Monday, September 15, 2008

Connecting the Covenant Dots

As I've mentioned, I have started in the Education for Ministry class at St. John's which means, among other things, I am reading and reflecting and wrestling with the Old Testament. Needless to say, I recommend keeping a bottle of Advil (or Scotch) nearby when tackling this document because, back in the day, nobody wanted to be "the one" who ruled out someones take on what happened at the beginning of time (according to the Israelites). Hence, you have stories that read like you're caught in a movie like "Groundhog Day" where you seem to experience the same scenes only with slight variations in the details. I've found that if you get too overly concerned with the details, you'll go stark raving nuts. So rather than worrying about is it Enosh or Enoch...and ravens vs. doves at the time of "The Great Flood", I just go for the bigger picture of: what's the main point of the story. I've found this approach saves me from a headache....and possible liver damage.
One of the latest big picture moments for me came in reading the backside of "The Great Flood" story. Once the waters have receded, and Noah, his family, and the animals disembark from the ark, God makes his covenant with Noah. (Note: I had no idea that rainbows were the sign of this covenant. Don't ask me how they failed to get that across in Sunday School...) The language of this passage that struck me was this:

"I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth. God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth."

When I read this section, I checked the footnotes of the Harper-Collins Study Bible, and learned that I will soon be getting more signs of covenants God made with people: Abraham and circumcision and Moses with the sabbath. And then my mind did its "popcorn thing". The hot oil heating up, the kernels poured in, and I recalled the words we hear each Sunday during the Eucharist:

"Likewise, after supper, he took the cup of wine. And when he had given thanks, he gave it to them and said, "Drink this all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this in remembrance of me."

Pop! Pop! Poppity pop pop pop!!!

And, if the realization that this is now the "Christian covenant" wasn't enough, my highly-curious brain started picking apart this new agreement. And I realized, in this moment, Jesus (God) is making a new bond with us that our sins are forgiven. And not just the sins of those at the table with him at that moment: and for many. And, as with Noah, the remembering isn't merely a "Oh, yeah. You there, in the boat", but more like a "re-membering" encompassing of us back into the fold, part of the body of Christ; hence part of God. What's more: while Jesus (God) is sealing this deal with the disciples at the table and giving them the tools they need to carry this message out to "the many", I became aware that God hasn't stopped this same sort of call to individuals to go from discipleship into becoming apostles of the Word.

What strikes me is how a book that, for some, is symbolic of close-mindedness can really be a mind-opener if you just spend some time with it. And perhaps that is why the Episcopal Church holds such appeal. Get hooked up with an Episcopal Church that still follows scripture, tradition, and reason, and those with eyes wishing to see and ears eager to hear are going to discover some amazing and powerful passages that can, and will, turn your life around...and make your brain into a perennial popcorn popper. Open the book. Ask some questions. Free your mind, and trust in your seeking that God wants to be found.


redselchie said...

yes, the Episcopal Church can surprise you sometimes :D

I remember growing up in Quincy in the 60's and 70's, attending the Episcopal Church there, and being delightfully surprised and impressed to find *black people* there. You didn't find blacks in any other "white" church in Quincy during that time.

Anonymous said...

I find that the Episcopal church welcomes all and that is why I am so glad I have my entire family baptised and confirmed in this greaat body. They are all "cradle Episcopalians" and my, my my sweet you are popping away.