The covenant of a church is beautiful, but it is not always what we expect. It is beautiful because it is like the relationship between a singer and an accompanist. They work together, working in tandem, so they learn to listen to one another. It is one thing to be able to play the piano instrumentally, but it is quite another to accompany a singer.
The singer and the accompanist must learn when the other is coming in or fading out in the song, and it requires time and practice. It amounts to all of the time the pianist takes to practice with the singer before the performance, which is never truly a solo, and when it finally comes together, it is beautiful.
It is beautiful, but it is not always what we expect. Practicing commitment to a church requires small moments of dedication and change. The community calls forth our gifts, which we learn to use for the common good, to use them when we are not fully confident in them, and to give them to the church with humility and without agenda. We are also asked to learn new skills and to cultivate new sides of ourselves. We must learn to speak honestly, wait patiently, and look widely.
The church is not perfect. We can say that out loud, but it is a place of commitment. With any commitment we make, there will be friction, but we still make a commitment to care for one another. We commit to speak carefully and with kindness about each another. We commit to be truthful and to serve others. We commit to be generous and compassionate. We make a commitment to learn alongside one another.
It is a place of covenant, which is beautiful, but it is not always what we expect. It is not what we expect because it will change us. We practice commitment in the church, so we know how to practice commitment elsewhere. As John Dalrymple says of prayer, "The truth is that we only learn to pray all the time everywhere after we have resolutely set about praying some of the time somewhere." It is the same with commitment.
We learn to show commitment all the time and everywhere only after we have made a commitment some of the time somewhere. The church is one place where we learn to make a commitment and to live in covenant with others. The community of the church becomes the place where we practice commitment, and then we allow it to change us.
As the church changes us, over time, we also change the church. Through the practice of commitment, emerging out of the disciplines of kindness, compassion, generosity, humility, service, and honesty, the church is changed and will change towards the needs of this world and the goodness of God. The change is born out of the commitment that binds people together and the grace of God, which is the foundation for the commitment in the beginning.