Sunday, 26 June 2011

Hannah's Story - Modelling God's Kingdom

Adam and Eve

Abraham and Sarah

Isaac and Rebekkah

Jacob and Rachel

Joseph and Potiphera

Moses and …

I have grown up knowing the stories that shape the identify of the Old Testament people of God as the stories of the Patriarchs. Yet, in the Bible the women play as important a role as the men. Having said that, we know little bits of the women’s stories, but the emphasis is on the men.

Joseph’s wife doesn’t figure large at all – though interesting that she is an Egyptian and she gives birth to Manasseh and Ephraim two of the tribes of Israel.

With the story of Moses we encounter something different.

Moses’s sister has a role to play. And a song to sing. It is a song of victory in battle as the Egyptians are defeated and the people find their freedom. And it is a powerful song at that. The sister of Moses she may be but she stands in her own right at a powerful moment in the story.

Joshua – I cannot remember his wife’s name.

In the Book of Judges one of the 6 whose story is told in full is Deborah. What’s fascinating is that her story is so important that two different versions of it are told. One is in prose – a narrative of the battle Deborah’s victory. The other is in poetry – and is one of the oldest strands of the Bible – a moving evocation of the horrors of the battlefield and associated with Deborah.

The stories of the women of the Bible are not told so much as the stories of the men. Is it that the men have controlled the telling of the Bible? That becomes particularly apparent when it comes to churches who use a lectionary in their Bible readings. In some ways the lectionary takes you to parts of the Bible you would not otherwise read as we have found out when we have used the lectionary in our Sunday evening services.

But at the same time the lectionaries that the churches have used down through the centuries have often eliminated the stories about the women.

It is as we arrive at the first book of Samuel, that we encounter one of the great women of the Bible.

As with Deborah, it is the woman whose name we know and remember … and not the man.

Were I to ask you who Hannah’s husband was you might rack your brains and come up with the name Elkanah. If I were to ask you for Elkanah’s story it would be more difficult to bring to mind.

I want to notice three things in Hannah’s story.

First it begins in tension and sadness.

Elkanah has two wives; the name of one was Hannah and the name of the other Peninnah.

Let’s just stop there a moment.

One of the fascinating things in the Bible narrative is the way marriage customs are recorded and change.

It is a curious thing that nowhere in the Bible is there a commandment defines marriage as the relationship between one man and one woman for life.

That teaching is certainly there, and there very powerfully. But it is not in a commandment as such.

It is one of the things that to me makes these accounts ring true as narratives that come from the ancient world.

As you read through the stories of the women and men I have named at the beginning of our thoughts this evening, time and again you come across variations on a theme with regard to marriage. Maybe in the face of childlessness a woman gives birth effectively as a surrogate mother. Relationships are made with slave women, with more than one wife.

But one thing emerges in the telling of those stories and that is that such partnerships are fraught with tension and difficulty.

That is the case here with Elkanah and Hannah and Penninah.

Read on in the story and the problem is not simply one around the childlessness of Hannah. It is also about the friction between the two.

It is a significant and soul-destroying friction.

The story of such relationships escalates through 1 and II Samuel and reaches its climax in the goings on of King Solomon in the opening chapters of I Kings.

What happens in the narrative of the Bile is that people in succeeding generations seem to try different arrangements in marriage … and over years, indeed over centuries, through the telling of these narratives, a pattern emerges that experience shows is the way that most fulfils God’s ways for h is people – and that is the marriage that then is honoured, not to be broken in adultery, but to be upheld between one man and one woman.

Even then, there is allowance for the possibility of breakdown of a relationship and the possibility of divorce.

It is almost as if the Biblical narrative recognises that relationships and making them work is one of the most difficult of things.

I sometimes think that each generation continues to struggle with relationship. As recently as when I was growing up and even off to college, our society separated the children of single mothers and put them into homes, and even dispatched them to the other side of the world.

A generation on, we support children with their single parents, and the extended family has been re-discovered and maybe another generation are working out how to make these relationships work properly.

For Hannah the combination of the destructive dynamic of the relationships in her family and her own childlessness drive her to the point of near self-destruction … but not quite.

