New Year’s Resolutions: Promise-making in response to the Word of God

A litany for personal and public prayer on the occasion of a new (Gregorian calendar) year

by Ken Sehested

THE SCRIPTURES DECLARE: After the flood, God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you, for all future generations: I will set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you and every living creature. I will never again curse the ground of humankind; neither will I ever again destroy every living creature.” (Genesis 9:12-13; 8:21)

In response to this word, we resolve to honor God’s covenant of peace with all creation by finding ways to make peace and to restore justice in my our personal lives, in our familes, in our communities and our workplaces.

THE SCRIPTURES RECORD this prayer of Hannah: “The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The Lord raises up the poor from the dust; God lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with the rulers and inherit a seat of honor.” (1 Samuel 2:4-5, 8)

In response to this word, we resolve to resist the mighty and honor the feeble, to seek out the poor and hungry—in my own communities and around the world—and tend to their needs as if they were our own.

THE SCRIPTURES ENVISION the day when “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”  (Isaiah 11:6-7, 9)

In response to this word, we resolve to remind ourselves, and the world at large, that the knowledge of the Lord and the halt of hostility are bound up together.

THE SCRIPTURES AFFIRM God’s promise: “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered. But be glad and rejoice in that which I create. No more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be infants that live but a few days, or old ones who do not fill out their days.” (Isaiah 65:17-20)

In response to this word, we resolve to commit ourselves again to attend more carefully to the suffering of the young and to the pain and isolation of older adults.

THE SCRIPTURES PROFESS God’s covenant: “Behold,” says the Lord, “I am sending you grain, wine and oil, and you will be satisfied. Fear not, you beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and the vine give their full yield. The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord.” (Joel 2:19, 22, 24, 26)

In response to this word, we resolve to renew our trust in God’s provision, to allow God’s Spirit to calm the fears which push us to spend too much time in the search for economic security, which steals time from our families, our friends, our community of faith and our own personal growth.

THE SCRIPTURES ASSURE that the day is coming when all nations “shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; none shall make them afraid.” (Micah 4:3-4)

In response to this word, I resolve to undermine all hope in military might, and transfer that hope to the way of Jesus and the things that make for peace.

THE SCRIPTURES CHRONICLE God’s pledge: “I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise.” (Zephaniah 3:19)

In response to this word, we resolve to bring into our circle of friends—and into this community of faith—those who are outcast, who are lame in body or spirit, those for whom our social, political and economic institutions have little or no use.

THE SCRIPTURES DISCLOSE this startling, subversive prayer of Mary: “God has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; the Lord has filled the hungry with good things, and has sent the rich away without anything.” (Luke 1:52-53)

In response to this word, we resolve to find ways, however small, to subvert the values of our culture which protect the mighty from justice and subject the poor, the hungry and the homeless to injustice.

THE SCRIPTURES ANNOUNCE the blessings of Jesus: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

In response to this word, we resolve to commit ourselves to the ministry of reconciliation, to learning the skills of conflict mediation and to practicing those skills in every arena of life.

THE SCRIPTURES HERALD this amazing prediction of the Apostle Paul: “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God. The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail until now. For in this hope we were saved.” (Romans 8:19, 21-22, 24)

In response to this word, we resolve to treat the created order as more than a commodity to be used and discarded, but as participant, along with the human community, in the redemptive plan of God.

THE SCRIPTURES PROCLAIM this bold assertion: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. And I heard a loud voice saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling of the Lord is with humankind. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.’” (Revelation 21:1, 3-4)

In response to this word, we resolve to lean into this promise, to run the race set before us with perseverance, to nurture the reverence and joy that sustain disarmed hearts and the disarming of the nations, til every tear is dried and death itself comes undone.

Prayer of the People

Take my life and let it be / consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
    In all seasons, in every shape and condition of our lives,
      transform our minds and hearts in ways that magnify the rule of Mercy:

In ways that conform to Your extravagant and redemptive purposes;
    in our hopes and promises, in our joys and our sorrows,
      whether rising or resting, at home or away,
            at work and at play, with those near and dear but also with strangers,
              in our longing and our learning to love enemies.

In an age ruled by terror—both by state and by sect—place on our lips
    the subversive claim of the Resurrection.
      As the vanguard of your coming Commonwealth,
            give us the courage to live at odds with the rage of this age.

Inspire in us a thirst for beauty and for truth.
  Instill in us the wisdom to track the signs of your Spirit moving
      in odd ways and in unbeknown places.
  Incite in us the compassion for those neglected parts
      of your creation—soul and soil alike—
        in our neighborhoods, in our nation, in the whole wide world.

Bless these resolutions, these promises,
    made today in response to your beckoning,
    and make us ever more faithful, day by passing day.


©ken sehested @