There was an important announcement before the service began. The Sweetheart Banquet, with Chef Leonard, is just around the corner. Entertainment has been secured, a talented pianist and balloonist will be with us on February 13. By balloonist we mean hot air balloons in the skies above. Be sure to RSVP so Chef Leonard knows how much food to secure. It will be a memorable evening.
The quartet opened the service with a lengthy series of favorite songs including Heaven On My Mind, I Saw the Light, That Glory Bound Train and others.
The Scripture reading, after the offering, was from Psalms 71:1-6 and Luke 4:21-30. As children were dismissed to the nursery, we shared a time of prayer. There were many needs expressed. In times like these it is good to know our Lord has promised comfort as we we bring our concerns to Him.
In a somewhat unusual turn, we did not have a substitute pastor per se, but rather a guest speaker by DVD, Gary Walter, President of the Evangelical Covenant Church.
Carrying Out God's Mission
Mr. Walter began by sharing the story of Elijah from I Kings 18 just after his showdown with the 400 prophets of Baal. There had been a drought in Israel and Elijah prayed for rain. After the prayer he sent his right hand man to go look toward the sea. His servant saw nothing. A second and third and fourth time he prayed. On the seventh, his servant returned to say he saw a small cloud the size of a man's hand. Pastor Walter declared that in our own time, the Covenant Church might be a similar vessel... seemingly small and insignificant, but bringing showers to the spiritual drought in our generation.
We live in a postmodern era with people dissatisfied in their hearts, seeking answers. To the extent that we make Christ's priorities ours, we will make a difference here. We must make Christ's mission priorities our own.
How committed are you to God's mission to the world? We have the power to break the draught. His mission is the mission for which the church was birthed.
The centrality of the Word is a feature of the Covenant, and we humbly do our best to live it. The Bible is not a book of theological abstractions. Its mission, and ours, is to change lives. Mr. Walter outlined three aspects of this mission.
1) The Word became flesh
Our God is a seeking God, he said. God came to seek and to save the lost. God doesn't wait for us to find Him. We, too, are to be seeking the lost as well.
Greg Hawkins said that God comes seeking us with three messages: I know you, I love you and you were meant for this relationship.
Walter then told the story of his daughter's teddy bear WB. The bear was called WB because when she was little and was asked to name it, she called it White Bear. WB is no longer white, after more than two decades of love. WB has been sewed up a few times but is still part of her life. WB's value comes from being loved.
So with us. Our value comes from God loving us.
2) Jesus reached out for those at risk.
Jesus was all about the lost, the last and the least, Mr. Walter said. This is good news for the poor, the blind and the needy. Jesus identified with the poor and marginalized because He, too, was as such. In the end He was convicted of a crime He did not commit.
There is much in Scripture about God's concern for the marginalized, the orphan, the widow, the elderly, the broken. We cannot confess the centrality of the Word without embracing its major themes.
3) Reaches out to those who are culturally at odds.
The idea here is that the Gospel brings together divergent groups into God's family. The Apostle Paul noted that there were three primary fault lines amongst people; Class, Race and Gender. In the Gospel these barriers are erased, the walls that divide are knocked down. The Covenant says, "We're in it together."
We still have a long way to go. It is community the world longs for.
God is love. Seeking, healing, reconciling.
Art Greco once said, "Live a life worthy of those who have lived their lives for you."
What does all this mean to us? The Covenant Church was once the size of a man's hand. And today it is 800 churches... to carry God's mission to a hurting world.
Photo: New Life Covenant has two adult Sunday School classes which meet downstairs at 9:00 a.m. during the children's Sunday School hour.