She turns to something that is so important.

She makes for the shrine at Shiloh where she wants to unburden herself to God in prayer. The priest, Eli, is sitting by the door.

So it is that Hannah is seen in prayer..

What prayer.

She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.

She vows to dedicate any child born to her to God’s service.

But the praying then goes on . And it is fascinating to catch a glimpse of what prayer in this circumstance is.

As she continued pryaing before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard.

It is the silent shriek of prayer.

And it is something that the man, Eli cannot understand.

He assumes she’s drunk.

But she implores him to accept that she is praying.

She reiterates her promise.

She returns to her husband.

And they give birth to a son, Samuel.

Once the child is weaned she takes him and presents him to the Lord at the shrine in Shiloh.

I have lent him to the Lord, as long as he lives he is given to the Lord.

And then Hannah prays again.

And this time Hannah’s prayer is recorded.

And it is one of the wonderful prayers in all the Bible.

It is not just the words of a prayer following the birth of Samuel. It is also something of a statement that looks to what is to come.

The way this poem / prayer / song stands at the start of a narrative that is going to introduce us to Samuel who in turn will anoint the first kings of Israel and bring in the kingdom it stands almost as a manifesto. This is what the nature of God’s rule is to be.

Isn’t it fascinating the manifesto should be placed in the words of a woman.

This lays out what is in store.

It is a hymn of triumph – of the people over their enemies.

‘My heart exults in the LORD;
my strength is exalted in my God.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in my victory.
But it is more than a war song.

It is a hymn of praise to a Great God

‘There is no Holy One like the LORD,
no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.

Notice that something emerges in this hymn that sets the scene for the kind of justice that God stands by.

It is a reversal of the world’s standards.

The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble gird on strength.

The LORD kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The LORD makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low, he also exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honour.

There is a wonderful confidence that God will provide

For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s,
and on them he has set the world.
Aren’t we familiar with the faith in these words.

Isn’t there another song that sets the scene for another king?

So much of Hannah’s song is echoed in Mary’s song, the Magnificat.

There is the same reversal, the same expectation of the rule of the one who will prevail.

There is a very real sense that in the coming of Christ the whole pattern that is set out for God’s rule is brought to its fulfilment … and one comes in to reign in the new kingdom of God.

Now in Christ – we see the fullness of the justice of God in the reign of God – but it is one that he ushers in.

And it is recognised first of all by the woman Mary, just as the justice of the kingdoms of Israel is recognised on the lips of a woman, Hannah.

In Christ there is a love from God that doesn’t overcome evil with evil, but overcomes evil with good – and that love that is the very nature of God is what we need to take with us … into our praying in times of distress, and into the relationship we seek to build and the attitude we have to those who struggle with those relationships.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Judges and Jesus

A big department store can be bewildering. One way to shop is to wander around and see what you can see. But it can be pretty tiring even for the most determined shopper. We sampled a little of Bristol the other week … and a little of Ikea too.

But help is at hand. It’s usually by the lifts or by the staircase.

That store guide. That tells you to watch out for bad language on the second floor because that’s where you find men swear.

You want menswear you go to the second floor.

You want food, try the basement.

It’s the same in bookshops. The bigger the better – but they can be overwhelming. Waterstones have rejigged everything. Blackwells in Oxford still have the theology books down in the Norrington room, that vast basement room – and they’ve been in the same place for the forty years I have been going to Blackwell’s.

Want a biography? Go to the biographies. Want popular science? Go to the popular science section. Want a novel? Go to fiction. Want a thriller? Go to science writing.

In some ways the Bible is like a bookshop or a library of different books. It helps to know your way around the bible and to know the different sections.

It starts with the law books. Then you move on the history books, then you have the poetry books then you finish with the prophets. Then on to the NT, the Gospels, the history of the church in Acts, Paul’s letters,

There is, however, a problem.

The Old Testament especially can be a tricky read. Stuff happens, stuff goes on that can be profoundly disturbing not least in the setting of wars that touch on religion in the modern age and at this very time.

How do we read Joshua and its battles, Judges and its account of utter destruction at times?

