Jeremiah 31: 27-34

New Resources

Illustrated Resources from the Archives

  • Preaching Helps (Lent 5B)(2018)

    by Doug Bratt
    A few years ago a band of white teenagers brutally attacked and killed Jean Sandiford’s black son Michael in Howard Beach, Brooklyn, New York. His mom, whom people saw reading her Bible during their trial, admits that even the passage of time hasn’t yet erased her pain. “Sometimes I sit here and cry,” Jean admits. Yet when talking about the three men who are still in prison for the murder, she says “At night I pray for them. I ask God to forgive them.”...
  • Proper 24C (2016)

    by Doug Bratt
    Mention the word “covenant” to the average person today and you won’t get much of a reaction. It’s not a word that gets a lot of play in everyday conversation. If you Google it, you’ll find about 30 million search results but you would have to go through hundreds of Google search pages before you ran out of search results that were the names of churches, hospitals, schools, retirement communities, and the like. Somehow “covenant” is a good name for establishments even though it’s not a word we typically use in day-to-day life. We are far more familiar with words listed as synonyms for “covenant” like “contract” or “deal” or “agreement.”...
  • Tattoos on the Heart

    by Kathy Donley
    This week I read a book called Tattoos on the Heart. You might notice that I took my sermon title from it. The book is about a priest, Father Greg Boyle, who has been serving Los Angeles for the last 20 years. LA County, home to 1100 gangs and 86,000 gang members, has been called the gang capital of the world. Father G's ministry is Homeboy Industries, one of the largest gang intervention programs anywhere. In this book, Father G simply tells the stories of gang members and people from his neighborhood. Reading the stories, you see the common themes. One strong theme is of shame. Father G suggests that guilt is feeling bad about your actions, but shame comes from feeling bad about who you are. In his experience, this shame is a global sense of failure of the total self. It starts early and seeps way down. Father G writes, “There is a palpable sense of disgrace strapped like an oxygen tank on the back of every homie I know. In a letter from prison, a gang member writes, ‘people see me like less.’ This is hard to get through and penetrate. ‘You’re no good.’ ‘You live in the projects.’ ‘Your mom’s a basehead.’ ‘Your Dad’s a junkie.’ ‘You wear the same clothes every day.’” Father G says, “Once, after dealing with a particularly exasperating homie named Sharkey, I switch my strategy and try to catch him in the act of doing the right thing. I can see that I have been too harsh with him and he is, after all, trying the best he can. I tell him how heroic he is and how the courage he now exhibits in transforming his life far surpasses the hollow bravado of his barrio past. I tell him he is a giant among men. I mean it. Sharkey seems to be thrown off balance by all this and silently stares at me. Then he says, “Damn G . . . I’m gonna tattoo that on my heart.”...
  • Heart Law

    by Jane Anne Ferguson
    ("One of the stories I have used when preaching the Jeremiah text is Old Turtle by Douglas Wood and illustrated by Cheng-Khee Chee. This beautiful picture book came out in 1992 and tells the story of Old Turtle who sees and understands the covenant connection of love between all creation...")
  • Lent 5B (2015)

    by Scott Hoezee
    "In his book Engaging God's World, Neal Plantinga approaches the entire matter of education from the starting point of our fondest wishes and deepest longings. More than we know, the things we want to know touch (and even stem from) also our hearts. Most of the time we maybe are too busy, too preoccupied, too distracted to be in touch with such ponderous matters...."
  • Proper 24C (2010)

    by Scott Hoezee
    ("Lewis Smedes once wrote that we should avoid being fake or hypocritical and just admit that deep down what each one of us wants is some enjoyment in life. Deep down we hope that the day may come when people will stand up and cheer over something we did....")
  • What's the Bible For, Anyway?

