“I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.”
“No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the LORD," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Show up. Be Yourself. Love your neighbor. Know that God loves you. These four categories are the basics of the covenant community that I use when working with our youth in our Middle School and High School youth gatherings.
The first aspect of developing a relationship with another is to Show Up – to be there – one cannot be in relationship alone. We cannot be a community without each other. We are better when you are here with us, and we are a worthy place to bring your gifts and skills into fulfillment.
Next, Be Yourself. Who you are, who you are becoming, you are created in the image of God, and you are amazing. We want to know you, not the person everyone says you should be, or who you think you are supposed to be, but the you that is right there at your center – that’s who we want to know, and that is who we want you to know how to be.
Love your neighbor. In order to be a community where it is safe to be yourself, to be vulnerable, it is important that you respect your neighbor, their personhood, their ideas; their ways of being that may be different than your own. Living up to this expectation of others means expecting that they will treat you with the same respect. Remember too, that your neighbor may also be in need, and so when the opportunity to help another comes along, remember your invitation, your command, to love your neighbor, and to serve them as you are able, again, having faith that they would help you in your time of need, given the opportunity and the means.
Finally, in all that we do, in all that we teach, in all that we live by as a community of faith, we are to live by the following truth: Know that God loves you. As a Christian community, we are called together in confidence that when we gather together, Christ is among us, God loves us, and we are to love God, in our prayers, and in our interactions with one another.
Show up, be yourself, love your neighbor, know that God loves you. These established covenant agreements are based on God’s invitation again and again to his people that we are called into relationship with God and one another. As a church community, a people of faith, these covenant agreements aren’t bad directives to live by as we interact with one another, and with our Rock Hill community.
After all, if we remember to love our neighbor, we’ll introduce ourselves to those who are visiting our church on a Sunday morning, or invite a friend in need into this community that is at its best when caring for its brothers and sisters in Christ.
If we remember to be ourselves, we’ll give people an authentic look at who we are, what we care about, and what we need from one another.
If we remember that we are loved by God, we will remember the covenant relationship that God has renewed with us again and again – not of our doing, not of our reaching out and asking, but of God’s own self-giving through the incarnation, the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The indications of this kind of simple community covenant is the reminder that we are loved, that who we are matters, that we have work to do, and even if we are not perfect, even if we make mistakes, God’s love for us, and forgiveness of us is real.
The new covenant that came into being through Jesus’ life, ministry and death and resurrection is what he is suggesting to those gathered around in our Gospel reading – those who were his closest companions, and those strangers outside of the circle who came seeking to know this Jesus they had heard of.
"Sir, we wish to see Jesus."
Jesus’ response to this, through our Gospel writer John’s telling, is the foretelling of a path towards a new covenant that is unexpected – a path that begins in the growth of something new, the passing away of that new thing, thus allowing yet more new life to spring up for the many. Jesus, the man, would pass away into death, so that new life, and hope of the resurrection, and thus, eternal life in Christ would come into the world. We share this story of covenant and of that new life in our gathering here as a covenant community. We nourish ourselves with the fruit that was born out of it through our communal gathering at the table, and our community relationship with one another. And each week as we gather for our sacramental living out of that covenant, the words on our lips, and on our hearts are, “we wish to see Jesus.”
So how are we to see Jesus?
His words follow:
“Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.”
To follow Jesus means to go into the difficult places – the places where the most need is in the world.
Sometimes the difficult places are inside of us, inside our own hearts and lives – seeing the sin and sadness that keeps us from drawing nearer to God. And thus we are called to reconcile ourselves to God – to face our sin, to ask for forgiveness and to allow ourselves to be forgiven. For if we stay in those dark places, we will be of no use to ourselves, or to our world in need.
By following the invitation to show up – to be ourselves, to love our neighbor, and to know that God loves us, we build the strength to go to those places where we may see Jesus. As we draw near the end of Lent, and reflect on the opportunity the season has offered us, to allow the old things to pass away, and new things to take root in our lives and in our practices, I invite you to wonder if that new thing may mean letting go of the idea that “I’m too busy to “do” anything else, and to consider those things that we have let go of, and whether they still have a place in our lives when the season of Lent comes to an end.
I invite you to consider going to the places where Jesus is, to meet and be in relationship with the people in our community who serve their neighbors, not just in kind, but by Showing Up. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Go to these places. Open your eyes, open your hearts and open your hands to the real presence of Christ in those who are served, and those who serve. Jesus is there. I invite you to go there too. And when you do, remember:
Show up, be yourself, love your neighbor, know that God loves you. Amen.
Delivered by the Rev. Mary Catherine Enockson
Sunday, March 29, 2009
The Episcopal Church of Our Saviour, Rock Hill, SC