At about this time every year in Australia, Church and community groups, schools and the media, are just starting to get back into full swing after the summer holidays. Some of us may feel refreshed after the break, while others may feel somewhat exhausted. Either way, we are faced with the year ahead and the question of how we will respond to God where we are.
The Covenant Service certainly invites us to make a very significant commitment, and no commissioning service should ever be taken lightly. Even so, the prior commitment that God makes is greater still, and it is there, with God, that we need to begin. The word “covenant” is not so common these days, but it represents a significant agreement between people. In biblical terms it reflects the bond between God and us, or in other words, the covenant love of God.
The first covenant recorded in the Bible is the rainbow Covenant in Genesis 9 – a covenant not just with Noah, but also with every living thing – and that is significant in the context of the devastating fires in many parts of the country. But we are reminded today of the new covenant that God makes with us – a new covenant we have come to associate with our Lord Jesus Christ. Here we come to one of the fundamental truths of our Faith. We love, because God first loved us. We are invited to a life of commitment because God has first committed to us. We respond to God’s prior initiative.
So, when we face a new year of ministry and mission in our Church, we do not begin with ourselves, but with God. As we focus on what God has done for us, and God’s provision – the bread for the journey – our own covenant commitment becomes much clearer. We might think of that in terms of a covenant for a good life, and to do that we take our cue from the prophet Micah.
There are no short cuts to the good life. Micah's people thought in terms of ritual actions and donations; but that is never enough. What God requires of us is never something external to ourselves, but rather something which rises out of the depths of our being. It is relationship God wants, and our giving, worship and service will rise out of relationship. "What does the Lord require of you?" asks Micah. If people know only one verse of Micah, it should be verse 8 of chapter 6, in which the answer is so well stated:
"He has showed you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God."
Clive W Ayre