I only recently discovered that the Miles Smith who wrote the preface to the King James Bible was the Bishop of Gloucester – a local lad. I have taken one of those wonderful sets of images he uses of translation as the inspiration for our read through of the Old Testament.

Translation it is that that “removeth the cover of the well, that we may come by the water."

The Old Testament has within it life-giving water – but it can be difficult to lift the lid on the old testament and come by the water!

The key for us as Christians is to come to the Old Testament and see it through Jesus – after all he claims to fulfil all the Law and the Prophets.

And there is great significance in that claim. Nowhere does he mention anything about ‘histories’. And there is a reason for that.

The Bible Jesus knew, the Hebrew Scriptures, indeed the Hebrew Scriptures Jewish people regard to this day as their Holy Book are not divided up the way the Greek translators, the Latin translators and the English translators have rearranged them. Our Bible is influenced by the kind of logical thinking of western minds, not lest in the way the Old Testament books are ordered.

The Hebrew Scriptures are arranged into Law, Prophets and Writings.

When we come to the end of the books of the Law at Deuteronomy and turn to Joshua and Judges we are in fact moving into the section of the Old Testament that in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the mind of Christ are labelled ‘Prophets’. That is interesting.

These books don’t just tell a nation’s story if history books ever just do that. These books tell the story in such a way that they pack a punch, they have a message to share.

Prophets don’t just prophesy the future – that’s quite a misunderstanding of what Biblical prophets get up to. Prophets declare God’s word into the present, often by analysing how we got into the situation we are in, and they do so in order to help shape the future that lies ahead.

Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings, have a flow to them that culminates at the end of II kings at the point at which the nation Israel, has collapsed and the people are in exile. That’s an indication of the point at which the books were collected together.

It is at that time that priestly writers who had served in the temple got together in exile in order to collect all the law codes into what we would recognise as those five books of the law.

And prophetic writers who had been in the business of declaring God’s word, pored over the story of the nation to ask how they had got into such a mess and what they must do to get out of it.

Those prophetic writers compared notes with the priestly ones, and they took note of the climax to the books of the Law in Deuteronomy.

As they stood on the threshold of the promised land the people of Israel had a choice. Choose life, choose death. To choose life they must obey God. The principle can be summed up … obey God and all will go well. Disobey God and all will collapse.

As other later writers reflect in places like the book of Job that principle doesn’t always work out. But it’s a pretty good general principle.

The prophets recognised it. When they saw the rulers of the people abandoning God, ruling unjustly it is the job of the prophet to speak out and hold the rulers to account. Return to God’s ways and the people will do well again.

The prophets responsible for bringing together the story of the nation in Joshua Judgges, Samuel and Kings pore over the story of their nation and they notice a pattern that works out in their sotry. When rulers and people obey God on the whole things go well; It is when they abandon God’s law that thigns fall apart. They test out that theory of history and they work it out in the telling of the story of the nation.

Once established in the promised land, and after the death of Joshua the people of Israel are still a fairly loose collection of tribes living in a land where there are many foreign peoples some of whom some of the time are quite hostile.

The prophetic writers pore over this period of a couple of hundred years maybe and they notice a pattern.

After an initial chapter, chapter 1, that sets the scene and identifies the areas controlled by the 12 tribes of Israel and the areas not conquered by them [a very intereseting observation, that is explored further in chapter 3, the writers then go on to work out the theory of history that they see working out in this period.

You can think of it as the judges cycle and it is described in chapter 2.

For a while after the death of Joshua the people continue in the ways of God and all goes well.

Then, the memory of Joshua’s leadership fades, and ‘the people did what was evil in the sight of the Lord’ (:11). That has consequences, these ancient writers don’t speak in the language of ‘consequences’ they speak in the more vivid language of God’s anger – but it amounts to the same thing.

The consequence is that everything falls apart, society crumbles.

Then the Lord raises up a leader who brings the people to their senses and establsishes the law of the Lord once again – those charismatic leaders are called ‘judges’. That then has the opposite consequence. And the people live at peace and with plenty.

The leader dies, and the cycle starts all over again.

A leader dies.

People abandon God.

Everything falls apart.

A charismatic leader, a judge comes on the scene

People turn back to God

All is well.

