"Sowing the Seeds of Promise"
Old Testament Reading- Jeremiah 31:31-34
New Testament Reading- John 12:20-33
By Henry J. Rafferty CLP -March 21, 2021
Did you ever break a promise? I have, and I’m ashamed to say that in my life, I have broken many. I like to think though that the longer and closer I walk with Christ the better I get at keeping my promises. Promises are important, they are little contracts that we have with one another.
Contracts are important too; they are usually made when something is
more important. A wedding ceremony is
an example of a contract. During the ceremony it is usually asked if each of the couple is there of their own choice and that they are not forced or coerced. Next there are vows, each of the couple recite the words that make a promise to stay together through thick and thin. This is a contract that is bound not only by the couple, but by the law and it is important for two people so that they can not only count on each other, but so that if something happens to one, the other is able to make decisions and use material property for the one that cannot. Insurance is a contract; we pay an insurance company money to cover loss that may happen to many different important things in our lives.
We feel much better when we know that we have a contract that binds the promise to law. It gives us a sense of reassurance, something we can count on. As I said before, the longer and closer we walk with Christ the better we get at keeping our word and in turn, our contracts. God loves fairness and He loves it when we take care of each other. It is important to keep our word and to be responsible for the contracts that we have with others. Contract is a noun; it is the legal document that we sign when we have an agreement with someone. The act of entering into a legal agreement with someone it is called a covenant. Covenant is a verb, it is an action word, something you do, as opposed to the thing itself.
In the Bible God is always making a covenant with people. Notice that, He is not making a contract with them, contract being a noun, but He is making a covenant with them, a verb, an action word. God is always in action when it comes to dealing with us, that is important to remember. The renowned artist Michelangelo knew this about God. If you have ever seen the painting that he made on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, you should notice that God and Adam are reaching out to each other, but when you really look harder at it you realize that God is the one actively reaching out to touch Adam while Adam is lazily lifting his hand to meet God. Remember the covenant that God made with Abraham that we talked about last week? God told Abraham that He would make many nations come from him and his wife Sarah and that all these nations would be blessed. Later God expanded on the covenant through Moses when He told the Israelites that He would make them into a mighty and holy nation if they would keep His commandments and follow in His way. All these things God did, but this life is not easy, and the Israelites strayed from God’s path and let us not think that we would have done any better, because I doubt, we would have. The Israelites had forgotten about God and decided to follow their own path, just as Adam had long ago. Breaking God’s covenant meant that God would remove His divine protection from the nation, and this allowed first, deterioration from within the nation and secondly from the outside as other nations began to conquer and take captive the Israelites. Our Old Testament reading for today was from a time when the Israelites had been taken into captivity by the Babylonians and the Prophet records these words from Jeremiah 31:31-34, “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Notice that God was not the weak link in the covenant, but the people. God says that they broke His covenant, though He kept His vow, but God is not done. God declares that He will make a new covenant, not like before, but a different one.
Let’s switch gears a little now to some things I need to tell you about trees. When I was in college, I was introduced to some of the practices used to manage a forest. One of these practices involves the partial girdling of tree trunks. This is how it works, a large mast tree, which means a large tree capable of producing lots of seeds, is partially cut around the trunk with a saw damaging the sap transport system. This is a mortal injury, but not right away.
The first reaction the tree will have is to try and wall off the injury, which will pull energy away from other things like growth or disease resistance. Next the tree will start to put a lot of energy into seed production. When a plant is in danger of dying it will produce more seeds than normal. The third response that the tree will have is to reduce the size of its leaves and slow or stop growth. So, we end up with a tree that will die in five to ten years, but in the process, will produce tons of seeds, reduce its canopy allowing more sunlight and water into a given area, and that its eventual death will make room for more young trees, not to mention that the process also allows insect and animal life to take advantage of the weakening tree to their benefits as well. Really interesting that people have discovered what God built into the system to do naturally and then use it to benefit the forest after harvesting for logs, thereby providing building materials but by also renewing the forest for future generations. Remember that, renewal for the future.
Our New Testament reading for today is from the Gospel of John chapter 12, listen to what verses 23-26 says, “Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be
glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” Hear that, Jesus said if it dies it produces not a single seed but many seeds. Jesus illustrates to us again what we just said about the tree in the forest, Jesus’ death will produce many seeds that would be a renewal for the future.
So, what about God’s new covenant that He talked about through the Prophet Jeremiah? God told us that it would be different than the old covenant and that it would be written on our hearts and minds. Jesus tells us that He must die to fulfill the plan, but that God will send His Spirit to live within all who believe. The new covenant is written on our hearts and minds because God’s Spirit is within us. Jesus tells us that He has come to make all things new again. Those are the sweetest words that you will ever hear in your life. That is the message of the new covenant that God made with us; a message that Jesus died for to produce in us a multitude of seeds to be planted throughout the world so that we have renewal for the future. A renewal for a future that will have an eternal reward to be in God’s Almighty presence and experience His everlasting love forever and ever. We may be bad at keeping our promises, but thanks be to God that He is not. God never fails, that we can count on, that is His promise to us. Thanks be to God. Amen.