Happy (almost) New Year! On the heels of moving through Advent and celebrating Christmas, comes the Christian holiday of Epiphany. Technically, this day lies on January 6, but since that is a Friday, we will be acknowledging it on Sunday together, which just so happens to be New Years Day.
Our Scripture readings this week are:
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
I invite you to open your bibles and read these passages now, praying and/or taking notes as God leads you.
Around the last or first days of the year, it has become quite the custom to make "new year's resolutions." Mine is to pray the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer once a day. I have found it to be an important promise to God, as well as a graceful reminder of who God is for me.
Here is the covenant prayer, which is attributed to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism (though the original has been lost:
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 powerful prayer and covenant; repeating it daily is bound to have an impact on me. That is my hope.
This does not mean, however, that this prayer is perfect. Its language is dated, and its theology, I find, is problematic. For instance, it promotes the idea that God wishes to put us through hardship (‘Put me to what thou wilt, put me to suffering’ etc.). I hope someone would never suggest to me, during a time of suffering, that God is willing me to suffer. I hope you wouldn't say that to a friend, either. Instead, Methodists offer a theology that says "God is with you in your pain and suffering," rather than "God is making you suffer." Reverend Jeremy Smith, a minister at First Church in Portland, Oregon puts it this way: "God is the comforter in times of trouble, not the author of life's woes."
Rev. Smith (who blogs at hackingchristianity.net) offers a re-working of this prayer that addresses these concerns. It’s a paraphrase in common language, not a word-for-word replacement:
I am not my own self-made, self-reliant human being.
In truth, O God, I am Yours.
Make me into what You will.
Make me a neighbor with those whom You will.
Guide me on the easy path for You.
Guide me on the rocky road for You.
Whether I am to step up for You or step aside for You;
Whether I am to be lifted high for You or brought low for You;
Whether I become full or empty, with all things or with nothing;
I give all that I have and all that I am for You.
So be it.
And may I always remember that you, O God, and I belong to each other. Amen.
Whichever prayer you may pray, may it be one of renewal, promise, and commitment to God in this new year. May you, too, be "overwhelmed with joy (as the magi were, Matthew 2:10), when you find Jesus. May our gift to him be a heart willing to seek him.
Prayer (adapted from United Methodist Hymnal, 255.):
You hold us together by your grace and mercy. Long ago, by a star in the East, you revealed to all people him whose name is Emmanuel. Surely you are with us. Enable us to know your presence. Enable us to share your presence, so all may know your love and goodness. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, in union with your Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, forever. Amen.
My thanks to Rev. Jeremy Smith, and his most recent words at http://hackingchristianity.net/2016/12/wesleys-covenant-prayer-in-a-post-christian-context.html