Sunday school lesson for the week of September 14, 2014
By Rev. John Brantley
Lesson scripture: Jeremiah 31:29-37
29 In those days they shall no longer say: "The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge." 30 But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge. 31 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. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the Lord," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more. 35 Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the Lord of hosts is his name: 36 If this fixed order were ever to cease from my presence, says the Lord, then also the offspring of Israel would cease to be a nation before me forever. 37 Thus says the Lord: If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will reject all the offspring of Israel because of all they have done, says the Lord. [NRSV]
Focus: God is with us! How sweet it is, back then, right now and forever.
Reflections: “Sour grapes” never taste good. Not in the moment we sense the injustice of unfair practices, nor in the examining light of our own sin or failings. Jeremiah preaches to us family to family. One generation ignores the sacrifice of the other. The other generation is not appreciated for their innovation in the reality of change. Jeremiah preaches to us denomination to denomination and nation to nation. One people are correct at the expense of the other group being wrong.
Our teeth are on edge. Our defensive walls are built. People would rather talk about college ball games than talk about what perennially divides our communities and neighborhoods or politics. We’d rather have sweet grapes all the time. But in the real world some things divide us and make us sour toward one another.
And for the very reason we choose to keep our heads to the plow of our own rows of sorrow and pride, God tells Jeremiah to tell us that the rule’s about to change. God is ready to try to reach us, again. God desires for us to live in relationship and community and is willing to change our access to God’s word. God will encode the love in our heart of hearts.
My daughter is a research scientist at Stanford and searches for the DNA codes that trigger cell regeneration. Most of what she tells me goes over my head, but I nod and smile as a proud father should. What I do know is that God has encoded millions of details about us in the core of our physical being. It is no surprise that God has also written on our ‘hearts’ the powerful claim of relationship with us.
So what is tattooed on my heart? God loves us and God forgives us; He always will. As we look at threats of war and healing of nations and neighbors, what would look and sound different if people would sense and know God loves them, God forgives them and that God will never give up on us? This is our shared work and mission in making disciples for the transformation of the world.
Homework: Draw a tattoo-style image of God’s love and imagine it as a visible sign on your person. How else will you make certain all those in your influence know God loves them, God forgives them and God will not give up on us, ever?
Prayer: God who has written love, grace and hope on my heart, let the power of these words be on my lips and in all that I do, that each person who sees me this week more clearly see you with us. Amen.
Rev. John Brantley is pastor of Rock Springs UMC in the North Georgia Conference. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.