NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2018

Jesus reached for a little child, placed him among the Twelve, and embraced him. Then He said, “Whoever welcomes one of these children in My name welcomes Me; …”

Mark 9:36-37a

Have you ever written something but looking back at it, it seemed awkward to you? After reading and giving some thought to the above assigned gospel text for this Sunday, I decided on this sermon title, “Welcoming Others and Welcoming Jesus.” Immediately I sensed a feeling that there was something odd or a bit peculiar about that title, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. So, I left it as it was.

Then, very early Thursday morning, before daybreak, I woke up out a deep sleep with that sermon title on my mind. I had a clear sense of why I felt uneasy about the title. Somewhere deep inside me was a false sense of piety that I should have put Jesus first and the title should have been “Welcoming Jesus and Welcoming Others.” As I lay there mulling it all over, I felt a peace with the original sermon title based on this scripture from which I’d be preaching.

I thought how children learn a lot from their parents: they’re natural imitators. That means they often even pick of bad habits from their parents. Yet, for most of us, it’s still easy to see past little children’s mistakes, and still be very welcoming of them. So, in the text, Jesus uses children to teach us an important lesson. We are not welcoming of Jesus until we are welcoming of all of God’s children, even with their mistakes. Does that mean that we put up with anything? No, we are not to allow people to take advantage of us or destroy the unity of the local community of faith; but it does mean we don’t create barriers to be unwelcoming to any child of God.

Join us for worship this Sunday at Covenant for more on “Welcoming Others and Welcoming Jesus” based on Mark 9:33-37

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NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR PASTOR’S APPRECIATION SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 16, 2018

This Sunday I will celebrate my 18th year as the Pastor of Covenant Community Church. Over that span of time I’ve seen many changes including a change of location; I’ve experienced the coming and going of many different people; have visited untold numbers of folks in hospitals and their homes; preached too many celebrations of life services; baptized a whole lot of folks; lost way too many relatives, friends and loved ones in death; served on regional and denominational boards, while also shepherding Covenant through the triumphs and challenges that most communities of faith experience. In this time where we see increasingly shorter pastoral tenures, I must confess there have been times when I’ve second guessed my remaining Covenant’s Pastor for this length of time.

So why do I do it? Why am I motivated to keep at it? It’s simple. Despite any of the losses, changes and challenges, I love Covenant as much today as ever. I still have an incredible passion for preaching and teaching. And hopeful, that I’m making a difference in our community and the larger community of Birmingham.

Any time I’ve give thought to hanging it up, many of your encouragements at Covenant and a passage of scripture, Galatians 6:9-10 has been my inspiration to “Keep on, Keeping On” as Pastor of Covenant. The referenced scripture simply says: “Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up. So then, let’s work for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity, and especially for those in the household of faith.” So, I “Keep On, Keeping On.”

So, I invite you to join us at Covenant this Sunday in observing my Pastoral Anniversary. One of my favorite tenors, Paul Odom will sing one of my favorite songs. My sermon is, “Eighteen Years: And Still Encouraged… To Keep on, Keeping On.” The scriptural basis for it will be Galatians 6:8-10.

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2018

Across America, the theme for this Sunday will be Back-To-Church Sunday. It comes from recognizing the reality that summer is a time of travel and outdoor activities that take people away from regularly attending church. So, with children going back to school and vacation times of summer coming to an end, it’s a way of reminding folks to get back into the habit of attending church regularly.

It is hoped that getting back into a regular routine of worshipping will give people a renewed sense of commitment to God and shared commitment through a local community of faith. I pray it will be so for many of you. Our faithfulness in gathering regularly for worship also brings a great measure of God’s blessings into our lives.

September is also the month in which many churches conduct their annual Stewardship Campaign for the next year. It will likewise be so for us at Covenant. This year’s Stewardship Campaign theme is “Covenant – Celebrate! The Joy of Giving.” Like gathering as a community of faith to worship, being faithful, watchful stewards over the financial resources God has blessed us with is another way we can bring a greater measure of God’s blessing into our lives.

In the sermon this Sunday, I will use an often misunderstood passage of scriptures to teach a wonderful truth. To fully understand the truth of this passage requires us to understand that all scripture is not equal. The words of Jesus are preeminent to all other scripture. All scripture before and after the words of Jesus must be interpreted considering the things Jesus had to say.

So, join us this week at Covenant. My sermon will be aimed at helping us maximize the blessings of sharing the resources God has entrusted to us. My sermon on this Back-To-Church Sunday is that of our Stewardship theme is, “Covenant – Celebrate! The Joy of Giving,” based on Malachi 3:8-12.

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, AUGUST 26, 2018

Our Covenant Mission Statement – “We exist to:

Celebrate the love of God,

Cultivate a relationship with God,

Care about one another in Christ, and

Communicate Christ to all people.”

During August, in a 4-part sermon series, we have been revisiting our Mission Statement, taking a renewed look as to how we are to live into our Covenant Mission. This Sunday we revisit the last part “Communicate Christ to all people.”

I’m increasingly alarmed at how many sanctimonious, self-righteous, never-in doubt but often wrong “Christians” are just so darn mean and insensitive to others especially when it comes to “communicating Christ to others.”

Very early Thursday morning I was summoned to a dying neighbor’s bedside to administer last rites. After finishing the last rites, I was comforting the spouse when I had a profound spiritual experience. After I got back home I shared the experience on Facebook. Predominantly the feedback was very positive. However, the fourth comment was from someone who disregarded the purpose of the whole post, to give his “absolutist” view that last rites is a fake thing. I first shot back a reply that said, “Devil, be gone!” But I immediately deleted it and posted instead this: “I refuse to let those who live in a world where only they know the truth and think only they have a direct line to God, steal my joy.”

I have no doubt that this person thought what he was doing in his “self-righteous God-is-on-my-side” way was communicating the truth of God. However, it seems his faith journey has limited his view as to who Christ really is and to the true nature of a loving God.

Join us for worship this Sunday. In this last sermon, Part 4, I will revisit what it means to live into our Covenant Mission “To Communicate Christ to All People.” I’ll be sharing a long-overlooked definition of who Christ is. John 6:60-69 is the text for the Sermon.

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.

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.