NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, FEBURARY 5, 2017

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.”

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR DECEMBER 18, 2016

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.”

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR DECEMBER 11, 2016 THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT

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.”