Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
May the Blessings and Grace of God fill you up this and every day.
This coming Sunday (I write this on Tuesday, December 27, 2016) is New Year’s Day, January 1, 2017. Many of us will stay up to midnight on December 31 to celebrate the beginning of the new year. Some may go out to a gathering at a restaurant or bar to celebrate with friends. Some may stay home and ring in the New Year with family and/or friends. Many of those parties will include the use of alcohol as we toast the New Year with wine or sparkling wine or beer or another beverage of choice. Some will celebrate at sober-parties and toast the New Year with Coke, Pepsi, or 7-Up, or sparkling apple juice. Almost all of us will stay up to 12:30 or 1:00 am or later.
For most years, that is not necessarily a problem. We just sleep in on New Year’s Day, drinking lots of coffee, watch the parades and then watch the football games. This year New Year’s Day is on Sunday and both churches will be having worship services. In fact, this will be our 8th Annual Covenant Renewal Service. In my life, this is an incredibly important Sunday, following Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas. So I encourage you, in fact, I challenge you, to come to worship this Sunday.
Covenants are part of being a believer in God and a follower of Jesus the Messiah. God made numerous covenants with the people of Israel in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). In the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) Jesus makes a final covenant when he shared his last meal with the disciples. In Mark 14:24, when Jesus passes around the cup of wine he says, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” In Matthew 26:28 Jesus says, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” In Luke 22:20 he says, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
A covenant is like a contract where two parties make an agreement and spell out the responsibilities of each party. When we were baptized we, or our parents, covenanted with God to be faithful to God’s call, presence, and work in our lives. (If we were baptized as infants, we then “confirm” that covenant during our Confirmation.) God and Jesus Christ, in turn, covenants with us to forgive us, save us, be with us, and strengthen us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (John 14-16, numerous verses). God is always faithful to God’s side of the covenant, but we often fail on our side. Often it is because we become tepid, blasé, or forgetful. We need to be reminded, sometimes daily, that we belong to God and that God calls us to better ways of living in love.
The purpose of the Covenant Renewal Service is not to re-secure God’s part but to shore up our side. We will remember our Baptism Covenant, restate our desire to follow God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and remember Jesus’ command to and covenant with us as we eat together the Holy Meal; the bread and the juice; the Body and the Blood.
I hope and pray that you will join with me this Sunday in the Covenant Renewal Service.
Grace and Peace be with you in 2017,