“Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”Deuteronomy 6:6-8 (NRSV)
Tonight a conversation turned on covenant. Covenant for those in the Abrahamic faiths always starts with God’s relation with His people From there it moves into the community. Community can be read as a dirty word in a society that values rugged individualism and making one’s own way and though individualism is fine at times, it is a poor way to do religion. It is the bugaboo of the “spiritual, but not religious” crowd but it is not borne out in Scripture. Christ said that wherever two or more are gathered in is name He is there also and God the Father calling all that was made good proclaims the first thing that is not good is that “the man should be alone.”
It is true there is a place for solitary prayer and meditation, but we are not ever to make this the totality of our religious life.
One of the ugliest words ever is the Afrikaans word apartheid. It means apartness. It is a word that implies the antithesis of community The text from Deuteronomy did not say to separate oneself and keep the word of God. Rather it said the word of God is to be discussed with others and taught to one’s children. It is to mark the person, but it is also to be proclaimed to the world on doorposts and gates.
And none of this is such a big thing. God is in covenant with all His creation and all of His creatures, but our task need not be so grand. Many of us are committed to the small ones already; we need only to take them with the seriousness they demand. Do we take the time to pray the Lord’s prayer or the Rosary with a Christian friend? Do we take seriously that many of us have said “I promise to have and hold you” and do we take with equal seriousness that those words have led many to “the little church inside the Church” where at the baptismal font we promise to place the Holy Scripture into the tiny hands brought into the world by our courage to be co-creators? Are we not all capable of listening to a fellow human being in the time of distress or to do justice, even in a small way, in a world that lacks justice. Are we not good to God and His world when we are in covenant with one other or a precious few?
It is Lent. It is the time to be personally prayerful and reflective, but it is also the time to know what God calls us to do. We already have His promise. Is it so much that we should like the ancient Hebrews in our text from Deuteronomy find those with whom we are called to share and live out the promise with?