“I will be their God, and they will be my people… “.


A reflection on the Sunday bible readings



SUNDAY 21 March 2021     

Jeremiah 31.31-34

31 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.34No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more. 


John 12.20-33

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

27 ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say - “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.28Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ 30Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.31Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.



It is a sad reality that relationships break down. I wonder how many may not have survived the pressures and tensions of this last year. Promises are broken, harsh words are spoken, actions have consequences, and there is that sad phrase from the legal jargon of the courts that a divorce can be granted if a relationship has irretrievably broken down'. The word ‘irretrievably’ means there is no way back. Family quarrels, and fallings out between one-time friends are equally difficult to repair.


Our Old Testament reading today from the Prophet Jeremiah focuses our minds on the relationship between God and the people of Israel. The nation of Israel has turned away from God’s purposes. Jerusalem is about to fall to Babylon, many of its people will be taken captive, the Temple will be destroyed.  All this is a sign that the Covenant between God and his people has broken down. This is not new; it has happened before. Israel has rebelled against God, broken the ancient Covenant, wandered for forty years in the wilderness before the Promised Land is reached. But always the breakdown is on one side only.  When God has made a commitment to a people, that commitment will never collapse.  He brings his people back to himself.

“I will be their God, and they will be my people… “. It is an unequal relationship, but a very real one, and one that requires mutual commitment. The trouble is that Israel, so often, goes her own way, worships other gods, transgresses God’s commandments.  And there is no mutual commitment in the land, no loyalty to one another. And so God changes the parameters: he intends to write the Law on their hearts, the centre of their being. There is to be a new relationship, a deeper relationship, a relationship that springs from their ‘forgiven-ness’ New start. Clean sheet.


Our gospel reading points us to a new covenant, made possible through the death of Christ, and the coming of the Holy Spirit.  The invitation is not just for the people of Israel, but for all people, the greatest and the least. ‘Whoever serves me’ says Jesus ‘my Father will honour’.  ‘when I am lifted up from the earth, (I) will draw ALL people to myself.’


Are you feeling as if your relationship with God has broken down in some way? Remember he will always keep the way open for you to return to him. Are you aware of others who are struggling to find a connection with God? Pray that they will know his abiding and eternal love for them, and that they will know that there is hope of a new future.

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