We are a people of God’s story. That never ending narrative of God’s creative presence. Last week (Oct. 29), gathered in worship, we were each given a piece of rope. A section of cord that was separate, apart from, everyone else’s. We then talked about covenant. About the ways in which we are not members of this faith community, but covenanted partners. Covenanted with God. Covenanted with each other. Covenanted with the wider church. We physically responded to our covenant with one another by tying our threads together, remembering how we are connected.
Today, strung before us in the sanctuary, these cords are before us, interwoven with photographs of who we are. People of the cross. The resurrection. The good news that life overcomes death. Many churches are celebrating All Saints Day in worship today. We will hold our own moment of remembering our loved ones who have died during our Transition Sunday service on November 19.
But today, we remember covenant. You might know that part of God’s call in my life has been as a Youth Group leader and Director of Faith Development. I am passionate about cross-generational faith formation and exploring ways in which we can all be interconnected, building relationships, and sharing all aspects of “being church” across our life spans. And, in my experience as a youth leader, Our Whole Lives facilitator, and Sunday School teacher, developing a covenant together has always been an essential act in creating sacred space. Trust. Promise. Naming who we are as God’s people. Memorial UCC’s mission statement calls on us to “reach out in ever-widening circles as a witness to God’s all-inclusive love in Jesus Christ, and to act out God’s grace and mercy in deeds of teaching, healing, reconciling, nurturing, and feeding those who are hungry in body or in spirit.” I believe that these “ever-widening circles” call on us to embrace the circles inside the life of this church such as:
- testifying—sharing our own stories of God’s work in our lives with one another
- visiting members and friends that are sick, lonely
- purposefully building cross-generational relationships with those in the faith community
- participating in hospitality, greeting all who enter this building, providing a welcoming space, nourishing those in our midst
- teaching “church”—embracing everyone in worship, leadership roles, and ministry opportunities, creatively rethinking how anyone can serve… no matter their age
- and teaching stewardship—the ways in which we not only give financially, but are also good stewards in caring for this building, this land, and the people that are here.
Seeing the ever widening circles outside of the church, purposefully following Jesus out onto the streets, doing both service and advocacy work, and reaching out on social media. These are our circles.
This is the third week that we have heard from the 3 authors of 1 Thessalonians: Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy. In this earliest of writings from Paul, labor, work, the act of “doing stuff” is what faithfulness is all about. Being part of a community that follows Jesus was, for Paul, a way of life, a way to engage with others in the world.
So as we lean into the many ever-widening circles that are knotted together in our own ministry, I want to take a moment to do something a little bit different to focus our thoughts on what this “way of life” as Jesus followers means for us today. Whether you are a member of this church, a friend, or a visitor, I want to offer an opportunity for us to purposefully reflect on what our covenant with one another means. I want to plant seeds. Seeds that will grow and take root in covenant. Then, this afternoon at 2 pm, we will gather here once again and publicly affirm this covenant, as we celebrate the recognition of the Spirit’s presence and work in this place and I am installed as your settled pastor and teacher.
During the sermon, we took time to create a covenant. Here are YOUR responses:
For us as covenanted partners at Memorial UCC, covenant is…
- Commitment. A promise. Trust.
- Functioning as a community of God; and followers of Jesus
- Worshiping together
- Praying and supporting one another
- Being caretakers of each other; helping each other
- A two-way promise of support
- Singing, laughing, and crying together
- Being joyful together
- Learning and growing together
- Promising to respect and listen to one another; Two-way listening to each other
- Accepting each other
- Being a forgiving community
- Sharing our own beliefs and being open to other beliefs
- Challenging each other to live out our call
- Taking faith outside the walls of the church
- Reaching out to our neighbors, as a congregation and as individuals
- Acting out – responding to systemic injustices and doing advocacy work
- Sharing resources with each other and the wider community
Sitting here, you are witnesses—and God is also. Witnesses to the covenant. The covenant that God has made with our biblical witnesses that weaves into our midst. We are witnesses to God’s word, which is at work in us, and through us, and with us. The re-membering, the pulling together of the body of Christ, which we will once again share in this morning at the table that is open to all. We are, a people, knotted together in God’s love. Amen.
– Pastor Kris