Wesleyan Covenant Prayer: Covenants

Wesleyan Covenant Prayer: Covenant
A Message on 1 Peter 2:9-10
For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
Feb. 14, 2021
By Doug Wintermute
dwinterm@yahoo.com

1 Peter 2:9-10 (NRSV)

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

10 Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.

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Today we will conclude our sermon series on the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer that we have been exploring since the first of the year. This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of the season of Lent, and we will be starting a new sermon series next Sunday.

But for today, let’s stand as your are able and recite this Wesleyan Covenant Prayer together:

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 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.

Today we are going to focus on the last part of that prayer: “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.”

Wesley mentions the word “covenant” in that last part. So what exactly is a covenant?

A covenant is a promise, but it’s more than that. It is a contract, like a legal contract, between two parties. The wording of the covenant lays out what each of the two parties has agreed to do.

It’s like when you buy a car or a house. All those papers you sign (hopefully after you read them) give specific details on what both parties, the seller and the buyer, are obligated to do. And if either the seller or the buyer doesn’t hold up their end of the agreement, then they can be taken to court and forced to not only do what they signed up to do, but pay penalties as well. There are consequences for breaking a covenant.

There are five main covenants in the bible.

There is the covenant God made with Noah after the flood that he would never again wipe out all the inhabitants and animals on the earth with a flood. The sign for the covenant is the rainbow.

There is that Abrahamic covenant that God made with Abram/Abraham. This is the covenant that Abraham’s heirs would be more numerous than the stars or the grains of sand on the beaches, and that God would give Abraham’s offspring land for them to live and prosper in. The sign of this covenant was circumcision.

Then we come to the Mosiac covenant, the covenant God made with Moses. This is the covenant that was established on Mt. Sinai when Moses gets the 10 commandments and also the covenant law which is listed in Exodus right after the 10 commandments. The sign of this covenant were the stone tablets which God wrote on himself and which were kept in the arc of the covenant (and thus the name).

Then comes the Davidic covenant, the covenant God made with David. This covenant says that if the people will keep the commandments and law then a descendent of David will forever serve on the throne as king. This happens for a few generations but then the people mess up and start worshipping other false gods. As a result the Jewish people are invaded and led off as captives.

And then we come to the covenant that Peter is talking about in the scripture we read today: the “new covenant.” This is the one that Jesus establishes, that whoever believes in him will have eternal life. Jesus, the only son of God, comes to earth and gives his life so that our sins may be forgiven and we, who are sinners, can be reconciled to God.

In the scripture we read today, Peter is reminding us that when we accept Jesus Christ as our savior, we become part of the new covenant. Our citizenship and loyalty become larger than a country or political ideology, we become like Jesus and therefore, holy.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

The Apostle Paul points this out beautifully in Romans 8. Here is just a small portion of that:

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” — Romans 8:14-17

When we make the decision to follow Jesus Christ we become Children of God through the covenant that we make.

In our United Methodist Hymnal it describes the baptism service as a covenant service. “The Baptismal Covenant is God’s word to us, proclaiming our adoption by grace, and our word to God promising our response of faith and love. Those within the covenant constitute the community we call the church…”

When we are baptized, we publicly renounce sin and profess our faith. It is only after doing those things is the water applied and baptism happens. Afterwards, each person professes that he/she will be loyal to the church, faithfully participating “in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness.”

I love having baptisms on communion Sundays, like we did last week, because while our action of publicly proclaiming to follow Christ is our part of the covenant, in the Lord’s Supper we are reminded of God’s part of the New Covenant: Jesus saying of the cup, “Drink from this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

I like the way John Wesley ended his covenant prayer: “And the covenant which I have made on earth, Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”

The entire prayer reminds us that when we agree to accept Jesus as our savior, it’s not a partial agreement we make, but a whole one. We are to be fully devoted to Christ, not just on Sundays, not just when we get emotional goosebumps, but full time, 24-7.

It’s not an easy thing to do, but it is the Christian thing to do. Every word we say, every action we take, every comment that we post on social media, should be through the love of Christ.

Our focus for the season of Lent, which begins on Wednesday with Ash Wednesday, will be on discipleship. We will be starting a new sermon series next Sunday based on discipleship. The goal of this is for us to be closer to God on Easter than we are today.

So my challenge to you today is to remember your baptismal covenant every day that you wake up.

Remember the vows you made at your baptism and live your life fully for God.

Remember Peter’s words that “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Be willing to proclaim those mighty acts!

And, as John Wesley said, may the covenant you make on earth be ratified in heaven.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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