MINNEAPOLIS, MN (June 21, 2018) – In his sermon during the opening worship service of the denomination’s 133rd Annual Meeting president Gary Walter exhorted delegates to live three forms of biblical greatness—obedient, humble, and serving others.
Walter noted that Jesus uses the word “great” three times in the Gospel of Mathew. In Matthew 5:19, Jesus talked about the importance of law of God’s love and that “whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Obedience, Walter said, is “aligning our heart with the wisdom and priorities of God. We ask ‘Where is it written?’ and then we do our best to align with it.”
“It’s interesting,” Walter said, “Jesus never said, ‘Do you agree with me?’ You know what else he never said? ‘The floor is now open for amendments.’ No, what Jesus said was, ‘Follow me.’”
Walter added, “Joining creed and deed is what God is looking for from us.”
The second form of greatness—humility—is found in Matthew 18:2-14: “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’”
“The cross of Jesus Christ tells us that there is nothing about us to brag about,” Walter said, “but every good gift, beginning with grace, comes from above.”
Walter stated, “If the statement of obedience is ‘God, what would you do?’ the statement of humility is, ‘God, look what you did.’”
He added that it is important that Christians be broken, but not in the way the world thinks of brokenness. “In our culture, when we think of brokenness, we think of something that no longer has any usefulness…. But there’s another kind of brokenness—things that have no usefulness until they are broken. Our entire faith is built on this statement of Jesus about his sacrifice on the cross. “This is my body broken for you.’ And what does God say is an acceptable offering to God? ‘A broken spirit and a contrite heart.’
The third type of greatness, servanthood, is referenced in Matthew 20:26, “whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant.”
Walter called on delegates to seek the best for the other and to avoid the divisive attitudes that often are found on social media. “Making a point and making a difference are not the same thing,” he said.
They were three traits that Walter has exhibited during his 42 years of service in the Covenant said others who led the gathering in honoring him.
Walter shared again that his journey in the Covenant began when he gave his life to Christ at Marin Covenant Church when it was a new congregation. Art Greco, the current pastor of the church, noted that Gary’s last official act as president will be to preach at the church’s fiftieth anniversary in August.
Gayle Gilreath, director of advancement strategy, announced that $946,000 had been pledged to the Faithful in Service, Further in Mission campaign in honor of Walter’s legacy. The goal was to raise $1 million to be used toward ministry initiatives, and more gifts are still coming in.
During the service, new missionaries Nathan and Michelle Bjelland in East Asia and Timothy and Diana Keener were commissioned to serve in French-speaking Quebec.