This week we observe the Third Sunday of Advent. It’s one of two Sundays when the liturgical color is rose … okay pink. We will light the third Advent (Pink) candle which symbolizes joy; the joy we feel to welcome Jesus in Christmas.

The assigned Gospel text is “The Magnificat,” Mary’s prayer/poem/hymn of praise found in Luke 1:46-55. “Magnificat” simply means magnify, exalt, or glorify. So, these scriptures are a poem of praise to God, praising God for God’s blessing to Mary and faithfulness to her people.

One of the most popular Christmas songs of the last 30 years is “Mary, Did You Know” written in 1991 by Christian comedian and singer Mark Lowry. The song is a series of questions he’d like to ask of Mary, like these from the opening lines:

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?

Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?

Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?

This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you?

Mary’s response to being told that she, a teenage engaged virgin would conceive a child fathered by God, was “The Magnificat.” It begins with these words, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” This tells me that while Mary may not have known all the details of how things will come to be; she knew the answers to Lowry’s questions.

It also tells us that for a peasant teenage girl to be rejoicing at this news means she knew “The Secret to Joy,” a joy she had deep within her that could not be overcome by her desperate circumstances. And we can too!

Join us at Covenant this week for Pink Sunday. We will light the third Advent candle for Joy. I will be preaching on “The Secret to Joy.” The scriptural texts are Isaiah 61:1-4 and Luke 1:46-55.



Todd Deatherage writes “We are each image-bearers of God in a beautiful but broken world.” One hymn of the season, “beckons” Emmanuel to rescue us with this haunting plea. “O Come, Desire of Nations, bind – In one the hearts of all mankind; Bid Thou our sad division cease. And be Thyself our Prince of Peace.”

I thought of these words on Thursday, when in the land where the Prince of Peace was born, the news cycle was of the tensions between Palestinians and Israelis resorting once again to violence in their decades-old conflict. This time in response to the declaration of US plans to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

It makes one wonder if peace is possible? Maybe not; but we certainly should not contribute to the lack of it. As followers of Jesus who said “Blessed are the peacemakers,” we each have a role in seeking peace for ourselves and others. Peace and peacemaking in our world today comes to us most powerfully on this Second Sunday of Advent, knowing that the very Prince of Peace has come to us in that place between what theologians call the “now, but not yet.” Where is that? It’s the place where we each must decide to be about the business of helping to bring peace in the broken places of our lives and our world.

A prayer request to Covenant this week was comfort for a young man who was not permitted to attend his own mother’s funeral. I can’t help but wonder what restoration could have occurred in that family had one person decided to bring peace in that broken situation. We are to contribute to the efforts of peace in whatever situation we can, while living in hopeful expectation that one day all things will be made right when the Prince of Peace returns.

Join us at Covenant this Sunday as we light the Second Advent candle representing peace. My sermon will be “Preparing the Way for Peace” based on Isaiah 40:1-5 and Mark 1:1-9


As for what was planted on good soil, this refers to those who hear and understand, and bear fruit and produce—in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one.” Matthew 13:23

This is the time of year when the lectionary scriptures call us to live our discipleship as followers of Jesus. This month our 3-H “Happy Helping Hands” Ministry will take on an annual project in which we as a church seek to do just that. In collaboration with Greater Birmingham Ministries, we will feed 50 children in a day-care, for the working poor, lunch for a week. This is an excellent opportunity to sow some of God’s seeds of grace and compassion into the good soil of young children. So, I encourage you to find out how you can help in this ministry opportunity.

Yet, as I ponder the passage from Matthew 13:23, I wander how often I, as well as many of you, have misunderstood this passage when I personally didn’t seek to fulfill the premise of it while desiring the promise of it. It’s easy to read it and desire to see the promise of return and harvest in it be fulfilled in our lives. It’s also easy to lose heart when it doesn’t happen. We need to understand that the promise of return and harvest is premised on us being good soil. To see this promise fulfilled in our lives, we need to make sure our hearts are good soil. After all, the premise is “As for what was planted on good soil, this refers to those who hear and understand, and bear fruit and produce …”

Join us for worship this Sunday. My sermon, “Seed for the Heart of Good Soil,” aims to help us develop a heart of good soil, fertile to produce the promised harvest and return. It’s based on Isaiah 55:10-13 and Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23.


On Sunday, February 12, 2017, Covenant will celebrate our 36th Anniversary. As I said last Sunday, the founding of an opening, affirming and inclusive congregation like Covenant 36 years ago in Birmingham was prophetic and radical. As we prepare to celebrate our congregation’s birthday, it’s important that we understand that we are still called to the prophetic and radical in our openness and inclusiveness and not just to the LGBTQ community if we are going to be faithful to why Covenant came into being.

Here’s where the lectionary Gospel text for this Sunday encourages us. In it, Jesus said that we are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world”. Being salt and light is not optional. Jesus did not say “you can be…or you have the potential to be…” As followers of Christ, we are! But it up to us whether our salt loses it flavor or our light loses it brightness.

