Tag Archives: Covenant

A Covenant Prayer

Today many in The Methodist Church will be sharing in a Covenant Service. It’s almost like an annual renewal of marriage vows – with God.

As part of that, we will pray the Covenant Prayer – powerful, challenging stuff:

I am no longer my own but yours.

I have thrown my lot in with you Lord, It’s no longer about me, it’s about us.  Who you are and what you are going to do in and through me.  I’m not brilliant at living by myself, I need you and all you are.  I’m not alone in this, but together with you.

Put me to what you will,

Now, I know I think that I know best much of the time.  I have my agenda and I try and move things along by it.  But if it’s not about me, I have to allow you to do what you will.  I have to trust you.  This is scary.  You know I am a control freak.  But so much that I know is coming I know I cannot do.  So the only way is your way, holding tightly to you.

rank me with whom you will;

This is hard.  I have such strong opinions.  I know I am judgmental. And shy.  But you call me to live alongside others.  Those who may not be of my choosing, who find me difficult to be with, but we occupy the same space.  Lord help me to learn from those who are not like me.  May they smooth the rough edges of my life, show me more of you, more of life.  Together may we be stronger for you.

put me to doing,

O Lord, you know how I love doing…

put me to suffering;

…and yet I can’t.  That makes me suffer.  I know you are with me always, but am I brave enough, strong enough to go through the pain and struggle that life holds.  However hard and strong I seem, will I make it?  But then that’s why we’re in it together.

let me be employed for you,

Lord, let me be used for you in the way you need for me.  The particular way that you need me to be, the places I can go.  I want to be used for you – widen my horizons to see and to go; even…

or laid aside for you,

so often this is how life feels.  I am watching from the sidelines, viewing others doing what I long to be doing again.  Sitting this game out.  Lord, let that be OK.  May I find something new, some new strength, some inner peace.  May I stop fighting and be content to sit and wait.

exalted for you,

I’m not looking to be exalted Lord.  I’m not interested in position or rank.  If people see anything in me, I want them to see you – your purpose and your power.

or brought low for you;

But I guess I’m not very good at being lowly either.  I like to think that I at least matter.  So help me to see that my worth to you is what counts – not in what I do or achieve, not in any power I may think I have or ways that I think that I am better.  Let me just be, what I am, what you ask of me – and be content in that.

let me be full,

Lord, I may think that I have little, am badly done to or struggle more than is fair; but in reality I have so much.  May I find gratitude and remember hope and love…

let me be empty,

…and when I feel empty may I rest in you, allow you to pick me up.  May I be empty of anything that holds me back, but not so hollow I fail to feel and love.

let me have all things,
let me have nothing:

Because everything I have comes from you.  I do not deserve or have rights to anything, no more than every other person in this world.

I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.

And that is so hard.  Can I truly say that, or am I immediately thinking how I want you to work that out?!  I have no idea what today, tomorrow, this year or the rest of life will hold; but I long to allow you to hold it, to take care of what needs caring for, to find solutions if they are needed, or help me to live with the questions and inconsistencies, the pain, the struggle, the fear – in and with you.

And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.

Thank you that I am yours, that you do hold me tight, care for me, carry me when I need it; go before and behind me.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.’

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The offer is on the table

Today is Covenant Sunday in our church.

During the service we will share together in saying these words:

 

‘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.’

The initiative in the Covenant is God’s.  He promises that he will make a covenant with his people.  Not like the one they’d had before, because the people had broken that.  This time God will write his laws in their hearts – he will be their God – and they will be his people.  God will forgive them the wrongs of the past – forgive them and forget.

 

God calls to us, every one of us, inviting us to join our lives and our hearts with his.

 

That is the offer that is on the table.  But for a covenant to be ratified it has to be agreed by both parties.

 

I was reminded again recently by all the paperwork involved in buying property, how many place you have to sign to say that you are aware of and agree to every small point of the contract.

God makes his offer, of love, of hope, of peace, of forgiveness – freely offered to us.

It’s up to us whether we take up that offer.

As I’m typing this the adverts are on the tv reeling off offer after offer.  Great bargains we apparently can’t live without…  I’m not convinced, but the offer God makes to us is a truly special offer.

Over Advent, we reflected on giving ourselves to God, in response to what he has given to us in Jesus.  This Covenant Prayer is our opportunity to make that response.  To offer ourselves,  all that we are, all that we can be, all we have – all our being; to the one who gave everything he had to us and for us.

It’s not an easy commitment to make, there are lots of hard words.  Commitment to God is serious business, but so is his commitment to us.

 

So the offer is there – are we going to take it or not?

 

Covenant

This Sunday or next, many Methodist Churches will hold their annual Covenant Service (though some hold them in  September at the beginning of the church and school year).  Part of this service is The Covenant Prayer, said together by all who are there:

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.

