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Revised Common Lectionary: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:1-12 or Psalm 119:9-16; John 12:20-33; Hebrews 5:5-10
In this Sunday before Holy Week, we prepare for the New Covenant. We have been reflecting back upon God’s covenants throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, from Noah to Moses, and now we recognize a new covenant that God has written upon our hearts, where we know God, where God forgives our sins and remembers them no more. Jeremiah, speaking to a people who have continually failed to remember God and their part in the covenant, brings this message of hope, where God’s covenant cannot be forgotten because it is within one’s own heart. No longer will it appear that God has failed them when their leaders fail them, because God is bypassing the religious leaders and entering one’s own heart.
Psalm 51:1-12 is a song seeking forgiveness, where the psalmist confesses their sins and desires for God to show mercy and to be restored. The psalmist asks God to create a clean heart, where the writer can be fully restored to God. In reflection with the Jeremiah passage, we remember that God will forgive us and remember our sins no more by writing God’s covenant on our hearts.
Psalm 119:9-16 is from a different perspective, the desire of someone wishing to avoid sin and one who wants to stay close in relationship to God. The psalmist’s heart is open to seek God, the heart of where God’s covenant is written.
John 12:20-33 speaks of the way of the Cross, which is to die to this world. Those who seek to save their life will lose it, and Jesus says those who are willing to lose (in John’s Gospel the word is hate) their life will keep it. We must be willing to die to the things of this world, the sin that separates us, the greed and desire of worldly ways. We need a new heart to be open to God, and in order to have a new heart, we must be willing to follow Jesus, love others and love God, and put aside our own worldly desires and greed. Jesus models this in his life by glorifying God (Abba) and not himself. Throughout the Gospels, whenever Jesus performs a miracle, Jesus does so to show the glory of Abba God, not of himself. In this strange passage, where Jesus calls upon Abba God to glorify God’s name, God’s voice echoes back like thunder. Jesus says this was for the sake of the people, not for his own–that they might turn to Abba God, Creator God, God above–and recognize that in order to truly live, they must be willing to die to the world.
The new covenant with God is to give our lives over to Christ, to lose our lives, and even to use the strong language of Jesus, hate our lives. We need to be willing to put aside our own desires for our life to look to the needs of others–to love other and love God, not the success and ways of this world. As we prepare for the journey to the Cross of Holy Week, we recognize that our hearts are made new with God. The desires of this world have been replaced with the desire to intimately know God and to love our neighbors as ourselves, and God’s covenant is written on our hearts, to forgive our iniquity, and remember our sin no more.
Call to Worship:
Leader (whispers): Listen! God is calling you!
People: The voice of the world is calling us to work harder. The voice of the world says I’m not busy enough.
Leader (speaking softly): Listen! God is calling you!
People: The voice of the world says I need more. The voice of the world says I should want more.
Leader (speaking at a normal level): Listen! God is calling you!
People: The voice of the world says I can be better. The voice of the world says I can be richer.
Leader (loudly): Listen! God is calling you!
People: The voice of the world says there’s too much trouble. The voice of the world says I can’t do enough.
Leader (shouting): Listen! God is calling YOU!
People: The voice of God is calling us to turn! The voice of God calls us to repent! The voice of God calls us to new life!
All: Come, let us follow God’s voice, God’s word–Jesus, the living word of God!
Prayer of Confession:
Abba God, we come to You knowing that we have gone astray from Your ways. We have sought the pleasure and comfort of worldly gain. We have desired more and have striven to have more things, forgetting the needs of others and our earth that You gave us to care for. Most of all, we have turned our hearts away from You to love the things of this world more than You. Forgive us. Create in us clean and renewed hearts, where Your love may dwell. Call us back to the ways of love, justice, and peace that you modeled and taught for us. Call us to leave behind the ways of this world, to die to this world, to lose our life for Your sake, so that we may find New Life in You. In the name of Jesus the Christ we pray. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon (from Jeremiah 31):
God has put God’s law within us and has written it on our hearts. No longer shall we say to each other “Know the Lord” for we all shall know God, for God has forgiven our iniquity, and remembers our sin no more. Go forth, knowing that you are loved, forgiven, and restored; journey with Christ. Amen.
Loving Jesus, You have drawn us closer into relationship with the fullness of God by showing us that in order to love God, we need to love our neighbors as ourselves. Call us into deeper relationship with You by seeking to leave the desires of this world. Call us away from the temptations of worldly success and lead us into ways we can participate in Your reign here on earth. Call us to share the Good News of the New Life promised us at the Resurrection, recognizing that we live in a Good Friday world and that we must be Your light in the darkness. In the name of Christ, the Light of the World, we pray. Amen.