Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Call to Healing - 2 Kings 5:1-14

She was a little girl, we really don’t know how old she was, but based on the Hebrew word used, she was less than 12 and older than 5.  Her homeland had been defeated.  Her home had most likely been destroyed.  She had been taken captive, torn away from the safety and security of her home, taken away from her mother and father, separated from her sisters and brothers, separated from everyone and everything she had ever loved or known.  She had been taken to a foreign land and given to the wife of the king’s highest commander to serve her and live as a slave.  She is a captive.  She is a slave.  She is a little girl.  And she is absolutely amazing.
Here she is living as a slave in a foreign land serving the wife of the man who is ultimately responsible for the destruction of her town, the loss of her home and her family and he comes down with a horrible and highly contagious disease, which could cost him his power, his authority, his honor, his prestige, his livelihood and ultimately his life.  And what does she do?  Does she smile to herself and think that this man is getting what he deserves?  Does she thank God for vanquishing her enemies?  Does she find a way to make this work to her advantage?  (Those all things I might have done, had I been in her shoes.)  No, she goes to her mistress and tells her mistress that there is a prophet in her homeland who could heal her master. 
She does something that many in her position would not even think to do. She does the last thing that anyone would have thought that this child, this little captive slave girl would do. She has compassion on someone, most people would not condemn for hating.  She has compassion on her master, on her enemy.  She has compassion on the very man who has taken away her peace, security and childhood. 
She has compassion and she has faith; faith not only in the ability and power of her God, but in God’s compassion.  She might have been taken captive, she might have been forced to live in the enemy’s land serving the enemy’s wife, she might have lost absolutely everything that had value or mattered in her life, but in spite of all she has lost and the bleakness of the situation in which she is now, she still has faith that her God can do this and believes that her God is bigger than her family, her homeland, her people, that her God wants to reach out and heal someone she has every reason to hate, or at least dislike quite a bit.  She has faith even when her world has gone crazy and has been turned upside down and nothing seems to be going right.  She has faith and no matter what bad things may have happened to her in her short life, God is still God.  Her faith is deeper than the good or bad things that happen to her.  Her faith is bigger than whether or not her country has been attacked.  Her faith is bigger than what has happened to herself or to those whom she loves.  Her faith is bigger than her circumstances, bigger than anything that had happened to her, was happening or even might happen. God is still God even when bad things happen. And God loves everyone, even people who do horrible things.  She has faith that the prophet, whom God called, can heal her master, can heal her enemy.  She has faith and she has compassion on this man and she shares her faith in God with her mistress and ultimately with her master.
Naaman is a powerful man.  He is high in the king’s favor and he is the highest commander of the army.  He has quite a bit of power and prestige.  Then something completely beyond his control happens to him; something his power has no affect over, something his connections to the King cannot remedy.  He contracts a skin disease that could ruin his whole life.  He has tried everything, he has gone to all the best Doctors, tried all the best ointments and creams, and has even tried the herbal remedies recommended by his grandmother, but none of it has worked.  His disease still persists. He is at the end of his rope.  What can he do?  Will he simply have to accept his new lot in life? 
Then his wife comes to him with interesting news.  Apparently the little slave girl, he gave her as an “I’m sorry I was gone so long at war” present, says that there is a prophet in Israel who can heal him.  So this girl is proposing he go to the country of his enemy and ask their prophet to heal him. (shrug) “Guess I can ask, I mean it couldn’t hurt.  Not like things can be much worse for me than they are now.” 
And off he goes.  He talks to his king, his king gives him his blessing and he goes and talks to the king of Israel, who takes offense at the situation, thinking it is some kind of trick for this enemy king to find a way to pick a war with him.  Somehow Elisha hears about what is going on and has Naaman sent over to his house.
So Naaman heads over to Elisha’s house, all the  while Naaman is imagining all the grand things the prophet will do to cure him of his aliment.  He will put on strange and unusual clothes, he will light a fire and put special things in it to turn it green, he will dance around wearing a mysterious costume saying ancient words in a long forgotten language, lay his hands on Namaan at just the right moment and magically Naaman will be healed.  Or perhaps he will circle around the fire 8 times clockwise and 4 counter clockwise.  He will then put the fire out and make a paste of the ashes, rub the ashes all over Namaan’s body, have him bath in the finest oil and wash with a perfume made from a special flower that only blooms once a decade that can only be found on some remote location on a high cliff overlooking a magical waterfall and then he will be cured of his leprosy.  Ok, maybe that is a bit much, but at the very least he will come out say a magnificent prayer calling out to his God wave his hand over the spot and it will be gone. But none of these things happened. Not even close. Instead, the prophet sends out a messenger and tells him to go and bath in the Jordan. 
