NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, JUNE 11, 2017 “Pride Sunday in Central Alabama”

This week Covenant will hold its worship service at Railroad Park in Downtown Birmingham. Our hope is to reach some folks with the liberating message of God’s unconditional love, forgiveness and acceptance by going to where it’s convenient for many in our community.

Let’s be clear, when the LGBTQ community uses the world “Pride,” we’re not speaking of pride in a sense of worth that overinflates who we are; what we’ve achieved or what we possess. Rather, we are talking about being “proud” of and celebrating every aspect of who God created us to be, including our sexuality and gender identity.

After finishing a tour of the Waterford Crystal Factory in Waterford, Ireland, Dr. Laurie Wirthlin wrote in an email, “After going through the factory I realized that I had been praying for the wrong thing – I had been praying that I would be translucent and that Christ’s light would shine through me …. What I realized after going through the factory was that I needed to be praying to be transparent, that no part of me hindered the light of His Love from shining through me.”

As we stand in “Solidarity!” A Part – Not Apart!” with our community in worship and at PrideFest, I am praying that we will become like transparent pieces of beautiful crystal – shaped by the fire of God’s Love and the Light of God’s mercy and grace and that we will let it shine through us to our community.

Please join us for a history making day as Covenant worships with our community at Railroad Park at 10 AM Sunday morning with a light lunch to follow. I’ll be talking about the 2017 Pride theme of “Solidarity!” A Part – Not Apart!” and “Waterford Crystal” in my sermon “We are God’s People” based on I Peter 2:9-10.

(NOTE: We will gather in the park near the 16th Street Plaza entrance.

There should be plenty parking nearby on Sunday morning.)

 

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NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, MAY 21, 2017

Years ago, there seemed to be more emphasis on evangelism than we see today. As a child, I understood evangelism as a high-pitch pressure sales job for Jesus. We were to go out and win souls for Christ no matter what it took to keep the person from “going to hell.” So, we were equipped with tracts, buzz phrases and often scriptures taken out of context so that we could, if need be, scare people or make them feel guilty enough to accept Jesus as their Savior, at any cost. It was called “Witnessing.”

Even growing up in a very fundamental Pentecostal Church, I never could buy into this form of evangelism. These religious stunts gave evangelism a bad name and still does. The things that had the biggest impact on my life were my Mother’s faith and people’s stories of hope. The most impactful story of hope for me was watching the miraculous conversion experience of my Father on Sunday, April 17, 1966, when he arrived at church drunker than “Cooter Brown” and left sober a short time later having said yes to accepting Christ as his Savior. Two months later, on Saturday evening, June 11, as an 11-year old boy, I said yes to God.

It was then I recognized that “Witnessing” as a method for evangelism was not what the church was teaching. It was much more simple and personal. It was sharing your story; telling others how God and the church has impacted your life. I found in scripture what I already knew in my heart; the true meaning of evangelism and “witnessing.” “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (I Peter 3:15)

Witnessing doesn’t require the manipulation of people with negative bombardments attempting to scare “the hell” out of them. It’s simply “giving a reason for the hope you have; with gentleness and respect” and letting God do the rest.

Join us at Covenant this Sunday for worship. We’ll have a special guest testimony from someone giving a reason for his hope after a horrific life changing accident. My sermon will be “Giving A Reason for My Hope” based on I Peter 3:13-16.

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR MOTHER’S DAY, SUNDAY, MAY 14, 2017

This Sunday is Mother’s Day, so to all Moms and those serving in maternal roles, Happy Mother’s Day.

I hit the jackpot when God decided that my Mom would be James Ella Reid Finney and my father, Jack Finney. While I loved my Dad dearly, I really was an extreme “Mama’s Boy.” It was Mom that shaped my love for God, church and the scriptures.

On special days like Mother’s Day, we tend to romanticize the past. However, being honest, I must I recognize that life was not perfect in the Finney family. There were moments they drove me to wanting to commit fratricide or patricide; but never suicide … I’m just not the suicidal type. But Mother’s Day and Father’s Day remind me how blessed I was in “Belonging to the Right Family.”

