Wednesday, December 26, 2012

John Wesley Covenant Service

This Sunday, in keeping with our annual tradition, Hayward Wesleyan Church is going to do the longer version of the Wesley Covenant Renewal Service, which was first published by John Wesley in 1780.  I've taken the liberty to adapt and combine a few versions of the Covenant for the pattern we're going to use.

The shorter version we've used for the past few years can be found here.   I drew heavily from the versions from George Lyons and Jeren Rowel.

Wesley Covenant Renewal Service
An Adaptation by Mark O. Wilson from versions of the Covenant by George Lyon and Jeren Rowel

Introduction:  Historical background of John Wesley, and the purpose for the covenant renewal.
Hymn:  “Come Let Us Use the Grace Divine” written by Charles Wesley especially for the covenant renewal.
LEADER: "Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant which will never be forgotten" (Jer. 50:5, RSV).
LEADER: Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden; cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love You, and worthily magnify Your holy name through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Let us now pray together the Lord’s Prayer.
LEADER and PEOPLE: The Lord’s Prayer
THE SCRIPTURE LESSON: John 15:1-8
LEADER: My dear friends, fix these three principles in your hearts: (1) that things eternal are more enduring and real than things temporal; (2) that things not seen are as certain as the things that are seen; (3) that upon your present choice depends your eternal destiny. Choose Christ and His ways, and you are blessed forever; refuse Him, and you are undone forever.
And then, my friends, make your choice. Turn either to the right hand or to the left; Christ with His yoke, His cross, and His crown; or the devil with his wealth, his pleasure, and his curse. Then ask yourselves, "Self, you see what is before you; what will you do? Which will you have, either the crown or the curse? If you choose the crown, remember that the day you take this, you must be content to submit to the cross and yoke, the service and sufferings of Christ, which are linked to it. What do you say? Would you rather take the gains and pleasures of sin and risk the curse? Or will you yield yourself a servant to Christ and so make sure the crown?"
Do not delay the matter. If you are unresolved, you are resolved. If you remain undetermined for Christ, you are determined for the devil. Therefore, follow your hearts from day to day. Do not rest until this matter is settled once and for all. And see to it that you make a good choice.
Next, begin your journey with Christ. Adventure with Him. Cast yourselves upon His righteousness. You are exiles from the presence of God and fallen into a land of robbers and murderers. Your sins are robbers, your pleasures are robbers, your companions in sin are robbers and thieves. If you stay where you are, you perish. Christ offers, if you will venture with Him, to bring you to God.
Will you say now to Him, "Lord Jesus, will You take me?
Will You bring me to God and bring me into the land of promise?   With You I will risk myself. I cast myself upon You, upon Your blood, upon Your righteousness."
This is coming to Christ as your Priest. And by this you now renounce your own righteousness. Do you deeply sense your need of God’s grace in Christ? Whether we are already forgiven sinners, or still far from God, let us confess together our total dependence on Him.
CONFESSION
PEOPLE: We acknowledge a deep sense of our need. We see ourselves as sinners in need of a Savior. The Spirit of God has awakened us, for we have cried out, “Lord, where am I?”
Is there no hope of escaping from this wretched state? I am but dead, if I continue as I am. What can I do to be saved?"
LEADER: Being made aware of his sin and his danger, a sinner will look for help and deliverance, but he will look everywhere else before he looks unto Christ. Nothing will bring a sinner to Christ but absolute necessity. He will try to forsake his sins. He will go to prayers, and sermons, and sacraments and search out if there is salvation in them. But all these, though they be useful in their places, are of no help. His duties cannot help him; these may be numbered among his sins. Ordinances cannot help; these are but empty cisterns. They all tell him, "You knock at a wrong door; salvation is not in us."
Do you now utterly despair of your own goodness, or do you trust in anything but Christ?
PRAYER
PEOPLE: Lord, be merciful to me. What shall I do? I dare not remain as I am, and I cannot help myself. My praying will not help me. My hearing will not help me. If I give all my goods to the poor, if I should give my body to be burned, all this would not save my soul. Woe is me. What shall I do?
LEADER: You must let your sins go. You must let your righteousness go. Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. He came to seek and to save those that are lost.
Friends, will you now risk yourselves for Christ? You have this threefold assurance:
First, God’s initiative. He has taken the first move. God the Father has appointed and sent Christ into the world to save sinners. Jesus Christ is the One whom God the Father has made our Savior. He is redeeming and reconciling the world to himself.
Second, God’s command. This is His commandment, that we should believe on the name of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Third, God’s promise. "Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious; and whoever believes on him shall not be disappointed.
Now, because we have this threefold assurance of God’s initiative, command, and promise, we may now be bold to risk everything for Christ and to make ourselves totally available to Him.
The leader and people shall pray together:
LEADER and PEOPLE: Lord Jesus, here I am, a lost creature, an enemy to God, under His wrath and curse.
Will You, Lord, take me as I am, reconcile me to God, and save my soul?
Do not refuse me, Lord, for if You refuse me, to whom then shall I go?
If I had come in my own name, You might well have ignored me; but since I come at the command of the Father, do not reject me.
Lord, help me. Lord, save me.
I come, Lord.
I believe, Lord.
I throw myself upon Your grace and mercy.
I trust Your saving death alone to save me. Do not refuse me.
I have nowhere else to go. Here I will stay. I will trust You, and rest in You, and risk myself for You.
On You I lay my hope for pardon, for life, for salvation.
If I perish, I perish on Your shoulders. If I sink, I sink in Your ship. If I die, I die at Your door.
Do not bid me to go away, for I will not go.

