Contract or Covenant - Scott Dickison
There are certain words we toss around a lot in church, so much so that at times I wonder if we become dulled to their meaning. Covenant is one of these words, which is especially unfortunate because in the Bible the word covenant is anything but dull. In fact, in Hebrew, covenants are not signed or made, but “cut.” Two parties come together to “cut a covenant,” referencing the ancient practice of sealing a covenant with an animal sacrifice.
God cuts covenants all over the Bible, particularly the in Old Testament: with Adam in Eve in the garden, Noah after the flood, Abraham, Isaac, Israel, King David and the list goes on and on.
Today we still use the language of covenant in our most spiritually rich moments. At baby dedications we ask the family to covenant to raise the child in the church to the best of their abilities, and the church covenants that they’ll be there to love and support them along the way. At marriage ceremonies the couple covenants their love and support “’til death do” them part. And on Founder’s Day we reaffirm our covenant to be church for, to and with one another.
Now, it might be tempting to think that covenant is simply another word for a regular old contract, and there are certainly some similarities. There are two parties, expectations are listed, and even at time consequences are outlined. But there are also important differences, most importantly the spirit out of which the parties involved come together.
In a contract, the two sides come from a position of distrust to hold the other accountable. In a covenant, the two sides come from a position of love, and wish to formally declare what they will bring to the relationship, and how come. In a wedding ceremony, for instance, if the two sides merely wished to sign a contract to hold the other accountable, serious questions would be raised about whether or not they should be getting married in the first place! Instead, they come together in a spirit of love to declare to each other and before God the depth of their love and how they wish to show it.
In our church covenant we declare to each other and before God the depth of our love and how we wish to show it. As we reaffirm, or “recut” our covenant together in worship this Sunday, I encourage you to think deeply about these sacred words. Consider what they have meant to you in the past, and even new ways you might understand them in the future.
Founder’s Day is certainly a time of looking back on our rich heritage together, and the ways we have lived out our covenant together. But it’s also a time to reaffirm and re-envision the new fruits this covenant might bear.