Mid Week Reflection, As the New Year Rolls in…

New Year, a time to celebrate, after the pandemic a time for fireworks, the old year passes and the new year arrives with a bang and bright flashing lights. The photographs are from the New Year celebration in Funchal, Madeira in 2019. It was some display; one I will remember.

The New Year is also a time where Christians continue to celebrate Christmas and Epiphany, the visit of the Magi to the infant Christ. However, Methodists mark the New Year in a distinctive way, they come together as an act of dedication, renewal and to embrace God’s gracious offer as recorded in the words of Nehemiah ‘I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’ Through the Covenant Service they take on the meaning of these words of Jeremiah and through this service renew their relationship with God, it is both a personal and community act of renewal.

The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the LORD’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31: 31-34)

These words are not restricted to Israel in the time of Nehemiah. They are now an offer to all through Jesus Christ who gave us an example of what it is to live in a relationship with God as described by Jeremiah.

Let me make one thing clear, it is not like the New Year’s resolution associated with this season. The Covenant Service goes back to 1755 and was influenced by the earlier work of Joseph and Richard Alleine in the 17th century.

The Covenant Service was often held on New Year’s Eve or Day and therefore is sometimes called a Watch Night Service. I can recall a Watch Night Service which was a long service but full of joyful singing. It has been known for the service to be three hours or longer, including readings from Scripture and hymn singing.

Opening Prayer

O God, Searcher of all our hearts,
you have formed us as a people and claimed us for your own.
As we come to acknowledge your sovereignty and grace,
and to enter anew into covenant with you,
reveal any reluctance or falsehood within us.
Let your Spirit impress your truth on our inmost being,
and receive us in mercy, for the sake of our Mediator, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (David Tripp)

God of mercy, hear us as we confess for the times we have missed the mark.
You showed us how to live in the life of Jesus.
We confess that we have been slow to learn from him, failed to follow him and showed our reluctance to carry the cross. Lord have mercy.

We confess the poverty of our worship, our neglect of fellowship and the means of grace, our evasion of responsibilities in your service and our imperfect stewardship of your gifts. Lord have mercy.

Have mercy upon us, O God, through your constant love.
In the fulness of your mercy, blot out our offences.
Wash away all our guilt and cleanse us from our sin.
Create in us a new heart and renew a right spirit within us. Amen


The Vine and the Branches (John 15:1-8)
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Pereoptic – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 Wikimedia Commons

The Vine provides the means of life for its branches and the fruit. Jesus the ‘Vine’ offers us abundant life. A life connected to Jesus is a life that can love more, forgive more and is able to give so much more. The Vine keeps us connected to Jesus and to each other.

Prayers of intercession
We pray for your church … that it may be a faithful witness to God’s love.
We pray for the church worldwide … that in word and action it may help people to see God’s glory
We pray for the leaders of nations… that they act justly and guide wisely.
We pray for those pushed to the margins of society … that they and their gifts may be made welcome.
We pray for those in need … especially people we know

The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father ……

Just as we are, we come to you,
Trusting your promise ever true,
“See, I am making all things new!”
Accepting Lord, we come. (Gillian Collins)

And now we say
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 blessèd God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
(The Methodist Covenant Prayer)

Just as we are, we come to you,
Trusting your promise ever true,
“See, I am making all things new!”
Renewing Lord, we come. (Gillian Collins)

* Note that in this Covenant prayer the word “suffering” is used in the sense of “patiently enduring” – the opposite of “doing”. We are not inviting God to inflict pain on us.

Eternal God, in your faithful and enduring love you call us to share in your gracious covenant in Jesus Christ.
In obedience we hear and accept your commands; in love we seek to do your perfect will; with joy we offer ourselves anew to you. We are no longer our own but yours.

May the God of heaven and earth bless us and keep us; may his face shine upon us that we might know God’s peace and live-in ways that reflect his love, now and always. Amen

Derek Akker
(Derek is a retired Anglican Parish Priest and a member of the congregations of All Saints & St James)

Parish of Kirklees Valley, Bury, (All Saints, Elton & St James, Woolfold)
In the Diocese of Manchester
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