Psalm 145: 9-10 “The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made. All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your faithful shall bless you.”
This Sunday, November 19, is Covenant Sunday for Penn Northeast Conference. We hope you are using some of the worship resources we provided, and perhaps using the video produced by the Generosity Team. Patty will include links to both in this issue of This Week.
As I was thinking about covenant, I was drawn back to the covenants in scripture: God’s covenant with Noah after the flood; God’s covenant with Abram after God requested he move to a new place; God’s covenant with the Israelites as Moses led them out of bondage; and Jesus’ call to a new covenant in his life and God’s love. Covenant are promises, but more than one-minute promises, they are guidance for relationships in the present and in the future. It’s not always easy to keep a covenant. Keeping faith in a covenant requires work, dedication, and commitment.
When the United Church of Christ was formed as a denomination, we incorporated covenant into our relationships between the settings of the church. The local church, as the center of our denomination, had a lot of autonomy in decision-making – about their pastors, their buildings, their budgets, their missions, and mission giving. Yet, the local congregations were called to act with that autonomy in covenant, in the promise to listen, seek, understand, and respect the words and the actions of the other settings of the church. Sometimes we forget that to be in covenant with is not the same as agreeing with every word spoken by every person in every setting of the church. Just as pastors have freedom in their pulpits, Conference leaders have freedom in their preaching, teaching, and writing, and the national setting and their staff also have that same freedom. We do not need to agree, but we are in covenant with each other, called to listen well and remain in relationship – even or maybe especially when we disagree.
Recently two churches have left the denomination because they disagree with the “doctrine” of the United Church of Christ. Friends, we have NO doctrine. We have a firm belief that Jesus is the head of the church, that there is a triune God, that we can come together in unity about the essentials of our faith, but we can acknowledge diversity of thought, opinion, belief, and words in everything else. We, in the UCC, are different from hierarchical denominations. We do not tell each other what to say, believe, or even do. We merely, or maybe essentially, request a covenantal love, respect, and care for one another as we journey in faith.
This Covenant Sunday I will celebrate my covenantal relationships with our local churches and with the national setting. I will celebrate the diversity and gift that is the United Church of Christ. Will you join me?