Sermon Title: IDOLATRY OR COVENANT?
The Prayer of Confession: Lord of Life, help us to recover the meaning of covenant, and to remember that such relationships are at the heart of what we believe about faith. Whether it is the covenant of marriage, of parenting, of social justice, or of our collective expression of the gospel of compassion--covenant is the answer to idolatry. As we seek to be the beloved community serving others, help us to be a covenant people. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, our Teacher and Lord we pray, Amen.
Scripture Lesson: Dueteronomy 30: 15-19
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them,I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live
The idea of "covenant" is central to theology. In the story of Israel, when the people of Israel kept covenant, they prospered. When they broke covenant, they perished.
However, covenant was often used to justify conquest, to occupy the "promised land" and kill or enslave those who happened to be living there. Everyone's "promised land" is someone's "present land." "Manifest Destiny" sounds good unless it is your "destiny" is to be conquered. God is NOT in the land grant business. To God, there are NO "chosen people."
What we fail to understand is that this texr shows that thinking about God is undergoing a change. It is a realization that faith is not about making bargains. Instead, our faith is about making a series of choices and facing the consequences of those choices, life or death. It is about "Consequentiality" (although that is not a word recognized by "Spell Check").
We have attempted to turn God into a divine Santa Claus for whom we are not "good for goodness sake," but for the rewards such goodness gains for us. This covenant reminds us that the "ways of life and death are set before us," and that in choosing life we have committed ourselves to certain responsibilities from which we cannot escape.
People have stopped taking responsibility for their actions. Has there been torture going on in Iraq and at Gitmo? It's the work of a few "bad apples," or the legal advice of some "bad lawyers." We even try to shift responsibility on God. Has a city and its people been devastated by a hurricane and flooded because aging levees crumbled? God choose to punish them for being wicked, poor and in the miniority.
If God is responsible for everything, then why has not God fixed things that go wrong? Perhaps we need to realize that God is not to blame.
We make God like us. We like rewards and punishments, so God must. We would reward good guys and punish bad ones according to our judgements, so God must. Our choices must be God's choices. Punishments we endorse must be endorsed by God.
The text warns us that not all choices are valid. Covenant is a two way street. We must choose those things which bring life. We must choose covenant over idolatry. Idolatry says that pleasing God by believing in the right doctrines will bring about rewards.
After 9-11, the ways of life and death were set before us. We could have chosen to follow the path of justice and had the aid of the world in bringing about justice to those who committed that act of terror and mass murder. That would have been he way of life. Instead, we worshipped the idols of revenge and agenda and brought about the deaths of thousands of innocent people and in the process lost our national soul.
We need a Theology of Consequence that will tell us that our choice of the cars we drive, how we care for our farms and lawns, whether or not we eat too much, how we use our wealth demonstrate whether we have chosen life or death, whether we have kept or broken covenant.
God is not Santa, not apart from Creation, but a part of it. As Paul Tillich put it, God is the "Ground of Being." We must choose to act in concert with this Ground of Being. Personal irresponsibility must end if we are to choose the path of life for ourselves and all Creation.