In his writings on religious community, influential Unitarian Universalist theologian James Luther Adams was profoundly influenced by the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber’s description of human beings as “promise-making, promise-keeping, promise-breaking, promise-renewing creature[s].” These promises exist within our tradition through our devotion to the creation and maintenance of Covenant.
As we enter the season of family gatherings rife with nostalgia — and occasional drama — we have occasion to ponder the ways in which family offers us our first exposure to the power of covenant. As children we receive lessons in covenant creation, experience the challenges of covenants stretched or broken, and witness, or even take part in, attempts to come back into covenant through acknowledgement and forgiveness. We’re also in a season that invites us to pay attention to the covenants made and betrayed throughout our nation’s history.
This Sunday we’ll explore the power of covenant. What does it mean to think of ourselves as Buber described? What does it mean to make promises to one another? How ought we respond when those promises are broken? And, ultimately, do the often unspoken covenants we have long relied on as individuals, families, communities, and nations — or simply as human beings — still apply to our lives now? Is it time for a new covenant?