Leader:
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.

In 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:

People:
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.
Leader:
Be satisfied that Christ shall give you your place and work.

People:
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.

Leader:
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; in seeking earnestly God’s special assistance and gracious acceptance of you; even if you have already 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 on God’s promise of giving grace and strength, so you can keep your promise.  Trust not your own strength and power.

Fourth, resolve to be faithful.  You have given to the Lord your heart.  You have opened your mouth to the Lord and you have dedicated yourself to God. 

With God’s power, never go back!

And last, be prepared to renew your covenant with the Lord.   Open your hearts, then, to the Lord as we pray:

Covenant Prayer:

O righteous God, for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, forgive my unfaithfulness in not having done your will, for you have promised mercy to me if I turn to you with my whole heart. 

I do here covenant with you, O 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.


I make this covenant with you, O God,
without guile or reservation
.

If any falsehood should be in it, guide me
and help me to set it aright.

And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine, and I am yours.  So be it!

And Let this covenant I have made on earth be ratified in heaven.

Amen.
The Lord’s Supper shall be served, as the congregation sings, “Jesus, All for Jesus

Congregation:  “O For a Thousand Tongues”

Benediction: 
Jude 1:24-25, “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wide God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forevermore.  Amen.”

2 comments:

Tim said...

Mark, we do the Covenant renewal service as well. I've made it clear to my people that it is an adaptation of Wesley's original so I added the following to the "self-examination" section. I give people time to consider each law and fruit. I usually re-write these sections each year.

Consider what your sins are.
Think of the laws of Christ, how holy, strict and spiritual they are:
You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not have anything you serve or worship other than me.
You shall not use the name of GOD in curses or casual conversation.
Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to GOD; he set it apart as a holy day.
Honor your father and mother so that you’ll live a long time.
Do not murder or commit adultery or steal or tell lies.
Do not set your heart on anything that belongs to your neighbor.
After having carefully considered them, are you willing to choose them all?
Inspect the growth of the fruit of the Spirit in your life:
Do you have greater joy now than this time last year?
Does your peace surpass that of unbelievers?
Are you more patient with your spouse, your children, your neighbors, your co-workers and other members of the Body of Christ than you were a year ago?
What acts of kindness have you shown in the last week?
When faced with a choice of two actions, do you choose the one that most honors Christ and blesses others or do you chose in your own self-interest first?
Have you faithfully kept you commitments to your marriage, your family, your Church, your employer and to God in the past year?
Have you dealt gently with those who are under your authority and care. Have you shown respect to those with whom you have disagreed. Have you been compassionate to the weak, the disabled, the poor and the defenseless.
Have you been temperate in your eating and drinking? Have you been careful in your conversations and language? Have you balanced work and rest?
Be sure you are clear in these matters; see that you do not lie to God.

Tim said...

Mark, we do the Covenant renewal service as well. I've made it clear to my people that it is an adaptation of Wesley's original so I added the following to the "self-examination" section. I give people time to consider each law and fruit. I usually re-write these sections each year.

Consider what your sins are.
Think of the laws of Christ, how holy, strict and spiritual they are:
You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not have anything you serve or worship other than me.
You shall not use the name of GOD in curses or casual conversation.
Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to GOD; he set it apart as a holy day.
Honor your father and mother so that you’ll live a long time.
Do not murder or commit adultery or steal or tell lies.
Do not set your heart on anything that belongs to your neighbor.
After having carefully considered them, are you willing to choose them all?
Inspect the growth of the fruit of the Spirit in your life:
Do you have greater joy now than this time last year?
Does your peace surpass that of unbelievers?
Are you more patient with your spouse, your children, your neighbors, your co-workers and other members of the Body of Christ than you were a year ago?
What acts of kindness have you shown in the last week?
When faced with a choice of two actions, do you choose the one that most honors Christ and blesses others or do you chose in your own self-interest first?
Have you faithfully kept you commitments to your marriage, your family, your Church, your employer and to God in the past year?
Have you dealt gently with those who are under your authority and care. Have you shown respect to those with whom you have disagreed. Have you been compassionate to the weak, the disabled, the poor and the defenseless.
Have you been temperate in your eating and drinking? Have you been careful in your conversations and language? Have you balanced work and rest?
Be sure you are clear in these matters; see that you do not lie to God.