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08.01.10 God’s Covenant of Freedom, Exodus 4:29-5:1, 6:1-8 Sermon Summary

by on August 2, 2010

Summary Points

  • How the heart of worship is covenant renewal
  • How worship helps us in our spiritual growth
  • How worship contributes to the salvation of the world

The God of the Bible is a God of covenant. Covenants are agreements based on promises which allow faithful members of the covenant to live together in peace. Throughout the Bible, God enters various covenant relationships with humanity. Our response to God’s covenantal promises is to believe and then to live in light of the promises. We enter covenant with God through worship, and in worship we renew the covenant.

It is necessary to renew the covenant because, while God is eternal and faithful, we are temporary and forgetful. This is why, in this passage, when God renews the covenant with the ancient people of God, he reminds Moses of the previous covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (a covenant promise of land). Back then God was revealed as “God Almighty”; now God was renewing the covenant with a new name, “The LORD” which is translated “I am.” God “is,” which means God is present throughout our covenant history. We need to remember this, which is why we have covenant renewal, which is why we worship together.

Covenant renewal consists of two acts: (1) Remembering God’s faithfulness. As we remember , we offer praise and thanksgiving. We offer our present struggles into God’s care through prayer. We gain strength to persevere through our present struggles. (2) Responding to God’s faithfulness. Our response consists of pursuing personal holiness and social righteousness, and serving others generously.

The sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are micro-worship services in which we renew the covenant with God through remembering God’s faithfulness and responding with our lives.

Worship and covenantal renewal are ongoing processes. As we respond to God, our relationship with God deepens. Moses went to the people and proclaimed God’s faithfulness. They responded in worship. Then Moses told Pharaoh to let the people go so they could worship in the wilderness. When we covenant with the God of freedom and renew our covenant through worship, we grow in freedom.

This growth process may be, and I would say usually is, difficult. After their initial worship response, and before being delivered to worship in the wilderness, Pharaoh increased the labor of the ancient Israelite slaves. Their quota of bricks was maintained even though they had to find their own straw. But through covenant renewal—remembering God’s faithfulness and responding in faith—they were able to maintain hope and persevere.

We should view our worship services as covenant renewal. As a Presbyterian, this concept is familiar to me. Hearing the ancient testimonies read and interpreted, remembering our baptism and celebrating the Lord’s Supper—all of these serve to renew the covenant with the God of freedom. Presbyterians have a proud history of responding to God’s faithfulness. In regards to freedom, Presbyterians were early critics of American slavery, apartheid, and segregation. See Witness Without Parallel, chapter 5 for details.

If worship is covenant renewal, and covenant renewal consists of remembering God’s faithfulness and responding with our lives, then we have to ask the question today: To what contemporary liberation movements is God calling his people today?

We can answer this question in one of three ways: (1) Personal or spiritual: each of us are enslaved to something and need to be freed. (2) Social or metaphorical: who are the marginalized people today who can’t enjoy the benefits of freedom. (3) Literal: there are 27 million slaves in the world today. Ninety cities in the US have confirmed slaves from 60 countries. We import 14,000 per year to work in sex, agricultural, and domestic service “jobs.” See here and here for details and how you can help.

Questions for Further Reflection

  • Worship as covenant renewal consists of remembering God’s presence and responding with your life. In what ways can you renew the covenant on a daily basis? How will you remember God, and respond with your life, throughout the week and not just during Sunday worship?
  • To what are you enslaved? Destructive thoughts and habits? Resentments? Anger? How can remembering the covenant God has with you help you be free of these?
  • Do you know any marginalized people who are not allowed to enjoy the freedom we have in Christ? How can you help liberate them?
  • After looking at the websites above, what can you do to end slavery in the world?
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