As their children grew up and left home, … me going into the Air Force … my parents, with usually Mama speaking, gave each of us the same emotional security blanket. They would tell us “No matter where you go, no matter what you do, you are mine. We love you and you can always come home.” I have never had to go home to my parents because I couldn’t make it in life; but perhaps, it was because I knew I could home if the need arose.

I realize that not everyone was blessed with the parents and family that I had; but the Good News is that everyone can still “Belong to the Right Family; God’s Family.” Even with our many character flaws, shortcomings, insecurities, and immaturity; we are God’s children. God loves us and accepts us as we are. And God invites us to come home with no conditions, nor restrictions.

Join us this Mother’s Day Sunday; if you can, bring your Mom, too. My sermon will be “Belonging to the Right Family; God’s Family” based on I Peter 2:2-3, 9-10 and John 14:1-3, 12-14.

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR “LOW SUNDAY,” 4-23-2017

“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end results of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (I Peter 1:8-9)

This week, the Sunday after Easter is known as “Low Sunday.” That’s because this Sunday’s church attendance happens to be one of the lowest of the year. It seems that after attending “A Celebration of the Resurrection” on Easter Sunday, an awful lot of folks choose to opt out of attending worship the following Sunday. It’s almost as if many take the attitude that after 40 days of Lent, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter, they need a church break. I wonder how many blessings are missed because of such thinking. I must admit that I, myself, had originally thought of taking some time off this week but decided against it. As a result, I accepted a counseling appointment on Thursday morning with a young man. That encounter became a divine appointment for him and me. We were both incredibly blessed. We ended our time together with me praying with him. We held hands and as tears rolled from his eyes down his cheeks onto his pants, I felt so blessed and honored to lead this young man into a prayer where he opened his heart to walk in fellowship with Christ. This moment had been made possible because of his openness to me working with him through some problem solving steps aimed at hopefully addressing some serious issues in his life.

It was an encounter that brought me an inexpressible and glorious joy. You see, some real blessings just might be waiting for you also this week after Easter and on Low Sunday.

So, I invite you to join us at Covenant for worship this Sunday after Easter. I will be preaching a sermon titled “An Inexpressible and Glorious Joy,” based on “I Peter 1:3-9.” Afterwards, join us for cake and punch in the Fellowship Hall as we celebrate those born in April.

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR, FEBRUARY 26, 2017 “TRANSFIGURATION SUNDAY”

This Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday. Every year just before the beginning of Lent, the church goes mountain climbing. We spiritually, as Peter, James and John physically did, follow Jesus up the Mount of Transfiguration. Up there we get to see Jesus as He really is as the brightness of God’s glory shines on Him and through Him. The event of course is “The Transfiguration of Jesus,” that signals the end of the season of Epiphany.

Epiphany Ends as it began with a bright light shining. Jesus, the Day Star, the bright and morning star, shines on the Mount of Transfiguration just as the light from heaven shone above His cradle in Bethlehem 30 years or so earlier.

        But why do we all these years later, still spiritually climb this mountain to see this light? Why do we take valuable time out of our busy lives and devote ourselves to climbing the mountain where God’s glory is revealed? Aren’t there hungry folks to be fed? Aren’t there jobs to be done? Aren’t there bills to be paid? Aren’t there children to be fed and clothed? Aren’t there sick to be healed? Aren’t there those grieving that need to be consoled? The answer to all these questions is yes! So, why did Jesus take this time away from His mission? And why do we do it each year right before Lent begins?

Jesus was preparing Himself for the long journey to another mountain. Jesus knew that ahead of Him was the long walk to the cross. And Jesus took this time to focus Himself on the journey that lay ahead of Him.

Mark Twain once said, “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” We get so caught up with the living of our daily lives that our spiritual imagination often gets out of focus. So, we go mountain climbing each year at the end of Epiphany to spiritually prepare ourselves for the discipline walk of faith and devotion through Lent. It is our way of taking strength from Christ’s strength, as we prepare to walk our Lenten journey. With this, we remember that “Our Need for Transfiguration” is why the glory of God calls us to go this mountain climbing trip.

Join us at Covenant this week as we observe “Transfiguration Sunday,” followed by our February Birthday reception. Then join us again for our “Ash Wednesday” services with communion and the imposition of Ashes.

This week my sermon is “Our Need for Transfiguration” based on “II Peter 1:16-21” and “Matthew 17:1-9.”