NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR PENTECOST AND PRIDE SUNDAY, JUNE 9, 2019

This Sunday, Covenant will observe two events, Pride and Pentecost Sunday. After celebrating Pentecost Sunday in worship, we’ll join thousands from our community at Central Alabama’s 2019 Pridefest. Covenant’s singing group “Glory” will represent Covenant singing “This is Me.”

Both, Pride and Pentecost are stories of publicly coming out. Over the years, I’ve known many LGBTQ folks for whom their first public coming out experience was participating in a Pride Parade or some other Pride event. After years of living in fear and shame, it seems that being around others who were proud to celebrate who they were had a positive effect on them. It empowered them to take the important step of publicly coming out for the first time in their lives to celebrate who God created them to be. For nearly everyone, taking that step at a Pride event, made for an exciting and memorable coming out moment.

Something like that happened to the followers of Jesus at that first Pentecost after the Resurrection. One hundred and twenty of them gathered to worship behind closed doors in an upper room. On this day, the Christian Church was born, the Holy Spirit showed up and showed out. The Holy Spirit empowered these 120 that inspired them to also have a public coming out moment. For example, Peter who had been afraid 52 days before to even be associated with Jesus, now came out and preached boldly a message of hope and love in Christ Jesus. And that day, 3000 folks said yes to walking in relationship with God. It was an exciting and memorable public coming out moment of being led by the Holy Spirit that’s recorded in scripture. It’s the kind of coming out moment God offers each of us every day we wake up.

Join us this Pentecost and Pride Sunday for worship before going to Pridefest. My sermon will be “Coming Out to A Life Filled with The Holy Spirit” based on Romans 8:14-17 and John 14:9a, 15-17, 25-27,” referencing “Acts 2:1-21.”

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NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, MAY 26, 2019

This Sunday begins the end of the celebration of the liturgical season of Easter. However, for us as followers of Christ, every day is a celebration of the Resurrection.

This is also Memorial Day Weekend. While most people have come to identify this Weekend as the unofficial beginning of the summer vacation season; Memorial Day was originally called “Decoration Day” to honor those who have given their lives in service to our country. This is NOT a religious holiday; but I find nothing wrong with honoring those who died in service to a country for whom a core value is freedom of religion.

As a proud veteran of the Air Force, I grew up in a neighborhood where more people per capita served in the military than most communities. I know several families who suffered the loss of loved ones while they served in the military; I honor them for their service. Many of them were drafted into service, so they didn’t verbally say yes to military service; rather they did so with their actions.

As a society we’ve become more concerned with whether people say yes verbally rather than with their actions. In the assigned scriptures this week from Acts 16 and John 5, neither of the key characters responds with yes verbally; but both did so by their actions. Maybe God is reminding us that “actions speak louder than words.”

As we remember those who said yes to military service with their actions and gave their lives; in this era where our words can get lost in the clamor of unimportant noise of social media, and television, I pray we can break through with the “YES” of our actions. Actions of “Offering Hope + Showing Faithfulness + Sharing Joy.” Actions of “caring about one another in Christ and communicating God’s love to all people.”

Join us in worship at Covenant this Sunday before Memorial Day. This sermon in my series called “Choosing Hope” will be “Just Say Yes!” based on Acts 16:9-15 and John 5:1-9.

NOTE FROM THE PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, MAY 19, 2019

This week is the Fifth Sunday of Easter. The assigned gospel text includes these words from Jesus: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34) This is without a doubt God’s most important commandment to us! Jesus said so!

So, what does it mean to love one another as God instructs us to do? This act of offering love to all is difficult. For instance; has there ever been a moment in your life where you tried to “look busy” to avoid having to help someone or ignored a stranger who just kept talking to you as you waited in line somewhere together? We all have. It is human nature for us to remove ourselves from situations that are uncomfortable. Yet, God calls us to embrace the uncomfortable by learning to really love others well. God calls us to be brave and to share His love with all who cross our paths. It’s not easy; but scripture states that we should “not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrew 13:2) Showing hospitality to strangers is an act of “loving one another” as a commandment on this occasion by Jesus.

That’s what seems to have happened at Cornelius’ house in Acts 10, when Peter demonstrated love for others of a different race and ethnicity, despite it making him feel uncomfortable. And Peter’s actions were not received well by church leaders in Acts 11 and made them also uncomfortable. But it was fulfillment of Jesus’ commandment to “love one another.”

Join us in worship this Casual Sunday at Covenant. I continue with my Easter Series, “Choosing Hope” with a message as to how following Jesus’ commandment to “love one another” gets uncomfortable but is rewarding. My sermon of course is “Love One Another” based on “John 13:31-35.”

NOTE FOR PASTOR J R FOR MOTHER’S DAY, SUNDAY, MAY 12, 2019

Sunday is Mother’s Day and the Fourth Sunday of Easter. At Covenant, we honor not only birth and adopted Mothers, but also those serving in maternal roles. Acts 9 speaks of such a woman with this summary of her life in v.36. “In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha …Her life overflowed with good works and compassionate acts on behalf of those in need.”

