Aristotle once said, “Hope is a waking dream.” There is this rich connection between God’s hope and God’s dream for our lives and the world. Yet both take an active willingness to be part of the hope and part of the dream. This willingness comes from a commitment that must be made and re-made- to be so bold, faithful, or eager that we never let go of the dream and the hope that God has promise to us through this word ‘covenant.’
Last Sunday we talked about this world covenant and how it is connected to the dream God has for us. The covenant refers to a commitment or a promise that is made between two people. The covenant that God makes with creation is a binding agreement that God chooses to be bound to us; to always be connected and pursuing a relationship of love with us. It seems as though this is not just a commitment, but a dream that God has for us- that we be drawer closer. As the covenant suggests, we have to do our part, we have to live into the covenant.
One way we can do this in our faith is through living out the membership vows of The United Methodist Church. The vows say this:
“Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and put your whole trust in his grace?”
"As members of this congregation, will you faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness?"
These five words- prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness, encompass the different ways we live into this covenant and draw closer to God and our faith community. Prayer helps connect us to God and God’s will, and it helps strengthen the bonds of Christian community as people pray with and for each other. Presence is an invitation to be exposed to the teachings of Christ and the church that impact and shape values, priorities, desires, expectations, and life direction. Gifts challenge us to invest in something larger than ourselves; to take what we have, connect it to the giving of others, and create something that will honor and glorify God. Service is where we put ourselves on the line to do something — to be the body of Christ. Finally in our witness we praise, glorify and worship our God with not only our actions, but also our words.
What we find begins to happen as we live into this commitment is that not only does our faith strengthen, but the ability to see the dreams God has for us also strengthens. Growing in our faith clarifies the vision- we see more clearly the people God has called us to be, the church that our community needs, the loving support that we can give to each other, and the resilient faith that we can hold onto in the face of struggles.
For me this covenant with God and our church is worth following and worth rededicating my life to. I know there will be days when I fail or struggle to keep this commitment to the fullest, but I believe in a God of grace that wraps me in love and challenges me to remain faithful. Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a book called “Big Magic” and in it she says “You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.”
Jeremiah 31 says: "Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt…"But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
What a hopeful and grace-filled covenant that we are God’s people! What does it look for us to commit to this covenant? How do we live with this covenant written on our hearts?
This Sunday we are going to continue to talk about the dreams God has for us and how we take part in them.
See you Sunday!
PS- In speaking about the ‘gifts’ piece of our membership vows, I want to invite you to participate in our Annual Campaign, which supports the operating ministries of the church. My prayer and dream is that every household in our church makes a pledge of commitment to Christ and the church for 2018. If we are going to be the church God dreams us to be, then we need full participation. Not every household can do the same amount, but every household can do something. I hope you will make your commitment today. We would like to receive your pledge before the end of January. To make your pledge online today, click here.