NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2018

This is known as Christ the King Sunday and it is the last Sunday of the year, the liturgical Church Calendar year that is. Jesus, in the assigned Gospel text for this Sunday speaks to why His followers must often be counter cultural.

Covenant participates in some social justice work with Faith in Action Alabama (FIAA). FIAA describes its mission as “A multifaith, multiracial organization that works to honor God by achieving systemic change to create pathways of opportunity for all Alabamians.” At the meeting that lead to the revitalization of FIAA, a woman Pastor from New Orleans asked the 60 plus clergy people gathered, “Are you a priest of the empire or a prophet of the resistance?” A priest of the empire is one who has bought in to the actions of the government even when it conflicts with God’s two greatest commandments of love. A prophet of the resistance challenges any policy or practice, even by government (the empire), that holds people captive to and by fear, the enemy of love.

The term “Christ the King” is often replaced with “The Reign of Christ” to emphasize a call for “Allegiance to a Strange Kind of King” (Christ) who said that “My Kingdom doesn’t originate from this world.” (John 18:36, CEB) This strange King connected His rule to humble service and commanded His followers to be servants that do likewise. In establishing “Christ the King Sunday,” the hope was that the faithful would gain the strength and courage to allow Christ to reign in their hearts and minds and is reflected in their actions and deeds, in the living of their lives.

Join us Sunday at Covenant as we observe “Christ the King Sunday.” The sermon, “The Reign of Christ: Allegiance to This Strange Kind of King,” will challenge us to experience God’s love and live out that love toward others. The assigned scriptures are Revelations 1:4b-8 and John 18:3-37.

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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 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.”

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.