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Can you remember when you became a part of the church? 

For some, it feels like you have never been anywhere but the church. You were born into it, baptized into it, grew up in it, confirmed in it, married in it, and been part of it your entire life. For others, church is a place they found perhaps later in life, maybe as a young person or as someone returning after a time away. One thing we all have in common, though, when we became part of it, we became part of a greater covenant.

I can remember going to church some as a kid. I went from time to time with my grandfather when we visited. I remember my family going to church for a while with our neighbor’s family at their church. I can remember going to Vacation Bible school off and on. But I don’t remember church being a truly regular part of our lives until I was in high school. The summer before my freshman year, my father had a cardiac arrest and nearly died. A few weeks after, one of my mother’s work friends invited her to their church and other than a year or so during my college years, I have been part of a church since. 

One thing all these churches had in common: membership vows. Each one was a little different, each one held differing expectations, but each one called on those who wanted to be part of the church to live into a covenant, an agreement between each person who called themselves a member. Sometimes these covenants were more informal and assumed. If you wanted to be a part of that group, it was assumed by the leadership and the other members you already knew who they were and what they believed, and you agreed or at least you should when you asked to join them. Others were more formal. I remember joining the United Methodist Church and being asked if I,

Renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of the world, and repent of their sin;

Accept the freedom and power God gives them to resist evil, injustice, and oppression;

Confess Jesus Christ as Savior, put their whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as their Lord;

Would remain a faithful member of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world;

Would be loyal to Christ through The United Methodist Church and do all in their power to strengthen its ministries;

Would faithfully participate in its ministries by their prayers, their presence, their gifts, their service, and their witness;

Would receive and profess the Christian faith as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.[1]

—United Methodist Hymnal

As United Methodists, we see covenant as “…entering into and committing oneself to a continuing relationship. Christians see themselves as a people of a covenant with God.”[2]

The idea of covenant fills the pages of the bible. From God’s agreements with Adam, Noah, and Abraham to those of Moses and David, the Jewish scriptures are infused with covenant. When we come to the New Testament or New Covenant, we find much of this affirmed or reaffirmed in the work of Jesus. In the passage were read, Jesus speaks of a covenant and agreement on attaining eternal life or perhaps another way of translating it might be a life of perpetual well-being. In the vein of Old Testament prophets, Jesus reiterates the necessity of care for the poor, the hurting, those in need. These represent a covenant relationship God has with those who have need but also a part of our covenant with God to act as God’s hands and feet.

How will you live into your covenant with God this year? Will it be like a New Year’s resolution that you start off strong with and then forget about by February? Will it be the beginning of something new and fruitful in your life? Will it not only change you but those around you as well?