The soil was still quite good, so I simply made a few rows with my fingers and scattered the seeds, covered them up and gave them a drink of water. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains a single grain,” said Jesus. “But if it dies, it bears much fruit.” It’s that dying part that always brings a shadow of doubt to my mind, and makes me wonder, will these seeds really sprout and bear fruit?! Not all seeds make it, if the conditions aren’t right. But five days later, Kim announced, “the lettuce is up!” Sure enough, the dead seeds had sprung to life, in the middle of March. Wonders never cease!
Jeremiah, the so-called “weeping prophet,” because of all his lenten-like themes of sin, judgment and repentance, offers up, a brazen hopefulness in a renewed future in chapter 31, that God’s chosen people will be lifted up and restored. “The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” And he goes on to explain, ‘why.’ That after the chosen people had broken the covenant God made with them, in the Ten Commandments, God reveals a new plan, says Jeremiah. Because the Sinai covenant was written on stone tablets, and people learned how to blame God, or one another, for the demands that were not perceived to be of their own responsibility, now God will write the new covenant, with God’s own finger, on our hearts, within us. There won’t be any excuse anymore! Everyone will know God, from the least of us to the greatest. And it will work because, in an unprecedented turning, never known before, God will “forgive” their failures of the past, “and remember their sin no more.”
Is it even possible to forget sin? Not to remember anymore? Can we do that? ‘Forgive and forget?’ Is it humanly possible, or even healthy?
I remember visiting my grandmother when she had finally been admitted into the Nursing Home because of her Alzheimer’s. She was stuck in a stage, of looping around, and reliving a particularly difficult moment in her life – when her husband, my grandfather, had made the impossible decision during the Depression days that they couldn’t take in a cousin in my grandmothers’ family because of the fear it would bankrupt the family. They were already raising three small children at the time. My grandmother wanted me to help her convince my grandfather otherwise.
The next year when I saw her, she was in a new stage, happy and not quite sure who I was. But when we parted she said this: Can you tell everyone, even though I can’t remember my family, I still love them. Grandma could remember us no more, none of our hurts or sins, but her love endured and remained strong.
Is that what God means by “I will remember their sin no more”? It would seem God does love us that emphatically, but not because God has been stricken with Alzheimer’s! God will declare our sin forgiven, dead and buried, like so much seed scattered in the cold dark earth, so that we may be lifted up and arise to new life, full of fruitfulness to live in Christ, in the new covenant of his body and blood.
As we journey these 40 days to the Great Three Days of Jesus death and resurrection, God turns us, and transforms the cross from a sign of death and humiliation, a symbol of judgment for criminals, into a sign of life & liberation, a sign of the new covenant of forgiveness, written on our hearts.
Still, how hard it is, for a parent, to forgive and forget the loss of a child, especially the murder of an innocent 17 year old boy, like Treyvon Martin? In the wake of his death, the ugly stain of prejudice and racism have once again come to light. How can a young man returning from a run to the grocery store, end up dead at the hand of a neighborhood watch capta in?
A helpful media interview for me this week was with Donna Britt, columnist for the Washington Post, and her two grown sons. Steve Inskeep on NPR interviewed them about, “the talk.” The talk, said Britt, an African-American woman, “is what many black parents have with their sons - and daughters, but… probably more often, their sons. It's a preparatory explanation and a warning, to let them know what's out there for them. You know, when they shift from the adorableness of childhood into, …, their early preteen and teen years, where they can be perceived as dangerous, as threatening, as things that most of them really aren't.”
Obviously, Inskeep, in cooperation with Britt, was helping us, to bridge the gap – especially those of us privileged simply by the color of our skin, not to have had to have “the talk” – helping us to understand a cultural difference, of a horrible racial divide. And then as we listen to the 911 tapes, we hear Mr. Zimmerman with new ears, as a profiling of Trayvon, describing him as suspect, basically for wearing a hoodie, while black.
Soon after this, Geraldo Rivera spoke up on the subject, calling for parents to ban their children from wearing hooded sweatshirts, because “the hoodie can’t be rehabilitated,” he said. Or can it? In NYC hundreds of supporters marched in favor of making the hoodie a sign of solidarity, chanting, “We are all Trayvon Martin!” A similar group rallied in Washington D.C., and now other gatherings around the country have been scheduled.
The hoodie is being transformed from the sign of intimidation and death, used by criminals and gang-bangers, into a symbol of life and a demand for justice, as God continues to make our crosses into resurrection moments for the world, and our seeds to bear much fruit.
In Jesus on the cross, God forgives our past unfaithfulness, and remembers our sin no more, transforming the cross into a symbol of life, so that we may be filled with forgiveness and make a stand against injustice, until that day when it will no longer be necessary for parents to have “the talk” with their children. And this is why God has made a new covenant with us! For, “the day is surely coming, says the LORD,” when everyone will know God, from the least of us to the greatest of us, when everyone has the law of love written on their hearts.