Frederick Buechner famously began his description of Abraham of Ur this way: “If a schlemiel is a person who goes through life spilling soup on people and a schlemozzle is the one it keeps getting spilled on, then Abraham was a schlemozzle.” Perhaps the first clue that God is different than we might expect is that still God called Abraham. Yet not just called, God set a covenant with Abraham. “I will bless you…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:2,3) “Covenant” is our word for this week and our meditation is the beginning of God’s covenant with Abraham and humanity, Genesis 12:1-3.
Covenant is a relationship between two parties, in which each party voluntarily agrees to certain conditions in the relationship and offers a word of commitment to uphold the covenant. Covenant is different than a contract. There are a host of relationships defined by a contract, usually relationships built around transactions for goods or services. A contract is used to detail how the relationship is be carried out, and to hold parties to fulfilling the agreement.
The covenant with the Lord is different. A contract is broken when one party fails to keep a commitment. If, let us say, one fails to keep an appointment with a mechanic, the mechanic is not obligated to call the house and inquire, “Where were you? Why didn’t you show up for your appointment?” Most likely the shop will move on to the next car. Perhaps the next time you call it will be tougher getting an appointment. According to scripture, however, the Lord asks: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”(Isaiah 49:15)
That is to say the Covenant with God is more like the ties of a parent to their child than it is a mechanic’s appointment. If a child fails to show up for dinner, a parent’s obligation, unlike the mechanic’s isn’t cancelled. The parent finds out where the child is and makes sure the child is cared for. (and then maybe grounded!) We may go through life getting soup spilled on us, nevertheless, God stays engaged in covenant with us. Because one member’s failure does not destroy covenant relationship. A covenant puts no condition on faithfulness. It is an unconditional commitment to love and serve. I look forward to seeing in worship Sunday as we explore the impact of God’s “Covenant” on our lives.