Naaman is a little more than annoyed and almost offended.  Not only has the prophet not even both to come out and greet him, but he tells him to go bath in the Jordan river.  That is ridiculous.  Now if you don’t understand why this is so ridiculous then you have not heard much about the Jordan River, or like myself have never seen it in person.  Although, I have never seen the Jordon river myself, I just so happen to live with someone who has, and from what he has been told, you are more likely to get clean if you bath in a stagnant pond that has dead fish floating in it, than you would be if you bathed in the Jordan River (perhaps a bit overstated but close enough to the truth that you get the point). It is a dirty, muddy, stinky, foul river that nobody baths in.   There are cleaner rivers back home that Namaan can bath in, if bathing is what will be the cure.
Naaman is mad, really mad and heads off toward home.  Then one of his servants talks some sense into him.  And says, I remember your ponderings on your way over here.  You would have gone along with what ever elaborate scheme, climbed countless mountains, gone on almost any nonsensical quest this prophet could have come up with if it had even a chance to heal you.  But you turn away from something that seems merely undesirable. Doesn’t it make sense to at least try to do something simple and counterintuitive like to going wash in a dirty river in order to be clean.  After all it is not any more preposterous than anything else he could have asked you to do. You should not at least try.
So Naaman decided to give it a chance.  He goes and baths in the dirty disgusting Jordan seven times and low and behold he comes out with skin as smooth and clean as that of a newborn baby’s. 
That’s right ladies smooth, young skin, just like the day you were born – all you have to do is bath in this dirty water 7 times – this could sell millions.
As I see it there were two people that have been healed in this story. Obviously Naaman was healed, but I believe this young Hebrew girl has been healed as well.  This young girl is healed of her hurt, healed of her anger and healed of her pain.  She has faith in God even when things are not going the way she would have wanted them to go.  She has every reason to despise Naaman.  She has every reason to wish him ill will.  She has every reason to be mad at God.  But she does not do any of these things.  She has faith in God.  She has compassion on this man.  Even when her life is in complete shambles she trusts God.  Even when her home is destroyed, she is taken from her family and she has been sold into slavery she still has faith in God.  And her faith has healed her; healed her of her hard feelings; healed her of her hurt; healed her of her anger.  And it has given her compassion, compassion enough to wish that her captor be well, healed enough to share with him information about her God and God’s prophet in her homeland that could save his life.  She has faith and her faith heals her.
Not only is this little girl healed but Naaman, is also healed.  He has to trust God in a completely different way.  He has to trust what this little girl has to say about God and God’s prophet.  He has to trust this prophet, which for the people of that day was as good as trusting God.  He had to trust God when he is asked to do something ridiculous. He has to have faith that God can work through this prophet without the prophet even giving him as much as a, “Hi, how are ya doing?”   He had to have faith that getting into the dirty Jordan River would bring God’s healing into his life.  His faith healed him as well.
I don’t know what all you have been through today.  I don’t know what all may have happened in your lives.  Things may be going quite well for you, life may be on an up swing, or maybe not.  There may be any number of things in your life which need the healing touch of God.  You may be like this little girl.  It seems that nothing has ever gone right for you.  Life keeps dealing you one bad hand on top of another.  You may not actually be a slave in a foreign land but some pretty bad things have happened.  You are angry.  You have every right to be angry. You are hurt.  You have every right to be hurt.  But you don’t have to live in your anger and hurt.  You can give them to God, you can allow God to take them from you, simply by trusting and having faith.  God can’t change what has happened to you but God can take those bad things and use them for good.  All you need to do is trust and have faith and allow God to work through you to accomplish God’s will and God’s work and it is through that faith and through that trust that you can be healed.
You may be like Naaman, life was going well but then a curve ball got thrown at you and you don’t know what to do with it.  Something completely beyond your control has thrown a wrench in the machinery of your life.  You don’t know what to do.  You have tried everything, nothing has worked.  You wish that some religious nut would come and do something spectacular to heal the broken and sick parts of your life, but the answers you seem to be getting from God are not satisfactory.  They are not the things that you expected.  You wanted your healing to come one way and God is giving it to you in another.  Again, all you need to do is trust God, have faith in God and do what you are called to do.  Accept God’s healing, God’s way.
