Today’s readings ask us to ponder the question, “what do we have to do to remain in covenant with God?” And the question, I think, is an important one. We would want to respond to God’s gracious act of making covenant with us first. We see in today’s readings that he chose us first, and calls us out of love for us. Moses recites the mighty acts of God in which he remembered the promises made to the people’s ancestors and kept them, even though the people certainly didn’t deserve it. Even though they often broke the covenant, God still kept it anyway, loving the people even when they were unlovable.
So for Moses and the people Israel, the response to God’s gracious act was to keep the law. The law itself was wonderful, given to the people out of love, to help them walk the straight and narrow, and to remain in relationship with God and others. Moses contends that no other nation had gods that were loving and wise enough to provide something like that for their people.
Jesus, of course, takes it several steps further. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Following the law was the first step, but it was pretty basic. Even if the people obeyed it – which they often did not – it was still a matter of will mostly, and not heart. The Pharisees especially took pride in keeping the minutiae of the law. Jesus, however, calls us to make the same sacrifice he did: lay down our lives for one another out of love.
“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” And isn’t that the truth, really? When we get so caught up in ourselves and our own pettiness, how quickly life slips away and we wonder what it all meant. But when we lose our lives following Christ and loving God and neighbor with reckless abandon, well, then we have really found something.
God loved us first and best, and always seeks covenant with us. The law is still a good guide, but the cross is the best measure of the heart. How willing are we this day to lose our lives relentlessly spending the love we have received from our God with others?