Message Supplement for 16 October 2016–“God+You=Renew”

Today’s message arises from Jeremiah 31:27-34, where the prophet reflects on momentous change. “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” (Jeremiah 31: 31).
The situation in Jeremiah’s day was that the Jewish people had been taken prisoner to live in the conquerors’ land of Babylon. This Babylonian captivity aroused deep reflection about who and what it meant to be Jewish. The comforting thought is that God listens to the cries of the oppressed. But all is not normal or convenient: God is advocating fundamental changes that the people must implement.
Jeremiah shares God’s desire that there be a new way for a new day. No longer should debilitating religious rules prevail. The Jewish Law had become dysfunctional and abused by a religious bureaucracy intent on preserving power and privilege more than love and truth. The history of religion reveals how administrative and bureaucratic forces undermine a religion’s spiritual core. Through institutionalization, God’s message tends toward corruption as it is co-opted by politicians and power brokers, those who profit by trying to control what you believe and how you live. This deplorable situation is what Jeremiah condemns.
Jeremiah’s voice still cries, reaching across the centuries and alerting God’s people. Want a monumental sea-change? Here it is, and of all places in the Old Testament, which reveals a surprisingly enlightened understanding. Sure, rules and laws avoid anarchy and also regulate commerce, preserve peoples’ rights, etc. Rules and the laws upon which they are based are absolutely necessary as they provide civilization’s framework. But as far as keeping spirituality alive and well, rules cause more harm than good. Each person has a spirit that yearns for connection to God. When there are too many meddling, maniacal middlemen then it leads to people feeling alienated and discouraged.
We are inheritors of a new covenant (albeit one far more progressive than even that suggested by Jeremiah). We can thrive under this New Testament covenant, the one emphasized by Yeshua bar Joseph—aka Jesus the son of Joseph and otherwise known as Jesus [the] Christ. Jesus based his gospel message on love, and not upon an endless plying of rules and rituals. Ultimately it was the religious establishment that convinced the Romans to execute Jesus. One of the lessons is to never underestimate the role of evil forces, including the stooges and watchdogs intent on keeping everything controlled. In our daily lives we encounter persons whose opposition to positive, productive change is so entrenched that they’d rather sacrifice their souls than to embrace spiritual health. Such persons act as if they own the church when in fact they are stewards empowered to do whatever it takes to grow it.
Jeremiah’s message rings true for us as much as for his original audience. We, like the ancients, can choose to listen to what God wants and be willing to make epic changes. In partnering with God to revitalize ourselves we destroy the shackles of bondage. We know that our covenant of love and truth is what God desires for us and from us. Therefore, we resist the call to cling slavishly to attitudes and behavior that drain the life blood out of our spirit. Rather, we can open our hearts and minds to the dynamic power of our living God.
We must be careful that we don’t snuff the Sprit by layers of garbage. Life is sufficiently complicated; don’t make your religion any more complex than it needs to be. As each of us is transformed the church gains vitality. We can’t rely on heritage or habit to get us to where God wants us to be. God’s Spirit will help us cross timid boundaries and claim the promises that will take us to the next level. We are the liberated children of God, the progeny born of a new covenant. We need not become captives of a real or imagined kingdom. Our lives emanate from a God whose presence radiates each time we receive and share love and truth. Are you ready to embrace this spiritual life? Are you ready to unleash the power of God?
–Reverend Larry Hoxey.