I don’t know what kind of healing you need this morning; physical, emotional, spiritual, but I know I can say one thing.  You can be healed but you must have faith.  You must trust in God and trust in God’s ways.  No matter who you are, no matter what is going on or has gone on in your life there is only one thing that can ultimately bring you to a place of healing in your life and that is faith.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Origin Stories: When We Invite Sin In - 2 Samuel 11:1-5, 26-27, 12:1-13

Our passage this morning begins with David going against the accepted social norm of staying home when the rest of Israel went to war. Although I am not a huge proponent of war and all that it involves, I do have to admit that, David, in choosing to stay home when he should have been going to war, was a poor choice. It was culturally and politically bad form, at the time, for a King to not lead his troops into battle. It was his first mistake in a serious of very bad mistakes.
And then what do we do with what happens next? David, the ideal king, the king by whom all other Biblical kings are measure, the one whom scripture tells us was a man after God’s own heart, does this thing with Bathsheba: takes advantage of, forces himself upon, puts her in a position where she is unable to say, “No.” And as if that is not enough then causes her husband to die in battle, in other words has Uriah murdered and then marries her. Meanwhile the identity of Bathsheba is deleted from the Biblical account of these events. That is to say that her name is only mentioned once when she is “brought to” but for the rest of the account that she is called “the woman”, or “the wife of Uriah.”

***From Nazarenes4Peace:   "To dehumanize is the work in direct opposition to the incarnation of God in Christ. Be wary of anyone who claims to follow Christ but devalues and dehumanizes others." ***
But so that we can truly get the impact of how it feels for Bathsheba to loose her name (and in many ways looses her humanity as so many woman who find themselves used and abused by men in power and position so often do) I will follow the example of scripture as I talk about her, so we can have compassion for the one who is "lost" in this story. 
WHAT CAN I SAY???? This woman is forced to do something she probably would not otherwise do, her husband is killed and then she is married to the man who uses his power to take advantage of her!!!

So once he has acquired “this woman” to be his wife and has added her and her unborn child into household, David breathes a sigh of relief; this nonsense is over, let’s get on with the business of being Israel’s greatest king. All is well.
But all is not well.  He has committed a serious of very sinful things.  He watched a married woman bath, he called her to him, he used his power to have is way with her.  He got her pregnant.  He attempted to trick Uriah, her husband into believing the child was his, when that did not work, he orchestrated Uriah’s murder via battle.  When Uriah’s murder is reported to him by Joab, he actually tells Joab to not let this seem like evil in Joab’s sight.  It is almost as if, if he declares that it is not evil, it will not be evil.  Then when the dust has settled and the mourning period is over, David takes Uriah’s wife as his wife!  And he goes on with his life. 
All is good.  And he might have gone on with his life, thinking that the whole thing worked out pretty well, but then God interrupts David’s sense of security by speaking into the situation via Nathan the prophet, using a story. And as most pastors know, a good story can make the hardest lesson to easier to swallow. So, Nathan comes to David with a story to teach David a lesson.  And since David spent his early years with sheep, the story is about a beloved lamb.
When I was a teenager, my mother had a friend who had a small family farm.  They had horses, which the mother used to teach horse riding lessons to earn money.  They also had a cow, once a year, a lamb, once a year and several goats that reproduced twice year.  The children would play with these animals, feed them, clean up after them take care of them watch them grow. 
All their animals had names and all of their food had matching names.  They always knew who they sold and who they ate.  As a young teen it was the first time I was really confronted with the fact that meat did not naturally grow in Styrofoam packaging with cellophane wrappings.  It might sound cruel to eat an animal who has a name, but these children understood that animals were raised for meat and were fun while they were alive and were yummy when they died.
In the story that Nathan tells, there is a man and his family who have a ewe lamb.  This little lamb, this family had, was not just another lamb among a large herd they were preparing to eat or sell to be eaten. This is the only lamb of a poor family and was treated as one of the family.  It was a pet lamb that was apparently, unlike the “pets” the family I knew, was not meant to be eaten.  It was kept, and cherished. 
Well this family had a rich neighbor who one day, when a visitor came to town decided that he did not want to kill one of the many sheep in his large herd for dinner for his guest, but would instead steal the beloved lamb of this family, kill it and eat it.  What a horrible thing to do!  It was unfair, unkind and just wrong!
