NOTE FOR PASTOR JR FOR TRINITY SUNDAY, MAY 27, 2018

This Sunday is Trinity Sunday. It’s also the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend (the unofficial beginning of Summer.) Many folks will be traveling this weekend or attending family outings. We pray for safe travels and good times.

It’s been said that “Educators take that which is simple and make it complicated. Communicators take that which is complicated and make it simple.” If true, in talking about the Trinity in this Note and the sermon Sunday, I will strive to be a communicator instead of an educator.

In trying to explain the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit); many preachers use this term attempting to explain God. That only leads to misunderstanding and a lot of confusion. The term Trinity was never intended to be an explanation of God. It was meant to identify the three ways God chose to reveal the Divine nature of God to humanity. Since no one way reveals the totality of the Divine, the Trinity represents the three most important glimpses of God we have been given.

The Creator image represents a paternal glimpse of the Divine as all powerful and all knowing, the source and initiator of everything in creation. The Son/Christ image represents a glimpse of the Divine vulnerable to creation; taking on the form of humanity that we might realize the extent the Divine will go to in demonstrating God’s unconditional love. The Holy Spirit represents a maternal glimpse of the Divine as Nurturer, Sustainer and always present, loving guide to instruct us toward wholeness and fullness of life. Perhaps reimagining the Divine in these concepts of the Trinity can enrich our lives and help us to respond to God’s call on our lives as it did for Isaiah.

So, if you are not away traveling Sunday of this Memorial Weekend; join at Covenant in worship. My Sermon is “The Trinity – Three Glimpses of God” based on “Isaiah 6:1, 8,” “Romans 8:14-17,” and “John 3:16-17.”

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NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR MOTHER’S DAY, MAY 13, 2018

This Sunday is Mother’s Day; so, Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers and those serving in maternal roles. This will also be Ascension Sunday, commemorating Jesus’ Ascension into heaven 10 days prior to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. It’s interesting to note that the Greek and Hebrew terms for the Holy Spirit are feminine.

I have never had any struggle with the idea of God having feminine attributes. I have jokingly made that known on several occasions, saying “God is a big black woman. If you ever want to know what she looks like … I have picture of her hanging on my office wall.” That picture is of my late Mother, James Ella Reid Finney. She is without a doubt the closest thing to God in the flesh I have even known. So, I’ve always known that if God is real, if God truly loved me as a parent loves a child, then God was also “Mother” and not only “Father.”

The processional hymn we will sing this Mother’s Day speaks of “When God is like a Mother.” It says:

“Just like a mother eagle, who helps her young to fly,

I am a mother to you, your needs I will supply.

And you are as my children, the ones who hear my voice.

I am a mother to you, the people of my choice.”

It closes by saying:

“Our God is not a woman – our God is not a man.

Our God is both and neither, our God is I who Am

From all the roles that bind us, our God has set us free.

What freedom does God gives us? The Freedom just to be”.

As we honor Mothers and those serving in maternal roles, let’s stretch our imaginations to include images of God as the Divine Feminine, who loves, nurtures, and supports us; seeking to be a Mother to us.

Join us at Covenant this Mother’s Day and Ascension Sunday. If possible bring your Mom with you. My sermon is “When God is like a Mother” based on I John 5:9-13 and John 17:13-19.

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, MAY 6, 2018

Have you ever been listening to what you thought was a familiar story, about ready to “tune out,” but then were glad you didn’t because it had a surprise ending? The Scriptures this week have a surprise in them like that. It seems outlandish, far-fetched, maybe even crazy ~ one that you would hesitate to say out loud to another person. But Jesus is like that sometimes. It’s easy to reject some of His words, to assume maybe the Bible translators goofed, or that Jesus just went too far.

For example, in this week’s Gospel, Jesus states, “Then My Father will give you whatever you ask for in My name.” Don’t you want to say, “Yeah. Right. I can think of lots of things I asked God for that I didn’t get!” But if we read carefully, it had two caveats. One is the word “then.” We need to read what came before that to find out what “then” meant. Right before that, we are told that we need to produce “fruit, the kind of fruit that will last” as part of this promise God makes.

Bearing fruit was mentioned in last week’s sermon ~ the fruit that results from our staying connected to the Vine (Jesus). The end of the sentence, “in My name,” also needs to be interpreted in order to understand the promise of God. One way to clarify “in My name” is to think of it as “in accordance with God’s will.” God is not going to do something for us that is not in our best interest; God wants what is best for us. Like any loving parent, God gives what we need, not necessarily what we want, when we want it.

Do you want to know what the other message of hope is, which is an even more outlandish promise from Jesus? Do you want to know how to have more joy in your life? Do you want to know why “It’s your move”?

Good! See you Sunday! This week’s sermon topic is: “IT’S YOUR MOVE,” based on I John 5:1-4 and John 15:9-17.

This week’s Note from Pastor J R was written by Deacon Jamie Grimes

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R. FOR SUNDAY, APRIL 29, 2018

Some biblical themes are so repetitious that when I see them, I think of the old saying by Yogi Berra, “It’ like déjà vu all over again.” That describes the assigned lessons this week from I John 4:7-21 and John 15:1-8.

I John 4 is an often repeated biblical theme of God loves us, and we ought to love one another. John 15 is the familiar theme of the importance of staying connected with God. In It, Jesus tells a story of a vine, growing in a vineyard. This story has created great comfort for many, while also creating profound pain and suffering for others. I think it’s because too often preachers failed to teach the truth Jesus is conveying and have instead concentrated on verses that speak of cutting off branches that don’t produce fruit; throwing away and/or burning such branches. It’s as though these preachers and their followers think God is asking for their help in this endeavor.

