A New Covenant: Radiant Sermon
Radiant!”- Sermon on January 13, 2019 at Harbor Church
Charlotte Web “Radiant!” – Wilbur the Pig
One of my favorite children’s books is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. The recommended reading level is third through sixth grade, but I got a lot more out of it reading it to my children as an adult than when my mom read it to me for the first time. It is The story of a spider who saves Wilbur from the slaughterhouse by making him into Zuckerman’s famous pig. She does this by spinning four messages in her web over the course of the novel. The words that appear in the web over the pigpen and catapult Wilbur to fame and salvation are: "SOME PIG!," "TERRIFIC," "HUMBLE." and (my personal favorite) "RADIANT" The most radiant spider webs that I’ve every seen haven’t had actual words written on them. They are the webs that I have seen when hiking through meadows very early in the day when they are full of the morning dew. There were no words, but the hand of God seemed to have written Radiant over and over again on dozens of webs glistening in the morning sunshine.
RADIANT is the word that appears in our reading today to describe what God’s people are like when they begin to truly appreciate and understand the magnitude of scope of God’s love, forgiveness and unconditional acceptance. And radiance is what the new covenant produces when we begin to live in the light of this reality.
A NEW Covenant produces a NEW Perspective filled with . RADIANT realization of the depths of God’s grace. Here is why: Because it is a covenant of Grace.
Grace does not ignore sin, or pretend it does not exist. Rather, it makes extravagant allowances for failure, waywardness and transgression.
Grace , we read, turns “mourning into joy” Sorrow for sin becomes a celebration of forgiveness.
Consider the metaphors in our reading from Jeremiah: Grace is like
Like Sheep , nurtured by and cared for by a shepherd- protected from the dangers all around
Like a Well-Watered Garden. Nourished by the garden, the weeds are removed, the soil is fertilized, the crop is raised, the fruit is plentiful.
Like Young women dancing. Like young and old men alike singing in celebration.
The individual who has experiences great restoration after repentance will not be quick to judge others. Grace’s view is this perspective: “my sin is great, but greater still is God’s forgiveness and restoration. ” So not only do I find personal forgiveness in Christ, but I am also able to forgive others more readily and fully.
A Unique Perspective Author and Theologian C..S. Lewis was once asked, “What sets Christianity apart from other word religions? What makes it most distinctive?” “That’s easy,” he replied, “It’s all about Grace.”
Most word religions and philosophies are systems of reckoning our good deeds and our evil actions. We tally them up and whichever column has the most credits in it determines our eternal outcome. We make the grade or we don’t. We reach God, or we fall short. We achieve enlightenment or remain in darkness. Karma comes around and gets us in the end.
Christianity has a fundamentally different perspective. Our arms will never be long enough to reach out and connect with God on our own. No matter how high we climb, we will never make it to the top of the mountain. No one can pile up enough celestial brownie points to please a perfect and holy God. That s the bad news. But Christianity is about good news. We don’t’ have to because God has done it for us.
Author Phillip Yancey has written about this grace in a couple of his books: What’s so Amazing About Grace? and Vanishing Grace: Whatever Happened to the Good News? And the meditation quote in our bulletin today is from him as well: “Grace does not depend on what we have done for God but rather what God has done for us.”
A New Law and a New Spirit.
This is what todays reading says we have been given:
36 “I am [about] as likely to reject my people for their sins
as I am to abolish the laws of nature!”
-I, the Lord, have spoken!
Consider The Laws of nature. For every Action, and equal and opposite reaction. What goes up must come down. Cause and Effect.
The Spiritual Laws
Of the Old : of the Covenant of Works, which God established with Adam and Eve, and later codified with Moses was the Law of Sin and Consequence. Blessings and Curses. If… Then… the covenant served a purpose, and had a reason in its season. It helped early humankind to distinguish between good and evil, between right and wrong. To illustrate that bad actions produce harmful results-that they hurt either us or the people around us. The old covenant was not given to judge us so much as to tutor us. To instruct us in ways that lead to life, to keep us off paths that lead to sin and death. But even then Grace was at work. It was the love that slapped the hand before it touched the hot stove and got burned, that spanked the child who played in the street so that next time he wasn’t run over by a car. If the Old testament seemed harsh or punitive, it was never the less deigned to be instructive, to be preventative, to protect from greater harm.
But This was the Old Testament, the Old Covenant.
Of the New:
The New Testament usher in a New covenant that was spoken of even in the Old.: The law written on hard stone tablets would be rewritten on the soft tablets or human hearts. The Spirit which appeared as a burning Bush or fiery pillar would come to dwell in each of us individually as living temples of God’s Spirit. What this means for us is that the letter of the law has been replaced by the spirit of the law. Gods spirit works in conjunction with our own individual consciences to lead us and guide us in how to live each day. Each of us has been given our own individual moral compass with which to navigate our way through this life, revealed what has been written in scripture but then brought to life for each one of us as we seek God’s leading. We are no longer judged by the spirit, but we are justified by the spirit, made right in our relationship with God through this same spirit. So not only does the New Covenant make provision for every sin and failing in our lives, past, present and future, but it also gives us the grace to rise above our failures and brokenness and we receive the power to live lives that are in harmony and accord with God and others. For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me [already],” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”
Finally, Because we can know God in this intimate personal way, we can live radiant lives.
In E.B. Whites classic story, the spider Charlotte informs readers that webs are strong when they hold together, yet insects tear the web every time one gets caught in the trap. A spider's web must be rebuilt constantly, despite its strength and beauty. Like the spider web, the The old covenant was damaged by humanity’s thrashing around in sin. But like Charlotte, who blessed Wilbur by weaving his salvation, God renewed the covenant, rebuilt it to make it stronger and better than ever. The new covenant is more like a safety net than a spider’s web. It catches us no matter how far we fall. The strands of God’s new covenant cannot be broken because the strength of God’s love is constantly renewing it by grace.
Let’s live out this reality today. Let’s enjoy the good gifts that God has showered upon us, not because we deserve them or have earned them, but because of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. This is the essence of the New covenant of grace, that we can be led by the spirit of God and the spirit of the law each moment, and as a result, experience the abundant and radiant lives that God desires and offers to each and every one of us, amen.