I can understand how this family and this man felt.  When I was 5 years old we had a stray kitten who came to live in our yard.  It was beautiful.  It was orange and it was fluffy.  She was friendly and sweet tempered.  She let me pick her up and play with her, and you know do all the things a 5 year old wants to do with a kitten that most kittens won’t let children do to them.  My mom gave me permission to feed her and take care of her.  I named her Cattie.  Soon she took up residence in our dog’s house.   Our dog refused to ever go in her dog house, but the cat seemed to love it in there.  She and the dog would play together in the yard.  In fact she rarely left our yard, she was our cat and we were her family.
 She was the kind of cat who would cuddle with me and play with me.  She was loved by everyone in the family.  At this time my mother had just recently had my baby sister and was busy with the new baby, but she intended when things settled down to get the cat her shots and bring her in the house, but until then she wanted the cat to stay outside so as to not bring her potential germs into the house with the new baby.
Before my mother could do this though our neighbor’s parents came to visit. They kept their RV in the neighbor’s drive for about a week.  We would often see them talking to Cattie through the fence, and reaching over to pet her.   And then one morning the RV was gone and the cat was gone as well.  We inquired of our neighbors and they told us that their parents took her home with them because she needed a home. WHAT?  She had a home!  She was ours.  They had to reach over our fence to take her.  We were devastated.  They took our cat.  They took my cat.  I loved that cat.  And someone just decided to take her home with them without even asking.
I guess from David’s reaction to Nathan’s story that he had loved a lamb or two in his days as a shepherd.  He probably knew what it was like to nurture and care for an animal in such a way that it became more than just another animal but became a beloved pet.  When told this story David declares that not only should the rich man have to pay fourfold back to the poor man and his family but he should be put to death!  You don’t take another man’s beloved animal!
And then Nathan goes in for the punch and tells David that he is the rich man in this story.  He took Uriah’s wife for his own and David may think he has gotten away with it but God knows what he has done.  In fact God is taking this as personal offense.  God does not simply see this action as a sin against Uriah, which most certainly it is, but God sees this as an offense against God.  God had anointed David king, saved him from the hand of Saul who wanted to kill him, gave him a kingdom, a house and many (6) wives and God would have continued to bless David.  But David has returned God’s kindness and provision with evil.  Where God has worked to spare David’s life, David has murdered Uriah, where God has blessed David with wives; David goes and takes another man’s wife for himself.  The consequences for David’s actions will match the sins committed, David has killed Uriah with the swords of the Ammonites and therefore there will be killing in his own household, David has taken his neighbor’s wife and therefore his wives will be taken by his neighbor; seems just and fair.
When confronted with his own sin, David realizes the extent of his own sins and repents before God of all that he has done.  He realizes that he has not merely sinned against Uriah or Uriah’s wife, but he has sinned against God.  And he seems to truly be repentant of what he has done, so God forgives him. 
That is it.  David repents and God forgives him; nothing more nothing less. Our modern sense of justice is almost offended by how easy it is.  David says, he has sinned and God puts David’s sin away.  We can only assume that David seeks to remedy the problems in his life, in how he is living and his ways of thinking that have brought him to this place. That this repentance resulted in a transformation in his life, his view of women perhaps, his understanding of what it means to be the holy person God was calling him to be. Those are all assumptions.  We do know after the death of the child the wife of Uriah bore to him, he once again did as a good king should and lead the armies in battle when they went out against the ammonites.  So there is a change in his actions following his repentance. After the conclusion of these events in his life, David works to be a better person, a better king and to do what is right and good in the sight of the God. Perhaps we can even say that the man who is a “man after God’s own heart” was the man who emerged from this sinful period in David’s life.
The death of the child and many of the issues David has within his family are seen as part of the consequences of David’s sinful actions.  The natural consequences of David’s sin aside and the ongoing issues we see in his family life notwithstanding. The amazing thing about this passage is that David repents and God forgives him and then both he and God move on from there.  David had done so much.  He had failed God, he had failed Uriah, he had disrespected Uriah’s wife, he had allowed his power and privileged to blind his judgment and give him the idea that he had rights that were not his, allowed him to see himself above other men and beyond the taint of evil, even himself in the position of God, able to declare what is evil and what is good.  But when confronted with the reality of his sin and the extent to which he had fallen into evil, he repented, he turned to God and God forgave him.