No wonder it distorts people’s concept of God and hides the great truth Jesus seeks to convey in this story of the vineyard and the vine. That truth is this: when Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and God is the gardener. … I am the vine, you are the branches.” It is a truth of everyone being connected and together rather than of cutting off and separating. A truth of when all the parts of the vineyard are all connected; good fruit is produced. All the different parts of the vineyard; the soil, the roots, the vines, and leaves … as different as they are to look at, they each have their value in producing good fruit. If there are unfruitful branches, it is not our problem or our focus; our only purpose is to work together to produce the fruit the vineyard owner (God) planted us here to produce.

This theme along with the theme from I John 4 are themes that make the message of these scriptures seem like “Déjà vu – all over again.”

Join us for worship this Sunday at Covenant, I will be preaching a sermon called “Déjà Vu – All Over Again” based on these two passages.

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

This week, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, is known as “Good Shepherd” Sunday. The assigned texts always include a portion of John 10 in which Jesus declares “I am the Good Shepherd.” This year, Psalm 23, one of the most beloved of all passages in the Bible, is also included.

In Psalm 23, David equates the nature of sheep to our human nature. Sheep have a natural tendency to wander off and get lost. We humans tend to do the same thing. Isaiah said, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.” (Isaiah 53:6)

When sheep go astray, they are in danger of getting lost, being attacked, even killing themselves by drowning or falling off cliffs. Likewise, within our own human nature, there is a strong tendency to often go astray from purposes and good works God has created for our lives. This leaves us vulnerable to falling prey to things not good for us – things that do not reflect our relationship with the Shepherd (God). As such we make choices that often endanger our lives or cause us to fall off the cliffs in our health; as well as spiritually and emotionally. In doing so, we run the risk of getting lost in life and even forgetting the way back to God.

David, in Psalm 23, made this analogy because as a shepherd he knew sheep, and as an anointed leader of God’s people, he also understood how much he and the people he led were just like sheep. So, David sees in God our human need for a shepherd that meets our need for provision, rest, security and direction. How can we make this promise from scripture a reality in our lives? It’s simple: “Following the Good Shepherd.”

Join us for worship on this Good Shepherd Sunday at Covenant. My sermon based on Psalm 23 and John 10:11-18 is designed to help us in remaining close to and reaping the benefits of “Following the Good Shepherd.”

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR the THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, APRIL 15, 201

This week, the first verse of the assigned gospel text references yet another encounter of the disciples with Jesus after the Resurrection. Jesus’s standard greeting right before and immediately following the resurrection is “Peace be with you.” I believe we miss many opportunities, gifts and blessings from God because we don’t take to heart this greeting by the Risen Christ.

Most people, even Christians don’t understand peace as a positive concept; but only know of the negative aspect of peace, which is merely the absence of trouble. But Jesus uses this greeting in a positive way.

The familiar word “Shalom,” or “Peace be with you,” in its purest sense doesn’t mean “I hope you don’t get into any trouble.” It means, “I hope you have all the highest good coming your way.”

Last week’s sermon was aimed to help us in having the highest good coming our way through “finding unity and peace in the resurrection.” This week it aims to help us to experience our highest hopes through “Confronting Fear and Doubt to Find Real Peace.”

Immediately following this greeting of “Peace be with you” by the Risen Christ, the next verse says of the disciples, “But they were afraid and full of fear. They thought they saw spirit.” Their reaction is typical of ours today. So often, we allow what we “think” to create fear and doubt which clouds our judgement, makes us feel insecure and holds us captive from many of God’s blessings. Jesus’ greeting tells us that we are to live in God’s gift of Peace. The only hope we have of experiencing the highest good coming to us is by “Confronting Fear and Doubt to Find Real Peace.”

Join us at Covenant on this Sunday morning. Let’s learn how to experience our highest good coming our way from a sermon called “Confronting Fear and Doubt to Find Real Peace” based on Luke 24:36-43.

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

This Sunday is the 2nd Sunday of Easter; but is better known as Low Sunday; as Christian churches collectively tend to record their lowest attendance of the year.

However, we find a very important message in the assigned text from John 20. In it, Jesus says to His disciples, “Peace be with you!” This is not a peace “as the world gives”, but a peace that provides relief in the face of persecution, the promise of new possibilities, and a confidence in God to overcome “the world.” In John’s Gospel, “the world” indicates a hostile and ignorant response to the truth of God’s peace.

Then, recalling the moment when God breathed life into the original earth person, Jesus breathed on His disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” making them new spiritual creations so they could engage the world. In receiving the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ followers receive nothing less than the fullness of God. So:

· Jesus bestows peace upon His worried followers. Great!

· Jesus fills them with the Holy Spirit. Great!

· Jesus tells them they can forgive or retain other people’s sins. Huh?

What is Jesus talking about? Well, it is for sure that Jesus is not appointing the church or its members as God’s moral watchdog. Nor is Jesus commissioning us to arbitrate people’s assets and liabilities on a heavenly balance sheet. In John’s Gospel, Jesus talks about sin as unbelief, the unwillingness or incapacity to grasp the truth of God manifested in Him. So, to be living in sin is not about moral failings, but it’s an inability or refusal to recognize and receive God’s revelation in Christ when confronted by it; thereby remaining estranged from God.

God’s purpose in doing this on the evening of the first Easter is so that Christ’s followers will “Find Joy and Peace in the Resurrection.” It is so our lives can accomplish great things as Jesus did, if we are yielded to God’s Spirit that lives in us.

Join us at Covenant for worship on Low Sunday. I’ll be preaching on “Finding Joy and Peace in the Resurrection” based on Psalm 133 and John 20:19-23.