Maybe this year will be different from the last. Each New Year, we make resolutions to change our behavior and become better people. We hope that somehow the turn of the calendar page will make the world a little bit better. This is how Fitness Centers make their money.
The Wesleyan tradition embraces a Covenant Renewal service on the last night of the year. People attending the service are encouraged to prayerfully consider whether they will truly make the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer at the start of the New Year, and whether they will allow themselves to be truly held accountable to keep it in the coming year. It’s a pretty bold prayer to say to God:
“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.”
I don’t know if it’s that I’m getting middle-aged, if it’s that I’ve spent almost every Sunday of my life in a church service, or if it’s just the strange monotony of time, but I look at that covenant, that has been prayed for hundreds of years, I look at my own life and my own desire to be holy, and I wonder. What difference has been made? What difference am I supposed to be a part of making? It’s a tall order to completely yield every ounce of your life to God. And if you do, you can’t help but ask yourself, “What have I done?!”
Charles Wesley wrote several hymns appropriate for this service, including the one quoted in this comic, “Come, Let Us Use the Grace Divine.” I love the title alone because it sums up Wesleyan theology so well. God has given you grace. Use it. As I enter a new year where division seems more inevitable than unity, I enter it with this challenge: Christ has already won final victory… That is a grace that I cling to, and it is a grace I intend to use every day this year.
1. Come, let us use the grace divine,
and all with one accord,
in a perpetual covenant
join ourselves to Christ the Lord;
Give up ourselves, thru Jesus’ power,
his name to glorify;
and promise, in this sacred hour,
for God to live and die.
2. The covenant we this moment make
be ever kept in mind;
we will no more our God forsake,
or cast these words behind.
We never will throw off the fear
of God who hears our vow;
and if thou art well pleased to hear,
come down and meet us now.
3. Thee, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
let all our hearts receive,
present with thy celestial host
the peaceful answer give;
to each covenant the blood apply
which takes our sins away,
and register our names on high
and keep us to that day!