Charismatic leader dies … and it starts all over again.

The stories of six judges is told at length … and each story follows exactly that pattern

Othiel, Ehud, the woman Deborah (isn’t that interesting), Gideon, Jephthah and Samson

Another six judges are simply mentioned by name: Shamgar, Tola, |Jair, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon.

There are lots of things we can take from the book of Judges and those stories. More than anything, there is so much in that insight into history to this day.

Model a society on the ways of God – particularly as Jesus summarises them and brings them together in the Sermon on the Mount and it would make a massive difference. We have practical guidelines that can help us shape society – love for neighbour, passion for justice, bias to the poor – these are all at the heart of the law, the prophets and come to fulfilment in the teachings of Jesus. This is a way of life that we need to feed into political thinking to this day.

But there is one intriguing strand that is hinted at already in the book of Judges and is going to play a much larger part when we move on to the person who is arguably the last of the line of these charismatic leaders, Samuel and the books that bear his name.

This is a longing that there should be a greater stability. Instead of just relying on a charismatic leader, couldn’t the people actually find someone who would be a King … just like the neighbouring nations had.

When Jesus came he came to usher in the Kingdom of God. So if we are reading these books through Jesus eyes, remembering that he claims to be the fulfilment of these books of the prophets, we need to be on the look out for what kingship entails, how its understood.

As the death of Gideon approaches the people are frustrated at the uncertainties attached to what happens when they have to wait for another ‘charismatic’ leader or judge to be raised up. So some suggest adopting a custom known among some of the neighbouring nations: they suggest anointing Gideon as King. He resists the temptation as it is fraught with even more uncertainty.

At his death, however, one of his seventy sons, Abimelech, born of a concubine, grabs at power, has his brothers killed and is hailed as King. One of the brothers, however, escapes. And on Mount Gerizim, the very place where in Deuteronomy the fundamental choice between life and death, between obedience of God and disobedience was put, Jotham challenges the leadesr at Shechem, and he holds Abimilech to account.

And he does that in a way that the prophets from Elijah and Elisha on are going to use. He tells a story, a parable.

It’s one of the classic things prophets do. No wonder when Jesus couched so much of his teaching in the form of stories and parables he was thought by the crowds to be a Prophet! Maybe it was no coincidence that he did exactly as the prophets before had done, describing himself as a Prophet, for he was, after all, bringing to fulfilment all the Prophets.

Jotham’s parable is a wonderful parable of the trees in the forest.

The trees once went out
to anoint a king over themselves.
So they said to the olive tree,
“Reign over us.”
The olive tree answered them,
“Shall I stop producing my rich oil
by which gods and mortals are honoured,
and go to sway over the trees?”
Then the trees said to the fig tree,
“You come and reign over us.”
But the fig tree answered them,
“Shall I stop producing my sweetness
and my delicious fruit,
and go to sway over the trees?”
Then the trees said to the vine,
“You come and reign over us.”
But the vine said to them,
“Shall I stop producing my wine
that cheers gods and mortals,
and go to sway over the trees?”
So all the trees said to the bramble,
“You come and reign over us.”
And the bramble said to the trees,
“If in good faith you are anointing me king over you,
then come and take refuge in my shade;
but if not, let fire come out of the bramble
and devour the cedars of Lebanon.”

It is the most wonderful of stories and the most powerful of parables.

So, says Jotham. What is Abimilech? Is he a righteous, just ruler … or has he killed to get to power – is he the bramble?

Powerful stuff, and as the story goes, Abimelech’s reign comes to a pretty horrible end.

Jotham’s parable is a remarkable and powerful reflection on the nature of kingship and the nature of the kingdom.

In these early prophets we are not going to hear told the story of the arrival of the kingdom in Israel … and we shall reflect a lot on the nature of that kingdom.

But this is where the story starts.

The story for us as Christians reaches its climax in the coming of Chrsit and in his teaching that it is in him that the Kingdom of God has finally come – bringing to fulfilment all the law and all these prophets.

And what is Christ’s rule as king like? The awful power of the bramble?

No …

What is the last of the trees before the bramble, in some ways the noblest of the trees in the parable, the tree that comes to signify the kingdom of the people Israel.

