NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2018

One of the ultimate realities that challenge practically every person at some point is the question, “Do I matter to God?” Oh, we are not really confronted or bothered by this question during the high peaks and good times of life. But it’s a question that seems to be ever present when we find ourselves in the valleys of life; especially during the tough times when we are dealing with loss, with death, when we are sick, or lose our job or someone we love. Those are the times this question, “Do I matter to God” tends to continuously gnaw at us emotionally.

The assigned text this week is Psalm 8, one of my favorites. It begins and ends with recognition of the greatness of God, “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!” However, in the middle of it, it addressed this question “Do I matter to God?” In verses 4 & 5 David writes, “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the children of humans that You do care for them? For You have made them a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned them with glory and honor.” This passage should remind us, as it did David that we really do matter to God! In this Psalm, no doubt David was referring back to Genesis 1:26 where God created humans in God’s image and likeness. The late renowned Old Testament scholar Dr. H. C. Leupold said, “Nowhere is “human” dignity asserted more clearly and boldly than in this passage.”

Join us at Covenant this Sunday for worship and be refreshed with a message that reaffirms to each of us “You Matter to God!” My sermon title is ‘“What is Man?” or “A little Lower Than Angels!”’ It’s based on Psalm 8.

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NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, AUGUST, 12, 2018

This Sunday we will continue our sermon series on the Covenant Mission Statement as we think about the 2nd part of that mission: “To cultivate a personal relationship with God.”

I talk to people a lot about their relationships. It’s just part of what a pastor does. There are those seeking guidance to find a good relationship, those seeking advice on how to better the relationship they have, and of course those trying to get out of a relationship.

A common trait that I have discovered in all of these conversations about relationships is that they also affect how people relate to God. And, of course, ninety-nine percent of the time that we conflate our human relationships with our relationship with God, God is shortchanged.

We project others’ failures as humans onto our concept of God’s relationship with us as humans. We begin to think that we have to put on our best face in our relationship with God as we do in our human relationships with others. We don’t!!!!

God loves and is interested in the real me and the real you, not the fake/perfect me or you that we so often try to project to others. God already knows the real me, with all my faults, challenges, struggles and foibles, and God still loves me. Same for you! And, most importantly, God invites me and you to say yes and cultivate a relationship with this God who loves and cares for me and you.

If we concentrate on saying yes to this invitation of a personal relationship with God; if we imitate Jesus’ example of service; and then if we share with others how to cultivate this relationship with God, we will indeed be living into this 2nd phase of our Covenant mission.

Join us this Sunday for worship at Covenant as we consider a more detailed way of living out our Mission. The sermon is “The Mission – Part 2: To Cultivate A Relationship With God,” based on Psalms 130:3-4,7 and Psalm 34:406, and I King

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, AUGUST 5, 2018

The consuming passion of a person or organization is defined by the mission to which they or it believes are called to do. The Merriman Webster Dictionary defines a “Mission” as “a specific task with which a person or a group is charged.” With that in mind, consider Covenant’s Mission.

“We exist to:

Celebrate the love of God,

Cultivate a relationship with God

Care about one another in Christ.

Communicate Christ to all people.”

We see each element of our mission in the life, work and words of Jesus as He walked among humanity. The writer of Acts 10:38 summed up Jesus’ mission by saying: “And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”

We also see Jesus’ mission in His words. He shared it in a less conventional manner when He was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” Jesus responded that, “The first and greatest commandment is to love God completely with everything you’ve got in your thinking, feeling, knowing and emotions.” I believe part of Jesus’ mission was to let us know that loving God in such an extreme way has profound benefit to our lives.

Let’s face it; we don’t have to go looking for ways to feel bad about ourselves. We encounter folks everyday glad to help us do so. Some of us are experts at doing that to and for ourselves. Covenant’s Mission is to do just the opposite. “Celebrating the love of God” is “a specific task with which Covenant is charged.” Fulfilling that mission for ourselves and others impacts positively our lives and those we serve.

Join us at Covenant on this first Sunday in August as we began a 4-part sermon series on our Covenant Mission Statement. This week the sermon is “THE MISSION – PART 1 – TO CELEBRATE THE LOVE OF GOD” based on Psalms 51:1-12.

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, JULY 15, 2018

“To be an inclusive community of faith –

Offering Hope + Showing Faithfulness + Sharing Joy.”

This month, I’m revisiting our above Covenant vision statement in a 3-part sermon series. My hope is that we will live into every aspect of it. Last week, we revisited “Offering Hope.”

This week we revisit the 2nd part of our Covenant vision: “Showing Faithfulness.” One definition of faithfulness is “long-continued and steadfast fidelity to whatever one is bound to by a pledge, duty or obligation.” Too many Christians have limit faithfulness to honoring God through worship, church attendance, and making consistent monetary gifts to the church. Occasionally, faithfulness also includes doing a good deed for someone else along the way, if it doesn’t inconvenience us too much.

At Covenant we believe those things are important; but we also believe that “showing faithfulness” means so much more relationally with each other. Our Covenant membership rite includes this: “Therefore be calm self-controlled people of prayer. Above everything make sure you have a real deep love for each other, remembering how love can cover a multitude of sin. Be hospitable to each other without secretly wishing you didn’t have to be. Serve one another with the particular gifts God has given each one of you as faithful dispensers of the magnificently varied grace of God.” (From I Peter 4)

Living into the vision of Covenant in “Showing Faithfulness” means we must have steadfast fidelity in living up to this pledge of our membership rite in being “faithful dispensers of the magnificently varied grace of God.” This means in our service to Covenant members, other Christians AND ALL OF THE HUMAN FAMILY.

