NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, JUNE 23, 2019

This Sunday is the Second Sunday after Pentecost. We are in that part of the church year called “Ordinary Time” which encompasses that part of the Christian year that doesn’t fall within the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent or Easter. Covenant, like many churches that follow a liturgical tradition, change from a more formal to a causal worship format during “Ordinary Time.”

The assigned scriptures for this part of the Christian year are designed to help us grow in our life of faith, while allowing the message, the teachings and the ministry of Jesus to permeate every aspect of our lives. We are to be in prayer for God to show us the ways we are to fulfill God’s call on our lives. Then it’s up to us to follow Jesus’ steps in doing so.

In John 17:20, Jesus prayed “…that all of them may be one, …” The Apostle Paul proclaims this “oneness” becomes our reality when we learn to shed the rituals of religion that keep Christians separated into camps of “us” and “them.” So, Paul tells us in Galatians 3:27–28, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves in Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, (since this is Pride month, let me add there is neither gay nor straight,) for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

What a difference we could make in this world if all who call ourselves Christians would start acting as one in the family of God. I received this saying from a friend this past week: “My sibling is a reflection of me. I can’t fly if he or she is falling.” (inclusiveness added) This sentiment of us all being one would make a tremendous difference in our community and our world. Let’s do our part to make it happen.

Start by joining us for worship at Covenant this Sunday. The sermon will be “Help Us to Be One in You” based on “Galatians 3:23-29.

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NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, JUNE 16, 2019

This Sunday is Trinity Sunday. It is observed on the Western Christian liturgical calendar the first Sunday after Pentecost. It celebrates the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, the person of God: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It’s interesting that this year it is commemorated on the American observance of Father’s Day.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m an extreme “Mama’s Boy.” But you might be surprised to know that I had a terrific Father and I also had a great relationship with my Dad. Jack Finney, my Father, died 2 days before my birthday in 1995. So I celebrate and honor him this Father’s Day; as well as all Dads and those serving in paternal roles.

One of my favorite memories of my Dad was his insistence that no matter who the guest was in our home, his children and any other children there always ate first. It was my Father’s way of showing the priority his children held in his life. Metaphorically, the Trinity is God’s way of demonstrating the priority of us as “His” children. God cares so much about us that God chose more than 3 ways to reveal God’s self to us. Psalms 8:3-4 asks, “When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars that You have established, what are human beings that You are mindful of them, mortals that You care for them?” The Trinity answers the question why God cares for us. In each manifestation of God, (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), in every act of the Divine, they are acts of grace toward us as God’s children “Offering Hope.” So, on this Trinity Sunday and Father’s Day, we each are a priority to which God extends to us hope. And let us remember that this “Hope Makes It All Work Together” in our lives.

Join us for worship this Father’s Day at Covenant. My sermon will be “Hope Makes it All Work Together,” based on Romans 5:1-5

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR PENTECOST AND PRIDE SUNDAY, JUNE 9, 2019

This Sunday, Covenant will observe two events, Pride and Pentecost Sunday. After celebrating Pentecost Sunday in worship, we’ll join thousands from our community at Central Alabama’s 2019 Pridefest. Covenant’s singing group “Glory” will represent Covenant singing “This is Me.”

Both, Pride and Pentecost are stories of publicly coming out. Over the years, I’ve known many LGBTQ folks for whom their first public coming out experience was participating in a Pride Parade or some other Pride event. After years of living in fear and shame, it seems that being around others who were proud to celebrate who they were had a positive effect on them. It empowered them to take the important step of publicly coming out for the first time in their lives to celebrate who God created them to be. For nearly everyone, taking that step at a Pride event, made for an exciting and memorable coming out moment.

Something like that happened to the followers of Jesus at that first Pentecost after the Resurrection. One hundred and twenty of them gathered to worship behind closed doors in an upper room. On this day, the Christian Church was born, the Holy Spirit showed up and showed out. The Holy Spirit empowered these 120 that inspired them to also have a public coming out moment. For example, Peter who had been afraid 52 days before to even be associated with Jesus, now came out and preached boldly a message of hope and love in Christ Jesus. And that day, 3000 folks said yes to walking in relationship with God. It was an exciting and memorable public coming out moment of being led by the Holy Spirit that’s recorded in scripture. It’s the kind of coming out moment God offers each of us every day we wake up.

Join us this Pentecost and Pride Sunday for worship before going to Pridefest. My sermon will be “Coming Out to A Life Filled with The Holy Spirit” based on Romans 8:14-17 and John 14:9a, 15-17, 25-27,” referencing “Acts 2:1-21.”

NOTE FROM PASTOR JR FOR ASCENSION SUNDAY, JUNE 2, 2019

This Sunday many churches will commemorate the ascension of Jesus. It’s also the first Sunday of Pride Month for us in Central Alabama.

The Ascension of Jesus is His final recorded event in His physical body among us, 40 days after The Resurrection. But more than that the Ascension of Jesus is the culmination of Him having been humanity’s greatest example of living life to the fullest.

His Ascension could be considered a metaphor for why we celebrate Pride Month. Pride Month is about celebrating being and living as God created us to be. And more importantly, God desires for us to do this to the best of our ability. This is what Jesus, our greatest example, meant in John 10:10 when He said, “…I come that you might have life, and live it to the fullest.” The only way to accomplish this is learning to embrace, celebrate and live being all God created us to be.

