Covenants

I’ve been playing phone tag the past couple of days with someone interested in possibly joining us for worship.  I like those sorts of phone calls, but they’re also a source of angst.  People that call with questions about possibly coming to church are sort of an interesting situation.  If they’re calling a Lutheran church, they have some sort of clue (usually) what it is that they might be dealing with.  In other words, they didn’t call the community church up the road or another denomination.  They called the Lutherans, which indicates a familiarity with Lutheranism.  But if they’re calling to ask more questions, then there are agendas at play, most likely.

It might have to do with worship style.  It might have to do with whether or not we’re “confessional”.  Today, it had to do with whether we’re affiliated with Reconciling in Christ.  I didn’t have time to look it up, so I simply said that no, we weren’t, but that we welcomed all people to worship.  Which is true.  I don’t care what your affiliation or persuasion or point of view is, everyone is welcome to join us to hear the Word of God.  
When I was able to look up RIC afterwards, it confirmed my hunch.  It’s an organization committed to furthering the support of alternative sexuality lifestyles in the Church, and particularly the Lutheran church.  You can join the organization by signing a covenant with their organization.  I was curious, and read through it.
Paragraph 1 – nothing very problematic here.  I can affirm everything in this paragraph.  However, I find it interesting that it avoids a lot of key Lutheran language, particularly terms like confession and repentance and forgiveness.  It emphasizes reconciliation – what does that mean to this group?  Reconciliation means that something was separating us from God – what is that thing?  It’s sin, of course.  And sin is a state of being contrary to God’s intended state of being for us.  It requires acknowledgment of our guilt, confession of it, repentance and the desire to live anew, and acceptance of the forgiveness of God.  Christ calls us to repentance and into forgiveness and grace.  None of that is indicated here, though.  It sounds as though Jesus’ primary concern is that we be honest with ourselves about who we are and live that identity out as honestly as possible, without considering whether that identity may not be pleasing to God or not.
Paragraph 2 – Again, good stuff here by and large, but again vague and non-specific.  Equality in Christ comes through confession and repentance and forgiveness.  It comes through recognizing that Jesus came to die and rise again for us because we are sinful and that it is our duty to identify our sinfulness and seek to die to it each and every day.  We can only come to the foot of the cross in that mode – in acknowledgement that He is our Lord and therefore He dictates what is and is not sinful.  We do not.  We are one body at his table only in this spirit of confession and forgiveness and grace, not aside from it.  God’s welcome extends through confession of sin and repentance, not aside from it or without it.  
Paragraph 3 – Reasonable still, though dangerously vague.  Is my church welcoming and inviting?  Of course!  Do I want anyone and everyone to come through our doors to hear the Word of God?  Of course!  But they’re going to hear the Word of God, and that may shock or offend them, as it often shocks and offends me.  Which drives us back to confession and repentance and forgiveness.  I am not free to include people that refuse the Word of God as the source and norm for their definitions of right and wrong.  As such – 
– people of every background and heritage are welcome, because God is the creator of all peoples, languages, skin colors, accents, etc.  
– people of all sexual orientations and identities are welcome to come and hear the Word of God, which will guide them into evaluating their orientations and identities to see if they are in keeping with the Word of God.  
– people of all relationship arrangements are welcome to come and hear the Word of God and what it has to say about their arrangements and whether or not those arrangements are pleasing to God.  If those arrangements are not pleasing to God according to his Word, then inclusion into our community of faith will involve honest efforts to change those arrangements, supported and encouraged by our community.
– people of all abilities are welcome to come and hear God’s Word.  Faith is not an intellectual exercise that requires a certain cognitive level. 
Final Paragraph – Follow not just in the steps of Christ, but in his words and teaching, which include the words and teaching of all of Scripture.
The phrasing is all generic and vague enough that, if the intentions of this organization weren’t more clearly obvious.  I could sign off on a covenant like this in good faith, but I strongly suspect they would not be at all happy with what I  preach and teach in this congregation.  Their people would definitely be welcome here to hear the Word of God, but they would find out that we take the Word of God seriously.  Sin is called sin here, whether it’s gossip, cheating on your taxes, living with your boyfriend, or engaging in an alternative sexuality lifestyle.  
I doubt that the person who called will be coming to worship.  They would be taking a big risk.  From their perspective, the risk is not being affirmed and encouraged in a particular belief or lifestyle.  From my perspective, their risk is the same as mine every day – being confronted with the living Word of God that convicts me of my sin, drives me to confession, comforts me with forgiveness, and bids me to go and sin no more.  
That’s a really big risk for every single person.  The most important risk and the most necessary risk in all our lives.  If God didn’t spare his own Son for you and I, He is not going to allow us the luxury of claiming that sin is acceptable.  That’s never a pleasant thing.  We all prefer to see our sin in less stark terms.  Which is why we need to hear the Word of God over and over and over again.  The only covenant that matters is the one written in Jesus’ blood.  No other covenant matters, and nothing can be added to His.  
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