NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR EASTER SUNDAY, APRIL 12, 2020 EASTER: CELEBRATING THE RESURRECTION OF HOPE!

This year Easter will be so different than any other. At Covenant it means by social distancing, there will be no gathering together with our “Family of Faith for sunrise services, Easter Breakfast, and Celebration of the Resurrection.” One person summed it up for most of us with “Rona, Rona, go away; and do NOT come back another day!”

Let’s not lose hope because we cannot observe and celebrate Easter the way we have in the past. Let’s remember that Easter itself is a celebration of the resurrection of hope. The apostles thought all they had hope for in Jesus died on the Cross on Good Friday. So, when some ladies discovered differently early Easter morning and told the disciples; they just couldn’t believe it. “Now it as Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told this to the apostles, But these words seemed to them an idle talk, and they did not believe them.” (Luke 24:10-11)

Often, our response to the resurrection of hope is the same as theirs… disbelief. I was talking on the phone to a friend this week who, like I, had taken the COVID 19 test out of abundance of the caution by his doctor. With the symptoms he was experiencing he found it hard to believe that he didn’t have the Coronavirus.

Circumstances we are facing with this pandemic can make one lose hope and not believe in the resurrection of hope. As Easter People in a Good Friday world, let’s believe in the Resurrection of Hope. Luke 24:12, “But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.”

Yes, Easter will be different this year, but like Peter, let’s do run to our faith and do what it takes to discover with amazement this Easter: Of the Resurrection of Hope.

And join us at Covenant this Easter Sunday morning at 11:30 AM by ZOOM. My sermon is “Easter: The Celebrating the Resurrection of Hope” based on Acts 10:34-43 and Luke 24:1-12.

(Zoom Link can be found on Covenant’s Website and Facebook Page).

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, MARCH 29, 2020 “BELIEVE IN THE POSSIBLE, WHEN FACING THE IMPOSSIBLE”

This Sunday is the 5th Sunday in Lent. Many will face it enduring impossible circumstances as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic. It’s appropriate that the assigned lectionary Gospel text for this Sunday is John 11:1-45, the seemingly impossible story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It is a story of encouragement and hope to “believe in the possible, when facing the impossible.”

In a Facebook post, a dear friend, the mother of the first child born under my ministry at Covenant was lamenting how this current pandemic has dashed her dream that “envision this perfect year that culminates graduation, parties, smiles, etc. It’s all changed.” Yet, she still spoke to her belief in the possible, when faced with the impossible. She wrote, “In the grand scheme of things, it’s not the end of the world. We’re both healthy (knock on wood). My folks are too, thankfully. There will be a graduation (I hope) … just later than we thought.”

The assigned text of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead can be a source of encouragement and hope to believe the possible as voiced by my friend.

The response of faith to God doing the seemingly impossible through Jesus is not a call to suspend our rationality or to refuse to use our minds. Martha is not reprimanded for being so skeptical; rather, Jesus’ call is for Martha (and us), to be open to what God can and will do if we can fit it within our accustomed ways of thinking and perception. Yes, these are certainly tough and seemingly impossible times. However, on “A Lenten Journey to Spiritual Wholeness,” we are still called to “Believe in the Possible, When Facing the Impossible.”

Join us at Covenant this 5th Sunday in Lent to worship by live stream on Covenant’s Facebook Page or You Tube. Part 5 of our Lenten sermon series will be “Believe in the Possible, When Facing the Impossible” based on John 11:1-45

NOTE FROM PASTOR JR FOR SUNDAY, MARCH 15, 2020 “A LENTEN GUIDE TO SPIRITUAL WHOLENESS: PART 3 – WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH.

This Sunday is the Third Sunday in Lent. The Gospel text is a familiar story of Jesus and his encounter with a woman at a well. (John 4:5-42) In this encounter Jesus speaks truth to this woman and it made her thirst for living water. Later in the conversation, Jesus responds to her desire for worship with these words “God is spirit, and those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth.” In order to do this, she had to first be able to recognize the truth.

This is also true for us in our lives and society. For example, the problem that has delayed a comprehensive approach to confronting and dealing with the pandemic known as “Coronavirus,” in the U.S. stems from a lack of trust and disregard for scientific truth about this virus. Some even call it a hoax. This lack of trust in science and distortion of the truth of this virus carry consequences that in real time are proving to be catastrophic.

This is true of our faith when we trust and believe in a distorted view of God. Fortunately for this woman in John 4, she was talking to The One who was “The Way, The Truth and The Life.” (John 14:6) She experienced first-hand what it meant to worship God in truth with her attitude, actions and words inclined toward Jesus. Because of her experience, along with her testimony, her entire village comes to faith in God through their encounter with Jesus.

This week “Our Lenten Guide to Spiritual Wholeness” teaches us that “God is spirit, and we must worship God in spirit and truth.”

Join us this Third Sunday in Lent for worship at Covenant. Using this encounter between Jesus and the woman at the well, Part 3 of my Lenten Sermon series is “Worship in Spirit and Truth” based on “John 4:5-42.

NOTE FROM PASTOR JR FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT, MARCH 8, 2020 “A LENTEN GUIDE TO SPIRITUAL WHOLENESS – PART 2 – LOOK TO THE SOURCE”

Last week I started the Lenten Sermon series, “A Lenten Guide to Spiritual Wholeness. The Sermon title for Part 2 is “Look to the Source.” Charles Kauluweihi Maxwell, Sr., a Hawaiian Cultural Specialist, Author and Civil Right Leader wrote a book by the same title.

In it he says, “Nana I Ke Kumu’ (Look to the Source) was used often by our ancestors as a means of educating the youth to seek answers from the elderly around them. It also meant that one must study nature itself with all its wisdom that is portrayed in the forest and the streams, the ocean with all its life and the air that keeps it alive. For in doing this one discovers that God is the Source.”

