3 January 2023

The TC's new year message: 'There is something we can be certain of'

Commissioner Anthony Cotterill

A new year message from Territorial Commander Commissioner Anthony Cotterill.

I am very pleased to wish you all a very happy new year, knowing that at long last 2022, with all its unexpected twists and turns, joys and sorrows, frustrations and opportunities, is consigned to history – even though the legacy of 2022 and all that happened in it will be with us well in to 2023 and far beyond.

Having said that, I am old enough – if not wise enough – to appreciate that, for too many people, the prospect of this new year becoming anywhere close to being ‘happy’ 24/7 is somewhat unlikely. The year ahead, let’s be frank, will not be straightforward, predictable and trouble-free.

If only there was something that we could be sure of in these early days of the new year! Something that would begin to make sense of the inevitable twists and turns, joys and sorrows, frustrations and opportunities that I suspect will emerge as they did in 2022, and all the years before.

Well there is something, as well as someone, we can be certain will uphold us and guide us through another year. This weekend corps and fellowships up and down the territory mark Covenant Sunday. Covenant being ‘the something’ that brings cast-iron certainty in a time when everything seems uncertain, unpredictable, gloomy, tough beyond words and totally chaotic.

Popular theologian and writer Henri Nouwen explained the concept of a covenant in Bread for the Journey as an agreement in relationship:

‘When God makes a covenant with us, God says: “I will love you with an everlasting love. I will be faithful to you, even when you run away from me, reject me or betray me.” In our society we don’t speak much about covenants; we speak about contracts. When we make a contract with a person, we say: “I will fulfil my part as long as you fulfil yours. When you don’t live up to your promises, I no longer have to live up to mine.”

‘Contracts are often broken because the partners are unwilling or unable to be faithful to their terms. But God didn’t make a contract with us; God made a covenant with us, and God wants our relationships with one another to reflect that covenant. That’s why marriage, friendship, life in community are all ways to give visibility to God’s faithfulness in our lives together.’

Commissioner Anthony Cotterill in Salvation Army uniform

As we come to Covenant Sunday we will, of course, reflect upon the covenant of relationship that God has made with us. The Old and New Testaments – old and new covenants, to be accurate – are peppered with the reminder that Father God is a covenant-making God. In other words, he gives himself to us in love, in relationship.

Deuteronomy 7:9 says: ‘So I want you to realise that the Lord your God is God. He is the faithful God. He keeps his covenant for all time to come. He keeps it with those who love him and obey his commandments. He shows them his love’ (New International Reader’s Version).

Psalm 103:17 and 18 say: ‘But the Lord’s love for those who have respect for him lasts for ever and ever. Their children’s children will know that he always does what is right. He always loves those who keep his covenant. He always does what is right for those who remember to obey his commands’ (NIRV).

Hebrews 13:20 and 21 say: ‘Our Lord Jesus is the great Shepherd of the sheep. The God who gives peace brought him back from the dead. He did it because of the blood of the eternal covenant. Now may God supply you with everything good. Then you can do what he wants. May he do in us what is pleasing to him. We can do it only with the help of Jesus Christ. Give him glory for ever and ever. Amen’ (NIRV).

Covenant Sunday allows us holy space to reflect upon the wonderful covenants of divine love that God has made with ordinary people such as you and me – but Covenant Sunday also allows us to renew our part in the covenantal relationship with him.

We are drawn into a loving relationship with our covenant-making God. As we renew and refresh our covenants with him, may we celebrate together what God has done, is doing and will do in and through us as we enjoy life in all its fullness with the one who calls us to love him and love others.

In the light of such assurance of God’s love for you personally, I dare to genuinely wish you a happy, prosperous and God-blessed new year as you walk with him and as we, in his name, lovingly serve the communities where we are.

Written by

Anthony Cotterill

Commissioner Anthony Cotterill

Territorial Commander

Take part in Covenant Sunday online

Read the Bible text, listen to a worship song, pray and sign your covenant card.

Covenant Sunday

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Commit the year ahead to God and live in covenant with him.

Resources for 2023: Celebrating Life Together - Living in God's Covenant.

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