the best option out of all the gods”. What it does say is that whatever Divinity is, we don’t get it, we never will, but we’ll continue to be invited into it and experience it. And we will continue to try to put it into words and not be able to.

Advent with Uncle Paul

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 [one act play version]

Uncle Paul [Robed, wizened, jovial, affectionate, lots of white light on him]– Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Earthlings [enough characters to stage an attempted human variety pack. It is recommended that the director choose individual Earthlings for the speaking parts] – That’s what we’re going for down here. It’s just so damn hard with all these effin’ circumstances.

Uncle Paul – Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.

Earthlings – Dammit Uncle Paul, that’s just what many of us have been trying so hard to do and get others to do. It’s just that there’s these other people with their other prophets and different definitions of what’s good and evil. Not enough people will get on board.

Uncle Paul [inclining his head to the Earthlings and gesturing to them in blessing]- May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Earthlings – Are we to understand you correctly that the care and flourishing of every spirit and soul and body is of infinite value?

Uncle Paul – Did I not just name him the God of peace himself? The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

[Uncle Paul slowly bows his head and gradually vanishes]

Earthlings [staring desperately at the rapidly vanishing form of Uncle Paul, shouting urgently, looking around at each other and Uncle Paul] – But how will the God of peace himself do this? TELL US HOW THE GOD OF PEACE WILL DO THIS!?

[Scene ends in silence, Earthlings all staring around at each other in bewilderment, palms up. A brief moment passes, curtains close]