Lent is a season of reflection and during this time, we are encouraged to develop our spiritual wholeness by deepening our relationship with God. The assigned scriptures this week help us on this journey as people of faith.

In Psalm 121, David wrote of “looking to the source” as a means of trusting in God through his journey. He says in verses 1-2; “I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.”

John 3 records an encounter in which Nicodemus “look to the source,” Jesus in seeking to deepen his relationship with God. At the end of this conversation, Jesus speaks words that have brought comfort and assurance to untold numbers of people over the years. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The point is clear; it’s important to choose the source you look to, wisely.

Join us at Covenant; as I will continue with Part 2 of the Lenten sermon series speaking on “Look to the Source” based on Psalm 121 and John 3:1-6, 16-17.

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR PURPLE SUNDAY, MARCH 1, 2020 “A LENTEN GUIDE TO SPIRITUAL WHOLENESS”

This Sunday is the First Sunday IN Lent. At Covenant, we call it “Purple Sunday” as the liturgical color becomes Purple. We also invite folks attending worship with us to wear purple.

Mark 15:17-18 “And they clothed Him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on Him. And they began to salute Him, ‘Hail King of the Jews!” Their actions were to mock Jesus, which is why they use a purple cloak, a color for royalty.

Over the years, the church has used purple during Lent to express the feeling of being repentant for sins we have committed. However, our Lenten Journey is also intended to be a time of reflection, seeking to deepen our relationship with God. Seeking forgiveness for those things we have done that has made us feel separated from God, others and even the best in ourselves is on the first step. We need to also reclaim the royalty the color purple portrays us to be … children of the Sovereign God!

King David discovered this in Psalm 32, during a time of spiritual reflection in his relationship with God and wrote these words: “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! … For You are my hiding place; You protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory. The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” These are the words of one who has discovered the guide to spiritual wholeness.

Join us for worship at Covenant this Purple Sunday and if you can wear something Purple. My sermon is “A Lenten Guide to Spiritual Wholeness” based on Psalm 32 and Matthew 4:1-11.

NOTE FROM PASTOR JR FOR SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2020

“TRANSFIGURATION: A CALL TO TRANSFORMATION, NOT TRANSFIXION”

This Sunday we observe Jesus’ Transfiguration. “Trans” is a Latin verb meaning “to cross from one side to the other” as one does in becoming transgender. Next week, another “trans” takes place when the indulgence and noisy festivities of Mardi Gras ends on Fat Tuesday; and the solemnity of Lent begins Ash Wednesday.

However, this “trans” (crossing from one side to the other) really begins each year with observing Jesus’ transfiguration as His radiant glory was briefly revealed in His physical presence. Until then it had been hiding from human view behind the weakness of human flesh. But on the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus’ shining glory and majesty were displayed in a visible form along with appearances of Moses and Elijah to Peter, James and John.

Come to worship this Sunday if you want to know what the presence of Moses and Elijah represented on this occasion. Nonetheless, these 3 disciples were transfixed by what they saw and wanted to remain on the mountain. Peter suggested they build tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah and all of them just stay up on the mountain.

His was a common reaction when we experience a positive life changing event; but Peter’s response showed he missed the point of being a witness to Jesus’ Transfiguration. God allowed them to be witnesses of this marvelous event so they would experience a “transformation” in their own lives; not a “transfixion” (becoming motionless in amazement, awe or even terror.)

Jesus helped these disciples understand what they had witnessed, and it strengthened their faith over the course of the rest of their lives. Our hope is observing Jesus’ Transfiguration annually prior the “trans” from Mardi Gras to Lent will do the same for us as we seek to deepen our relationship with God during Lent.

Join us this Sunday as we begin to “trans” from Epiphany to Lent. My sermon will be “Transfiguration: A Call to Transformation, Not Transfixion” based on “Exodus 24:12-18” and “Matthew 17:1-9”.

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2019

“‘Be My Valentine’ and ‘I’ll Be A Valentine’”

This Sunday is the 5th Sunday after the Epiphany and the Sunday before Valentine’s Day. Many will celebrate their love for their partner by sending cards or letters, giving gifts or flowers and arranging meals in restaurants or romantic nights in hotels. It was estimated $20.7 billion was spent for Valentine’s Day in the U S in 2019.

There are several Saints called Valentine honored on February 14th. It might be surprising to know that Valentine’s Day didn’t become associated with romantic love until the 14 century as a result of a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer “For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.” People assumed that Chaucer was referring to February as Valentine’s Day.

J C Cooper, in The Dictionary of Christianity, writes that Saint Valentine was “a priest of Rome who was imprisoned for giving comfort, support assistance, and a helping hand to persecuted Christians.” Prior to that time, to be considered someone’s Valentine referred to a person imitating the actions of Jesus’ mission as He defined in Luke 4:17-18 of helping someone, especially someone who is suffering or in need.

As followers of Jesus, we ought to follow His example. Jesus provides us assistance in our time of need; therefore, we are to provide assistance to others in their need. It’s what we proclaim in our mission statement “we exist to … care about one another in Christ.” So, the assigned text in Isaiah 58 reminds us of the promised assistance God offers to us as God’s children. And Matthew tells us “we are the light of the world … Let ‘our’ light shine, so that others can see the good things ‘we’ do and give praise to God.”

On this Sunday before Valentine’s Day, join us for worship with a sermon that looks at being a Valentine as something beyond romantic love. My sermon is “‘Be My Valentine’ and ‘I’ll Be A Valentine’” based on Isaiah 58:9b-12 and Matthew 5:13-16.