January 1, 2021
Rev. Dr. Carole R. Martin
First Broad St. UMC
A season for everything
3 There’s a season for everything
and a time for every matter under the heavens:
2 a time for giving birth and a time for dying,
a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted,
3 a time for killing and a time for healing,
a time for tearing down and a time for building up,
4 a time for crying and a time for laughing,
a time for mourning and a time for dancing,
5 a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,
a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces,
6 a time for searching and a time for losing,
a time for keeping and a time for throwing away,
7 a time for tearing and a time for repairing,
a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking,
8 a time for loving and a time for hating,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Happy New Year! We made it! It is now 2021, a brand-new year, filled with fresh possibilities. I will busy myself with taking down the 2020 calendars, including the deluxe planner – barely used – and put them all in the recycle bin. Whew! It’s as if 2021 couldn’t get here fast enough. We can put the old year behind us and focus on the new one. Auld lang syne, indeed!
In ‘normal’ times, people usher in the New Year with parties with friends, sharing their resolve to make this year even better – this will be the year to lose 20 pounds, hit the gym regularly, mark items off our bucket list, write that best-selling American novel. And so on.
Regardless of what the year has been like, there are hopes and dreams for the new one. The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that there are seasons in life, and a natural ebb and flow and that no season lasts forever. If we are weeping now, in due time, there will be laughter. If we refrain from embracing now, we will be wrapped up in hugs someday. If there is hate now, love will eventually prevail. And so on.
As we turn the page from one year to the next, we would do well to take stock of where we are spiritually as well as physically and mentally. John Wesley encouraged his followers to regularly examine their hearts and lives, using a Covenant Renewal Service, often held on New Year’s Day. Such services included a time of prayer and confession, encouraged a desire to do better, and ended by recommitting themselves to God. About one such service, Wesley is quoted in The United Methodist Book of Worship, “I do not know that we’ve ever had a greater blessing. Afterwards, many desired to return thanks, either for a sense of pardon, for full salvation, or for a fresh manifestation of His graces.” (Covenant Renewal Service, BOW, no. 288) Wesley saw firsthand the blessings received through these services – changed hearts and changed lives.
As much as we’d like to think otherwise, we bring ourselves from one year into the next. I am who I am, an often-reluctant work in progress. Many of my resolutions are the same year to year, if I make them at all. For those who do make resolutions, most will abandon them before the end of the week, if not the month. I believe Wesley is calling us to something more, make an accounting of where we are, to confess and receive God’s forgiveness and grace, and commit to the year ahead to follow more fully where God is leading us.
As we begin this new year, I invite us all to pray together, recommitting our lives to God.
A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition
UM Hymnal #607.
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.