A COVENANT NOT A CONTRACT
A new year has begun. In fact, it’s well underway. For those of us who still pay our bills by check, we have to remember to write “2018” instead of “2017” on them. For those of us who annually commit ourselves to improving certain aspects of our lives, it’s that time for those proverbial “New Year’s resolutions.” (Some, or even many, of which may have already fallen by the wayside at this point!) And for those of us who are a part of the faith community known as Hope Lutheran Church, it’s time once again to sign the “Hope Lutheran Family Covenant.”
This practice of annually recommitting oneself to the ministry of the congregation was first popularized in the 1960’s, back when Hope was being formed. In response to all that God has done for us we, in turn, promise to do certain things and to make certain commitments in our lives.
Thus, as we read in the Hope Lutheran Family Covenant: Having been called into a living, loving relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we desire to respond with a covenant in which we express our intent to:
Actively participate in the worship services and programs of the church.
Make diligent use of the Means of Grace -
God’s Word and Sacraments – Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Prayerfully consider giving a proportion of our substance to support the work of the Congregation and The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Live a Christian life in accord with God’s Word.
Assume a ministry for Christ as dictated by our talents.
It then concludes with the words, This is our covenant with God and by the help of God.
Notice, however, that we, in fact, use this word “covenant,” and not the word “contract.” That’s because, while closely related, they are really not the same thing. In our lives, we define a whole host of relationships by contracts. They usually involve financial transactions for goods and services. Home and auto loans, for example, are contracts. Each side promises to do certain things. The seller promises to provide said home or car; while the buyer promises to pay the agreed-upon price. But here’s the thing. When either the buyer or the seller fails to deliver on those promises, the contract is thereby broken.
In a covenant, however, specifically the kind of covenants we find in the Bible between God and God’s people, there is a major difference. If you fail to pay back the loan for that home or car, the contract is broken and the bank will foreclose on your house, or repossess your car. But, in sharp contrast, even if you fail to fulfill the promises you make with God; believe it or not, God will never withdraw God’s promises! In other words, God continues to bless our lives and to love us unconditionally, no matter how faithful or unfaithful we may be.
Thus, freed from the fear that we might somehow lose God’s loving grace and favor by failing to keep our promises, we are also set free then to fully commit our lives to God and to God’s church without worrying about how things will turn out. As I like to tell our catechism students, “There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. And there is absolutely nothing we can ever do to make God love us less!
In baptism, God makes a covenant with us; a covenant that God will never break. And, trusting in that promise, we respond by offering our lives to God’s mission and ministry in the world; a commitment to the mission and ministry that is summarized by our Hope Lutheran Family Covenant.
So I encourage you, if you have not already, to sign our Hope Covenant and I look forward to striving with you to live it out in the coming year!