NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, AUGUST 19, 2018

During August we are revisiting our Covenant’s Mission statement with a series of 4 sermons. This week, we will consider what the third part of our mission means: “We exist to care about one another in Christ.” Please notice that our mission is not just “to care about one another” but it also includes “in Christ.” And that’s very significant.

Many differ on just what the phrase “in Christ” means. Nothing new about that. In the assigned text for this week Jesus says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever, and this bread, which I will offer so that the world may live, is My flesh.” The next verse says, “Then the people began arguing with each other about what He meant.” It seems that arguing over what Jesus said has become a lengthy and frequent tradition among His followers.

However, Jesus was not talking about literally eating His flesh, that’s absurd. Rather, Jesus was speaking metaphorically to convey a great truth that certainly applies to this third part of our Covenant Mission. That great truth is that if we will eat and digest into our spirit and lives God’s essence permeated the very presence of Jesus The Christ; such as love, peace, kindness, goodness, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and gentleness, we will find ourselves living into that part of our mission “to care about one another in Christ.”

Join us this Sunday for “The Mission Part 3: To Care About One Another in Christ.” I’ll be sharing a story from this past week or so of how we at Covenant have been living into this part of our Mission. The assigned gospel text is John 6:51-58. We will have a moment of prayer to recognize all those working in Education.

SPECIAL NOTE:

NELL ARMSTRONG’S MEMORIAL SERVICE, THIS SUNDAY, 2 PM AT COVENANT.

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NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, AUGUST, 12, 2018

This Sunday we will continue our sermon series on the Covenant Mission Statement as we think about the 2nd part of that mission: “To cultivate a personal relationship with God.”

I talk to people a lot about their relationships. It’s just part of what a pastor does. There are those seeking guidance to find a good relationship, those seeking advice on how to better the relationship they have, and of course those trying to get out of a relationship.

A common trait that I have discovered in all of these conversations about relationships is that they also affect how people relate to God. And, of course, ninety-nine percent of the time that we conflate our human relationships with our relationship with God, God is shortchanged.

We project others’ failures as humans onto our concept of God’s relationship with us as humans. We begin to think that we have to put on our best face in our relationship with God as we do in our human relationships with others. We don’t!!!!

God loves and is interested in the real me and the real you, not the fake/perfect me or you that we so often try to project to others. God already knows the real me, with all my faults, challenges, struggles and foibles, and God still loves me. Same for you! And, most importantly, God invites me and you to say yes and cultivate a relationship with this God who loves and cares for me and you.

If we concentrate on saying yes to this invitation of a personal relationship with God; if we imitate Jesus’ example of service; and then if we share with others how to cultivate this relationship with God, we will indeed be living into this 2nd phase of our Covenant mission.

Join us this Sunday for worship at Covenant as we consider a more detailed way of living out our Mission. The sermon is “The Mission – Part 2: To Cultivate A Relationship With God,” based on Psalms 130:3-4,7 and Psalm 34:406, and I King

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, AUGUST 5, 2018

The consuming passion of a person or organization is defined by the mission to which they or it believes are called to do. The Merriman Webster Dictionary defines a “Mission” as “a specific task with which a person or a group is charged.” With that in mind, consider Covenant’s Mission.

“We exist to:

Celebrate the love of God,

Cultivate a relationship with God

Care about one another in Christ.

Communicate Christ to all people.”

We see each element of our mission in the life, work and words of Jesus as He walked among humanity. The writer of Acts 10:38 summed up Jesus’ mission by saying: “And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”

We also see Jesus’ mission in His words. He shared it in a less conventional manner when He was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” Jesus responded that, “The first and greatest commandment is to love God completely with everything you’ve got in your thinking, feeling, knowing and emotions.” I believe part of Jesus’ mission was to let us know that loving God in such an extreme way has profound benefit to our lives.

Let’s face it; we don’t have to go looking for ways to feel bad about ourselves. We encounter folks everyday glad to help us do so. Some of us are experts at doing that to and for ourselves. Covenant’s Mission is to do just the opposite. “Celebrating the love of God” is “a specific task with which Covenant is charged.” Fulfilling that mission for ourselves and others impacts positively our lives and those we serve.

Join us at Covenant on this first Sunday in August as we began a 4-part sermon series on our Covenant Mission Statement. This week the sermon is “THE MISSION – PART 1 – TO CELEBRATE THE LOVE OF GOD” based on Psalms 51:1-12.

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, JULY 22, 2018

This Sunday I will conclude my 3-part sermon series on our Covenant Vision Statement, “To be an inclusive community of faith: Offering Hope + Showing Faithfulness + Sharing Joy.” This year we have been revisiting our Vision Statement as a means of helping us to live it out in our daily lives.

The following assigned lectionary text for this Sunday shares these truths from Ephesians 2:14-16, 22 (CEB): “But now, thanks to Christ Jesus, you who once were so far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Christ is our peace. He made both Jews and Gentiles into one group. With His body, He broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us. …Christ is building you into a place where God lives through the Spirit.”

As I was preparing to address the “Sharing Joy,” part of our Covenant Vision; using the above passage of scripture, I realized two things.

(1) Our Covenant Vision is a collective vision but one that is lived out in the actions of each of us individually. But in doing so, “Christ is building ‘us’ into a place where God lives through the Spirit.” (v. 22)

(2) Each part of our vision is aimed at improving people’s lives through experiencing the peace and comfort of God’s love; while also seeking to break down barriers of hatred that divide us in to “us” and “them.” This is certainly needed in our world today. So, for the past two weeks I’ve encouraged us to live into and live out our Covenant Vision.