Join us for worship this Sunday at Covenant. In revisiting our Covenant Vision, I’ll share how I was called upon to be a “faithful dispenser of the magnificently varied grace of God” in a very heart wrenching situation this past Monday. The sermon is “Part 2: The Vision is Offering Hope and Showing Faithfulness.” The scripture text is Psalms 85:8-13.

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2018

This week, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, is known as “Good Shepherd” Sunday. The assigned texts always include a portion of John 10 in which Jesus declares “I am the Good Shepherd.” This year, Psalm 23, one of the most beloved of all passages in the Bible, is also included.

In Psalm 23, David equates the nature of sheep to our human nature. Sheep have a natural tendency to wander off and get lost. We humans tend to do the same thing. Isaiah said, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.” (Isaiah 53:6)

When sheep go astray, they are in danger of getting lost, being attacked, even killing themselves by drowning or falling off cliffs. Likewise, within our own human nature, there is a strong tendency to often go astray from purposes and good works God has created for our lives. This leaves us vulnerable to falling prey to things not good for us – things that do not reflect our relationship with the Shepherd (God). As such we make choices that often endanger our lives or cause us to fall off the cliffs in our health; as well as spiritually and emotionally. In doing so, we run the risk of getting lost in life and even forgetting the way back to God.

David, in Psalm 23, made this analogy because as a shepherd he knew sheep, and as an anointed leader of God’s people, he also understood how much he and the people he led were just like sheep. So, David sees in God our human need for a shepherd that meets our need for provision, rest, security and direction. How can we make this promise from scripture a reality in our lives? It’s simple: “Following the Good Shepherd.”

Join us for worship on this Good Shepherd Sunday at Covenant. My sermon based on Psalm 23 and John 10:11-18 is designed to help us in remaining close to and reaping the benefits of “Following the Good Shepherd.”

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, APRIL 8, 2018

This Sunday is the 2nd Sunday of Easter; but is better known as Low Sunday; as Christian churches collectively tend to record their lowest attendance of the year.

However, we find a very important message in the assigned text from John 20. In it, Jesus says to His disciples, “Peace be with you!” This is not a peace “as the world gives”, but a peace that provides relief in the face of persecution, the promise of new possibilities, and a confidence in God to overcome “the world.” In John’s Gospel, “the world” indicates a hostile and ignorant response to the truth of God’s peace.

Then, recalling the moment when God breathed life into the original earth person, Jesus breathed on His disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” making them new spiritual creations so they could engage the world. In receiving the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ followers receive nothing less than the fullness of God. So:

· Jesus bestows peace upon His worried followers. Great!

· Jesus fills them with the Holy Spirit. Great!

· Jesus tells them they can forgive or retain other people’s sins. Huh?

What is Jesus talking about? Well, it is for sure that Jesus is not appointing the church or its members as God’s moral watchdog. Nor is Jesus commissioning us to arbitrate people’s assets and liabilities on a heavenly balance sheet. In John’s Gospel, Jesus talks about sin as unbelief, the unwillingness or incapacity to grasp the truth of God manifested in Him. So, to be living in sin is not about moral failings, but it’s an inability or refusal to recognize and receive God’s revelation in Christ when confronted by it; thereby remaining estranged from God.

God’s purpose in doing this on the evening of the first Easter is so that Christ’s followers will “Find Joy and Peace in the Resurrection.” It is so our lives can accomplish great things as Jesus did, if we are yielded to God’s Spirit that lives in us.

Join us at Covenant for worship on Low Sunday. I’ll be preaching on “Finding Joy and Peace in the Resurrection” based on Psalm 133 and John 20:19-23.

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR PALM SUNDAY, MARCH 25, 2018

The original March on Washington is known as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. As a 9-year old, I didn’t realize the full implication of this March to advocate for the civil and economic rights of African Americans. I must admit I don’t even remember the “I have a dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King because my attention was focused elsewhere by the time he spoke late in the afternoon. I do remember Mahalia Jackson’s rousing rendition of “How I Got Over.” To me the whole event was just a great big parade and “everybody loves a parade, until …”. For me, the ‘until’ was when I came to realize it was seeking relief against the injustices that had caused the March.

Saturday, March 24, the March for Our Lives will take to the streets of Washington DC and 500 other cities around the country to demand that kid’s lives and safety become a priority and serious efforts are taken to end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools. I wonder how many will not recognize the gravity of the event and see it as just a big parade; and, “everybody loves a parade, until …” the horror of gun violence strikes, victimizing them and theirs.

Then on Palm Sunday, Christians around the world will celebrate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. In an act of political resistance against the Roman Empire and their proxies in the religious establishment, huge crowds of people sang and waved palm branches to welcome Jesus into the city. Jesus went directly to the temple, the center of a corrupt system, threw out the moneychangers and reclaimed the space for the people. And “everybody loved the parade, until …” during this last week of His life, Jesus proclaimed a vision of a new society where there are no outcasts and everyone has enough.

Join us this Palm/Passion Sunday. We will celebrate with the waving of palm branches, special music and a sermon about 2 parades called “Everybody Loves A Parade, Until …” based on Psalm 118:1, 22-29 and John 12:12-16