Jim Klobuchar was a newspaper columnist for the Minneapolis Tribune from the mid-1960’s to the late 1990’s. He is now 85 years old, retired, and living in the Twin Cities. His daughter Amy represents Minnesota in the United States Senate. Klobuchar has written many books describing his active life and many adventures. He is best known for his award winning human interest columns. Each week he would write about interesting, unique, inspiring, and famous people. He traveled widely, was a world-class mountain climber, and was active in Twin Cities community affairs and social life. He has had a full life.
Klobuchar’s book Pursued by Grace tells the story of his spiritual journey. He describes growing up in the Christian faith, leaving the faith because of too many troubling unanswered questions, and then, late in life, returning to the Christian faith. He was raised on the Minnesota Iron Range with his parents and a stern old grandmother from the old country of Slovenia. Everyone loved grandma, but everyone also knew that she was boss, and, that she was the main religious force in the family. It was from her that little Jimmy first learned about God, and what he learned was that God was even tougher and more stern than old Grandma. When the skies would grow dark and it would thunder, Grandma would look at him and say with grave seriousness, “God is speaking.” From the way she spoke those words, it always sounded like a threat and a warning for mischievous little boys. When she would get angry with him, she would always say, “Jimmy, if you don’t straighten out, God will deal with you.”
‘God will deal with you,’ grandma would say, and that is certainly a Biblical concept. The whole Bible can be read as the story of God dealing with his people in those days, and we do believe that by reading the Bible we can learn about how God deals with us. Grandma gave little Jimmy the impression that God dealt with us primarily by angry threats, stern judgments, and harsh punishments. But that was not very appealing to Jim Klobuchar, and after he moved away from grandma he paid little attention anymore to his this angry God.
Grandma wasn’t all wrong. Warnings, judgments, and punishments can all be found in the Bible. But that is certainly not the whole story and it certainly does not give a complete picture of God. It took Jim Klobuchar most of the rest of his life to learn the rest of the story.
Jeremiah 31 is all about how God deals with us. In fact, in this chapter Jeremiah describes two ways that God deals with us, the old way and the new way. In verses 31-32 we read these words from the Lord, “The time is coming when I will make a NEW covenant with the house of Israel; and it will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers.” 600 years later, Jesus picked up on those very words when on the night of his betrayal and the day before his death, he lifted up a cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sins.” God, through Jeremiah, had also talked about this forgiveness of sins, saying in verse 34, “For I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.” The Old Covenant, the old way of God dealing with us, is personified in Moses and is best represented by the 10 Commandments. The New Covenant is personified in Jesus, and is accomplished by Jesus’ death on the cross and his Easter resurrection. In the old, there is the command and the threat; in the new, there is the love and the forgiveness. This does not mean that there is no love and forgiveness and grace before Jesus. Those attributes of God appear throughout the Old Testament. Nor does this mean that with the coming of Jesus there is no more command and no more threat. Jesus himself said that he was not here to abolish even one letter of the old Law, and the words of Jesus still contain plenty of words of warning. But the new covenant fulfills and in many ways overrules the old covenant.
In the times before Jesus if you were to ask anyone who knew the Scriptures how it was that God dealt with his people, they would say by the Law. They would know about God’s care. After all, God had brought them out of slavery in Egypt. And they knew about God’s forgiveness. After all, God even forgave David of his sins of adultery and murder in the affair with Bathsheba. And they knew about God’s love. After all, they had all of the same Psalms that we have. But if you were to ask them what was the main thing in the Scriptures, they would say the Law. But after Jesus lived and died and rose again, if you were to then ask the early believers how it was that God dealt with his people, they would say by grace. The books of the New Testament contain much there about how to live and what to do and what will happen if you refuse God’s offer of grace; but primarily, the New Testament wants to talk about Grace. That is the new Covenant that Jeremiah said was coming and the new covenant that Jesus said here was here to bring about by his blood. This was the new way that God would deal with his people.
If old Grandma Klobuchar knew anything about the new covenant, she never communicated that to her grandson. But she lived by and knew all about the old covenant and the law and the judgment and the punishment to come. (continued…)
Jeremiah 31:31-32 — “The time is coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.
I Corinthians 11:25 — In the same way, after supper (Jesus) took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
I confess, O Righteous God, that I have sinned in thought, word, and deed. I have not loved Thee above all else nor my neighbor as myself. Through my sins I am guilty of more than I understand and I contribute to the world’s negligence of Thee. I beseech Thee, help me to cease my sins. Forgive me, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. –From a Swedish Lutheran Church liturgy