Word for Word 10/18/23

Pr. James Buckhahn
Pr. James Buckhahn

Covenant Relationship

Hello, I am Pastor James Buckhahn, better known as Pastor Buck.  I am the new old pastor at Lansing United Methodist Church, Lansing.

God has a message for us today about His relationship with us and our relationship with Him.  And yes, it starts with love, but there is so much more.  

So where does God’s relationship begin with us?  There are many related answers, but the truth is it began at creation. Genesis 1:26-31

Then God said, “Let Us make mankind in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule…”  So, God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”…  And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”

We were created in His image, we were given co-authority to rule over God’s creation. Let me highlight two other important aspects about God’s relationship with His new creation (us).  Genesis 2:15-17

“Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and tend it. The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may freely eat; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for on the day that you eat from it you will certainly die.””  

Now… even though in this account only Adam is mentioned, we know at verse 22 Eve is created and she will also come under the command… or more appropriately the covenant of God about the Tree of knowledge.

And the second important aspect of God’s relationship with us. Is God’s concern not only about our physical well-being but also our mental and emotional well-being. It started with Adam, see what happens in Genesis 2:18, “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”  And that leads to the creation of Eve.

So let me summarize what God’s perfect relationship with us was created to be. Though I say created, it was and still is based on free will.  

First - He created humans in His image.  

Second - Man and Women were created companions for each other to be “Fruitful and multiply”.  They were equals on all levels to co-rule over God’s creation.

Third - God and humans had an intimate relationship - They walked and talked together in that special place called Eden.  

Fourthly - There were boundaries (rules) in this relationship. Even though humans ruled over His earthly creation, God rules over all.

As such from the very beginning God’s relationship with us is based on love… managed, governed, protected by a covenant, not just rules to follow. Having this understanding helps us go from a childlike understanding - “Jesus Loves Me” to a mature deeper relationship with our God.  

There is a great book title Epic of Eden by Sandra Richter that outlines God’s covenants with His people (us) from Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, to Jesus.  A lot of what follows comes from Sandra’s Book.  

We typically do not associate our relationship with God or His relationship with us being governed by a covenant(s). In secular terms this covenant we are under is called a Suzerain/Vassal.   A Suzerain/Vassal covenant is between two people or parties of non-equal status or power. The Suzerain is the greater (God) and Vassal is the lesser (us).  

Now, in our relationship with God, we know God is the Suzerain and we are Vassal. God created a place for us to live, and the things we needed… and we were asked to rule over the other creatures, be fruitful and multiply, and “not eat of the tree of knowledge - Good and Evil”. We lived in His protected bubble so to speak. The consequence of breaking the covenant was “death”.  We broke that covenant, and we lost access to immortality, the tree of life, as such death. But God did not give up on us.  

Sandra Richart makes this statement about our God, “The indicative always precedes the imperative.”  In simple terms God seeks relationship with us first before requiring obedience. Like while dating and wooing a mate for marriage. It is all about putting your best foot forward. After the ceremony… then there are the rules. Or parents love their children first before rules are introduced. And secondly our Suzerain, our God, is a God of second chances and many more. We are currently in the midst of the 6th and final heavenly covenant.

God knows rules do not create relationships, but they are needed to protect the relationship and restore it.

Our Suzerain has never abandoned us. Yes, there was no longer walks in the garden with Him, but there was always some kind of connection. We know very little of their religious life prior to Moses. But we know they had one. The argument between Cain and Able was over an offering to God. Noah had to have been living by some God given directive because he was seen as righteous. Abraham had to have some kind of relationship with God to readily accept God’s call to uproot his family for Haran.

Every time we messed up our end of the covenant there were consequences, but God not only made a new covenant but, in that process, He came closer to us. Mount Sini and Moses brought about the Temple and the Ark of the Covenant where God could reside close to His people. Then He sent Jesus to live among us as the final covenant along with the infusion of the Holy Spirit.  

Final thoughts on our relationship with God are these… This relationship divides us from the world.  Always has and always will. That said, we are asked to love our neighbor as ourselves, which for me is another name for disciple-making, because my ultimate love is of Christ, as such I want my neighbor to experience that same covenant love.

God loves us so deeply that His will is to restore what was once perfection. The bride and the groom coming together once again to live forever in the place called Eden.

Be blessed in your holy relationship with Christ and be supportive by loving hands of the Body of Christ, the church. To God be the Glory, Amen.

Pastor James Buckhahn, United Methodist Church, Lansing