This is good news!  Good news for me and for you.  Many of us will probably never commit adultery in our lives, most of us will probably never murder somebody, we may look lustfully at someone else’s spouse, we may misuse those around us, we may allow power and prestige to blind our judgment or any number of other sins, failings, and wrong doings.  The fact of the matter is that most of us in our lives, in our Christian walks will be less than God’s best for us, we will not love God with our whole hearts, we will not always love our neighbors, in fact we might even treat any number of the people we encounter from day to day, people we meet in passing as well as those we hold dear, with something less than the respect and loving kindness they deserve.  We will fail God and one another in many ways between now and when we find ourselves on the other side of eternity.  We will sin; we will do evil in the sight of the Lord.  But the good news is that God forgives!  And God does not expect much from us.  God simply expects repentance and then allows us to start fresh, anew to work with God to live right, to love God to love one another as we should.  We will have to deal with the consequences of the poor and sinful choices we have made, but with God we can start over. Our relationship with God can be restored.  We can repent and we will be forgiven!  This is a glorious thing.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Origin Stories: God and God Alone - Joshua 24:1-26

I.              Intro – Covenants
As we trace the story of God and God’s relationship with humanity we are also tracing a story about covenants.  The first covenant God made was made with Noah after he and his family emerged from the Ark.  Then there was the covenant with Abraham and then that covenant was extended to Isaac and then to Jacob.  And of course there was the covenant at Mount Sinai, which we looked at last week.  And as Christians we talk about the New Covenant which is made through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Of all the covenants God made with people, the one that was made at Shechem is one the one none of us ever forget. (or perhaps all of us forget)
II.           Coming to an understanding of the text
A.    Where we came from
1.   We have come a long way since last week where we met the Israelites at Mount Sinai
a.   40 years across the desert
b.   Moses has died
c.    They have come into the land – God is in the process of giving them the promise – even as they are inhabiting the promise land
2.   Joshua’s life is about over and he calls the people together to renew their covenant with God
3.   Before he calls them to do so he reminds them of their history with God:
a.   From Haran – where they worshiped false gods
b.   God brought Abraham up out of that land through the river, away from those gods
c.    The part that is skipped brings them up to this point in their history  - they are living in the land promised to Abraham – God has been faithful to fulfill that promise
B.     Exodus language
1.   It not just that Joshua is reciting their history beginning with Terah living in Heran beyond the Euphrates but the language used is very deliberate language
2.   Language that speaks of God bringing Abraham up out of the land of false gods in the same way that they usually talk about how God brought them up out of the land of slavery
3.   Comparing the worship of false gods to slavery
4.   God brought them up out of that
a.    God revealed God’s-self to Abraham and his descendants.
b.   God, by bringing Abraham out of Haran effectively has brought the people gathered there that day with Joshua (as the descendants of Abraham) out of Haran
c.    The bringing of Abraham out of Haran is set in parallel to God bringing the Israelites up out of Egypt – Abraham leaving Haran is seen as an Exodus
d.  God brought them through  the river – meaning the Euphrates river (similar to the Red Sea crossing)– bringing them out of the land where they worshiped false gods
e.    God promised to give them a new land, a new land where name would be great and he would “father” a nation-the same land given to Abraham is now given to them. The land of the promise is now theirs
f.     The people that were standing there at Shechem were that promised nation, they were the descendents promised to Abraham and they were in the land that was promised to Abraham
5.   God had been faithful, God had brought them up out of so much, not merely out of Egypt, the land of slavery, but God had been at work before that bringing up out of the land.
