Deep Change – Covenant Sunday

Positive change can happen when we are intentional, but it is still not easy. Many people have followed the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions for the year to come. But the problem we have with resolutions is that they last only a week or two — a month or two at the longest — because they depend upon our willpower alone.

Human willpower is all we have, unless we look beyond ourselves to God to pull us through, especially when we desire long-term, deep change.

Thankfully, John Wesley shaped a tradition that empowers us for real behavior change by emphasizing God’s will, not our actions. In Wesley’s day, Methodists in London practiced his Covenant Service (United Methodist Book of Worship, page 291) on every New Year’s Day, and many current United Methodist congregations in the United States use a version of this as their first worship service of the New Year. Wesley’s Covenant Prayer (United Methodist Hymnal, 607) is dear to my heart. I have carried it with me for decades. As a pastor, I shared it annually with the congregations I served, as does the pastor who serves the church I now attend.

Thankfully, deep change depends upon acceptance of God’s will and grace, not the strength of our finite willpower. Wesley’s Covenant Prayer focuses on God’s purpose and ability, not our own. Whether we are ranked high or low, employed or laid aside, satisfied or suffering, the prayer calls us to place ourselves entirely in God’s hands. So if you plan to make a New Year’s resolution this week, come to it from within the Covenant Prayer. It can actually get you into the deep, positive change that God has planned for you all along.
Your partner in ministry,
Betsy Schwarzentraub
Written 12/29/2010 for the General Board of Discipleship
of the United Methodist Church