“…be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God” — Romans 12:2
New Year’s Eve is my favorite arbitrary holiday. By arbitrary, I mean it has nothing to do with nature or the movement of the planets. It is simply a day chosen to begin the next year. What I love most about it is that, in our culture, it is a time when we seem to be at our most contemplative. We think about the year we are leaving behind and how we would like to improve our lives in the new year.
Those who know me know that I am unapologetically Methodist. There are plenty of reasons for it but a big one has to do with the Wesleyan Covenant Renewal Prayer. When I think about the legacy of John Wesley, the legacy of the United Methodist Church, and the legacy I hope to leave some day, I am always drawn to this prayer.
“[Lord,] 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. Amen.”
This prayer is my New Years Resolution, every year. Every year I desire to live a life that is content to serve the God I love in whatever way I can, whether that is as a pastor, or as a father, or husband, or son, or friend. That I will continue to serve God in joy and gladness in whatever form that service takes. If it is preaching to millions or scrubbing toilets, it shouldn’t make a difference in my attitude and commitment. It helps me to remember to live in such a way that I would still be able to be who I am whether I have everything or nothing.
The apostle Paul tells us that we should be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The covenant prayer helps us with that. Renewing — resetting — our hearts and minds to a place of humble acceptance of that which is outside our control so that we do not waste time and energy worrying about that which we cannot change, and instead focus on the matters that mean the most. As we attempt to live the ideals of the covenant prayer in our lives, we avoid the stress of trying to be the gods of our lives, and we make room for greater happiness, contentment, and spiritual health.
Just as the covenant prayer reminds us to be content, especially about the things outside of our control, it also compels us to be engaged in the work fo God in the world, wherever we find ourselves.
Sometimes I think a lot of us are waiting for God to ask us to do something big and important, and until we get that call, we are content to warm a pew, to do the same-old, same-old . But the things that God asks us to do come in all shapes and sizes. It can be a call to the pulpit or to write great theological tomes… or to volunteer to sit with others in their hour of need, or to make a casserole for the family who just lost a loved one, or for the family that just had a baby. The size of the thing doesn’t matter, but your heart in completing it does.
John Wesley once said,
“God grant that I may never live to be useless.”
Wesley wanted to always be working for God. It didn’t matter if it was preaching in the marketplace (or on his father’s tombstone), or visiting prisoners, or washing tables.
As the new year begins, may we enter it renewed in body, spirit, and mind. May we always be looking for ways to be useful to God in whatever way we can. May we be humble enough to accept whatever mission comes our way, great or small.
Happy reNEWal Year,