Summary: A sermon preached at a Methodist Covenant Service

I have a great admiration for the commitment of those people who spend hours and hours, months, years even, trying to develop things, trying to invent new things. Some are more successful than others of course.

One man called Arthur Pedrick patented 162 inventions between 1962 and 1977. None of his inventions were taken up commercially. Among his inventions were a bike that could be ridden underwater; an arrangement whereby a care could be driven from the back seat; a scheme to irrigate the deserts of the world by sending a constant supply od snowballs from the polar regions through a network of giant peashooters; and a golf ball that could be steered in flight.

Great commitment, great dedication to the cause despite constant failure to succeed. I think we need these eccentrics to liven up our society. Life would much the worse without them.

Today we are renewing our covenant with God, rededicating ourselves to his work, recommitting ourselves to do whatever he calls us to do. Whether it brings reward our not, whether we really want to do it or not. Some would say that we are eccentrics, by committing ourselves to such a difficult and potentially awkward task.

Romans 12:1 ‘Therefore I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.’

Paul’s Letter to the Romans

In his letter to the Romans Paul was introducing himself to the Christians there, and to give them a sample of his message. It seems that he had finished his work in the east and he planned to visit Rome on his way to Spain after first taking a collection to Jerusalem for the poor Christians there.

As with most of his letters Paul follows a pattern. It’s clear from reading his letters, Romans in particular, that he has a deep thinking mind and that he can grapple with deep truths. And he sets them out in his letters.

Despite wrestling with deep theological truths and ideas in his writings he usually ends his letters in a very practical way. The major content of his letters may be difficult to understand, but he usually ends up with some sound practical advice.

Romans 12:1 ‘Therefore I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.’

What Paul is saying is that, in view of all that God has done for us, in view of the theology that he sets out in his letter, what should our response be? And the answer Paul gives to that question is that we should offer the whole of ourselves to him in worship and service.

In view of all that God has done

‘In view of God’s mercy’. Travelling through Germany on his way to Paris, Count Zinzendorf stopped for a while in Dusseldorf where there was a good collection of paintings. He went into an art gallery for a while. He came to a picture of Christ on the cross. He stood there, transfixed by the scene and he read the words that the artist, Steinberg, had added ‘All this I did for thee. What has thou done for me?

That was a turning point for Zinzendorf’s life. Abandoning his journey to Paris he returned home and gave his life, and all that he had, to Christ. He became the leader of the Moravian Church which is still strong in some parts of the UK. The Moravians had a great influence on John Wesley on the boat to America where he was so full of admiration for their courage and faith in the midst of a storm.

He understood what God had done for him in Christ and just had to respond. So what has God done for us?

Creation – he has created this wonderful world in which we live, the beach, sea, hills and mountains, the valleys and streams. Stand on the top of a mountain, sit on a lonely beach and look out to sea and find God’s creation all around us.

Skills and talents – all the gifts and talents and skills we have come from God. Our gifts of poetry and music, reading and writing, singing, playing, listening, painting, manual skills. When we realise that it was God who gave us these skills and talents we begin to realise what he has done for us

Christ – but above all God has given us Jesus, a special gift which we have just celebrated at Christmas. But Christmas is just part of the story. A nice, cosy part, a lovely part. But the gift of Jesus goes much further than the nice manger scene that we have gazed on.

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