This Sunday is All Saints Sunday. It is also our Stewardship Sunday, where we gather as a community and bless our unified pledge commitment. As much as I like the stewardship tag, I prefer Covenant. This Sunday will be our Covenant Sunday because that is one of the moments when we express, in a tangible way, the depth of our relationship with God - when we commit to flying in a V-formation.
As I reflected on our covenant with God, I was reminded of Jesus' words from the gospel of John: “If the Son sets you free, you must be free indeed.” It is telling that our relationship with God has never been contractual because contracts invite enforcement. But our relationship with God has never been about enforcement; it has always been about an outstretched hand inviting you to a dance. That, to me, explains why the Book of Revelations reminds us with these words: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” The message from this reading is that the onus is squarely on each of us to respond to the invitation from God to be in a covenantal relationship with Him.
The reality is that Covenant with God is not only rooted and grounded in love, but it generates this powerful sense of obligation on God and all those who are part of the covenant.
Through the covenant with Noah, God promised not to curse the ground because of human action, nor will he ever destroy every living creature. And so when we see the rainbow over the horizon, we are reminded of God’s covenant with us.
Through the covenant with Abraham, we came to know that the Lord will provide, and the Lord provides for all who trust in his providential covenant. During good times and not-so-good times, we offer praise because we believe that the Lord provides, and we believe that the Lord is good.
Through the covenant with Moses, we came to know that our security came only from God. On Sinai, God revealed to us why we were created, why we were saved, why we are borne up on eagle’s wings, and what our purpose was - on the mountain, we discovered our destiny - we are covenant-keepers. More than that, we are God’s covenant partners who radiate this huge sense of obligation to each other, our community, and ourselves, quite similar to geese flying south in V-formation.
The story goes like this: the next time you see geese flying south in V-formation, you might be interested to know that as each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following them. By flying in a V-formation, the whole flock adds at least 71% more flying range than if each bird flew on its own. Christians who share a common direction and sense of community can also get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the uplift of one another.
Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone, and quickly gets back into formation. If we have at least as much sense as a goose, we'll stay in formation with those who have headed in the same direction as us. When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates to the back of the V, and another goose flies upfront. It pays to take turns doing hard jobs - with other people at church, or with geese flying south.
The geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. What do we say when we honk from behind? Finally, when a goose gets sick or is wounded and falls out, two geese fall out of formation and follow it down to help protect it. They stay with it until it is able to fly or perishes, and then they launch out on their own or with another formation to catch up with their original group. The geese who help one another, share. Sharing is both serving and giving. It is the essence of our obligation. It is a part of “stewardship.”
Each year, I try as much as possible to send a handwritten thank-you note to all those who commit themselves to upholding their sacred part of their covenantal relationship with God. This year will be no different. In fact, I have already started sending thank you notes to those who have returned their pledge cards.
It gives me great joy to reach out to you and thank you individually. But I want to share with you part of an email that I recently received from our treasurer. The treasurer believes that, based on the level at which we are redeeming our pledges, we may fall short of our overall goal. I, therefore, pray you to consider helping us meet our goal.
I am eternally grateful to each of you for all that you have given to Christ Church. I thank God for your lives and for being in a relationship with you. I thank you for making Christ Church a part of your life, and I want to invite you to prayerfully reflect on the covenant you have with God.
And so, on this All Saints Sunday - on our Covenant Sunday - if we are to fly in V-formation to the place where God wants us to be, we will need you as a part of God’s flock.
Thank you for being a part of the formation.