In a scene from “The Greatest Showman”, Keala Settle, dons a beard, leading an ensemble in a performance of “This Is Me.” The words of the song represent the journey, the struggle and coming to terms with finally recognizing and celebrating that by God’s grace, Gloria Gaynor was right when she sang “I am what I am.”

The Apostle Paul sums up the point I’m making with these words from Ephesians 1:18, (Amplified Bible): “I pray that the eyes of your heart [the very center and core of your being] may be enlightened [flooded with light by the Holy Spirit], so that you will know and cherish the hope [the divine guarantee, the confident expectation] to which God has called you …

Join us for worship this Ascension Sunday and First Sunday of Pride Month. Gloria will sing “This Is Me.” My sermon will be “Ascend to Being All God Created You to Be!” based on Acts 1:1-11 and Luke 24:44-53, including Ephesians 1:1

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, MAY 26, 2019

This Sunday begins the end of the celebration of the liturgical season of Easter. However, for us as followers of Christ, every day is a celebration of the Resurrection.

This is also Memorial Day Weekend. While most people have come to identify this Weekend as the unofficial beginning of the summer vacation season; Memorial Day was originally called “Decoration Day” to honor those who have given their lives in service to our country. This is NOT a religious holiday; but I find nothing wrong with honoring those who died in service to a country for whom a core value is freedom of religion.

As a proud veteran of the Air Force, I grew up in a neighborhood where more people per capita served in the military than most communities. I know several families who suffered the loss of loved ones while they served in the military; I honor them for their service. Many of them were drafted into service, so they didn’t verbally say yes to military service; rather they did so with their actions.

As a society we’ve become more concerned with whether people say yes verbally rather than with their actions. In the assigned scriptures this week from Acts 16 and John 5, neither of the key characters responds with yes verbally; but both did so by their actions. Maybe God is reminding us that “actions speak louder than words.”

As we remember those who said yes to military service with their actions and gave their lives; in this era where our words can get lost in the clamor of unimportant noise of social media, and television, I pray we can break through with the “YES” of our actions. Actions of “Offering Hope + Showing Faithfulness + Sharing Joy.” Actions of “caring about one another in Christ and communicating God’s love to all people.”

Join us in worship at Covenant this Sunday before Memorial Day. This sermon in my series called “Choosing Hope” will be “Just Say Yes!” based on Acts 16:9-15 and John 5:1-9.

NOTE FROM THE PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, MAY 19, 2019

This week is the Fifth Sunday of Easter. The assigned gospel text includes these words from Jesus: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34) This is without a doubt God’s most important commandment to us! Jesus said so!

So, what does it mean to love one another as God instructs us to do? This act of offering love to all is difficult. For instance; has there ever been a moment in your life where you tried to “look busy” to avoid having to help someone or ignored a stranger who just kept talking to you as you waited in line somewhere together? We all have. It is human nature for us to remove ourselves from situations that are uncomfortable. Yet, God calls us to embrace the uncomfortable by learning to really love others well. God calls us to be brave and to share His love with all who cross our paths. It’s not easy; but scripture states that we should “not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrew 13:2) Showing hospitality to strangers is an act of “loving one another” as a commandment on this occasion by Jesus.

That’s what seems to have happened at Cornelius’ house in Acts 10, when Peter demonstrated love for others of a different race and ethnicity, despite it making him feel uncomfortable. And Peter’s actions were not received well by church leaders in Acts 11 and made them also uncomfortable. But it was fulfillment of Jesus’ commandment to “love one another.”

Join us in worship this Casual Sunday at Covenant. I continue with my Easter Series, “Choosing Hope” with a message as to how following Jesus’ commandment to “love one another” gets uncomfortable but is rewarding. My sermon of course is “Love One Another” based on “John 13:31-35.”

NOTE FOR PASTOR J R FOR MOTHER’S DAY, SUNDAY, MAY 12, 2019

Sunday is Mother’s Day and the Fourth Sunday of Easter. At Covenant, we honor not only birth and adopted Mothers, but also those serving in maternal roles. Acts 9 speaks of such a woman with this summary of her life in v.36. “In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha …Her life overflowed with good works and compassionate acts on behalf of those in need.”

As I read this assigned Mother’s Day text; I thought of my Mom’s longest living sibling, Annie Tatum, who lived 100 plus years and also outlived her children. When her sister, Kate, died unexpectedly leaving 6 surviving children, one younger than 2 years old; Aunt Annie raised that child, Charlotte, as her own.

I was in attendance when one Mother’s Day, their church instead of the usual Mother’s Day honors, recognized “The Most Faithful Mother of the Church.” Aunt Annie didn’t realize they were talking about her until they mentioned that this Church Mother would not leave the kitchen after church dinners until every dish was washed.

With the death of her Mother, Grandma Lula Reid, July 1965, Aunt Annie became the unofficial matriarch of our family and in many ways, her community. Limited space doesn’t allow me to adequately describe her contributions to our family and community. So, I’ll paraphrase and use the words the writer of Acts 9 shared in writing about a woman named Tabitha. “In ‘Martinsville, VA’ there was a disciple named ‘Annie Tatum’ …Her life overflowed with good works and compassionate acts on behalf of those in need.”

The same can be said of our Covenant Church Mother, Mother Dorothy Swims. Keep her in prayer as she recovers from injuries received in a fall this week.

Join us this Mother’s Day for worship; and if possible, bring your Mom. My sermon is based Tabitha as I continue my Easter Series “Choosing Hope” with “Living the Resurrection and Eternal Life” based on Acts 9:34-42 and John 10:22-30.