Mark 14:17, 22-26
Rev. Kit Billings
March 2, 2003
This morning I'd like to orient us around an immensely comforting spiritual subject in these times of uncertainty and possible war, and that is the New Covenant that the Lord our God made with us while Incarnate as the Christ, when he walked and talked, ate, sang and prayed with our Middle East ancestors. In its basic form, a covenant is a deep spiritual agreement made between two parties.
God's covenant with us is sure…eternal…and more powerful than any problem or any force we humans may muster. Bombs and strife and confusion may have their temporary reign at times on earth, but the Lord's covenant of Love will remain forever. It is one, as Jeremiah was told, that is designed to be written on our very hearts and it is as sure and down to earth as Jesus Christ himself when he walked among us over 2000 years ago.
God cares very deeply about having solid, sure covenants with each and every one of us-in part so that we may start each day feeling at peace that the Lord has an eternal and true arrangement with us. And also so that we understand that a covenant means that we have a vital and important part in our relationships with God. It matters greatly to the Lord that we each understand very deeply how passionately he cares for us and that we have an eternal spiritual contract with him, if you will, based in the Divine Human Love that God brought to earth, into the earthly levels of our minds, by means of his Incarnation.
For those of you here today who are parents, I would imagine that you might have a special appreciation for this issue of how vitally important it is to the Lord that we, his children, know full well how truly loved we are. One day a couple of years ago, a female friend of mine from Minnesota and I were having a discussion about love, which brought us to the subject of what it felt like for her as a mother to love her son. It struck me when she said that prior to her son being born, she really thought she understood what love was about. Well, she was only partially "in the know" about what love is. After becoming a mommy, she discovered that her heart now cared for her child so much that it almost frightened her. She knew without any doubt that she would do everything possible to ensure that he was fed, kept warm and safe, and most of all that he knew and felt deeply that he was loved. Later she learned that she still had the ability to discipline him when needed, and make use of her discernment powers in mothering him wisely. But she knew in the core of her being that her spiritual instincts were inwardly driving her to love her son and make certain that he knew and felt that love.
God, our Divine Father, also wants us to know without any doubt that we are loved and cherished, which is half of his covenant with us. Think about it if you would: what are all the many various ways that we experience in life which inform us how powerfully loved we are and how much the Lord cares for us? I think about this beautiful planet we've been given and it's awesome ability to grow and produce so much food, about the blessing of music, the sun rising in the east, the warmth and peace God gives me when I take the time to pray, the feeling of being hugged by someone I care for and who cares about me, about our pets and how they love us. Also, I think about how God provided us with His Word and the story of him making his first covenant with Abraham and then never, ever breaking his covenant with us humans, which finally brought him here into the world as the Christ…our Savior.
It's so moving to me that the Almighty and Infinite Creator took on our humanness and walked among us, and how he blessed people, gave them great hope and a whole new experience of how personally we are loved. And I think most of all about the story of Jesus breaking bread and consecrating his New Covenant with us, based in his saving love for us. Jesus knew how simple yet powerful it would be to institute his New Covenant in the context of a meal, transforming the Old Covenant he had made with the Israelites in the Passover, which commemorated their release from bondage in Egypt, and now centered this New Covenant in this beautifully intimate, face-to-face connection with him.
The Lord's New Covenant was one centered in the Love he brought to human beings by means of the glorified Human, which Jesus was transforming before their very eyes. Christ's New Covenant was being based within his Divine Humanity, and it was one we could grasp in such powerful yet simple things as bread and wine. Doesn't it just speak something so beautiful to your soul, that God Incarnate broke bread before us and handed it to all around him saying, "Take, eat! This is my body." God's Covenant with us requires that we take his love simply, that we eat it as the spiritual food that will give us life, and swallow it that it might actually become a part of us.