C.     Why would we want to go back?
1.   God has brought you so far and done so much for you
2.   Why go back to false gods? Why turn back to life the way that it once was?
3.   Why go back to slavery whether it be Egyptian or false worship?
4.   God has worked for you and proved himself faithful why would you turn your back on that?
D.    Who will you serve? – God
A.    Its decision time? For the people of God
B.     Joshua is asking them :
1.   Who will be your god? Will God be your God or will the gods of this land be your gods?
2.   Will you go back to that kind of slavery?
3.   I will serve the Lord, what are you gonna do?
C.     They choose to serve the Lord
1.   They see his logic
2.   Why would they go back to that?
3.   “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord. . .” vs 16-18
E.     Are you sure?  - We will serve God
1.   Joshua tells them this is not a decision to make lightly
2.   They just can’t say this and not follow through
3.   God will take them seriously
4.   I will be your God if you be my people is a big commitment
5.   They will have to listen to God, worship God, and obey the commands and statutes given to their “parents” on Mount Sinai
F.      Renewing the promises
1.   They are renewing the promises that were made by their parents
2.   They are renewing the promises that were made to Abraham and Isaac
3.   The story had begun with Abraham but I would only continue on if they choose to follow God as they had done
III.        Applying the text
A.    What God has done in the past
1.   The Bible is the story of God’s relationship with humanity
2.   God has brought us up out of the land of slavery to false god and of sin
3.   God has loved us and taken care of us
4.   God has guided us and worked on our behalf
5.   Now we are in God’s sanctuary this morning
6.   We have the same decision that the Israelites had
7.   We can choose to worship God or we can choose to go our own way
8.   We can turn our back on his faithfulness and his love or we can accept it and embrace it, choose God above all other things
B.     Serving God is serious business
1.   I am sure all of us are saying, Yes we will serve the Lord
2.   But this is serious business
3.   God will take our decision seriously
4.   If we choose to the Lord it is no half hearted thing, we have to really and truly be in it
5.   We have to make a whole hearted decision
6.   Can’t just serve God when it is convenient or easy
7.   Can’t just do it on Sundays  and special Holy days
8.   It is a full time commitment
9.   You have to serve God at all times, in all circumstances
10.                 Trust God no matter what
11.                 Choose you this day whom you will serve!

Origin Stories: Being the People of God - Exodus 19:3-7

We made our way from the beginning of Genesis, which began by telling us that in the beginning there was God and it was God who created all things and not only declared that all creation was good but was the one who loving created humanity and created us not only good, as all other creation was created but in shaping and forming humanity created us in God’s own image filling us with the God’s own breath, the breath of life breathed into us giving us life. From the beginning humanity was God’s own precious creation. From the earliest days when God walked with the first man and the first women at the close of the day God was always reaching out to humans desiring to be in relation with us and when we broke the bonds of that relationship, God continue to reach out to humanity, working to mend what was broken. 
As we have made our way through these origin stories of our faith, we have learned a lot about who God is and how God interacts not only with all of creation and specifically with humans. As we move into Exodus the stories continue to tell us about God and more and more tell us about all the ways God reaches out to humanity, drawing us back into relationship with
God’s self, always bending toward us, always moving in favor of humanity, always lovingly doing what needs to be done to redeem all that has been broken.
Here God has literally rescued the Hebrew people out of slavery. After working through Joseph to provide food for the nation during a time of famine the descendants of Abraham remained in Egypt until all those who lived there forgot why these Hebrew people lived among them and took then as their slaves.
As slaves they cried out in their pain, in their sorrow and in their misery and God heard them and sent Moses to them to speak to Pharaoh on their behalf to negotiate their release. But when negotiation did not work, God resorted to force. God brought plague after plague after plague upon the Egyptian people until finally enough was enough and Pharaoh agreed to allow all the Hebrew people to go.
And so God has brought them up out of the land of Egypt, across the sea on dry land burying the pursuing Egyptian army in its water depths and has now brought them safely to Mount Sinai. Leading them, guiding them and providing for them all along the way.
And now God wants to be in covenant relationship with these people. God desires to renew the covenants made with their ancestors, with Abraham and with Isaac and with Jacob. God desires for a relationship of mutual love and respect. God will be their God and they will be God’s chosen people.
All healthy relationships have boundaries and stipulations that form the relationship. In most friendships these are mostly unspoken. But there are things that hold friendships together and there are circumstances under which a friendship will ultimately dissolve. Marriages, being covenants like the one God is forming with the Hebrew people here have boundaries and stipulations that are little more formalized  and are agreed upon by both parties It is here on the mountain where God lays out the boundaries and stipulations for the relationship God desires to have with the descendants of Abraham from this point forward.
Covenants are like other relationships. They are two sided they have conditions; they are built up on mutual respect and mutual care.
§     Friendship
·               There for each other
·               Listen
·               Support
·               Comfort
·               Do not betray
§     Marriage
·               No others - exclusivity
·               You respect each other
·               Live in community together
§     Covenant Relationship with God has conditions
The covenant made here on the mountain outside of Egypt is not just a covenant made with some people long dead who stood at the foot of some mountain most of have never been to nor will ever have the opportunity to even visit. This is a covenant that is essentially made for all people at in all times. The covenant made with the Hebrew people, the Israelites is the covenant that has been renewed and extended to everyone who desires to be in relationship with God.  The heart of the covenant relationship made with these people here on this mountain is the same relationship that God desires to have with us today, as followers of Christ. It is just as much our covenant as it is theirs. So let us lean in close and see what it is that God asks of these people, listen closely and hear who it is God is calling us to be.
