As we consider the diversity of faith traditions, perhaps the most comfortable for us to examine would be the traditions of Judaism, after all, we follow Jesus and Jesus was a Jewish carpenter. We share religious texts with Judaism – what we refer to the Old Testament or the Hebrew Scriptures ARE the sacred texts of Judaism.
In the Jewish tradition, this is the Tanak – Torah (5 books of Moses), the Nevi’im – prophets: Jeremiah, Isaiah, Joshua, Judges, and Ketuvim – or writings, including Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Chronicles…all of these are sounding familiar, and some of you are wishing you were in Confirmation so you could recall the songs to put them in order. Jesus read and knew the sacred texts of the Hebrew tradition, and when asked what was the greatest commandment; he recited the Schema, taken from Deuteronomy 6, those verses that would have been fastened at the door of him home and recited not so much from memory as from heart knowledge, understanding, and belief.
In Confirmation this past week, we had a brief discussion about the word covenant, and certainly this word and concept has its origin with God’s covenant with the Hebrew people – a covenant with Adam and Eve, then with Abraham and Sarah, then with Moses and all the Israelites who followed him into the Promised Land. The covenant was a relationship between God and God’s people.
The Hebrew Bible tells of the covenant that God continues to make and the people consistently break, and God tries to guide them back through the prophets, teachers, and even Kings and Judges. The 39 books of the Old Testament tell the story as Albert Outler put it “of covenant making and covenant breaking.” It tells the story of a tenacious God who persists in reaching out and striving to show God’s People a better way.