As I read this assigned Mother’s Day text; I thought of my Mom’s longest living sibling, Annie Tatum, who lived 100 plus years and also outlived her children. When her sister, Kate, died unexpectedly leaving 6 surviving children, one younger than 2 years old; Aunt Annie raised that child, Charlotte, as her own.

I was in attendance when one Mother’s Day, their church instead of the usual Mother’s Day honors, recognized “The Most Faithful Mother of the Church.” Aunt Annie didn’t realize they were talking about her until they mentioned that this Church Mother would not leave the kitchen after church dinners until every dish was washed.

With the death of her Mother, Grandma Lula Reid, July 1965, Aunt Annie became the unofficial matriarch of our family and in many ways, her community. Limited space doesn’t allow me to adequately describe her contributions to our family and community. So, I’ll paraphrase and use the words the writer of Acts 9 shared in writing about a woman named Tabitha. “In ‘Martinsville, VA’ there was a disciple named ‘Annie Tatum’ …Her life overflowed with good works and compassionate acts on behalf of those in need.”

The same can be said of our Covenant Church Mother, Mother Dorothy Swims. Keep her in prayer as she recovers from injuries received in a fall this week.

Join us this Mother’s Day for worship; and if possible, bring your Mom. My sermon is based Tabitha as I continue my Easter Series “Choosing Hope” with “Living the Resurrection and Eternal Life” based on Acts 9:34-42 and John 10:22-30.

NOTE FROM PASTOR JR FOR SUNDAY, MAY 5, 2019

This Sunday is the Third Sunday of Easter. The assigned gospel from John 21 shares that events before and during Jesus third appearance to the disciples after the resurrection. In the previous two appearance, Jesus did lots of miracles that John 20:30 says, “which are not written in this book.” Even having witnessed these things, these five disciples, former fisherman, felt the need to retreat to their comfort zone and went fishing.

Desiring to live and worship in our comfort zone is nothing new. Last Sunday, our congregation voted with a supermajority to move to a new location for worship and church life. While it was an overwhelming vote, there were some very opposed to this decision. Both side’s reasoning must be respected for both are valid. I believe those on both sizes of the vote were choosing hope. I think maybe, it was even for the same reason; everybody wants to be in what they consider their comfort zone.

Those voting no; find where we current worship to be their comfort zone. While those voting to move see this as best for the future of Covenant, they too desire to be in the comfort zone of being close to the people our ministry tries to serve. I believe the gospel text assigned this week helps us to understand that following Jesus mean moving beyond our comfort zone.

After these five disciples had gone fishing all night without positive results, Jesus comes to them and performs another miracle in their presence resulting in them catching 153 fish. Jesus cooks for them and then teaches them the lesson that all of us who like to retreat to our comfort zone should learn going forward. He says to them, “Follow Me.” “Choosing Hope,” means “Following Jesus.” “Following Jesus,” means “Moving Beyond our Comfort Zone.”

Join us for worship on this Third Sunday of Easter. My sermon will be “Moving Beyond Our Comfort Zone by Choosing Hope” based on “Psalms 30:1-5, 11-12” and “John 21:1-14 & 19b.”

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT, APRIL 7, 201

 

In our 2019 Lenten Journey, Easter is only 2 weeks away. Reading Judas’s criticism of Mary in assigned Gospel text and my own experiences this week, have both reminded me that every one of us experience dark times that are hard to release. Grief, shame, despair, death, disappointment, anger, depression, and addiction can keep us from practicing resurrection. These ‘shadows’ over our lives can even make us forget that resurrection is possible or that it should be natural for the people who claim the name of “Christian”. In these times, Covenant being “an inclusive community of faith – Offering Hope + Showing Faithfulness + Sharing Joy” is crucial because it might be the only avenue for some to be able to walk from “death” into the new life God has for them.

As a Pastor, I encounter every week, many different things holding many hearts in our community in “death”. Making our Covenant mission of existing to “care about one another in Christ” and to “communicate Christ (God’s love) to all” is essential; for it has the power to open hearts to “resurrection” (new life). We must continuously strive to lead our community to the new life in which God is always inviting us to live. But before we can fully embrace that new life, we must let go of all that hold us back.

As we symbolically turn our faces toward Jerusalem for this next two weeks, let’s not get so caught of up remembering Christ’s story of betrayal, crucifixion and death that we forget to practice the resurrection that’s already presence in our lives. For this reason, my Sunday morning sermons have put an emphasis on living each day with hope; rejoicing in the assurance that “God’s Steadfast Love” brings into our lives.

Join us at Covenant this Sunday to experience resurrection (new life). My sermon will be “God’s Steadfast Love Brings Shouts of Joy,” based on Psalm 126 and John 12:1-8.

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.