Revd Richard Reade
Revd Anne Phillips
I was recently asked to preach at the annual Covenant Service at Tansley Chapel and several people asked for a copy of the text, so I thought I´d share a shortened summary with you.
As we enter a new year and think of the Covenant Service the title of a song by the Bee Gees comes to mind: ´How deep is your love? ´ that in essence lies at the heart of the covenant, which can sound very formal and legalistic, the question to us all from God is How deep is your love? In the Covenant we recommit ourselves in God´s service, but if we´re not too careful it becomes something we ´do´; an activity rather than part of our ´being´.
How deep is your love?
It brings to mind another song by a band called Extreme, who sang,´More than words´. Basically, that it´s very easy to say the words ´ love you´, but far more valuable is when it is said through our actions and attitudes, without ever being vocalised. Compare that with the message in the epistle of James about words being empty if not followed up by action.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 speaks of a new covenant to be written on living hearts of flesh, rather than carved on stone. The way of the Lord is not to be controlled and accessed by a privileged and expert elite, but now will be open to all people regardless of gender, race, language, social status − all shall know the Lord. All human created barriers are overcome in this new covenant, and the Law / Commandments are a guide to healthy living which challenges us: How deep is your love?
I recently discovered the writings of a Franciscan theologian, Sister Ilia Delio, and in her book on the humility of God she writes these words: "[Saint] Francis understood that God is not remote and distant, a God who has nothing in common with creation. Rather God is unstoppable goodness − a God who simply can´t wait to give everything away and to love us where we are. God comes to us − that is God´s humility − and we are called to love him in return. If God loves us where we are and comes to be with us humbly in the flesh, then we must admit that the humility of God is intertwined with the incarnation. Incarnation we might say is God bending low to embrace the world in love." (pp30f)
This echoes the message of the medieval mystic, Julian of Norwich, who saw that at the heart of all creation and being, "Love was his meaning." Ilia Delio goes on to write that "The humility of God means acceptance − God accepts ordinary, fragile human flesh to reveal his glory so that we in turn may accept others as the revelation of God. Christ discloses the beauty of the world as the radiance of God. " (p.31)
God is to be encountered in the world, but is not limited by the world. Jesus reveals to us in and through his love, not only the self−giving love that lies at the heart of the Trinity, but also the fullness of life to which we are called. In the incarnation, God identifies fully with creation in order to lead the whole cosmos towards its fulfilment (Colossians 1:18ff). We are called to recommit ourselves in the service of the Kingdom, but that service is rooted in a living and active relationship with God; a relationship that we are called to continually nurture and develop, so that, as we draw closer to the Divine Love, we might better reflect that love in our lives, to others and to the wider community.
How deep is your love?