Today is the first day of a new year. As I did last year, I feel the pull to make this year count. To reflect on what has gone before and decidedly choose to move into the future and “carpe the diem,” as a good friend of mine says. I’ve found I’m a future-oriented person, so this desire to dream and plan and imagine what is to come is just a part of how I’m wired. Whether this is how you generally approach life or not, I suspect many of us are thinking about what comes next. It is the first day of the year and it’s a time that lends itself to making big plans and setting ambitious goals.
If you are feeling the pull toward tomorrow, let me share something I’ve been thinking about today. Maybe, hear me out on this, maybe we don’t need grand new adventures. Maybe what would serve us best is to take a little step in the direction of enjoying today more fully.
At least that’s what I’m trying to do.
For me it looks a bit like walking the dog this morning. The air was cool but not too cold. I could see our breath, the dog’s and mine, as we navigated the neighborhood. I noticed and the awareness grounded me. That’s not to say I wasn’t imagining the day ahead, but in a small way I was simply a guy walking his dog on a cool New Year’s morning. No great plans. No pressure to perform. Nothing but the dog to demand my attention. It felt good.
At church, where I am a pastor, we joined others in my faith tradition (United Methodist) in a Covenant Renewal service. As part of the experience, we prayed together a version of the Covenant Renewal Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition. I include it here in case you might find it helpful.
Let me be Your servant. Let me follow your commands. I will no longer follow my own desires. I give myself completely to your will.
I am not my own. I am Yours alone. Make me into what You will. Rank me with those You will. Put me to use for You. Put me to suffering for You. Let me be employed for You. Let me be laid aside for You. Let me be lifted high for You. Let me be brought low for You. Let me be full or let me be empty. Let me have all things or let me have nothing. With a willing heart, I freely give everything to Your pleasure and disposal.
And now, O wonderful and holy God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, you are mine, and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it also be made in heaven. Amen.Adapted from John Wesley’s Covenant Renewal Service (For Today) provided by Seedbed, Inc. available at https://seedbed.com/john-wesleys-covenant-renewal-service-today
It’s a hard prayer to really mean. To wholeheartedly surrender to God isn’t something I struggle with intellectually. God is God after all. It’s the practical living of that surrender I find challenging, which is why I come back to maybe I/we don’t need any great displays of faith. Instead, maybe what’s needed are small steps we can repeat over time as we slowly become more loving, more generous, more peaceful, more patient, or whatever it is I/you need to grow into. Give God our little and let God do something with it. It’s the heart of the covenant prayer. It’s all we’ve ever been asked to do.
I saw it on display today in a delightfully unexpected way.
Each week we share Communion. Often there are “leftovers.” The consecrated juice is poured out on the ground and the bread is almost always devoured by children, or taken to someone’s home to become food for wild birds. I say almost because for the past several months some of the bread was placed in a freezer. I honestly don’t know why or how this came to pass. The folks who help with preparing the elements to be shared with the church were equally perplexed. Where was this extra bread coming from and why was it being left in the freezer? No one seemed to know, but we could all agree something needed to be done. And here’s where things took a turn.
Two saints of the church used the remnants of our communion and made bread puddings!
After worship concluded we gathered around tables and enjoyed a different form of the sacrament. Through these women, God took our little scraps and turned them into something truly wonderful. Guests who I just met sat among long-time members and shared a bit of life. Friends laughed and caught up on their holiday celebrations. The many generations represented in our community blended together to give us all a taste of the kind of neighborhood we are working to build together. It centered on small pieces of bread, the very life of Jesus, being shared again.
And that’s the beauty of renewing a covenant with God. God is ready to give us another go. No grand gesture required, just a willingness to try it again, one piece of bread, one small step taken in faith at a time.
Here’s to delicious bread pudding and to taking your next step. I hope we can can it together.
Life is better together,