    by Donald Hoffman
    ("Maye was a good Christian woman, … but a bit dingy. Once she was out driving her car when she saw a little dog."...)
  • Written on Our Hearts

    by Janet Hunt
    at one time this gravestone stood outside the boundaries of the cemetery for he had died at his own hand. In that now distant time the church did not go easy on such as this and perhaps as a crude warning to others, the one who died in this way was not allowed to be buried within the bounds of the cemetery — not in ‘holy ground’ such as this. And so it was that the body and the stone were on the other side of the fence. Now Mabel did not have the strength or the wherewithal to actually have the body moved, but she made her point nonetheless for the story goes that in a fit of righteous outrage she picked up the stone itself and moved it into the cemetery where it still stands. Oh, she had been taught the difference between right and wrong from her youth. Probably that included something about suicide being murder — being sinful. But in her heart, mercy ruled. And living in the faith which framed her life? God’s love was absolutely unconditional.
  • Will He Find Faith?

    by Beth Johnston
    ("There is a story told of a farmer who decided to replace his aging barn which was leaking badly and did almost nothing to protect his cattle from the elements...")
  • Flying to the Edges: Returning to the Heart

    by Fred Kane
    (includes several illustrations)
  • Sermon Starters (Lent 5B)(2021)

    by Stan Mast
    The promise of forgiveness that forgets reminded me of a book entitled Amish Grace. It’s about the horrific murders of a number of Amish girls by a man who must have been a monster. But even more, it’s about the way the Amish community forgave that monster. The whole country was so shocked by their forgiveness that the authors of the book spend the last part of it probing forgiveness. In their investigation, they discovered that there are levels or stages of forgiveness. There’s the speaking of the words, “I forgive you,” even if you don’t feel anything positive toward the sinner. There’s the act of treating him differently- not holding the sin against him. There’s the actual acceptance of the sinner into your circle of affection. But, the writers point out, even with forgiveness, there can still be a desire to see justice done toward the offender. And, it is unlikely that the victims of such a horrific crime as that mass murder will ever be able to actually forget it. All of which we can understand. Which makes the promise of Jeremiah 31:34 almost incomprehensible to us. How can an omniscient, perfectly just Judge, who loves his children with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3) ever forget the sins committed against and by them? It’s amazing and impossible apart from the sacrifice of Christ.
  • The Heart Covenant (2021)

    by Jim McCrea
    Rev. Donovan Drake tells of a time he was invited by a friend of his to take part in a ministry to young people at a high security prison for youth in North Carolina. When he saw the prison with all its razor wire and bright lights, he described it as “a 16-story monument to the brokenness of this world.” Here’s what he says about that visit: “We entered in through the buzzers, the gates and the security wands. We were then led to room, a cafeteria setting, tables and chairs, with prisoners in orange uniforms. “‘What’s next?’ I asked. It was then I learned I was flying solo. He said, ‘Well, find a table, introduce yourself, read a scripture, talk about it, pray with them.’ Well, that seemed simple enough — introduce, scripture, talk, pray. I was nervous, but I can do this. […] “I scanned the room to find what I thought to be the least intimidating young man in the room, and my eyes fell on one who could easily have been the youngest one in the room, boyish face, hair parted neatly, round glasses, intelligent looking. I went to him. I sat down at his table and introduced myself. “‘My name is Donovan, what’s yours?’ ‘Michael,’ he said. I told him I was a visitor to the program and a bit nervous. He didn’t say anything to me, which made me more nervous, and then he said, 'It’s my first time down here too.’ “‘Can I ask why you’re in here?’ I said, figuring he would tell some story of a car stolen or maybe a drug trade. He didn’t. He didn’t even look at me when he said, ‘I killed my father.’ I was stunned. I probably even had a look on my face that said, ‘Man, you should be in prison.’ I mean I was stunned. I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it. I stammered out some attempt to understand. “‘Was your father abusive?’ I said. ‘I don’t want to talk about it,’ he said. I sat in silence for a second or a minute, and then he lifted a finger from the table and pointed it directly at my Bible and asked, ‘Is there anything in there that can help me?’ “What do you think was my answer? I guess I’m asking you, ‘What kind of Lord do we have?’ Is our Lord one who tells the breaking news, ‘Young man kills father, will spend years in prison, there’s nothing more that can be done. Details at 11:00.’ Or is our Lord one who somehow and in some way is able to let his love and mercy shine through all the broken places in this world?”...
  • The Heart Covenant (2018)

