KOINONIA – some of you hopefully recognized that word when it was spelled correctly by 14-year-old Texan Karthik Nemmani to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee last week. Koinonia is a word that I repeat in my benediction each week to the puzzlement of visitors and perhaps some of you, a word that graces the pages of Scripture again and again, a word that is difficult to translate into a single English word. The adoption of koinonia by English from the original Greek seems appropriate since we can’t find a better way to say it. At its heart, koinonia is communion, fellowship, and participation together. Wikipedia doesn’t always get it right, but its description of koinonia is well stated: “Koinonia identifies the ideal state of fellowship and unity that should exist within the Christian church, the Body of Christ.” It is that glue that binds us together in community with one another and with the saints across the ages. It is the active work of the Holy Spirit in our midst, calling us to be in relationship with one another and with God.
This week we will welcome Sarah Wolf into our Covenant family as our Associate Pastor, and how we welcome her will say something of the strength of koinonia in our midst. Welcome her with open arms. Share your name with her again and again for she has 460+ new faces to try to connect with a name. Listen to her story and share your own story with her. Extend to her God’s grace and love, so that through you she may experience what is offered in my benediction each week: the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the koinonia of the Holy Spirit!
John Peterson

Memorial Day

Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of summer, especially with temperatures climbing and local school years ending just before the weekend’s arrival.  At risk of being lost in the race to embrace summer is Memorial Day itself and its intended purpose: to honor those who died while serving in our nation’s armed forces. For about 150 years in various parts of the country and in various forms, Memorial Day (or Decoration Day as it was known because of the decorating of soldiers’ graves) has been observed. “No one has greater love than this – to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” says Jesus. In I John we hear that sentiment echoed: “We know love by this, that Jesus laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” On Memorial Day we recognize those who laid down their lives for us in service to the nation and thus showed great love for their friends, those they knew and those they never knew, except as fellow citizens. We may fairly debate the merits of the causes for which they were sent to fight but on this weekend we honor all those who went and served and died because they placed their lives at risk on our behalf.

Last Sunday evening the Session revised a policy with regard to funerals at Covenant for those who have served in the armed forces. If the casket is to be in the sanctuary a pall of white silk is usually used to cover the casket during the service or the casket is left uncovered; a national flag for someone who has served his/her nation will now be permitted to serve as the pall covering the casket, if that is the family’s desire. In life and in death we all belong to God regardless of nationality; the flag simply recognizes service to the nation as we gather to celebrate the life of a loved one who has died and to affirm God’s promises in Christ for him or her and for us all!

John Peterson

Why Attend Church?

What are your “family musts?” Going to school, eating vegetables, going to church, using manners, caring for those in need…? What do you and your family claim as non-negotiable? The Ten Commandments have been a topic of conversation for the YOUth as of late. This month at YOUth Group, we discussed this Cardversations question: “You have been invited to join an elite traveling sports team that will give you the chance to compete against the best young athletes in the country and to be noticed by college scouts. Unfortunately, playing on the team would mean being on the road every weekend and missing Sunday worship and any youth retreats. What should you do?” Wow! We wrestled with an answer to this question.
God calls us to respect the Sabbath and keep it holy. Based on this commandment, the above question should be an easy one to answer. And 20, 30, 40 years ago the question would not even have been presented; society ran with a respect for the Christian church. Today, this question is not an easy one to answer.

Times have changed. Christians are having to make the religious choices that Jews, Muslims, and many other religious sects have had to make for a long time now. Faith is no longer a convenience, but a tough choice. Tough choices are when the “family musts” come in: “You don’t like vegetables, but we must eat what is good for our bodies;” “You don’t want to go to school, but we must get an education;” “You don’t want to go to church, but we must worship with our faith community.”

Respecting the Sabbath is an increasingly tough choice. While the priority of sports appeals to the youth, we can insert any number of things in its place. Perhaps: “I worked hard all week and just want one day where I don’t have anything to do;” “I can’t sit still for an hour service;” “I want to have the freedom to read my book or check my phone;” “I don’t want to fight this battle with my kids every week;” “I won’t enjoy the service with all the commotion in the pew behind me.” Perhaps your tough choice is something else.

Equipping ourselves and others to make tough choices is part of being and raising the next generation of free-thinkers. When pushed from many directions, we cling to our “musts” to make wise decisions. Families, both intentionally and unintentionally, instill a set of values that form the “musts” in their children’s lives. What do you think of the “family musts” you grew up with? What intentional “musts” are you living? What unintentional “musts” may need a bit of attention? My prayer during this season of Easter is that our “musts” will align with God’s “musts,” bringing love, joy, and hope first to God, then to our lives and the lives of those we touch.
                                                                                                                        — Laura Lawson, Director of Youth