An act of worship at home
Reading Jeremiah 31:31-34
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.
Through Jeremiah God told the people “a time is coming.” Jeremiah helped them look forward to a time in the future when things would be better. Jeremiah promised a new covenant. The new covenant would face the people forward and help them live life as it came toward them.
Halford Luccock tells the story of the little town of Flagstaff in the United States. The town was to be flooded as part of a large lake for which a dam was being built. All improvements and repairs in the whole town were stopped. What was the point of painting a house if it was to be covered with water in six months? Why repair anything when the whole village was to be wiped out? So, week by week, the whole town became more and more bedraggled. As Luccock put it so well, “Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present.”
Jeremiah’s description is striking. God would set aside the old covenant. In its place God would give his people a new covenant. Its foundation would not be on written laws and regulations.
The Lord would put his spirit directly into the hearts of people. It would be based on his nearness.
The covenant described by Jeremiah was natural and internal. It would be the difference between head and heart, between knowing something intellectually and knowing it in your heart. In the new covenant people would know God naturally.
Jeremiah 31:34 is a most comforting passage: “for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more”. Knowing God’s forgiveness is not a matter of following minute rules or regulations. It is knowing and trusting God. That trust can help us walk through incredible times. And in just the same way as at the time of Jeremiah Christ now calls us to a faith that looks forward.
On the road to the cross Jesus continuously looked forward but not only as far as the cross but beyond to what his actions would mean for us, for the world.
Christ’s death brings life to the world. The presence of God is revealed through the life yielded to God’s love.
There is blessing and joy in stepping out in faith. There is hope for those who despair. There is hope for those who are faithful but see no fruit from their labour. There is hope for those who truly want to be set free from whatever entraps them. There is hope for us all.
A plaque by an anonymous author hangs in a minister’s study. It reads: “When you stand at the edge of all the light you have and step off into the darkness, you can be certain that one of two things will happen. You will be given a solid ledge on which to stand, or you will be taught to fly.” Thank you Lord. Amen.
Loving God, your call comes to us in different ways and at different times, but to each one of us it inevitably comes the call to faith, to commitment, to sacrifice our time, money and energy,
to explore new forms of service, to take up our cross and follow Jesus.
You call us to things we enjoy, and to duties that are demanding; to responsibilities that are a pleasure, and to work that is hard; to tasks that ask little from us, and to love that is costly.
Help us to hear your voice, and give us faith to respond.
You call us when your will is clear, and when it is hard to know, through special moments when your word comes directly, and through more mundane times when it comes to us through the ordinary circumstances of life.
Help us to hear your voice when you speak, and to understand what you are asking of us.
Teach us to respond readily rather than hide from your challenge, to serve gladly rather than from any sense of duty. Help us to hear your voice, and give us faith to respond.
You call us to be your hands and your feet, continuing the ministry of your Son Jesus Christ.
You ask us, through our caring and sharing, our loving and listening, our accepting and understanding, to bring hope, healing, strength and encouragement to a broken and hurting world.
Help us to hear your voice, and give us faith to respond. Amen.
Hymn StF 51 – Great is thy faithfulness
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been thou forever wilt be.
Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
all I have needed thy hand hath provided,
great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
join with all nature in manifold witness
to Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!…
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!…
May God who makes all things new transform our living.
And may the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with us all
this day and for ever more. Amen.