Covenant - Monday Musing, October 11, 2021
Covenant. The concept of covenant is firmly rooted in scripture. The word covenant appears 326 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is first used in Genesis 6:18 – the story of Noah. God says, “But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark.” God promises an “everlasting covenant” never again to flood the earth (Gen 9:8-17). Covenant is also prominent in the story of Abraham and Sarah, and scripture tells stories of God’s constant faithfulness to the covenant in the midst of continual unfaithfulness by human partners. Prophets remind the people of the covenant and hold them accountable when the covenant is broken. Repeatedly, God reminds and pleads with the people for their part of the covenant: to honor God and to live justly.
Although not used as often, references of covenant are not limited to the Hebrew Scriptures. There are thirty-seven uses of covenant in the Christian Scriptures – 7 of which are quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures. The Gospels speak about a new covenant, and the new covenant is all about Jesus and the gift of life through his life. The new covenant does not do away with previous covenants God has made; instead, Christians are heirs to covenants of the past.
An important thing to remember here is that the foundation of the church is God’s gracious invitation, God’s call to us. In scriptural terms, a covenant is always formed at God’s initiative. Covenant is serious; not to be entered into lightly, but diligently and prayerfully.
This coming Sunday afternoon, the churches of the Barnstable Association of the United Church of Christ will gather with us for a service of installation. An installation confirms and celebrates the covenant between the local church and a newly called pastor and reaffirms the covenantal relationship of all the churches in the Association.
During the installation service, my covenant with you will read:
I promise to serve this church faithfully, preaching and teaching the word of God, administering the sacraments, and fulfilling the pastoral office, according to the faith and order of the United Church of Christ. I promise to keep confidence. I will love this congregation, speaking the truth in love. I pledge to inspire with holy vision, challenging this church to grow spiritually. I will be the church’s representative in the wider community, building bridges between our community, people of all faiths, and civic and justice leaders. I will minister impartially to the needs of all, and love all even when, or especially when, we disagree with one another. I will nourish and sustain my own spiritual life and take sabbath regularly as God’s commandment intends. I will maintain good pastoral boundaries and vow to leave when God calls me elsewhere.
The Church will respond:
We, the members and friends of The Federated Church of Orleans, receive The Rev. Darren L. Morgan as our pastor and teacher, promising to labor with him in the ministry of the gospel and to give him due honor and support. We gather with him and with the United Church of Christ as a sign of our mutual ministry in Christ’s name. We promise to love our pastor, speaking the truth in love. We pledge to be co-visionaries, accepting the challenge to grow spiritually. We will be rigorous partners in the growth of our community in spirit and numbers, articulating our faith outside these walls, and learning how to invite friends and strangers into this fellowship. We will take responsibility for our own spiritual well-being and destiny, and not expect our pastor to fix or save us. When and if we disagree with our pastor, we will do so respectfully, lovingly, directly, knowing we can disagree and still love each other. And when it is time for our pastor to accept a new call from God, we will release him.
The church of Jesus Christ is not a building, but a body of people, caring for one another, sharing the work of God in the world. We do this work individually but in a covenantal relationship with other settings of the church. Our work together is made possible by the gifts of the Spirit, who works in and through each of us. Although we started this work sixteen months ago, this mutual ministry ceremoniously begins this Sunday. See you in church!