Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Wesley, Covenants, and Making All Things New

Last Sunday at CUMC, we said goodbye to 2012 and looked toward 2013 by praying John Wesley's covenant prayer. Each year at Harvard-Epworth, we do the same, and devote the entire first church service of the year to the Methodist tradition of the Wesleyan covenant service. Since I have traveled between Ashland and Cambridge this week, I will be praying Wesley's covenant prayer twice this year. It's a challenging prayer:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.

So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.

This is a difficult prayer to pray! A friend of mine doesn't like the Wesleyan covenant service and usually skips church on that Sunday. She feels that it's too difficult to genuinely pray it. The language certainly challenges the individualistic sensibilities of America today. We are so used to making our own choices in life; our self-determination gives us the illusion of being in control. It's disconcerting to think that we may not be completely in control of our own lives. We tend to push the notion out of our minds. Wesley's prayer, however, asks us to give God complete control. Some, like my friend, can't pray that prayer right now because they recognize that they will not, realistically, relinquish control to God. I'll admit that when I was a temporary worker in January 2011, I could not say the line, "Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee" because I needed a permanent job so badly. That's honest, and I respect my friend for choosing not to participate. She's doing it in good conscience.

But for those who are in a place that allows them to pray this prayer right now, I think it's an appropriate challenge. Can we really "yield all things" to God? To pray this is to step out in faith. The good news about this prayer is that it's a covenant. A covenant is a promise that goes two ways, which is why marriage is a covenant: it's a mutual promise. We commit our lives to God, and God covenants to be with us always.

Although we don't know what 2013 will bring, we know that God will see us through it all. That's why this prayer is an expression of faith as we look to the new year. How are you looking forward to spending 2013 with God?

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