“No man will regard a Saviour that does not see himself a sinner.”

The memories of Year 2020, though gone would still remain globally for some time because of the massive and tragic effect of the Covid-19 pandemic. Also known as the coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19 is an ongoing pandemic of coronavirus disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2). According to report, Covid-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuham, China and since then the World Health Organisation has declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in January 2020 and a pandemic in March 2020. ‘As of 4 January 2021, more than 85.1 million cases have been confirmed, with more than 1.84 million death attributed to COVID-19.’

Covid world led to the emergence of 2020 Christmas’ different Tiers of heartbreak, lockdown and isolation all over the world. For example, in order to stop the spread of coronavirus in United Kingdom, millions of people were ‘banned from meeting friends and family indoors over the festive season as they enter a new tier-four level of Covid restrictions, while indoor mixing has been restricted to Christmas Day alone for the rest of the country.’ There is now a new variant that leads to a spike in case despite our culture and government responses that tend to price solution and ability ‘to make decisions and choose our own path in life,’ in quest to overcome the virus.

As Covid restrictions become tightened, even at the beginning of the New Year 2021, following the example of Moravians and Puritans, Methodist annual Covenant Renewal service and affirmation provides a helpful assurance. The social condition of John Wesley’s time in comparison with today’s Covid world calls for the need to reconcile with God just as the early Methodists ‘in their poverty, wretchedness, blindness and guilt they saw the “unparalleled love of God” and sought to capitalise on it by renouncing their worthiness and their wisdom for God’s righteousness and calling on him to be their Guide.’ In remembering part of life in England at the time of Wesley, plagues has caused massive loss of life. In 1723 while Wesley was a student at Oxford, there was an outbreak of smallpox that took the life of one of his university classmates and by his conviction, ‘healthy living is assisted by responsible life choices made in gratitude to God.’ His book ‘Primitive Physic,’ promoted healthy habit beyond congregational practice but with a call for personal and corporate ‘safe practices for the sake of all during this pandemic.’ Methodism under John Wesley’s leadership ‘grew from a small group of devoted believers into a global movement for Christ’ with the clear imprint of his spiritual ideas and personal devotion to the gospel of Jesus, especially Covenant Renewal service.

John Wesley first celebrated the Covenant Service on August 11, 1755 and he published the first edition of this service in 1780 and ‘celebrated during the first Sunday of the year.’ The focus of the celebration is always for Methodists to consciously follow Jesus Christ in truth and Spirit by recognising and renouncing our deep sense of sin and misery. The reflection is that, “No man will regard a Saviour that does not see himself a sinner.” Using the words of Wesley, by nature we are sons and daughter of death, ‘and a thousand-fold more the child of hell by my wicked practice; but of thine infinite grace thou hast promised mercy to me in Christ, if I will but turn to thee with all my heart; therefore upon the call of thy Gospel, I am now come in, and throwing down my weapons, submit myself to thy mercy.

During Methodist annual Covenant Renewal Service, ‘we celebrate all that God has done for us’ in the past, ‘and affirm that we give our lives and choices to God’ in the New Year. The Methodist traditional Covenant prayer ‘makes it very clear that this affirmation is a serious one that embraces the whole of our life, in all its parts,’ especially in a Covid world. This is a prayer some people may find ‘quite tough to say, and really mean it. But the prayer is so central to the Christian life and the Covid world especially for self-examination, repentance, self-denial and total surrender to God. Wesley’s Covenant Renewal prayer summons the Covid world ‘by denying ourselves, as giving and lending, bearing and forbearing, reproving men for their sins, withdrawing from their company, witnessing against their wickedness, confessing Christ and his Name, when it will cost us shame and reproach; sailing against the wind, swimming against the tide, steering contrary to the time; parting with our case, our liberties, and accommodations for the Name of our Lord Jesus.

The Methodist annual Covenant Renewal prayer and affirmation is about surrendering to God in love and joy in person and corporately through the help of the Holy Spirit. Wesley’s Covenant Renewal and prayer in a Covid world encourages community and Christian accountable fellowship, hence the affirmation, “I am no longer my own but Yours, put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you…” suggests a sense of mutual collectiveness and responsibility needed in a Covid world. Wesley’s Covenant Renewal and Prayer invites us to accountable relationship, not taking the social distancing in Covid world for spiritual distancing, but bearing the yoke of Christ. Getting connected to God and one another. Covid world, a world of mistrust, divisions and greed calls for renewal of our vows of faithfulness to God and each other, especially among the Body of Christ.

Wesley’s Covenant Renewal and prayer beyond a social and missiological instruments is to promote healing and care for one another, accepting to be ranked with whoever even in a Covid world. The Good News is that God has made a covenant with us before and even in a Covid world, but we have our parts to play in the covenant (Amos 3:3). Wesley’s Covenant Renewal prayer beyond putting ourselves to physical suffering calls us to a covenant relationship of love and social justice, confession of our blindness that we are not aware of sinning, the pride that dare not admit it is wrong, the selfishness that see nothing but its won will, the righteousness that knows no fault, the callousness that ceased to care, the defiance that does not regret its own sins, the evasion that always tries to make excuses, the coldness of heart that is too hardened to repent.

Wesley’s Covenant Renewal Prayer in a Covid world beyond the wall of worship sends us to the community with a reminder that we belong to God and subject to His will and purposes. Just as prayer is an essential part of Wesley’s method of giving glory and honour to God in all things and to offer comfort and direction for believers, let us humbly reaffirm this Covenant Renewal prayer as we pray for healing and restoration in our Covid world:

I am no longer my own but Yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you,
or laid aside for you,
exalted for you,
or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.

In closing, let us sing together:

1 O Jesus, I have promised 
To serve thee to the end; 
Be thou forever near me, 
My Master and my friend;
I shall not fear the battle 
If thou art by my side, 
Nor wander from the pathway 
If thou wilt be my guide. 

2 O let me feel thee near me! 
The world is ever near: 
I see the sights that dazzle, 
The tempting sounds I hear. 
My foes are ever near me, 
Around me and within; 
But, Jesus, draw thou nearer, 
And shield my soul from sin. 

3 O let me hear thee speaking 
In accents clear and still, 
Above the storms of passion, 
The murmurs of self-will. 
O speak to reassure me, 
To hasten or control; 
O speak, and make me listen, 
Thou guardian of my soul.

4 O Jesus, thou hast promised 
To all who follow thee
That where thou art in glory 
There shall thy servant be. 
And, Jesus, I have promised 
To serve thee to the end; 
O give me grace to follow,
My Master and my friend.