Who has ever broken a promise? Our dictionary tells us a promise is an agreement to do something. In our scriptures these promises tend to show themselves in the form of covenants which are basically a promise from God to a person or people and a promise from the people or person to God. I am firm believer that if you say you are going to do something then it is like a promise and a person should do whatever they can to fulfill those obligations. It’s our obligation to uphold the covenantal agreement made between two individuals even when it gets difficult to do.
We make different types of promises in life some of which we can keep and others which reveal themselves to be impossible to keep. This is life. We see it all the time. As we gear up to watch the presidential debates, we will hear many promises being made by both sides, promises that will probably be at odds with each. What will really happen in the next presidency will remain to be seen. But one thing is sure. There will be broken promises. There will be promises made that will become clearly impossible once the realities of running the country become clear to the individual. There will also be promises that will be kept. The biggest promise that will eventually be made will be on inauguration day when one of the candidates will promise to uphold the values of our country and to defend the rights of our citizens. Whether or not they keep any of the campaign promises or not, we place our hope that this last promise, this last covenant will be faithfully fulfilled.
In our lives we experience this on several different levels and in all types of relationships and obligations. When Adrienne, Bill’s sister, left for Costa Rica she had a cat and a fish. Her parents adopted the cat and I promised to care for her fish. This fish was already very old for a beta fish and I promised to keep it alive. Well, I cleaned his tank weekly and fed him daily exactly as much as was recommended. I was bound and determined to keep my promise. This would be the healthiest fish when she returned. Well I had him for a month and then I had to send her a letter reporting that sadly her fish did not make it. As silly as it sounds, I felt terrible about the loss and then I flushed him down the toilet. I was not able to live up the obligations and promises I had made. They became impossible to keep.
Other promises we make will also be difficult to keep. My mother promised to that my grandmother could stay in our home until she passed. Five years later, the pneumonia landed her in the hospital and later in rehabilitation and when it became obvious that she wasn’t going to survive, my mother had to decide that she would not be coming home. Some of the promises we can’t live up to make us chuckle a little and realize that some promises are important character ones and others are just not. Then there are the promises that break our hearts when we realize that what we have promised we cannot safely provide. There are times when we have to choose which obligations, which promises we are going to keep when they come in direct conflict with one another. These are the life and death, the faithfulness and honoring types of promises.
It is these types of promises that we see in our scriptures. Abraham’s covenant with God was a promise that God would be faithful to Abraham through providing an heir and land and Abraham would in return remain faithful to God and raise his family and tribe to be faithful to God. This would be the covenant passed to Isaac, Jacob, and the sons of Jacob and through the rest of the history of Israel. At times the people did not remain faithful to their promise and in response God did not remain faithful to his end of the deal either. But Jesus’ lesson in the book of Luke tells us more about how we are to honor this promise, this covenant in our lives.
We are told that to us God promises a heavenly kingdom in the future. But he still asks of us the same thing that he asked of Abraham, that we remain faithful, that we keep our hearts on watch for him. We are asked to look for God, to live our lives in his light caring for one another, and not to get caught up in the struggles of the world. In our scriptures it is written, “ Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes; truly, I say to you, he will gird himself and have them sit at a table, and he will come and serve them”. Our scriptures challenge us to work on the only promise that truly matters, the promise to live our lives faithfully sharing the values of our faith with others in this world. We are called this day to do what perhaps our politicians don’t always do. We are called to contemplate what it means to be faithful to God, what is means to live into the promise we made to God when we came to faith. We need to look within and decide what it looks like to be faithful, how we are to live into our faiths, and what it truly means to be ready for the Holy when he comes knocking on our doors. We need to ask ourselves, “Would we be ready if Christ knocked at our door tonight?” And if not, what changes and work do we need to do ready our hearts and souls? What do we need to do to truly live up to the promises we made to God? So this week we are challenged to examine our lives and to choose to rededicate our life’s efforts to living for the kingdom of God and allow for our life’s actions to reflect that dedication each and every day.
 Luke 12: 37, RSV.
(Based on Genesis 15: 1-6 and Luke 12: 32-40)