Claiming the covenant is not a Finish Line.
If you marry someone, you make a covenant vow; the wedding is not the finish line. Going forward you make daily choices to love and to cherish. Getting a driver’s license is not a finish line; going forward you follow the rules of the road, honoring your covenant with society.
The Bible is full of people who wanted to turn back. The Israelites wanted to go back to slavery in Egypt rather than face the hard work their freedom required. Jesus reprimanded disciples who wanted to turn back: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for God’s kingdom (Luke 9:62).” John Wesley understood temptation; he regularly confessed his own backsliding. “We must resolve, in God’s strength,” Wesley said, “never to go back.”
Choose Faithfulness is a really important step in renewing our covenant with God. In his classic sermon, The Duty of Constant Communion, Wesley confessed: temptation and sin come knocking at my door every day; I need God’s grace every day. Therefore, I need, we need, to receive Holy Communion as often as we can. Our Lord’s Supper heals and nourishes us, giving us strength to choose faithfulness and keep our covenant promise.
In addition to Holy Communion, Wesley calls us to take up two types of actions.
- God calls us to do things that are pleasing, even pleasurable; like teaching children and youth, sharing our lives with loving friends, singing in the choir, working in the pumpkin patch, finding inspiration in Bible reading, finding peace and serenity in quiet prayer, and many more.
- God calls us to do things that are hard, even costly. Forgive others. Pray for enemies. Turn the other cheek. Take up our cross.
In this category, many of us would include giving our money. Honestly, sometimes I look at the thousands of dollars I give to this church every year and I think, “wow, that would make for a really nice cruise around the islands. I work hard; I deserve it.” Truth is, God has blessed me greatly. I’m part of a loving family. I have a decent home. I enjoy good health and meaningful work. But I choose to put God first, to not to be ruled by money, like an Ebenezer Scrooge. Sacrificing a portion of my income every month, I invest in God’s work. Our children are grown; and yet, Bobbi Kaye and I still invest in ministries for children and youth. We invest in mission projects, worship music, and all manner of Christian ministries, many of which don’t serve us personally; they serve you, and the thousands of souls who come to TUMC. I’d be lying if I said this was always easy for me; but pledging and giving my money is one important way I choose faithfulness to God and God’s covenant community, right up there with prayers, presence, service, and witness. This week, I invite you to join me in saying, both in word and deed, Yes, Lord, I will follow you; you can count on it, because you can count on me.
Gracious God, thank you for calling us to a higher purpose and surrounding us with sojourners along the way. Grant us the ability to fulfill our duties, those that are comfortable and those that are challenging, with diligence, perseverance, and faithfulness. Amen.
Rev. David Gilliam
Want to know more?
Read John Wesley’s sermon, “The Duty of Constant Communion,” found online at the Wesley Center Online.
“It is no wonder that men who have no fear of God should never think of doing this. But it is strange that it should be neglected by any that do fear God, and desire to save their souls; And yet nothing is more common…”