by Tim Mooney
The Word in Scripture
… everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you …
… the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you … Genesis 17:1b-2a
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering … and be killed, and after three days rise again … ’If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’. Mark 8:31, 34a.
God created Adam and Eve, and told them don’t eat of the Tree of Knowledge. Oops. Humanity is now East of Eden, Cain kills Abel out of envy, and humanity acts wickedly. God regrets creating humankind, and determines to blot out all life, except for Noah’s family, and enough animals to start over. A flood comes, and when it’s over, we discover something new. God changes God’s mind. “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done … I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
Is it God who is changing? Or is the human understanding of God changing? It is the latter. The Biblical witness is a deeper and ongoing discovery of who God is, and what a life of faith means.
The story of Noah is the first time we see the word “covenant.” There is an ongoing relationship with God and humanity. No longer is God tribal, doing whatever, unpredictable as Colorado weather. Humanity now sees God has a consistent character – amazing grace, love, and justice – and we are asked to reflect in our lives the God we encounter.
Then God establishes a new covenant with Abraham and Sarah. God will make of them a great nation, give them the Promised Land, and circumcision is the sign of being set aside, of being chosen.
But soon being set aside as a light to the nations, becomes being “pure” and following the rules instead of living justly, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God. Again, something beautiful is being learned about God, but that knowledge becomes twisted. God’s choosing of Abraham and Sarah to be a blessing to all, becomes a choosing only for the circumcised. An outward sign replaces inner transformation
Jesus struggles to communicate a message the disciples don’t want to hear. The Kingdom of God – a new understanding of God’s covenant between humanity and God, marked not by purity but by radical grace, love, forgiveness, and peace – will get him killed. Peter rebukes Jesus: this cannot be. But Jesus speaks of a transformational process that God’s presence in our lives leads to: The death of the ego, a dying to the small self that wants to be in charge. But it’s dying that leads to a fullness of life, of becoming more Christ-like. It’s not just believing the right words. It’s giving ourselves to the ongoing transformation of God’s Spirit in our lives – we die to the false self, and become the true self God created us to be.
Just as we see in the scriptures a growing understanding of who God is, who we are, and the relationship between God and humanity, we, too, see in ourselves a growing understanding of who God is, who we are, and the kind of relationship we have with God.
I want to see the more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, day by day.
In this final week of Lent, ponder the following questions: How do you see God? How do you see yourself? How do you understand your relationship with God? What old understanding of God needs to die? What old understanding of yourself needs to die? What understanding of your relationship with God needs to die? And what new, deeper, understandings need to be embraced and lived into? First death, then resurrection: both.