As Methodists we appreciate sharing in an annual Covenant Service where we reaffirm our commitment to God. It recognises two important elements, there are demands expected of us with an assurance of delight in wholeheartedly following our Heavenly Father.
The Covenant Service refers to a prophecy given by Jerimiah chapter 31: verses 31-34
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,
declares the Lord.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, “declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
This chapter is one of the highlights of the Old Testament, here God expresses his intention to bless ‘all the families of Israel’ and restore them from exile. In the forty verses of the chapter there are certain repeated phrases. Seven times we read ‘This is what the Lord says’; fourteen times we read, ‘declares the Lord and there are eighteen ‘I will’ promises of restoration and blessing for his people.
There is a fundamental promise in verses 31-34. When God exiled his people, the covenant relationship would have seemed to them to be over. They had broken the covenant and God was judging them. Here, however, God promises to make a new covenant, unlike the former one. Two new covenant promises stand out. Under the old covenant God’s laws were to be on their hearts. This did not happen, but now God had a remedy. He himself would write the law on their hearts and minds, enabling them to keep it. The other promise is that God would forgive their wickedness and resolve to remember their sins no more.
I find Covenant services both challenging and affirming. As the hymn writer says ‘I do not know what lies ahead, the way I cannot see’ and he goes on to say ‘So as I face tomorrow with its problems large and small, I’ll trust the God of miracles, give to him my all’
I believe that the essence of the Covenant Service reminds us of God’s love and mercy as we reach out to him in trust and determination ‘to give him my all’.