New Year Renewal - Dec. 31, 2022
Hannah Hunter (00:07):
Hey, beautiful people. Welcome back to Sundays with a gathering and more importantly, happy New Year. I’m Hannah Hunter, the director of Digital reach here at The Gathering Place in Palm Beach Gardens, and we want to wish you the most wonderful of New Year’s. We hope that the year to come brings you great joy, peace, and love. Pastor Mike has put together something special for you. Today in the Methodist tradition, we see the new year as a season of renewal. So with that in mind, pastor Mike will walk us through that process.
Pastor Mike (00:35):
Well, happy New Year and thank you for joining us at The Gathering Place. You know, new Year’s Day is traditionally, uh, marks a period of a new beginning for many people. And although it has been proven that most people give up their resolutions by March, we still make those New Year’s resolutions. There’s something rooted in all of us that hopes and believes there is more to experience in this world. We are human and we have our our flaws, and yet we still want to be our best selves is a time for us to think about what is most important in life as a familiar song by the birds. Turn, turn, turn. I’m th I think about Ecclesiastes chapter three, verses one to 13. There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens. A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
And then the author asks this question, what do workers gain from their toil? You’re probably asking yourself, what does this new season mean for you and what time are you looking at? Well, as we continue the text, there’s some questions and things that we need to consider. I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart. Yet no one can fathom what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live, that each of them may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all their toil. This is the gift of God. Sometimes we don’t realize in the midst of our planning and our New Year’s resolution that God has placed eternity in our hearts and sometimes we do not think about the great work that God is doing within us and also in the world.
And sote, instead of doing the traditional New Year’s resolutions and the new you, what would happen if we focus on the eternal God? Instead of focusing on things you want to do, let us focus on becoming the person God has called you to be. I’m reminded in Joshua chapter 24 verses 14 to 15, when the Israelites that were at a turning point in their history and they were again considering and learning how to live into the promises that God had given to them. This was an opportunity where, where Joshua invited them to think about how God was faithful in the past, how he delivered them, how he gave them a call, how he gave them a purpose. And now here they are at the threshold of this new chapter of their life and Joshua says to the people, now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness.
Throw away the gods your ancestors. Worship beyond the Urates River and in Egypt, serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourself this day whom you will serve. Whether the gods, your ancestors serve beyond the you’re afraid or the gods of the Amorites and whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord On this New Year’s day, I want to invite you to think about God’s faithfulness to you in the past. I wanna invite you to consider rid yourself of those idols and things that you know that go against God’s will in your life and embrace the life that Jesus has already prepared for you. You see, sisters and brothers in Christ, this Christian life that we have is redeemed from sin and consecrated to God. Through baptism, we have entered this life and have been emitted into the new covenant of which Jesus Christ is the mediator.
He sealed it with his own blood that it might last forever. On one side, God promises to give us new life in Christ, the source, the perfector of our faith. On the other side, we are pledged to live no more for ourselves, but only for Jesus who loved us and gave himself for us. From time to time, we renew our covenant with God. In the United Methodist tradition, we trace our roots back to John Wesley and once John Wesley used a chapter based on the writings from the pur tradition in 1663, the writing called the application of the whole. He used this on Monday, August 11th, 1755, and this was probably the first time the real celebration of a covenant service was done in the Methodist movement. Wesley found that when people participated in a covenant renewal service, that it became very rich and meaningful. In fact, in his own journal he said that many people when they turned to God, they actually mourned before God and they are also comforted.
They were given a vision, they were given a hope and another place in 1756 he said it was as a usual time of remarkable blessing. And later on this became an annual tradition for the the the Methodist revival movement. In fact, we can see it early as January 1st, 1775 where the Methodists would gather together in London on New Year’s Day and they would hold this covenant renewal service. So today we are meeting as the generations before us have met to renew the covenant that binds us to God, let us make this covenant of God our own. I wanna invite you to to use the accompanying document that is with this podcast and and participate with me in Wesley’s covenant service. You and I are called to commit yourselves to Christ as his servants. Give yourselves to him that you may belong to him. Christ has many services to be done.
Some are more easy and honorable. Others are more difficult and disgraceful. Some are suitable to our inclinations and interests. Others are contrary to both. And some we may please Christ and please ourselves. But then there are other works where we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves. It is necessary. Therefore, that we consider what it means to be a servant of Christ. Let us therefore go to Christ and pray we join together. Let me be your servant under your command. I will no longer be my own. I will give up myself to your will in all things. Be satisfied that Christ shall give you your place and work and we pray together. Lord, make me what you will. I put myself fully into your hands, put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you. Let me be full.