Join us this Sunday when as part of the sermon, one of our members will share an encounter she experienced this week in living out our Covenant Vision as a Birmingham Police Officer. My sermon is “Part 3 – The Vision is Offering Hope + Showing Faithfulness + Sharing Joy” based on Ephesians 2:11-22.

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, JULY 15, 2018

“To be an inclusive community of faith –

Offering Hope + Showing Faithfulness + Sharing Joy.”

This month, I’m revisiting our above Covenant vision statement in a 3-part sermon series. My hope is that we will live into every aspect of it. Last week, we revisited “Offering Hope.”

This week we revisit the 2nd part of our Covenant vision: “Showing Faithfulness.” One definition of faithfulness is “long-continued and steadfast fidelity to whatever one is bound to by a pledge, duty or obligation.” Too many Christians have limit faithfulness to honoring God through worship, church attendance, and making consistent monetary gifts to the church. Occasionally, faithfulness also includes doing a good deed for someone else along the way, if it doesn’t inconvenience us too much.

At Covenant we believe those things are important; but we also believe that “showing faithfulness” means so much more relationally with each other. Our Covenant membership rite includes this: “Therefore be calm self-controlled people of prayer. Above everything make sure you have a real deep love for each other, remembering how love can cover a multitude of sin. Be hospitable to each other without secretly wishing you didn’t have to be. Serve one another with the particular gifts God has given each one of you as faithful dispensers of the magnificently varied grace of God.” (From I Peter 4)

Living into the vision of Covenant in “Showing Faithfulness” means we must have steadfast fidelity in living up to this pledge of our membership rite in being “faithful dispensers of the magnificently varied grace of God.” This means in our service to Covenant members, other Christians AND ALL OF THE HUMAN FAMILY.

Join us for worship this Sunday at Covenant. In revisiting our Covenant Vision, I’ll share how I was called upon to be a “faithful dispenser of the magnificently varied grace of God” in a very heart wrenching situation this past Monday. The sermon is “Part 2: The Vision is Offering Hope and Showing Faithfulness.” The scripture text is Psalms 85:8-13.

NOTE FROM PASTOR JR FOR SUNDAY, JULY 8, 2018

We have just celebrated and observed the 242nd Birthday of America, in which many spoke of the country winning its freedom from tyranny and oppression.

Yet, we all know that as much as we love our country, not everyone experienced freedom from tyranny and oppression with the signing of “The Declaration of Independence” in 1776 or ratification of “The Constitution” and “Bill of Rights.” Abolition of slavery, child labor laws, women’s right to vote, marriage equality, voting rights laws for all citizens are just a few of those things not addressed at the birth of our nation. Furthermore, we know that the letter of the law means nothing if we as a people don’t live into the spirit of the Law.

The same can be said of scripture. The scriptures say in Micah 6:8, “And what does the Lord require of you but to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before your God.” Yet, there are many in the communities we serve not living free from the tyranny and oppression of those who claim to be followers of Christ. Misuse or erroneously interpreted scripture is used to justify their prejudices, judgmentalism and condemnation of others. Such actions are the total opposite of Christ’s command to “love God and love others.”

At Covenant, we believe we are called to help our communities experience the freedom of living life fully, wholly, and exactly as God created them and intended for them. That’s why Covenant’s vision is “We are an inclusive community of faith – Offering Hope + Showing Faithfulness + Sharing Joy.”

From time to time we need to be reminded of how and why our Vision is still relevant for these times in which we live. So, I invite you to join us at worship at Covenant for the next 3 Sundays as I preach a 3-part sermon series on Covenant’s vision. This Sunday the sermon will be “Part 1: The Vision is Offering Hope” based on Mark 6:1-5.

NOTE FROM PASTOR JR FOR SUNDAY, JULY 1, 2018

On July 4th we celebrate the 242nd Birthday of America. Whatever your plans are for that day or this week, I pray for you and yours safety and peace.

Trying to connect the lectionary scriptures for this Sunday with the birth of America is difficult. After all, the assigned Hebrew Scriptures are David’s Eulogy of King Saul and his lamenting the death of his beloved, Jonathan. The assigned gospel shares the lengthy illness of a woman with leukemia. In both situations grief is a major theme. So, neither seem to be good July 4th sermon material.

Therefore, I will be doing a Special Note from Pastor JR for July 4th and my sermon this Sunday will be “Glorious Freedom: Getting Through Grief.”

The list would be too lengthy to name all those I’m personally aware of at Covenant and in our community experiencing either, the grief of the death of a loved one or the loss of their own health. Getting through grief may be one of the hardest things we do as human beings.

Late Monday evening I received a request to eulogize on Tuesday afternoon, a person for whom I had the honor of marrying him and his partner on their 35th anniversary just 3 years ago. On Wednesday morning, a man requested I eulogize his partner of 29 years on Friday afternoon. It has been quite a week dealing with so much grief all around me.

I found some much needed hope and inspiration from another Lectionary assigned text for this week; “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, God’s mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in God!” (Lamentations 3:22-24, NRSV)

Join us for worship at Covenant this Sunday as my sermon will be “Glorious Freedom: Getting Through Grief” based on II Samuel 1:1, 17-18a, 22-25.