31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
November 7, 2021
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Commitment – it’s a word that makes people uncomfortable these days. It’s a word people shy away from and are shy of. So some churches, believing that the word committee sounds too much like ‘commitment’, have renamed their committees ‘ministry teams’.
Frankly, here at FCC Bristol we have gone in the opposite direction. Years ago, we renamed Stewardship Sunday – Commitment Sunday, and last year when the Stewardship committee tried renaming the pledge card an estimate of giving card– so people would not feel uncomfortable about committing to a financial pledge – well, many in this community spoke up loud and clear about their desire to pledge, to commit their money to Christ’s ministry.
For the last decade plus, I have seen how committed the Christians of FCC Bristol are in honoring their financial pledges. Where some churches assume that 5 or 10% of their pledges will not be fulfilled, our church’s financial history is one of 98, 99, sometimes over 100% pledge fulfillment – because this community of Christ understands that commitment is not a bad word; commitment is not a burden. Commitment, committing to God and the way of Jesus Christ, is a blessing.
Commitment is a blessing. And we say that well aware that commitment comes with expectations. Committing to a relationship with someone else means you promise to be there, to be attentive and to listen, to offer love, devotion, and support as you walk this life together.
When we commit to this community of faith, we are promising to participate in this congregation’s praise of God. We commit to being united in Christ’s love. We promise to pay attention to each other and our shared ministry. We pledge our gifts – our time, our energy, our financial resources, our presence, as we walk this life together.
The same is true of our commitment to God. Long ago, God’s people were struggling with what this relationship between God and the community looked like. They were asking God, ‘What do you want from me?!’ as we often can do in the midst of a fight. ‘What do you want from me?! Do you want burnt offerings? Do you want the sacrifice of a thousand rams or ten thousand rivers of oil? What do you want from me, God? Tell me your expectations for this relationship.’
And through the prophet Micah, God says, ‘My only expectations are that you will do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly, walk attentively, walk faithfully with me.”
Micah’s words echo those spoken generations before and recorded in the book of Deuteronomy:
So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being. (Deuteronomy 10:12)
Words Jesus repeats for God’s people. What does God expect of us? What does God require of us.
“Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)
What are God’s expectations for our relationship with the One who created us, redeemed us, and sustains us through all of life’s ups and downs?
God expects us to faithfully walk with God as God faithfully walks with us – and that means loving God and loving our neighbor, doing justice and loving kindness. Walking faithfully with God means committing to God’s ways and to the building of God’s kingdom, God’s community here on earth, a place where all people might be seen, welcomed, nurtured and set free to share in making the world a place of God’s peace and love.
This is what we commit to when we say we are Christians; this is what we commit to when we say we are a part of the community of the First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Bristol, CT. We commit to doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly, attentively, faithfully with God.
And although this is a serious thing, although commitment comes with expectations, it is not a burden to us. It is a blessing to walk with God. It is a blessing to help build God’s community on earth and remind people that they are of great value, that they are God’s beloved children. It is a blessing to work for peace and justice, a blessing to share compassion and loving kindness – and see the fruits of our labors – lives changed for the better; our world changed for the better.
Commitment, committing to God, committing to the way of Jesus Christ, committing to the community and ministry of the First Congregational Church, is a blessing. It fills our lives with blessings.
So I invite you on this Commitment Sunday to make a commitment….
On this Commitment Sunday, may we all be blessed with the courage to commit to Christ’s way – doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly, faithfully with our God.