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Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, February 1, 2013

Covenant Service 2013


Covenant Service 2013

Twentieth-century Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor said, “What people don’t realize is how much faith costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is a cross.”
Our annual Covenant service is meant to be a reminder that our faith, our Christianity, our religion…..is a cross…..and at this service we in a sense say…”I take up that cross”

I no longer want to control my life, but surrender it to You, Lord,
Put me to whatever purpose You choose,
Link my life to whoever You will, for whatever purpose;
Send me to whatever task You have in mind for me;
If suffering be Your purpose for me, I accept it;
May my life be used by You or not used, if You so decide;
May it be filled with meaningful purpose, or,
if You prefer it, have no apparent purpose;
Let it be filled with many useful material things,
Or, if You so plan it, be emptied of material benefit.
With all my heart I yield everything to Your control.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
I am Yours and You belong to me.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have now made here on Earth,
let it be confirmed and recorded in Heaven.
Amen.

Let’s see what our readings can teach us about covenant keeping in 2013.

"The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah." Tucked in these words is a wonderful surprise. Surely it is surprising when God's Word comes to seek us out, especially when we may not be looking for it. When that word comes, it has a way, as we saw last week, of finding us with a power to create us anew and set us on our path for a new day. I encouraged you to let God’s word do this for you last week, and I look forward to hearing some testimony in this regard on Wednesday.

God says to Jeremiah: "I know you ... I consecrated you ... I appointed you." He says these words to you and to me. He says to us what He has said to people for 1000s of years: we belong; we are loved; we are given purpose by a God who surrounds us, sustains us, and gives us tasks that have meaning in God's grand design and providence.

"I know you." Such a word comes as comforting and encouraging when we seem alone or fumbling for direction. But there is also toughness in this word. There is no escape, no apology that will deter its focus: "I am with you" for a purpose. Some days, it is good just to be reminded, so as to set our feet once again on a steady path.

These words certainly set Jeremiah on a steady path as he sought to fulfil God’s purpose for his life. May they steady you as you seek to fulfil God’s purpose for your life. Jesus wanted to fulfil God’s purpose for His life….even if that meant a cross…..So we move to our Gospel reading from Luke:

Last week we saw that there was an almost palpable sense of expectancy among the people of Nazareth in the public appearance of Jesus in the synagogue that day. Here He is in His hometown and they’ve heard some amazing things about what He has been doing in Galilee. When he "opens the scriptures," they recognize his words as ones that are filled with "grace." So what did they expect from his words? Perhaps they were hoping for some miraculous display similar to what they had heard He had done in Capernaum, just up the road. But instead all they get from Jesus is a pronouncement that He, the local boytjie, is in fact the good news that they have been waiting for from God….the fulfilment of everything the prophets have looked forward to. That’s not what they were expecting. What are your expectations this morning and are you angry when those expectations aren’t met?

When Jesus speaks of "fulfillment," we sense that expectations and fulfillment are not always harmonious. Jesus was not the Messiah that they expected…He came with a cross, not a sword. Is He the Saviour you are expecting or longing for…….a Saviour with a cross, not an electric blanket. Grace then and now often comes in strange and unexpected ways. We long for  glimpses of God's grace...............They did…………………..but in the familiar guise of this "son of Joseph," whom we have watched grow up from infancy? To believe that may be to stretch our belief a bit.

We long deeply for God's grace, but the question remains: Will we be ready or willing to respond to the direction in which it may lead us? Our covenant encourages us to do just that.

Things soon took a turn and got downright nasty there in Nazareth on that first day of Jesus' ministry. The people were expectant and excited about the possibilities of grace, but then suddenly that grace became distasteful when it led them in ways that they did not anticipate, and the very people He grew up amongst, become the ones who are the first to try and kill Him.

God's grace often shows up in places we don't expect, in people we don’t like, or it leads us in directions we would rather not go. Our covenant encourages us to recognise and willingly accept this.

Grace is not for the faint of heart or ones who do not like surprises. Christianity, the life with God, is not for the faint of heart or ones who do not like surprises.  It invites us to make connections with people whom we would rather like to forget. God's mercy is not captive to our desires or to our limits. If we wish to follow this Jesus, the invitation is always to be ready for surprises. One of the risks of following Jesus is to know that we will not be in control. It takes the transforming power of God's grace to make that happen. It is called salvation or wholeness. And it resides in the promise of God that "to you has been born" precisely such a savior, who is Christ the Lord.

I urge you, to come to the Saviour who says, “I know you ... I consecrated you ... I appointed you”……….come to Him and offer yourself to Him this morning.

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