This is the third in an unintentional series of gleanings from Capital District charge conferences. I have to reiterate how impressive and inspiring they have been: unfailing graciousness and a profound desire to remain vital and deeply engaged in their own communities, our local church’s leaders are a gift. And I have learned and pondered something very profound in the course of worship with them.
As you may remember – or will find out – the Wesley Covenant Prayer is a part of the worship we share. The Covenant Prayer has many forms; John Wesley himself was not always consistent about its wording. Still, the version I learned as a student – and the version I still naturally remember to recite, has the line, “I freely and heartily yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.” Great 18th century English spruced up for today.
The version used in the service order, however, reads, “I freely and heartily yield all things to your will and disposal.”
What is the difference between God’s pleasure and God’s will?
I noticed this variation first because it got me out of sync with the pastors who were using the version in the order they were given. I was praying by memory (though I’ve adjusted!). Does the difference go beyond the change of language over the centuries?
God’s will is to care for us. That grace is shown time and time again in Scripture and most supremely in Jesus. That gives God satisfaction or pleasure right? In the current moment when we talk so much about rights and needs and every conversation can be so fraught with passion, it has been incredibly meaningful to me to remember that God’s good will and pleasure is to care for us and to ask us to do the same.
God’s pleasure therefore is to act for our good and to ask us to do the same for each other. Divisive anger and disrespect of another, no matter how strong our feelings, has no place in Christian discourse. Threat certainly does not. God’s pleasure was to declare his will clearly: Jesus. God asks us to do the same: that is to approach each other directly and with grace about all the concerns in front of us. When Christians have acted in such a way they have not always been the most popular, I grant you, but they have been the most influential in broader societal discussions and have made the Kingdom not an abstraction but a reality to the world around us.
I’m grateful for the grace of this year’s charge conferences but also grateful to have to update my prayer language. The goodness of God means that there is no difference between his will to care for us and his pleasure in so doing.
Thanks be to God! See you at charge conference if I’ve not been with you already!
If you would like to view past editions of Hello from Harvey, follow this link: https://capitaldistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/