Friday, March 18, 2011

Renewal of Vows

Moses is wrapping up his address to Israel in today’s Old Testament lesson (Deuteronomy 10:12-22), and he asks a rhetorical question which attempts to summarize succinctly what God’s people need to remember: “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I command you this day for your good?” Simple enough, right?

In some ways, Moses’ list is like a list I might give to a couple who asked me, “What do we need to do to have a good marriage?” “You’ve got to take care of the relationship,” I might reply. “Respect each other, spend time together, love each other, take care of each other’s needs, give yourselves completely to each other, and yet give each other enough space to be yourselves.” (I’ve never actually said that, but it sounds pretty good to me this morning.) All of that says to me that what Moses is asking Israel to remember is to take care of their relationship with God.

It’s no accident that the relationship of God and his people is often depicted in the bible as a marriage. That image suggests that a relationship with God is a complex, evolving thing that persists through time despite the various swings that the marriage endures. And taking care of that relationship involves things like devotion and love. If we stray (and we always do), God remains faithful.

I suspect that Moses (and his audience) knew that the simple though impossible task of remaining faithful to God was beyond the reach of God’s people. Yet our inevitable failure in our relationship with God does not deter us (or God) from dedicating ourselves. The same is true for a marriage. We stand before God and his people and pledge ourselves to each other in vows and promises we will never be able to keep. Yet we do so not with empty hearts or fingers crossed but fully and intentionally. We intend to be faithful even though we know we can’t. And something powerful happens when we enter a relationship like that.

Our relationship with God, like our relationship with a spouse, doesn’t hang on every mistake. When we forget to love God with all our heart and soul, when we forget to walk in his ways, when we ignore his commandments and statues, that does not represent the end of the relationship. It might mean that the relationship is broken, but usually the relationship still exists—hanging in the back of our hearts, waiting on us to return and rededicate and renew. How has your relationship with God ebbed and flowed through the years? Where is that relationship today? Have you thought of what you might do to renew that relationship as one might renew a marriage?

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