Monday, December 17, 2007

2 The Life We Share: Common Catholicity, Apostolicity and Confession of Faith

This is a continuation of examination of the draft text of an Anglican Covenant. There are no psalms in the piling on of texts at the top of section 2 - so I will ignore them and examine instead where that term covenant is used in the psalms. I am having trouble seeing the whole idea of 'covenant' in the context of 'the Anglican' as anything else than a political confession. I wonder if the psalms will support such an interpretation.

Psalm -25 his covenant בריתו (verse 12) and his covenant ובריתו (verse 14). These appear to surround the centre of the psalm - curious that Magonet (A Rabbi Reads the Psalms - lovely book) did not point out the recurrence here. The poem is an acrostic - so even in the midst of such a constraint, the poet appears to surround the most intimate centre (his secret counsel, his foundation - v 14) with selected recurrences. What is this! For one fearing the LORD, he will teach him in a way he will choose.

If it is the LORD who teaches - how will we be anything but positive? How can there be a subtext of the negative?

Psalm -44 with your covenant בבריתך - part of a lament - calling on God - we were not false to your covenant. Let those who seek such a position take care that they do not insist on their own righteousness.

Psalm -50 my covenant בריתי The psalm is God's rebuke. Again covenant is an enclosing keyword. The first occurrence is the gathering of the chicks under the wing. The second a warning to the wicked who take my covenant בריתי in their mouths.

Psalm -55 his pledge בריתו Here the word precedes the famous description of the unfaithful: his words were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart.

Psalm -74 the covenant לברית Consider the covenant, pleads the psalmist. It follows the tenderest diminutive in the psalms: O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude

Psalm -78 the word is used twice (verses 10 and 37) but is not structurally significant - simply a statement that the people of the covenant are stubborn and do not keep the covenant.

Psalm -83 Here it is enemies who cut a covenant against God.

Psalm -89 covenant is used 4 times - must be a keyword. God promises 3 times that the covenant is sure, but the psalmist as part of a long string of accusations against God says: Thou hast made void the covenant of thy servant. Psalm 89 is the last psalm of Book 3. It's tough being chosen.

Psalm 103 The loving kindness of the LORD is from age to age to all who fear him and his righteousness to children's children, to those keeping his covenant בריתו , and those remembering his precepts to do them.

And what shall I say of psalm 105, the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob which is for ever. Or 106 where God repents - the fullness of his consolation. Or psalm 111, a single concentric stanza: perpetuity - to those fearing him - his covenant for ever. Or psalm 132 - the promise to David: If your children will keep my covenant בריתי - is the covenant conditional?

Covenant, Beloved, is not political confession.

Addendum: the verses at the top of the covenant draft text. (Deuteronomy 6.4-7 [Shema+], Leviticus 19.9-10[not harvesting the edge of the field], Amos 5.14-15, 24 [justice]; Matthew 25 [sheep and goats], 28.16-20[great commission], 1 Corinthians 15.3-11 [resurrection], Philippians 2.1-11 [kenosis], 1 Timothy 3:15-16 [song of vindication], Hebrews 13.1-17 [the altar])

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