These words are serious stuff, but I also find them comforting, liberating and encouraging – because God has always done far more for me, than I can ever do for him.  The part about being laid aside for God seem particularly poignant in my life, as I am no longer able to be in active ministry, but it holds me in the reality that at times I was running around for God – and at this time I am sitting still for him.  Not cast aside, but called to be in a different way.  My inability to be active is not that God has finished with me, but has a different task for me at this time, as he does for us all at different times in our lives.

God’s love, and our usefulness, are not about what we can or cannot do.  It is about a love relationship that accepts and keeps on loving.  Covenant is about much more than what we are or are not doing – it’s about who we are

 

God’s promise to us God wants us, every one of us, to be his people – to be in a relationship with him.  To be welcomed into relationship with someone is one of the most precious things anyone can give to us.  To give us access to the people they are, to share what they are with us, to let us know we are not alone in life, to have someone to share the good times and the bad times with.

God wants all those things with us.  He offers all that he is to us.  He wants to be our God.  We are not tolerated by God, but chosen especially, loved, celebrated, and called back into relationship with him.

He proved his love at Christmas by being born into the world, and he proved it beyond doubt at Easter.  For a covenant to be binding it has to have the seal or mark of the person who is going to keep it.  The most usual form of covenant we are familiar with is that of marriage.  Marriage certificates have to be signed by both the bride and the groom to say that they have made those promises.  At that point the verbal promises become legally binding.  The Covenant God makes with us is authorised by nothing less than Jesus’ blood.  That is the sign that he means what he says when he wants to be our God.

So God’s covenant to us is to be our God – but not a remote God – one we can know, one who knows us, and loves us so much that he sent his son to do what we could not do for ourselves – to give us a new start in life, renewed from within by the one who created us in the first place.

Our covenant to God Our relationship with God needs us to trust and act.  To do something about the promises he makes to us.   How do we respond to the promises God makes to us?

There is the story of Jack, walking along a steep cliff one day when he accidentally got too close to the edge and fell. On the way down he grabbed a branch, which temporarily stopped his fall. He looked down and to his horror saw that it fell straight down for more than a thousand feet. He couldn’t hang onto the branch forever, and there was no way for him to climb up the steep wall of the cliff.

So he began yelling for help, hoping that someone passing by would hear him and lower a rope or something. “Help! Help! Is anyone up there? Help!” He yelled for hours, but no one heard him. He was about to give up when he heard a voice.

“Jack. Jack. Can you hear me?”

“Yes, yes! I can hear you. I’m down here!”

“I can see you, Jack. Are you all right?”

“Yes, but…who are you, and where are you?”

“I am the Lord, Jack. I’m everywhere.”

“The Lord? You mean, GOD?”

“That’s me.”

“God, please help me!”

“Here’s what I want you to do. Listen carefully.”

“I’ll do anything, Lord. Just tell me what to do.”

“Okay. Let go of the branch.”

“What?”

“I said, let go of the branch. Just trust me. Let go.”

There was a long silence. Finally Jack yelled, “Help! Help! Is anyone else up there?”

God needed Jack to act in response to his promises that he would save him. Jack said he believed God could help – but wouldn’t do anything about it.

If we are to take on board God’s promises in our lives, then there has to be some response.

God’s covenant offers us renewal – that our lives can be focussed on living his ways, because the power comes from his love to us – within us – and not from anything we have to find within ourselves.  The covenant promises are a tall order, which is why we recognise that the power to do all these things is given in Christ.  He can give us that power.

When we feel we’ve failed, when we get frustrated with ourselves, when we don’t feel we can do it, God’s renewal is there.  We need not rely on ourselves – but on him.  The one who is wholly reliable and steadfast.

So as we come to make our covenant back to God, we are not just saying that we believe in God and his promises – but that we are also going to do something about it.  God promises that we will be his people – and we promise that he will be our God.

Our covenant to one another We are all in this together.  It is not a covenant we make at home in private. It is one we come together to make.  The original covenant in Deuteronomy was made with all members of the community together.  From the leaders, officials, servants – men, women, children – residents and refugees.  God wants us all involved.  And so in pledging ourselves anew to God, we pledge ourselves also to each other.  No one carries the responsibility alone.

We say in all seriousness to God, “Rank me with whom you will.”  Who today are the people at this moment that God has put you with.   These are your companions for the journey.  The ones who can support you in the task, and the ones whom you can support.  Being God’s people is not a solitary experience – it is a community one.  We are called to do it together.  We can encourage and enthuse one another.  Together we can carry the weary and weak; we can share in the joy of the happy, the strength of the strong, the prayers of the faithful – that together we are God’s heartbeat wherever and in whatever situation he has placed us.

And so I encourage you – and myself – to hear today afresh God’s promises of love and faithfulness – whatever you need to hear from him, listen to him speak it into your heart and life.

Lets make our covenant to him.  Not because we think we should, not even because we think we can, but because we long, in his power to be more truly his people in his world.

And as we do lets remember that we stand together, supporting one another, all one, all equal, under the same promises of God.

God has loved each of us with an everlasting love, let that be the basis of our lives – this new year – and always.