    by Jim McCrea
    A young family moved onto a farm next door to an older farmer who always kept very much to himself. The elder farmer didn’t want anything to do with his neighbors. In fact he kept two vicious attack dogs on his place to discourage any and all visitors. The dogs were kept behind a fence and couldn’t get out, but they also made sure no one else came in. Then one day, the young farmer’s three-year-old son wandered near the neighbor’s fence. He saw the dogs and wanted to pet them. So he climbed the fence and entered the hermit’s yard where he was viciously attacked and killed by the dogs. As a result, the whole community turned against the owner of the dogs. After the little boy’s death, there was no chance that that farmer would be anything but left alone. The whole community blamed him for the little boy’s death, so the grocer refused to sell him groceries, the banker refused to lend him any money and the seed store refused to sell him any seed. He was facing financial ruin because he couldn’t put his crop in. Then one day he was surprised to see a tractor working his land and sowing wheat seed. He went out to the field only to discover that it was the dead boy’s father. He asked the man why he was doing this and the father said, “I have to forgive you. Driving you out of town or out of business won’t bring my son back. I know that God loved my son and that God loves you too. I want you to know that also.”...
  • Gone to Seed (Jeremiah)

    Art and Faith by Lynn Miller
    The prophet Jeremiah tells of the day when God's people won't be keeping the covenant as an external set of laws, but rather as something that is an intrinsic part of each person (Jeremiah 31.31-34). Written on their hearts is the way Jeremiah says it. It's a poetic turn of phrase that is a bit more awkward to depict in art. The concept is easily followed, though. Vincent van Gogh offers a parallel in one of his sunflower paintings. It isn't one of the paintings that has golden yellow flowers at the peak of blooming, standing in a vase against a light-colored background. Instead the artist shows the flowers at the end of life...
  • There's Nothing Good About Sour Grapes

    Art and Faith by Lynn Miller
    Aesop's fable about the fox and the grapes gives us the contemporary meaning of "sour grapes." In the fable, the fox sees a bunch of beautiful grapes hanging from a vine that is intertwined with tree branches. The grapes look delicious, so the fox jumps to grab the bunch in his mouth. He wasn't even close. So he stepped back, ran toward the tree and leaped at the last minute. Still nothing. A third attempt. No grapes. So the fox sat and looked again at the bunch. He walked away from the tree and the grapes saying (in paraphrase), "You know, they are probably sour anyway." It's easy to despise what you can't get. That's the moral of the fable.
  • Facing the Firing Squad

    by Nathan Nettleton
    The story of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran has been in the news, on and off, for almost ten years. They were arrested in April 2005, along with seven others, and the two of them were accused and convicted of being the organiser and enforcer for an attempt to use the other seven to smuggle a large quantity of heroin to Australia. There is not a lot of public sympathy for drug smugglers, and even less for those who are seen to be intimidating others into smuggling drugs. While in prison, Myu Sukumaran has studied for and been awarded a degree in fine arts, and emerged as a significant painter. He set up and ran an arts program and several other educational programs within the prison. Andrew Chan converted to Christianity and after undertaking a theological degree and running church services within the prison, was recently ordained as a pastor by an Australian church. It is usually easy to be cynical about religious conversions on death row, but if you were just trying to curry favour with the authorities, you wouldn’t convert to Christianity in a dominantly Muslim country...
  • Movies/Scenes Representing Covenant

    Compiled by Jenee Woodard

Other Resources from 2021 (Lent 5B)

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Other Resources from 2018

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Other Resources from 2015

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The Classics

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