Deuteronomy 26:16-19

This very day the Lord your God is commanding you to observe these statutes and ordinances; so observe them diligently with all your heart and with all your soul.

Today you have obtained the Lord’s agreement: to be your God; and for you to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, his commandments, and his ordinances, and to obey him.

Today the Lord has obtained your agreement: to be his treasured people, as he promised you, and to keep his commandments; for him to set you high above all nations that he has made, in praise and in fame and in honor; and for you to be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised. Deuteronomy 26:16-19

How did we get to here from there?

As we finish up the 26th chapter of Deuteronomy, we reach the end of this description of the covenantal relationship between God and the people whom God has chosen to carry God’s name and message into the world. Such covenantal relationships were a common feature in the ancient world. What made this one distinctive is how it is rooted in love, not in power. God took the initiative in the relationship. Unlike the other gods out there in the world who expected to be fed first, God gave first.

This peculiar covenantal relationship reached back to the promise given to Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 12, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

I will bless you, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. That’s the heart of the relationship. That is the purpose of God’s gifts to us – that we bless the world. That promise is NOT about “we’re so special because we’re God’s people” (although the tension is always there, hence “for him to set you high above all nations that he has made, in praise and in fame and in honor…) It IS about modeling, sharing, and living in a way that will always be countercultural to a sinful “it’s all about me”, “I’m going to get, and keep, mine so you can’t get it from me” way of doing life.

So how did we get from there to here?

How is it that the public face, the loudest voices, of the Christian movement are about demonizing people who are different, stereotyping and scapegoating other religions, seeking safety in guns, scaring the hell out of people to get them to heaven? How did we get to a place where churches get in the news because pastors abuse children or buy their own planes so they can “pray in peace” while they travel?

How did we get to a place where Christianity is less known for righteousness and more known for self-righteousness?

How did we get to a place where the average Christian gives less than 2% of their income to the work of the church? Where the highest percentage of income is given by the poorest people? Where less than 20% of a congregation’s members are in worship each weekend and some just never bother?

I don’t know. But that’s where we are. But that is not the whole church.

For there are millions of quiet Christians who continue to see the faith as one of living in life-giving relationships with God and others, for the good of all. Millions of Christians who remain willing to pay the price of time, money, and passion to obey God and love the world. Our hope remains in God and it is in such people that we continue to see God at work.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, this morning we recommit ourselves to the promises of our baptisms and the shape of a life rooted in following you. Take our hearts, our minds, our souls, our strength, and use them as you will, always for your glory, and the welfare of the world you love. Let us never surrender to discouragement. In all things, our trust rests in you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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