Covenant. It is a word that is defined as an agreement—between two or more parties—and it’s a fairly big word in our faith tradition. God first established a covenant with Abraham and Sarah’s descendants: I will be your God and you will be my people. Jesus spoke of a new covenant of reconciliation with God that was sealed by his death and resurrection. Not only has God made covenant with us, but as members of the household of faith at Salem, we also make covenant with one another. Participation in a household of faith is a voluntary matter; no one can force us to belong to a certain community of faith or any community of faith. What we are and what we can become as a congregation comes from what we agree to do together. (This sort of thing, by the way, is what we expect of the young people of our Church School and Confirmation classes. There are expectations of how to act in class and how we treat classmates and teachers with respect.)
And I think that it’s a good thing for people to remember and renew the important covenants in their lives. On a few occasions in my ministry, I have presided over the renewal of marriage vows on significant milestone wedding anniversaries. I believe that these renewal of vows serve as both a reminder and a recommitment to the promises that were made years ago. Perhaps Christians should strongly consider doing that kind of thing with the vows that were made on our behalf at baptism and claimed as our own at confirmation. It might not be the worst idea for Christians to frequently (on an annual basis) renew their promises made to God and made to fellow members of the church. Will we profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Will we promise to be Christ’s disciples, to follow his way, to resist oppression and evil, and to witness to work and word of Christ as we are best able? Will we promise to grow in the Christian faith and to be a faithful member of the church of Jesus Christ?
Every renewal and recommitment to those promises is a re-strengthening of covenant. It is a reminder of who we are (and perhaps most importantly) of whose we are. Covenant reminds us that we are not alone in this spiritual journey. We are dependent upon God and we are dependent upon one another. It is a reminder that we are stronger as part of a community than we are by ourselves.
It is my hope that as we begin a process of congregational renewal that we will have the opportunity, as a faith community, to renew our covenants and our commitments to God and to one another. More details will follow on that in the weeks ahead.
As speaking of things that we covenant to participant in, I want to make this brief signpost about the “Neighbors in Need” (NIN) all-church offering that we will be receiving on Sunday, October 2nd. NIN is a special mission offering of the UCC that supports ministries of justice and compassion throughout the United States. More details will follow within the body of this issue of Chapel Chimes.
Your servant in Christ,
Rev. James Hoppert