John Wesley, the founder of what has become the United Methodist Church, led a service of covenant renewal often on New Year’s Eve, but other times as well. The covenant in question is the individual’s covenant with God. The service has been adapted and adjusted over time, but it continues to be used in United Methodist Churches usually at the beginning of a new year. Renewing one’s covenant with God is important and to do it in this historical way connects us to the rich spiritual heritage of the United Methodist Church.
The service begins with an invitation to “Commit yourselves to Christ as his servants.” That sets the tone for the whole thing: following Jesus is about serving others. Christ modeled serving for the first disciples when he washed their feet just before he was arrested. “I have given you an example: Just as I have done, you also must do” is what he said. Jesus acted like a servant and that’s what his disciples are supposed to do, too.
Serving assumes sensitivity to the needs of others and humility, as we put others first. The covenant prayer has more to say about this, but for now, it’s enough to sit with this invitation and consider what it means: Commit yourselves to Christ as his servants.