We all remember well the story of Noah and the Ark and the animals and God’s rainbow as a reminder of the promise made to us. But what about our promise made to God? St. Peter reminds us that “Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God.” He tells us that our baptism is not to cleanse our bodies but is an appeal to God to cleanse our consciences. Our baptism is a pledge to God of an irreproachable (clean) conscience through Christ’s resurrection. God saved us—but we could do our part by keeping our baptismal promises⎯our covenant with God. This week the psalm (#25) reminds us that God’s ways are love and truth to those who keep His covenant. And what about all the other promises we are called to keep in our lives?
Promises, promises; talk is cheap. The spirit is willing but the flesh can’t keep up. We mean well; we really mean to keep all of those promises in our lives that we make—but we fall back, give up, get tired and give in. We live in a society where a lack of commitment seems to be the norm: we see it in broken homes and marriages and oaths we make, in politics, in work ethics—and even in our own church. If the road gets rocky, bail out. If the job’s tougher than we thought, turn it over to someone else—or just abdicate all together—someone else will do it. If we are late for every appointment, no problem, they will wait. If no one knows what we are doing, why shouldn’t we: 1) help ourselves, 2) reward ourselves, 3) get even. Commitments, vows, oaths and promises in this world don’t seem to be a high priority any way you look at it…
Commitment is the very bedrock of our faith, however. Are we shifting sands in our actions and behavior? Are we all slippery slopes in our decisions of behavior and priorities? And it is not about the outward appearance of our commitments (remember last Ash Wednesday?)—but about our internal dialogue and inward conviction to stick to all, many, any of our promises. When we truly commit ourselves to something, our priorities begin to change. They are the outward sign—the rainbow we see. Keeping our word is not about making a good outward impression, but about being true to our promises—be they to God (who redeemed us and created us), to each other, to our work and play companions—and to ourselves. Commitment is not an outward effort—but an inner transformation, and a gift of grace.
Lent is the opportunity to examine any of those promises we have made in all and every of our circumstances—and to truly discern where we stand in fulfilling them completely and sincerely. (Sincerity—another seemingly “lost” value…) We can be witnesses for the world by keeping our commitments in the face of trial, discouragement, and criticism. God’s power can work in committed and sincere people—demonstrating “rainbow” lives to the people around us. Others should see in us the commitment of generosity, kindness, mercy and love that by our Baptism we have promised to evince in this broken world. We should be a “constant” for those around us—a dependable rainbow pointing others in the direction to God’s grace and a committed life in Christ.
This is hard work: to keep our covenants in life—but this what we are called to do as believers. Lent is the acceptable time for self-examination, evaluation and reconciliation. Being in right relationship with God starts with our personal covenant with God. In keeping that covenant, I think, I really believe, that all the other promises we make will fall into place—or at least give us a framework for questioning our priorities and choices. Lenten food for thought…
Keep singing in your hearts!
Just a Note: I offer a song called “Promises” featuring Joe L. Barnes and Naomi Raine. It’s all about the faithfulness of God to us. The question to ponder is about our faithfulness to God and our promises… This brought tears to my eyes… Enjoy!