The value of salt, especially in the ancient world cannot be under estimated. Roman soldiers received their wages in salt. The Greeks considered salt to be divine. The Mosaic Law required that all offerings presented by the Israelites contain salt. (Lev. 2:13) So, when Jesus told his disciples that they were “the salt of the earth”, (Matt. 5:13), they understood the metaphor. While the universal importance of salt is not as readily apparent in our modern world, the mandate that Jesus gave to His first disciples is still relevant and applicable to His followers today, especially for those of us at Covenant.

In Matthew 5:14, Jesus tells His disciples, “You are the light of the world”. As “salt”, we as followers of Christ are to counteract the power of evil and sin. As “light”, we are to illuminate or make visible the truth of God’s inclusiveness. Our lives are to be on-going witnesses to the reality of Christ’s inclusive presence in our lives, our church, our community and our world! When we worship God with pure hearts, when we love others as ourselves, and when we do good without growing weary, we are lights shining. It is important, however, to know that it is not our light, but the reflection of the Light of the world, that people will see in us.

Join us for worship on this Sunday and again on our 36th Anniversary, Sunday, February 12, 2017. As we celebrate our past and prepare for our future, this week we will learn what it means to have “A Salt and Light Faith.” That’s my sermon title for this Sunday based on “Isaiah 58:1-3, 9b-11” and “Matthew 5:13-16.”


This Sunday is The Fourth Sunday of Advent. The theme for this Sunday is “Love.” The themes for the four Advent Sundays are essential pillars of our faith in Christ. They are “Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.” The last 3 of which are the first 3 listed among the fruits of the Spirit. There are other gifts from a loving God.

Gifts have become a large part of our Christmas observances and traditions; and all over the world, families and friends give presents to each other. One of the main reasons of this custom of giving and receiving presents at Christmas, is to remind us of the presents given to Jesus by the Wise Men of Frankincense, Gold and Myrrh. Most children around the world believe in a Christmas gift bringer. It’s often St. Nicholas, Santa Claus or Father Christmas. And indeed, Christians believe in a Supreme Christmas Gift Bringer as Christmas itself is really about a big present that God gave the world about 2000 years ago – Jesus! One of the most famous Bible verses, John 3:16, says; “God so loved the world, that God gave God’s one and only Son; so that “whosoever” believes In Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

Think of the term “whosoever believes in Him” as representing anyone who accepts this gift given by God. That person gets “The Greatest Gift of All.” The Old Testament and Gospel text assigned for this Sunday call this gift “Emmanuel – God With Us; revealed IN us.” This gift is about a relationship with God and it brings with it lots of smaller gifts such as “Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.” The song, “The Greatest Love of All” has this wonderful line in it that says “I found the greatest love of all, inside of me!” The question is will you let it out? Will you let it lead you, guide you, order your steps and direct you path in life?

I said earlier that with “The Greatest Gift of All” comes other promises. These other promises are not just promises for things we want. They are also promises for things God knows we need.

Join us for worship at Covenant this Fourth Sunday of Advent. The theme is ‘LOVE’ and I’ll be preaching about “The Greatest Gift of All” and promises for things God knows we need. The assigned scripture text used for the sermon will be “Isaiah 7:10-14” and “Matthew 1:18-25.”


The theme for this Sunday is “Joy.” Most people confuse joy with happiness. They are not the same thing. What is portrayed in all of the modern-day trappings of Christmas leaves most of us seeking “happiness,” NOT “joy.”

Think about the movies that we watch around Christmas: In “A Christmas Carol,” Scrooge is all messed up and everybody hates him, but by the end everything is wonderful, it all works out and everybody is happy! In “It’s a Wonderful Life,” we see that, in the midst of turmoil and hardship, in the end it all works out and everyone is happy. Even “Christmas with the Kranks” ends up that way because that is the way that Christmas is supposed to be. All it takes to be happy is finding that perfect love, that perfect gift, that perfect tree or that perfect relationship.

Think about the pictures that we always use around Christmas. They point to happiness not joy. The family is assembled and everything is perfect with the family. Everyone is at peace. Everyone is together and no one is left out. The fact is very few of us will experience that kind of family Christmas this year. The result is that we are left with this deep desire to find happiness during this time of the year instead of joy.

But Advent is about preparing ourselves for Joy. There will be much in our lives that will not lead to happiness this Christmas. It has not been a perfect year for any of us. Things haven’t always worked out right and just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean that all of a sudden it’s all going to work out for Christmas. There are wounds that still aren’t healed from the past; relationships that are still broken that we struggle with; and people who won’t be at that table. There are things in ourselves that we don’t like and those things remain.

This Third Sunday of Advent, with its theme of “Joy,” is meant to help us to understand that whether or not we get what we want, whether or not the events going on in our lives during this Christmas makes us happy, we can still have “Joy.” Joy is a fruit of the spirit and it comes with hope and inner peace. The scriptures assigned for this Sunday brings us the promise of “JOY” whether we have happiness or not.

So, join us in worship at Covenant on this 3rd Sunday of Advent as we learn to travel “The Road to Joy.” That’s my sermon title and I will be preaching it by using the scriptural texts of “Isaiah 35:1-10” and “Luke 1:46b-55.”