It is the vine.

And as Jesus comes to the crunch moment in his ministry, as he is about to enter into his kingdom, the very night before he is crucified to be raised on the third day, what does jesus say?

It’s a word picture, it’s a kind of parable.

And it echoes Jotham’s parable.

I am the bramble? No, of course not.

I am the true vine and you are the branches. Abide in me, as I abide in you.

Vine and branches are inseparable from one another

What is the kingship like that Christ exercises?

For Jesus the essence of living in that kingdom is love.

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you, abide in my love, he says.

And then he echoes the great theme that runs through the whole of Judges.

If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments. If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love.

What is the commandment of Jesus that we are to obey?

“This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.”

IF we are to read Judges, we must recall that Jesus has brought all the prophets … and that includes Judges … to fulfilment in bringing in God’s rule, God’s kingdom. And that new commandment that we are to take from Jesus is the commandment to love one another.

We cannot use Judges to justify the atrocities of war. We have to uncover the well to get at the water that’s here in this book – and we do that as we read it through the eyes of Jesus.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Joshua, Jesus and the New Covenant

In the couple of weeks since I preached my first sermon on Joshua much has happened, not least in Serbia and now in the Hague.

Ratko Mladic has been captured, and is now to be put on trial.

On the news we have re-lived the disturbing accounts of all that he was responsible for. We have been profoundly disturbed by those accounts of the massacre at Srebenica.

The horror of all that happened is easy to erase from the memory of those of us for whom it was simply an item on the news. It will forever be a scar on the memory of those who witnessed it.

And again there was a religious dimension as 7,000 muslims were massacred. And the fault lines in the Balkans were exposed and linked with religious affiliations, Christian and Muslim at war.

A fortnight ago I preached on Joshua 1. I had come across a commentary that was written in part by Gordon McConville of the University of Gloucestershire, and in part by Stephen Williams, a Christian theologian.

Gordon McConville supplies a verse by verse explanation of the meaning of the text as you would expect in a commentary. What is different about this Two Horizons OT commentary is that Stephen Williams then goes on to offer reflections of the text from the Christian readers’ point of view.

Hence the two horizons – of the text in itself, and the text as it is read by Christian readers.

Between chapter 1 and chapter 24 much has happened, and much that has happened disturbs the Christian reader. I suggested a fortnight ago that two things more than any other disturb. Looking at chapter 1 I reflected on the questions the Christian reader has to grapple with over land. The other thing that unsettles the Christian reader is what happens to the cities and the land that Joshua conquers. There are occasions when what Joshua does is nothing less than the ethnic cleansing that so appals us from Ratko Mladic. What do we make of the command to raze a town to the ground and to destroy all its inhabitants, men, women and children?

For some down through the ages the book of Joshua poses no problem.

This is what God commands his people to do … and therefore it must be done.

But I for one am troubled.

This is not to me the God that Jesus discloses when he commands his followers to love their enemies. It is not the God that Jesus discloses who can be addressed in the intimacy of the Lord’s prayer as abba, father. It is not the God that Jesus discloses when on the cross he says of those who have executed him Father, forgive them …

There is a problem here for me when I read Joshua that I have to grapple with.

Much has happened in the fortnight since we looked at Joshua 1.

Yesterday, I found myself in Winchester Universsity, at a day conference looking at Preaching the Gospel in a Secular World. I contributed thoughts on preaching in the context of science. But it was the other speakers that were most fascinating.

Among the partners who work with Winchester University are a number of courses linked with black-led churches. It was great to mix and to share ideas and to engage with each other. June Boyce Tillman, a couple of whose hymns we occasionally sing was one of the speakers from Winchester, but the key note speaker who got the day off to an excellent and thought provoking start was Adrian Thatcher, Professor of Theology at Exeter University.

I was taken aback, or moved to find that he was addressing the very question I had been addressing in these notes ready for this evening’s sermon. How do you cope with Joshua especially 4-11. They are chapters where whole populations of men, women and children are wiped out.

He reflected on the way the Bible has been taken by Christians to justify all sorts of horrible things down through the ages – he homed in on slavery, racism, anti-semitism, the destruction of the Jews.

