Monday, May 29, 2006

The Nugget, June 2006

You bestow upon us your Holy Spirit…
binding in covenant faithful people
of all ages, tongues, and races.

The theme for the recently concluded Annual Meeting of our Northern California – Nevada UCC Conference at Asilomar was "In Covenant… God is Still Speaking." It was a terrific weekend for the 8 of us that represented our congregation in Pacific Grove and enjoyed the fellowship, the weather, the setting and the activities. So what that there was a little rain. So what that it tended to be cool and a little foggy. The fellowship and the activities more than made up for it. All in all it was a very pleasant and enjoyable few days.

The theme of the Asilomar weekend brought home to me once more that God is still speaking. And what God has to say is inextricably bound up with the covenant we share with one another, the bond that unites us, as a congregation and in the wider church. God has never been one to speak in a vacuum, nor one who speaks just to me or just to you with a message irrelevant to our relationship.

Unfortunately there are those who say, “God does speak to ME, in a unique way, and I don’t care what you say, MY word from God is all that matters.” That sounds very affirmative, very assertive. The problem is it leaves out the covenant, the relationship we share with one another. But most alarmingly it ignores the fact that in covenant God’s people have ALWAYS understood God best.

In COVENANT God is still speaking. "We are members one of another," the apostle Paul said. “I am the vine, you are the branches,” Jesus said.

The Annual Meeting at Asilomar further reminded me that the Covenant we share is a covenant between a collection of rainbow people who are very diverse. And in that diversity we find our uniqueness and our joy. And confirmation of our obedience to God through Jesus Christ.

I heard a news report not long ago that referred to our 7th President, Andrew Jackson. In 1829, when Jackson was sworn in as President, all his old buddies from the South descended on the White House and created quite a stir. They ate like it was their last meal, tracked mud into the mansion, swung from the drapes, spat tobacco, and just about wrecked the furniture. To elect Andrew Jackson meant having to deal with those he counted as friends, much to the chagrin of the elite in Washington, D.C.

It is the same with Jesus and the Covenant we share as Jesus people. He does not come alone into our hearts and affections. He always brings somebody with him. Often those somebodies are the lost, the least and the last. Often they are what we call losers or rejects or undesirables.

Not only does Jesus bring with him bodies you won’t see in Esquire or Cosmopolitan, he brings work to do. And the work is often among the poor or the outcast or the despised of this world. The work he brings is also among the richest among us, who are sometimes among the poor in spirit. Jesus comes to us offering us covenant with persons we would not choose, had we the choice, and with work we probably wouldn’t normally select.

As God’s covenant people in this place at this particular time, we are invited to love all those God loves, to help those God seeks for the circle of God’s love. To do otherwise is to miss the nature of being in covenant, the covenant through which “God is Still Speaking.”

Special blessings to the family of Bob Henning. He and Mary were scheduled to attend the Annual Meeting but had to cancel when his sister in Elk Grove died unexpectedly. And special thanks to Rev Al Valentine who filled in for me, and to all of you who had to pick up the slack while the 8 of us were away at Asilomar.

Steve Shepard, Interim Pastor