Let me be empty. Let me have all things. Let me have nothing. I freely and with a willing heart. Give it all to your pleasure and disposal. Christ will be the savior of none but his servants. He is a source of all salvation. To those who obey, Christ will have no servants except by consent. Christ will not accept anything except full consent to all that he requires. Christ will be all in all or will be nothing. Confirm this by a holy covenant to make this covenant a reality in your life. Listen to these admonitions first set apart, some time more than once to be spent alone before the Lord and seeking earnestly God’s special assistance and gracious acceptance of you in careful thinking through all the conditions of the covenant and searching your hearts whether you have already freely given your life to Christ, consider what your sins are.
Consider the laws of Christ, how holy, strict and spiritual they are, and whether you, after having carefully considered them, are willing to choose them all. Be sure you are clear in these matters. See that you do not lie to God. Second, be serious and in a spirit of holy awe and reverence. Third, claim God’s covenant rely upon God’s promise of giving grace and strength so that you can keep your promise. Trust not your own strength and power forth resolved to be faithful. You have given to the Lord your hearts. You have opened your mouths to the Lord and you have dedicated yourself to God with God’s power. Never go back and last. Be then prepared to renew your covenant with the Lord. Fall on your knees. Lift up your hands toward heaven. Open your hearts to the Lord. As we pray, let us pray this covenant prayer together.
Oh, righteous God, for the sake of your son Jesus Christ. See me as I fall down before you forgive my unfaithfulness and not having done your will for you have promised mercy to me. If I turn to you with my whole heart, reflect on this. God requires that you shall put away all your idols. Let us pray together. I hear from the bottom of my heart, renounce them all, covenanting with you that no known sin shall be allowed in my life against your will. I have turned my love toward the world. In your power, I will watch all temptations that will lead me away from you. For my own righteousness is riddled with sin, unable to stand before you. Now reflect on this through Christ God has offered to be your God again. If you had let him let us pray together before all heaven and earth.
I hear acknowledge you as my Lord in God. I take you Father, son and Holy Spirit for my portion and vow to give up myself, body and soul as your servant to serve you in holiness and righteousness all the days of my life. And remember, God has given the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way and means of coming to God. So let us pray to Jesus. Jesus I do hear on bended knees except Christ as the only new and living way and sincerely join myself in a covenant with him. Oh, blessed Jesus. I come to you hungry, sinful, miserable, blind, naked, unworthy, even to wash the feet of your servants. I do hear with all my power except you as my Lord and head. I renounce my own worthiness. A vow that you are the Lord my righteousness. I renounce my own wisdom and take you for my only guide.
I renounce my own will and take your will as my law. Remember, Christ has told you that you must suffer with him. So we pray together. I do hear covenant with you, oh Christ, to take my lot with you as it may fall through your grace. I promise that neither life nor death shall part me from you. Also, we remember that God has given holy laws as the rule of your life. So we pray together. I do here willingly put my neck under your yoke to carry your burden. All your laws are holy, just and good. I therefore take them as the rule for my words, thoughts and actions promising that I will strive to order my whole life according to your direction and not allow myself to neglect anything I know to be my duty. We remember that the Almighty God searches and knows your heart.
So we pray together, oh God, you know that I make this covenant with you today without gule or reservation. If any falsehood should be in it, guide me and help me to set it A right and now glory B to you, oh God, the Father whom I from this day forward shall look upon as my God and Father glory B to you, oh God, the Son who have loved me and washed me from my sins in your own blood and now is my Savior. And Redeemer glory beats you, oh God, the Holy Spirit who by your almighty power have turned my heart from sin to God Almighty God, the Lord omnipotent Father, son, and Holy Spirit, you have now become my covenant friend and I through your infinite grace have become your covenant servant. So be it. And let the covenant I have made on earth be ratified in heaven.
Amen. Take a moment to just reflect on this great work that God has done in you. I want to advise you to make this covenant not only in your heart but in Word, not only in Word, but in writing. Therefore, with all reverence, lay the this, the service before the Lord. As you act indeed and we have done this, I wanna invite you to sign it and then keep it as a reminder, the holy agreement between God and you, that you remember it during your doubts and temptations. Remember brothers and sisters that God’s grace is fully able to empower you and enliven your soul so that you can fulfill God’s will for your life. This has been the tradition that we who, who stand in the Wesleyan heritage have continued for hundreds of years. And this is God’s calling to you. And this is a way that you too can be fully devoted to God as you live out your call to extend God’s redeeming love to all people and also say you may experience God’s redeeming love at the start of this new year.
I wanna invite you to, to reflect on this covenant service, but also to take serious steps to go forward. In fact, I wanna invite you to join with us next week, whether in person or in this podcast as we start a whole new series on, on learning to to care for the world that God has given us. How to care for our souls so that we can fulfill God’s will in our lives. May God bless you on this New Year’s day and I expect that God will do incredible things that are beyond your imaginations. Put your trust in Jesus. Thank you for worshiping with us at the Gathering Place and renewing your covenant with God. Now, may the peace of God rest upon you. Go forth and love all in the name of the Father, son and Holy Spirit, and have a happy New Year.