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PAUL: Nurturing a Covenanting Community

St. Paul’s significance in the history of Christianity can

hardly be underestimated: an untiring missionary, the first

interpreter of the Good News of Jesus Christ to the Gentile world,

he is also the author of more New Testament books than any other

writer. Apostle Paul is an example of apostle-teacher, an apostle

who knows how to nurture a covenanting community. Even after

his arrest he continues to guide and nurture the congregation he

visited through his letters.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul shares his method of

nurturing a covenanting community. And I believe we can learn

from his letters how we can nurture the DS Koinonia as a

covenanting community. In the reading this morning, there are

three things we need to practice to nurture a covenanting

community.

1. Renewing our mind through a worship


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To nurture a covenanting community, we need to keep

renewing our minds through worship. Paul wrote “present your

bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is

your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be

transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may

discern what is the will of God--what is good and acceptable and

perfect.”

Paul summons the Christians in Rome to let their minds be

renewed, and so to be transformed, and the renewal of the mind

must take place in worship.

The Apostle is telling us that transformation doesn’t come

naturally or spontaneously. Transformation includes the renewing

the mind. Your mind must be transformed, so that you can think

out for yourself, weigh up and consider what God’s will actually

is. Unless the mind is fully involved, no genuine transformation

can take place.


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The mind is really powerful. Alvin Toffler in his book Power

Shift mentioned 3 kinds of power- the three Ms - muscle, money

and mind.

With physical strength you can impose your will. Might

makes right.

Money gives you power. You don't have to be physical

strong you can buy people to protect you. You can hire bodyguards

or mercenaries to accomplish your goal.

But according to Toffler, in the era of information technology

those who can harness successfully the third source of power shall

dominate the next millennium - mind power.

Apostle Paul knew the power of the mind in nurturing a

covenant community. That is why the apostle summoned the

Christians in Rome to transform the minds. “What your mind can

conceive you can achieve.”


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And the transformation through the renewal of the mind

according to Paul must take place in worship. Our minds can be

transformed only through worship.

Why worship because worship is formative. Worship shapes

the believers. This includes our minds. Our minds will be shaped

through participation in worship. Christian worship is all about the

community celebrating God’s mighty acts, the acts of creation, and

covenant followed by the acts of new creation and new covenant.

Although the mind is powerful, it has a major limitation. It suffers

from forgetfulness. God ensure that we are constantly reminded

through worship every Sunday. Hence, worship is habit forming.

The community needs constantly to learn, and constantly to be

working on, the practice of telling and retelling the great narratives

of creation, redemption and the hope of final consummation.

Worship is a way of constantly renewing our minds.

Nurturing a covenanting community must renew the minds

through constant worship.


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2. Another method of nurturing a covenanting community is

through the practice of sharing our gift of service to build up the

community. Paul writes “. 6 We have gifts that differ according to

the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7 ministry,

in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8 the exhorter, in

exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the

compassionate, in cheerfulness.”

In the covenanting community, we are to share in nurturing

each other, and help those who are in need. Apostle Paul’s view of

the covenant community is similar to a body which is composed of

many different parts but working for the common good. “4 For as

in one body we have many members, and not all the members have

the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ,

and individually we are members one of another.”

Try this experiment. Grasp and hold an object with your

hand. Try it again but don't use your hand. For the last time, try

holding the object using only your four fingers minus the thumb.
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You have difficulty of holding the object without your hand,

without your thumb. You see how each part of your body is so

important. Each one of us can contribute to the nurturing of the

covenanting community.

We should avoid falling into the temptation of comparing our

gifts with others. We may say, “If I had only the gift of Noriel or

Jean, I could be a better teacher.” Or if I only had Ms. So and so

gifts, then I could serve the Seminary better. But that is not so.

There is always the human tendency to compare gifts, and then to

put a price tag on each one. Paul observed that this practice

inevitably leads to conflicts. Some would feel superior, while

others would feel of less importance. We are simply told to “share”

with what we have and what we are. A good disciple, therefore, is

someone who accepts himself and the gifts that God has given

him; he uses in God’s service whatever powers he has or whatever

knowledge of God he has been given. We who receive God’s gift

of ministry should use the gift to best of our abilities.


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But Apostle Paul warned us never to succumb to the

temptation of self-importance or self-glorification. He writes ““not

to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think.” Self-

importance or arrogance destroys community. When I begin to

think of highly of myself I become apathetic, vindictive, envious

and secretly greedy. So I begin to think that the community exists

for me, only for me. Or I don’t care. This is dangerous and

destructive temptation. Paul reminded us

This reminds me of a story four people: Everybody,

Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done


and Everybody was asked to do it.
Everybody was sure Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that
because it was Everybody's job.
Everybody thought Anybody could do it,
but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it.
It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody
when actually Nobody asked Anybody.
Arrogance and self-importance destroy community. But the

sharing the gift of service will nurture and build up the community.
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This brings me to my last point-the practice of love in the

covenanting community. Love holds the community together.

Without love the community will break apart.

Love makes you consider of the good the other. You are

sincerely mindful of your friend's welfare. Surely you will not

bring or cause harm to your friends or someone you love. Instead

you'll protect your friend. You'll lead you friend to safety and

genuine security. For love does no wrong to a friend. Jesus once

said to his disciples: "There is no greater love than this, to give

one's life on his friends.”

A friend does not put his friend in danger. A friend protects

the life of his friend. A friend is one whom you can trust. Mountain

climbers know that when one goes down or up the mountain a rope

is tied around the waist and the rope-holder holds the other end of

the rope for security and safety. A friend is like rope-holder. He

ensures that you safely reach your goal in life.


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The commandment to love is simple. Love your neighbour-

don’t be envious of them. Show kindness instead. Love your

students-by respecting their dignity. Love your teach-by studying

your lesson and submitting the requirements on time. Love your

brother & sister-don’t take advantage of them. Respect and honor

them. Love your family – don’t abuse and betray them. Make your

children and spouse feel love, safe and secure in your own house.

And the most challenging is to love even your enemy- don’t harm

him. Paul said "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty,

give him drink” (Rom 12:20). These are do-able. We can do it!

However, genuine love is not permissiveness especially if it's

downright wrong. It does not tolerate evil. Paul writes “Let love be

genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good.” How do you

hate evil? You avoid it, you denounce it, and you exorcise it. But

you down hate the person, you don’t denounce the person, and you

don’t cast out the person, instead you restore the person into the

community. Remember the words of Jesus “If another member of

the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the
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two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have

regained that one.” To admonish a friend is essentially an act of

love. No one is insured against failings or weaknesses. It might

very well happen that, one day, others may have to correct me.

Hence nurturing includes reminding friends of their responsibility

to the community and praising and encouraging classmates or

friends when they do something good.

To conclude, through Paul's letters, the Lord is now telling

us how to nurture our covenanting community-the DS Koinonia.

We are now instructed to practice the renewing our minds through

worship, the practice of sharing the gifts of service for building up

the community, and let us genuinely love each other to bind the

community together. Let the Spirit stir and inspire us to become

the covenanting community that the Lord has called us to. Amen.