And further, the Lord's Covenant was based within the cup of wine, which he blessed, and which corresponds to his Divine Truth. As Jesus transformed this ancient, Hebrew sacrament, he taught that his cup was the "new covenant in his blood," which is such an immensely important symbol for us to understand. God's Divine Truth, which came through Jesus Christ (God Visible from the Invisible), moves through his Divine Being like blood through our bodies. The Lord's truth is that vital…it is part of his essential life. And God's agreement with us is that he will always make it readily and abundantly available to us, by means of his Divine Word. Furthermore, God is revealing how life-giving and life-saving his truth is for us too and how it may be brought into our internal thinking and way of seeing life, so as to be written on our hearts and flow into our spiritual blood too.
The Lord uses the Divine truth in his Word to emphasize the intimacy of his New Covenant by recording in The Book of Revelation, "I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door I will come in to him, and will sup with him and he with Me" (Rev. 3:20). Swedenborg wrote in commentary on this passage, "That `covenant' signifies conjunction with the Lord through the reception of Divine truth by the understanding and will, and by the heart and soul, that is, by love and faith, and that this conjunction is effected reciprocally."
Thus, to be in a covenantal relationship with God means it is made alive through love with him and for him-being deeply open to God's love for us as an individual and humanity as a whole, and also to having my heart open toward the Lord as a child is toward his father when the child is young, vulnerable and open, free and passionate about it! The Last Supper was a way in which we can remember the Lord and his saving love for us. Eating his love, digesting it into our lives with one another every day, by means of the truth God provides is the only power that can save us from the selfishness we inherit from our ancestors. This is an enormously important part of God's New Covenant with us-while our love for and faith in him makes up our mutuality in this "agreement," it is the Lord's love flowing into us, which we are then called to channel through us, in a sense, is what saves us.
We truly live and become alive like never before by bringing our will, our understanding and our faith into an open and receptive RELATIONSHIP with the power of Jesus Christ, which is his love. When the Lord's work was done, completed, "accomplished" on earth, he made his finite humanity into Divine, unselfish love, and all humankind is to feed on his Divine love instead of selfishness.
Such love has it's own, inherent wisdom flowing through it and from it, which our teachings remind us is so much more than mere knowledge or even great intelligence. Spiritual wisdom is essentially the will and knowing of how to bring God's love and truth into every facet of our lives, which is why it takes a lifetime to be saved, so as to grow fully into Jesus' love.
The Lord's New Covenant with you, therefore, is based in a mutually intimate relationship, a sacred agreement between you and your God. Your simple, yet powerful, remembrance of it is given in the Holy Supper, which if done ritualistically only will not save you at all. Jesus instituted it as a reminder of how fully you must bring your whole heart, will, and mind to this covenant, recognizing where all love and truth comes from. The Lord's wisdom in this sacred reminder is marvelously blunt-his love and truth were woven into every facet of his own earthly life and the choices he made. God brought his love and truth into life's messiest and hardest circumstances shown in the life of Jesus. Far from a "pie in the sky" kind of calling, the Lord requires us, too, to let his love and wisdom flow into the trenches of everyday living, everyday struggling, and everyday hurting.
Now we know, because of the life of Jesus Christ, how intimately and abundantly that love and truth can be woven into life that is easy, fun and joyous, such as a wedding like the one in Cana that the Lord attended. And also how pragmatically yet mystically God's love and truth must be sewed into our depths of agony and pain as when Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane "…and his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood." (Luke 22:44); I'm reminded so poignantly of his pivotal moment there when he prayed, "Father…let your will be done, mot mine."
By coming deeply and ardently to the New Covenant Christ offers, having the will to walk forward, ever forward every day, we are assured…so solidly assured…that God will always be true to his side of the bargain. As Paul wrote so passionately in Romans 8 (selections):
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Yet in all these things we are conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come…shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Now, you see, it's up to you and me to make certain that we make the Lord's Divine love the central feature and purpose of life. This Covenant is given in the Lord's Divine blood, which we know is his truth. No wonder the Bible calls us to read and meditate on God's Word every day. God bless you in keeping your covenant strong and faithful in these trying times on earth. Amen.