When we think of the beginnings of the covenant relationship between the Hebrew people, the Israelites and God our minds go directly to the Ten Commandments but in reality that is part of the explanation of the covenant, an expansion upon the basic boundaries and stipulations of the covenant. At its heart the covenant is simple. It is made up of four parts. The foundation, what the people have seen an experienced of God. What they know about who God is and what God’s character is like. It is based upon what they have seen and what they have heard. What they already know and have experienced about God.
This foundation, upon which the relationship between God and the people, will be built upon their witness to, and experience of the Exodus. God begins by reminding them of all that God has done for them, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (Exodus 19:4).
o       God heard the people’s cries when they were in slavery
·      Prepared Moses
·      Sent Moses
·      Gave Moses the words to say and the ability to show Egypt who sent them and the power of God
o       God hears your cries of distress.
·      God sees our hurt
·      God sees our pain
·      God knows exactly where we are and what is going on  in our lives
·      Even when we feel alone; even when it seems we are abandoned by God , God is still there working on our behalf
o       Even before you knew God was at work God was at work
o       God led the people to the mountain – was a pillar fire at night and a cloud during the day – leading and guiding – going before and coming behind to assure their safety and their protection.
§     Like the first and last person in a caving group God is the lead at the front taking us where we need to go
§     God takes up the rear making sure that everyone is doing fine, there are no stragglers and no one gets lost.
o       God sustained them, providing them with manna and with quail, with fresh water when they needed it as well as guidance and protection
o       God has brought you to this place – where ever you are; whatever is going on, God has brought you hear.
o       Brought you through all the hardships and walked with you through all your struggles
o       You are here because God has guided you, protected you and sustained  you
o       All that has sustained and saved you to allow you to come thus far is God carrying you on “eagles’ wings” God guiding and directing, shielding and protecting you
o       God’s grace going before (prevenient grace) – even before you knew who God was or that God was at work on your behalf.
The exodus is the foundation, but this is not a one sided relationship where God works on behalf and of the people and they experience the benefits of God’s love and devotion, but God asks for them to respond in kind. They are asked to love and obey God to respond to God’s generosity with faithfulness, and love, “...obey my voice and keep my covenant…” (Exodus 19:5)
o       Now that you know the One who has created you, sustained you, guided you, protected you
o       Live in ways that give honor to God (the 10 commandments – Love God. . .)
o       Listen to the Voice of God, allow God to speak into your life, to call you to new places, lead you to the land of milk and honey (not guaranteed to be an easy journey but God will be with you going before you and coming behind you)
o       God calls for us to live lives that reflect the character of God
o       Loving God and Loving each other – the heart of the ten commandments
o       Living lives that reflect the holy character of God – be holy as I am holy
o       Living out holy love toward others
This is the two sided relationship. God require the people to live and act in certain ways but God also promises to also to do certain things in this relationship. Although the covenant is built upon a foundation of the things God has done thus far on behalf of the people, that is not the end of God’s actions on behalf of the people. God agrees to continue to work on behalf of the people. As a part of this covenant relationship God is forming with these people God makes a promise for future actions saying, “you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples …”(Exodus 19:5)
o       You will be my people and I will be your God
o       God promises to continue to love, protect, guide and sustain the people
o       Not only throughout the journey but even once they get to the promise land
o       God love you, treasures you.
o       God will work on our behalf, drawing
o       If you obey, if you listen, if you live, the relationship between God and you will be a relationship of mutual love
This brings us to the final movement of the covenant the calling. As a part of the relationship God has with the people of God tacks on a calling something God desires for the people to live into. It is ultimately the reason for the covenant. God’s purpose in forming this covenant is because God loves all of humanity, not just the Hebrew people and God ultimately desires for all whom God’s loves to be included in this covenant. God calls for the people to be ambassadors drawing all the peoples of the world into relationship with God and so God says, “You shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6).
o       And God then calls them to go.
o       To lead others into this relationship.
o       To bring all the earth back to God
o       Invite others to join the journey.