Tom and I decided to come to Georgia to wait out the government shutdown. We figured, as long as we are paying for a place to live, we might as well go someplace with good weather. Although we are not on St. Simons Island, we are close. So, on the first Sunday of January, we decided to attend Wesley United Methodist Church. The first Sunday of January was communion but it was also the Wesleyan Covenant Service.
When I was a pastor I liked to do the Wesleyan Covenant Service on the first Sunday of the year. Unfortunately this was met by lots of moans and groans from people in the congregation. In the days before we had a big screen in worship, it was also a huge amount of typing for my secretary, so she wasn’t a fan. Some years I stuck to my guns and did the whole thing. Other years I would settle for the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer.
The Wesleyan Covenant Service was first used by John Wesley around 1753 and he used it often after that. The service calls for a time of repentance from our sins and a call to renew our covenant with God. We promise that we will put aside our sins and strive toward perfection in our Christian lives in the coming year. The service is a good way to put God first in a new year. John Wesley found it meaningful and the people to whom he administered it were repentant and eager to begin again.
I wonder if the reluctance of my congregations to celebrate the Wesleyan Covenant Service is rooted in our reluctance to renounce our sins. We don’t like to admit our sins to ourselves or God, much less do it out loud in front of others. Sometimes we even have a hard time seeing our sins. God has gradually been bringing before my eyes my complicity in the sin of white empowerment – which will probably be a post for another day.
At the start of a new year, perhaps we must first vow to come before God with hearts that are open to the revelation of our sins. Before we can repent of our sins, we must own that we have sinned. We have to let go of pride in our own righteousness and affirm that we sin on a regular basis and there are some sins we aren’t even trying to quit.
I am thankful for the opportunity to renew my covenant with God on the first Sunday of the year. If you want to read the entire Wesleyan Covenant Service, you can click on the link above. But even the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer is a powerful tool, if we use it to really look at our lives and our sins. Will you pray it now?
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 by 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. Amen.