The sacrament of communion represents one of God’s covenants to us.
In 2005 I became a member of Wesley United Methodist Church in Jefferson City, Missouri. I was excited to make this public commitment to “my” church. I had not officially belonged to a church prior to 2005, and although I had grown up in a variety of churches I really didn’t understand what being a member meant. It was through a short portion of a Sunday morning service that I started to understand the concepts of “covenants” and what my role in this new covenant relationship for me meant.
During my profession of faith I agreed “to faithfully participate in the ministry of The United Methodist Church through my prayers, my presence, my gifts and my service.” While on that day I was filled with joy to be welcomed into my church family, the impact of this covenant I had made with The United Methodist Church was not fully understood until I started seeing others make this same profession of faith and I now was on the congregational side supporting their public statement. I started asking myself, “Am I living up to the profession I made?” “Am I meeting my end of the agreement I made with the church?” For the most part I felt I was doing a pretty good job, but was there more?
During the 2008 General Conference, The United Methodist Church changed this vow to “faithfully participate in its ministries by their prayers, their presence, their gifts, their service, and their witness.” I remember my pastor bringing this change up and we all, as one church body, reaffirmed our profession of faith to include the new language. I again was filled with joy, knowing that I belonged to this church and was now also called into service with and for the church through the body of Christ. I was recommitted to living this statement out.
Reconciled to God
It has been 12 years since I made my public profession of faith. While I thought I had an understanding of the agreement I made with the church and the community of believers, it was not until I started studying the 2017 United Methodist Women spiritual growth study Living As a Covenant Community by Evy McDonald that I realized I still had a lot to learn. McDonald states, “Through all of the divine covenants, and particularly the everlasting covenant which Jesus established, God has provided a means by which we can always be reconciled to God and live in the manner what we are called to by God.” This profound statement helped me to start understanding where I have fallen short, where I need to continue to work, and that no matter my shortcomings I can always be reconciled to God. When I look at the amazing individuals with whom God made covenants I find it impossible to think God would call me to be in covenant. As I learn more about the cast of characters God used—Noah, Sarah, Abraham, Moses, David—I see that they too failed to act, they too fell short of the covenants God made with them. But God did not leave them. They failed and God stayed true to God’s covenant with them. God never turned away.
I am wandering at this very moment. My connection to my home church is broken. For the past year, I have not lived faithfully to my profession of faith. I have many excuses for falling short, but that’s all they are: excuses. But as I was studying McDonald’s book I have realized that I am the one that has damaged the covenant between God and I, not the other way around. God’s love is unfailing—it is us who think otherwise. No matter how far we have fallen, God still wants to be in relationship with us, to lead us and aid in our ability to live out our covenants. God wants us to be whole, and by following God’s call for us wholeness is possible.
As I continue to study the covenant relationship we have through Jesus’ teachings and actions I feel a desire to change, to become closer to God. McDonald references Jesus’ statement on what he was to do and in turn what we are to do: “We are to bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, and let the oppressed go free.” McDonald goes on to state, “It was like Jesus’ mission statement.” It is through this “mission statement” that we begin to seek how we are to live as disciples in our relationship to others and God. To become more faithful individuals and to find ways through our gifts and talents to aid those that need help.
Meeting needs in community
There is so much need in our world and our communities. It is through the work of United Methodist Women that we can become connected with those who need to hear the good news and hear their good news in return. At times I become overwhelmed because the need is so great. God has given each of us gifts and talents—and one another—to meet our needs and the needs of others and in doing so build God’s kin-dom.
John Wesley’s covenant prayer begins, “I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.” Through this year’s spiritual growth study I am excited to see how we, United Methodist Women, will come together as a covenant community and learn how God’s will for us will be used. How will God lead us to serve? How will we grow as disciples through these experiences? It is through this shared learning experience that we will find the ways God will use each of us to come together as a community of faith. I am excited to continue to grow in my relationship with God and excited to see the journey God is leading me on. I challenge each of you to take some time and commit to learning and growing in your covenant relationship with God and allowing God to show you how God’s plans to continue to use you and us together to create a world in which all can thrive.
Stephanie Greiner is the communications coordinator for the Mid-State District of the Missouri Conference United Methodist Women and full-time e-learning curriculum design specialist for the Missouri Department of Corrections in Jefferson City.