Erskine’s fourth annual Covenant Renewal Service, held in Bowie Chapel Feb. 11, was attended by members of the college and seminary faculty, staff, and student body as well as members of the Due West community.
The Rev. Paul Patrick, who serves as campus chaplain, preached on “The Way of Covenant Renewal,” taking selections from Nehemiah 8 and 9 as his text.
“‘Covenant renewal’ means that we, the Erskine family, as a community of Christian faith, desire Holy Spirit-inspired renewal,” Patrick said in his introduction.
Patrick recalled watching episodes of the 1950s television series I Love Lucy! in which the title character, played by Lucille Ball, gets herself into many predicaments, and her husband, the Cuban-American Ricky Ricardo, played by Desi Arnaz, typically tells her in exasperation, “Aye yai yai yai yai! Lucy, you’ve ruined everything!” Lucy apologizes, Ricky shows compassion and forgives her, and the two are reconciled.
“If ever there was a sitcom that summarized the sin-cycle of Israel…and the Lord…I Love Lucy is it!” Patrick said.
“‘Lucille’ is my affectionate name for the church, and now you know why,'” he added.
Hope for covenant renewal “is rooted in the nature of God Himself, that He ‘does not treat us as our sins deserve,’ and, what is more, that He, Himself must bring the deep and lasting renewal that His people are dying for,” he said.
Human participation is necessary, he added. “God initiates the renewal that we need by calling us to approach Him with honest, humble confession of our sin and repentance of our sin.”
Focusing on the Lord’s restoration of the Temple in the ruined city of Jerusalem, a feat accomplished using Ezra, the “faithful scribe and priest,” and Nehemiah, “a faithful and gifted leader,” Patrick noted that in the scripture narrative, the people must be restored just as the physical structures are restored: “it is time for the renewal of their spiritual identity.”
Patrick cited three keys to the covenant renewal story described in the Book of Nehmiah: the situation, the opportunity, and the hope.
The situation is that “God’s people are in ruins,” and this is caused by their “persistent unfaithfulness to the Lord.” Like Lucy, they have “ruined everything.”
The opportunity is the chance for God’s people to return to the Lord, confessing their sins, repenting, and renewing “their identity as God’s people.”
The hope is that “God Himself will restore the ruins.” God reveals Himself as “a promise keeper,” who works through a particular people, for whom he is “a covenant keeper.” Today, we need such a restoration, and God continues to accomplish it.
“And this, my friends, is our only hope,” Patrick said.
Several members of the faculty and staff led the service, including Assistant Professor of Music Dr. Mark Nabholz; Associate Professor of Music Dr. Brad Parker; Professor of Old Testament Dr. Terry Eves; Professor of Christian Education Dr. Stephen Lowe; Vice President and Professor of Practical Theology Dr. Christopher Wisdom; and Erskine President Dr. Paul Kooistra.
See a copy of the Covenant Renewal Service program here: 2015 Covenant Renewal