This Sunday is an important one in the life of our community as we renew our Covenant with God. It is essential that as we do so, we come with hearts and minds prepared for this time of celebration and commitment. Below are a few thoughts to help with our understanding and preparations.
The meaning of “covenant”
The word “covenant” did not originate with the people of Israel, though it is used throughout Scripture in reference to the mutual relationship between them and God.
It was, in fact, a legal term used by the nations who neighboured them to refer to a binding agreement between two equal parties which set out the privileges, roles, and responsibilities of both. These covenants were often accompanied by a sign or a ritual to seal the agreement, like the sacrifice of an animal, the exchange of a blood bond, or -in more modern terms – the giving of rings during a marriage ceremony.
Covenant in the Old Testament
According to Covenant Theology (our study of the relationship between God and humanity as specifically relating to covenant), God intended a covenantal relationship with us right from the very beginning of creation – creating a perfect paradise for Adam and Eve to enjoy with God eternally, provided that they obey God’s command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Through their disobedience, death and a sense of separation from God (sin) entered human experience. Yet throughout the Old Testament, we see God reaching out to initiate new covenant relationships – with Noah, with Abraham, with Moses, with David.
God promised to make them into God’s people, to give them a land to call their own, and to bless them from generation to generation. They, in turn, needed to trust and obey God; to live as a people set apart, holy; and to worship no other gods but Yahweh. The sign of this covenantal relationship was, of course, circumcision, which remains an important life event in Jewish families even today.
Jesus as the mediator of a New Covenant
Scripture tells us though that, like Adam and Eve, the people of Israel failed to live up to their covenant commitments.
Yet God persevered.
The prophets began to speak of a Messiah who would come to make a new covenant with his people (Jeremiah 31:31-34) and, indeed, in the life, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, we see God taking full responsibility to ensure our redemption from sin and death and our adoption as children of God
(Galatians 4:4-5) so that we can enjoy a better covenant (Hebrews 7:22).
As you consider how God has taken the initiative throughout history to ensure that we enjoy intimacy and eternity with God, what are your thoughts and feelings – towards God, about yourself?
Every time we share in the sacred meal of Holy Communion, we have the opportunity to remember that it is Christ’s blood poured out for every stubborn, selfish sinner (including you and me) that ensures our forgiveness and makes possible for us the gift of eternal life.
Wesley’s emphasis on Covenant Renewal
Yet even though we live under a new covenant made possible by God’s initiative and Christ’s sacrifice, such a covenant should not be taken lightly or treated as a “get out of jail free” card.
That is why, each year, as Methodists, we have the opportunity to remember and renew our covenant with God and to offer, from a place of deep love and gratitude, our voluntary commitment to penitence, obedience, and the deliberate striving for holiness to the glory of our holy God.
Our Covenant Services
This year, in addition to our Covenant services on Sunday at 7:30a.m., 9a.m. and 11a.m., we are also offering a time of prayer and preparation on Saturday from 9a.m. to 10a.m. We hope that you will utilise the opportunity to come close to God, as God desires to come close to you.
Furthermore, if you are new to the concept of covenant or the community, you may want to reflect further on its implications for your life. Please use the following material from last year’s devotions as a guide to deepening your covenant commitment: Covenant reflections.
And may the God of peace equip you with everything good for doing God’s will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him through Christ Jesus, to whom be glory forever and ever.
Yours in Christ