The conflicts in the Balkans touch on such abuse of the Bible and the justification of ethnic cleansing.

We know slavery is wrong, racism is wrong, ethnic cleansing is wrong – but how do we handle our Bible when in parts especially of Joshua we find the very things we find so abhorrent done in the name of God?

Adrian Thatcher suggested some principles of Reading the Bible.

1) Read the Bible to learn of God’s Word. John 1 tells us what God’s Word is. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God … and the Word became flesh and dwelled amongst us and we have beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten son.

John is absolutely clear: the word of God is made flesh in Jesus Christ. Read the Bible to learn of God’s Word made flesh – to learn of Jesus Christ.

2) Read the Bible and expect moral and spiritual development within it. In Deuteronomy 23:1-2 Eunuchs are to be rejected and killed. Move on to Isaiah 56:3-5 and Eunuchs are welcome.

In Exodus 20:5 the sins of the fathers are meted out to the second, third, fourth generations. Ezeiel 18:2-3 and Jer 31:29-30 says, no each individual must bear responsible for what they have done.

3) Principle of Sublation – Jesus fulfils the Law and the Prophets – you have heard it said, but I say to you. Jesus then summarises the Law and the Prophets in the words of the Golden Rule: Do to others as you would have others do to you. He summarises the Law in the two Love Commandments. So that means we must read the Old Testament in the light of the love commandments of Jesus.

4) Read the 1st Testament through the 2nd Testament.

5) Read the Bible through the rule of faith – in the community of the church.

6) The Symphonic imperative

What if the Bible is more like the text of a Shakespeare play or the score of a Beethoven symphony where making it come alive involves corporate performance and practical enactment.

Those principles are so akin to the way I am seeking to open up the Old Testament for us as Christians.

As we looked at chapter 1 of Joshua and grappled with the problem of the land, I made the connection with that wonderful book about the Holy Land, In the Steps of Jesus, that so many of the friends on that conference on Reconciliation had signed. Two of those working in the Tantur Institute had signed their name in Arabic and transliterated it into English as Issa. I was told that could be Jesus … a name still commonly used, or Joshua. For Jesus is another form of Joshua.

I suggested we needed to read this book through the eyes of Jesus.

That is even more apparent as we come to the last chapter.

In a way for me the key to an understanding of the Book of Joshua lies in the final chapter.

Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges and the officers of Israel and they presented themselves before God. Joshua recounts the story of the people of God so far from Abraham through Isaach, Jacob and Esau and on to Moses and Aaron the deliverance from bondage in Egypt and the journey and occupation of the promised land.

Joshua commands the people to ‘revere the Lord and serve him in sincerity.

The people said to Joshua, The Lord our God we will serve and him we will obey. So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem. Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak in the sanctuary of the Lord.

Joshua establishes a covenant.

The covenant established then we read of the death of Joshua and of his burial.

Jesus introduces something new.

There is a new feel to his teaching.

There is something new in that intimate relationship with God as Abba Father he opens up for his followers.

IT is as if Jesus has taken all that is within the covenants of old and made something new of them. And like new wine it cannot be put into old wineskins.

His ministry nearly done, all that remains is for him to go to the cross.

And that is the point when he does something that goes right back to the covenant of old and the feast of the Passover, but at the same time it invests it with a whole new world of meaning

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

What happens here is that Jesus establishes a new Covenant. No sooner is that new covenant sealed with the bread broken and the cup shared than Jesus is taken out to his death and to his burial.

But this is not simply a re-run of the covenant of old.

This is a new covenant.

Not written on stone, but engraved on the heart.

And this new covenant has about it a newness of life that is special.

A new way that is opened up for us by this Jesus.

Maybe the Christian reader reading Joshua is reminded that in the name of religion and in the name of God awful things have been done from time immemorial.

But in the new covenant Jesus opens up for us there is a new way of life to follow that must take seriously love for enemy, and the forgiveness of the God who is love, who draws us into the most intimate of relationships with him as Abba Father.

As we gather around this table we are people of a new covenant and we commit ourselves to a new way, and that way is the way of love Jesus has opened up for us to follow.