My Christmas greeting anticipated (fervently hoped) that the feverish cold/flu bug would have departed by January 1st! But, in company with many others, illness has continued to dog us accompanied by interminable rain (until the last couple of mercifully dry days). What a beginning to 2013. However, we know in God's good time (and it is good) these things will come to pass.
Lying ahead of us this week is a trip up to Cheshire to celebrate a dear friend's 80th. birthday and to preach at Bramhall Methodist Church (Jan 13th). The pastor has invited me to preach in the church's Covenant Service which many Methodist churches practice near the beginning of each New Year.
Based upon a prayer by John Wesley this covenant expresses powerfully words of Christian recommitment:
I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,
exalted for you or brought low for you;
let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing;
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.
So be it. And the covenant now made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
I have used the words of this covenant before, but in preparation I been struck again by the high degree of submission in this covenant relationship, that expects us to be totally (yes, totally) open to God's will. 'Put me to what you will..' is equally open to the best and the worst possibilities. It is both extraordinarily realistic about options, yet gloriously positive about outcomes.
I have been sent a full copy of the Methodist liturgy that accompanies the covenant. Among the prayers just beforehand the congregation says these words with a vital line:
'Lord God, holy Father, since you have called us through Christ to share in this gracious covenant...for love of you, (we) engage ourselves to seek and do your perfect will.' We can only say these words because of two-way love - God's love for us and our answering love. It will be a privilege to preach and I invite you to prepare to say these words with me.