“Covenantal Solidarity”

A sermon by The Rev’d Wendy Morecroft

Based on Isaiah 62.1-5, Psalm 36.3-10 & John 2.1-11

In the name of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We have a hard-working team of knitters amongst us. Over the last few years they have knitted 14,736 squares to produce 307 blankets for the homeless.

In their honour, today’s sermon will “knit” together the Old Testament reading, the Psalm and the Gospel. The focus will be on our response to God marrying us and our land.

You may be surprised that today’s Old Testament reading reminds me of a scene from the film Pretty Woman. Julia Roberts plays the role of a struggling prostitute. Richard Gere is a highly successful but lonely businessman. The final scene has Richard Gere standing up through the sunroof of a white limousine while his chauffeur drives, charging to rescue Julia Roberts from her forsaken life.

Isaiah 62 records God calling God’s people Forsaken. Jerusalem, their land is called Desolate BUT God “will not keep silent…until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch.” God rescues her (that is us), vindicates us, marries us and rejoices over us. We are called “My Delight is in Her”. Our land is called “Married”.

Generally speaking, the psalm for each Holy Communion Service is a response to the Old Testament Reading. Today’s psalm is a brilliant example of how we might respond. We began at verse 5: “Your unfailing kindness, O Lord, is in the heavens: And your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.” The NRSV translation reads “Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens”

The words “steadfast love” and “unfailing kindness” come from the Hebrew word “hesed”. I have it on good authority from Hebrew expert Rev’d Dr Matthew Anstey that “hesed” “means both of these things and more. He says that in his opinion “It means covenantal solidarity…It is the glue so to say that binds us to God.” With today’s theme of knitting, we might say God’s “covenantal solidarity” “knits” us to God.

The term, “coventantal solidarity” is very fitting given that Isaiah 62 speaks of God marrying God’s people and their land.

So binding was this covenant that when the people of Israel failed to uphold it, God gave us a new covenant in which our sins are forgivenonce and for all through the blood of Jesus.

We acknowledge this during the Thanksgiving at every Eucharist when the priest says

“After supper, he [Jesus] took the cup,

And again giving you thanks

He gave it to his disciples, saying,

‘Drink from this, all of you.

This is my blood of the new covenant

Shed for you and for many

For the forgiveness of sins.”

At this point we can knit in today’s Gospel story. When Jesus’ performed his first miracle at the wedding feast he revealed his glory as the Son of God, the promised messiah, through whom, our new covenant was to be created. By turning the water into wine Jesus’ disciples believed in him.

Not only does Jesus provide more wine, he extravagantly fills six stone jars of twenty or thirty gallons with the best wine of the feast.

This profusion of wine echoes verses 8-9 of the psalm

“They feast on the abundance of your house,

And you give them drink from the river of your delights.

For with you is the fountain of life;

In your light we see light.”

As Jesus says in John 8:12, “I come that they may have life, and have it abundantly. God through Jesus provides abundantly for us.

Theologian Clinton McCann Jnr., writes that psalm 36 is a “radical profession of faith. It … teaches us that life is not a reward to be earned But a gift to be received.”[1]

Knitted together, these three readings blanket us with the warmth and reassurance of God’s abundant grace and favour towards us.

So how might we respond? How might we reflect God’s light in our lives

based on these readings?

Our unfailing kindness may be as simple but time consuming as knitting blanket squares.

These readings may ask us to assess other ways in which we maybe

intentionally or unintentionally married. We often hear people say they are married to their jobs for example.In the film Pretty Woman, Julie Roberts rescues Richard Gere right back from being married to his job.

God loves us in a way that calls us to live into the identity and new name that God has given us – “My Delight Is in Her”. It’s a model that we may employ in all our relationships. Are we capable of loving in a way that helps others to fulfil their full potential. Are we able to truly rejoice over those we love?

Are we rightly married to our land? How do we measure up in our covenantal solidarity to our land?

Following on from her sermon last year about the leprosy of plastics on our environment, Rev’d Canon Jenny Wilson has organised for Professor Chris Daniels to speak to us next month and to launch our new environmentally friendly shopping bags. “Chris is the Director of Cleland Wildlife Park and adjunct professor of Biology in the School of Pharmacy & Medical Sciences at UniSA. He is focused on conserving wildlife and connecting people with nature.”[2] I am sure he will inspire us with more ideas about conservation. Perhaps there is something we can do to help with the preservation of our rivers for example.

Or we may follow the example of activist Mina Guli who in November 2018 set out to run 100 marathons in 100 days. She recently quit because she broke her femur. She had said “I’m doing it for one reason, and that is to raise awareness about the water crisis, I wanted to do something that made an impact. I wanted to do something that drew attention to the problem.

And I wanted to do something that was so outside my comfort zone that would show people just how much we can achieve when we persevere.”

“[She cited] research which finds that, globally, by 2030 there’s going to be a 40 percent greater demand for water than the supply of water available. “For her efforts and achievements, Ms Guli was named on Fortune Magazine’s 2016 list of the 50 greatest leaders in the world, alongside the Pope and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.”[3] Mina Guli gives us a great example of raising awareness. We can help her to do that, by simply talking about her cause.

Verse 6 of our psalm tells us that God saves “humans and animals alike” but as Clinton McCann says “it also functions as a warning that calls for a reverence for all creatures and their habitats that is seldom evidenced in our relentless desire for development and progress.”[4]

We have God’s covenantal solidarity because God steadfastly loves us. Through the blood of Jesus we have a new covenant. May we feast on the abundance of God’s house. May we be filled with the wine of new life and show forth his joy and love. May we be unfailingly kind to one another and to our world. Amen.

[1] J. Clinton McCann, Jr, Book of Psalms, NIB Commentary Volume IV, 824-826

[2] Linkedin

[3] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-11-07/mina-guli-is-running-100-marathons-in-100-days/10465200

[4] J. Clinton McCann, Jr, Book of Psalms, NIB Commentary Volume IV, 824-826