“to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” John 1:11
Beginning a new year in our covenant relationship with God, the word “year” can give us an acronym, an abbreviation, for what the relationship should mean to us. If we take the letters of “year”, each can remind us of a word that tells us about what it means to live as a covenant friend of the Lord.
The letter “y” reminds us of the word “you”.
Saint Paul writing in the epistle for today, the Letter to the Ephesians Chapter 1 Verse 13, wrote, “In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit”. We hear the word for ourselves, we believe for ourselves, we are marked out as individuals. Our relationship with God is something personal, it is not about our church, or our parish, or our denomination, it is about us and God. It is something reassuring, but also something challenging; our personal faith is what counts, it is not something we can leave to others. This is what Saint John says to us in today’s Gospel reading, in Chapter 1 Verse 11, he writes, “to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God”.
The covenant is between ourselves and God, it is a personal decision, it is something we can only do for ourselves. As we begin a new year, we have to decide what that “y” means for us? When we are asked, “how do you respond?” then it must be our answer.
The second letter of year, the letter “e” reminds us that worship is something that is every week.
Saint Paul reminds his readers that their giving to God’s work is something that should happen every Sunday, in the First Letter to the Corinthians Chapter 16 Verse 2, he wrote, “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income”. There is no place in the Bible where it is suggested that worship is something to attend when it is convenient. Words from today’s psalm, Psalm 147 Verse 12 say, “the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their trust in his steadfast love”. Fear of the Lord must surely mean that we attend worship each Lord’s Day, and not just when it is convenient, not just when the service happens to be in our church.
Thinking of the “e” in “year”, are we prepared to covenant ourselves to be at worship every week?
The letter “a” reminds us of the simple word “all.”
Do we have a sense of God being all in all? In John Chapter 1 Verse 16, we read, “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace”. Our faith has become often something that is private and personal, something that is concerned with no more than a small part of our lives. When we get up in the morning do we feel God is in every part of our lives? Do we have a sense of God with us in our homes, in our work, in all the things of everyday?
When the church in Ireland was growing in the Fifth and Sixth Centuries, when the Irish monks went out to re-evangelize a Europe going through the Dark Ages in the Seventh and Eighth Centuries, there was a sense of God being all in all. No part of human life was seen as being outside God’s presence; there were prayers for every part of the day, from the lighting of the fire, in the early morning, to going to sleep at the end of the day.
Our covenant should remind us that God is all in all for us—the letter “a” should remind us of that constant presence.
“You”, “every week”, “all” – the fourth letter of “year” is “r”.
“R” in our acronym stands for “realize”.
Realize doesn’t just mean that we come to think something; it can mean also making something real. In Saint John Chapter 1 Verse 12, we see that happening, people become aware of Jesus and their faith becomes real, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God”, writes John.
To realize our faith in Jesus, for it to become more than just something of which we are aware, is a challenge for the new year; for our faith to become real in our own lives.
Year—you, every week, all realize. The covenant is about doing those things, it’s about our relationship with God being personal; it’s about it being constant; it’s about it being in every part of our life; and about it being real.
Our covenant is for the year.