Midweek of Lent 5
28 March 2012
St. John's, Chicago, IL
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
"Know the Lord!" I don't even have to say that, do I? After all, we are in the New Covenant. So Jeremiah says you already know the Lord. Right. And if you walk outside these doors, and go about in this neighborhood, you will have no need to say, "Know the Lord," because all our neighbors do -- every last one of them -- right?
What you have here is a case of what pastors and Lutheran Bible scholars call, "now/not yet." The Lord has fulfilled His promises, and yet, the completion in all it's glorious perfection will be at the Last Day.
Jeremiah preaches the promise of the New Covenant. The old one had been violated, many times over. Every day the children of Israel had failed God at keeping His Word, and being a faithful bride the the Holy Bridegroom and Lord. They had been the immoral wife, desiring and lusting after other gods, just as Potiphar's wife had desired and lusted after the handsome slave Joseph. The covenant that simply said, "I will be your God, and you will be My people," was too much for them to bear. And so they became a wicked wife, unfaithful to her husband, breaking her wedding vow and serving only her self-centered desires.
Of course, you have no stone to cast here. You daily sin much; you stray as well. The gods you go chasing after may not be Baal or Asherah, they are not made of wood or stone. More likely, your gods are made of electronics: computers, smart phones, iPods, and the like. Or you lust after the gods of wealth and popularity. No matter what or who they are, you place people or objects as higher priorities than the Lord God.
This was the rejection of the Old Covenant. And judgment fell on the Old Covenant Church for refusing the Lord who had made that Covenant. The people of Israel and you are both guilty of its violation.
But there is comfort in the preaching of Jeremiah. The prophet whom many referred to as "Terror on Every Side" -- something like calling him, "Old Gloom and Doom," was now speaking words of tender comfort and peace from God. After their wandering and straying and forsaking God, He was giving them a New Covenant.
You live in the New Covenant. The Law of God is written in your hearts. Your called-to-faith, forgiven, renewed hearts have God's Law written upon them. Do you keep it, though? Not perfectly. Not completely. That's the "not yet." It is there, yet you still slip back into your sin, and fail at keeping the covenant.
And that is where Jesus makes all the difference. He IS the New Covenant, placed in you, making you stand clean and righteous and perfect before God. He forgives you for all your straying and unfaithfulness, and cleanses you to be the spotless, pure and holy Bride.
Your dear Lord promises to be your God, and you will be His people. Not because you have done well at keeping His old covenant, but because He has given you the blessing to be His people. He "forgive[s] [your] iniquity, and [remembers your] sin no more."
Far more significant than bringing you up out of slavery to taskmasters in Egypt, your Redeemer has brought you up out of the slavery and bondage of sin, death, and the devil. The Lord God lavishes you with His mercy and love, releasing you from all these things that are harmful to your eternal well-being, and preserving you in the one, true faith.
God sends Jeremiah to preach this comforting Gospel, dear friends in Christ. He declares to you that He has forgiven all your breaking of His old covenant, and fills you with the joy and comfort of Jesus Christ and His New Covenant. In the suffering and death on His cross, Jesus has purchased and won you salvation, instituting the New Covenant. And in His Holy Sacraments, He delivers that salvation to you, placing the New Covenant inside you. No one has to preach or teach to you to "know the Lord." By His grace, through what He has done, and then through His preaching and sacraments, you already do! You know the Lord, thanks be to God. Amen.