Spirit Alive: Are You Ready to Re-Up?
Spirit Alive is a weekly blog that looks at different aspects of mission and ministry throughout the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference and beyond.
January 5, 2016
With Heart, Soul, and Mind
Are You Ready to Re-Up?
As we all know, the world is consumed with a variety of significant problems today. So what does this mean for people of faith? Are we, as United Methodists,still up for being Christ's hands and feet in a world filled with pain and suffering? These are tough questions.
Here are some things to consider: Will our contemporary preoccupation with consumption undermine our commitment to preserve the earth? Will the current acts of terrorism make us so afraid that we are no longer willing to welcome the stranger in our midst? As the gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow, who will provide shelter for those who have no place to rest their heads? These challenges present us with an array of faith questions that take us to the very core of what we believe.
So what would happen if every year we had to decide, as individuals and communities of faith, if we wanted to "re-up" our faith commitment for the coming year? That's right: What would it mean to re-up?
Let's face it, this would give us all the opportunity to decide each year one way or the other: "Yep, I'm in for another year of Christian discipleship" or "No, I'm ready to quit and worship some other God." Now mind you, this isn't really how God appears to operate, given the scriptural understandings of grace, mercy, and steadfastness. But on our end of the equation, it seems as though some kind of decision point is usually involved. So why not make it an annual "re-upping" experience rather than simply assuming that once you've made a decision to follow Christ that it has a lifelong shelf value?
In some ways, John Wesley anticipated this dilemma when he created what has become known today as the Wesley Covenant Service. It was designed originally by Wesley as a worship experience to promote one's renewal of belief so that people could re-commit themselves as Christian servants in the world. As one writer put it: "Its purpose as an evocative ceremony of commitment to ongoing discipleship and Christ-like character" was central to the service. Charles Wesley wrote a special hymn, "Come, Let Us Use the Grace Divine" (#606) for it and John Wesley provided the Covenant Prayer.
The first such Covenant Service took place in London on August 11, 1755 and 1800 people participated. And as Wesley got older, the Covenant Service was held whenever he visited a congregation. Since then, in many congregations, it is a part of the first worship service of the New Year. In many ways, the Covenant Service represents a distinctive contribution of Methodism to the Christian tradition.One version of the bidding that precedes Wesley's Covenant Prayer says: "Christ has many services to be done. Some are easy, others are difficult. Some bring honour, others bring reproach. Some are suitable to our natural inclination and temporal interests, others are contrary to both...Yet the power to do all these things is given to us in Christ, who strengthens us." To commit our lives to Christ and to God's service is a big deal, and it should matter in our lives.
Where does such a commitment to Christian discipleship take us? Does it make a difference in who we care about, what we stand up for...and what choices we make? In a friend's recent blog, I read the following quote from Bob Goff, the founder of Restore International: "I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I'm more afraid of succeeding at things that don't matter." Re-upping one's faith is making a conscious choice to risk failing at things that matter and not being satisfied to succeed at things that don't matter.
Maybe you could call this annual "re-upping" of one's faith a kind of "call to arms"...not in the military sense, but in the sense of OPEN ARMS...and being ready to re-up, recommit, renew, and become a movement of Christ's love open to a hurting world once again.
Wesley's Covenant Prayer stands as a challenge to us as much today as it did for those who committed themselves to it on an annual basis back in the 1700's:
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 by 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 are mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
It's time to say: I'm in....I'm committed...I'm willing to "re-up" for another year. Are you ready?
Blessings on your journey,
Spirit Alive is a weekly blog and email by Rev. Lowell Greathouse, Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference. It seeks out where the spirit is alive in our congregations and communities.
Spirit Alive is a weekly blog and email by Rev. Lowell Greathouse, Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference. It will seek out where the spirit is alive in our congregations and communities. These are signs and examples of life that can be expressed in inspiring books, vivid videos, and works of art. Spirit Alive is intended to point to these “signs” in ways that touch our hearts and nurture our faith journeys. Check out past editions, or subscribe to the email list.