Mulligans and redemption

In golf, we have the concept of a mulligan. A mulligan allows a player to replay a stroke, even though this is against the formal rules of golf. In some tournaments, you can even buy mulligans ahead of time. The concept is the same in some other games and sports.

Wouldn’t it be great if we got mulligans in life! If we made a wrong decision, we could call a mulligan and take another shot. But it doesn’t work like that. Often the bad decisions we make in life have consequences that cannot be undone by simply making a different decision later. When we make those bad decisions and learn from them, we call that experience. We suffer the consequences, learn and move on. Even though we make a better decision the second time around, the situation is different because of the prior decision.

In biblical terms, we don’t get mulligans; what we do get is redemption and opportunities for renewal and recommitment. That is what we will experience this coming Sunday.

This Sunday

This Sunday we will participate in two special acts of worship: A Reaffirmation of Baptism and Covenant Renewal. When we reaffirm our baptismal vows, we go back to the beginning of our journey as followers of Christ and remember and reaffirm the commitments we made or that were made on our behalf. We once again renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness in this world and renew our pledge of allegiance to Jesus above all other commitments.

In Covenant Renewal, we go back to a Puritan tradition that began in 1663. John Wesley adopted the practice and celebrated its many benefits. The Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church says the following about the service:

Wesley found the service rich and meaningful, as expressed in his Journal: “Many mourned before God, and many were comforted” (April 1756); “It was, as usual, a time of remarkable blessing” (October 1765). “It was an occasion for a variety of spiritual experiences ... I do not know that ever we had a greater blessing. Afterwards many desired to return thanks, either for a sense of pardon, for full salvation, or for a fresh manifestation of His graces, healing all their backslidings” (January 1, 1775). In London, these services were usually held on New Year’s Day. Around the country the Covenant Service was conducted whenever John Wesley visited the Methodist Societies.

After the time of Wesley several versions of the Covenant Service were developed, gradually giving Wesley’s material less place in the total service. [Our current] service follows our Basic Pattern of Worship, enables the congregation to participate more fully, and updates language. Most significant, the liturgy beginning with the Invitation is taken directly from Wesley’s service of 1780.
— Covenant Renewal Service, United Methodist Resources,

The service will be a little more formal than people may be familiar with, but such is the nature of covenants. As we go through the service, pay attention to the commitments made, these form the basisof a true Christian profession of faith and promise of allegiance to God and the Lord Jesus Christ; anything less is not a genuine commitment to Christ at all.

At the beginning of 2017, it is fitting that we remind ourselves of what God requires of our responsibility as followers of Jesus Christ. Long ago I learned a definition of a covenant from Disciple Bible Study; “a covenant is choosing to be bound in a time of strength so that in a time of weakness I cannot be unbound.”

So, this Sunday, let us come and deliberately choose to be bound to Christ at the beginning of this year.



Alan Cassady serves as Senior Pastor at Navarre UMC, and has been at the church since 2011. When he's not preaching and teaching, he enjoys sci-fi movies and FSU Football. Read more about Alan here.