The Method in Methodism – Part II (10/1/06)

The Method in Methodism: Part II

Outward Signs of Inward Grace

            Amazing grace—it’s good news in any language!

            It’s the language of grace that I want us to learn today as we continue our series on Methodism. In fact, if you were going to sum up Wesleyan Methodist theology in one word that would be it: grace.

            What is grace? Theologically speaking we can define it as “God’s unmerited favor” – the fact that God loves us in spite of ourselves. If we define sin as that which breaks our relationship with God, then grace is God’s response—offering us a new relationship at God’s own initiative.

            John Wesley’s theology was rooted in his understanding of God’s grace being available to all. No one was excluded from God’s love and favor and that all a person needed to do was respond to that grace and grow into a new relationship with God. This was not a unique view, but it certainly was a point of contention in theological circles of the time. Catholic theology always had always said that God’s grace was mediated through the sacraments of the Church and in no other way. When the Protestant Reformation occurred, some like John Calvin, for example, said that God’s favor had been predestined—that some are born as the “elect” while others are “damned” for eternity right out of the box-regardless of affiliation. A Calvinist view of salvation, for example, is concerned about an event in the past—the moment when God saved you.

            Wesley’s understanding of grace, however, was about relationship. That while some relationships can be characterized as “love at first sight,” more often a relationship grows over time as one party woos the other. The response to that grace is not pre-ordained, but a choice. We can choose whether or not to love God, just like we would choose to enter into another kind of relationship. For Wesley, salvation was less of an event and more of a process—not “where have you been” but “where are you now.”

            Wesley said that there were three basic movements of God’s grace extended to us by God. I hope that you’ll commit these to memory because we’ll be talking about them throughout the rest of the series.

            But before we get there we have to define why God’s grace is so needed. In Wesley’s view, humans were created for relationship with God and given God’s favor. He called this “original righteousness”—humans were made “good” and given dominion over God’s creation. God’s love was lavished on human beings at creation. But these humans chose instead to be gods themselves, using their free will to reject God’s love (after all, love is only authentic when it is chosen!). That rejection of God and serving oneself are what the Bible calls “sin” – from the Greek word “hamartia” that literally means “to miss the mark.” Human sin separates us from God in a seemingly irreparable breach. We see it all the time all around us—people acting more and more in self-interest, rejecting God and choosing only that which is for themselves.

            Despite human sinfulness, however, God did not give up on the human race. In fact, says the Gospel, God came among us in the person of Jesus Christ to repair the breach himself—to overcome the spiritual death that results in our separation from God and to offer us a new way of being in relationship with him. We call that movement of God toward us “grace.”

            The first movement of God’s grace is what Wesley called “prevenient” grace or “the grace that goes before.” God’s grace and love, in other words, are offered to us even before we know it and respond. Prevenient grace is essentially God’s calling to us, God wooing us, God wanting to be in relationship with us. God loves us in spite of ourselves and our sin and wants to repair the brokenness that sin causes.

            But God’s prevenient grace calls for a response. In order to repair that broken relationship, a new start is necessary. This is the second movement—justifying grace—where a person responds to God by confessing their sin, turning toward a new way of life, and seeking God’s forgiveness and offer of wholeness. Justification means that God transforms us, gives us a “new birth,” a new relationship, a new standing before God. The grip of sin is released and we are given a fresh start. Think of “justified” as “just-as-if-I’d” never sinned.

            Now a lot of Christian theology tends to stop here. Once your sins are forgiven you are “saved” and so it really doesn’t matter much what you do after that, so long as you are prepared to go to heaven when you die. That’s not what the Scripture really talks about. Rather than getting people into heaven, the scriptures are more about getting heaven into people. That’s what we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer (on earth as it is in heaven). The goal of being “born again” is not to stay a spiritual infant, but to grow into faith and deeper into a relationship with God. For Wesley, salvation wasn’t a static event, but the process of growth—a process called “sanctification.”

            Sanctifying grace is the process by which God transforms us, renewing in us the image of Christ—the image of God we were to have from the beginning. Sanctification is the process of emptying ourselves and our desires and being filled with the heart of God. We participate in that process through the “means of grace” – through the disciplines of prayer and study, worship and meeting with others who are growing in faith. The word that Wesley used for this movement of grace is “going on to perfection” (which is the phrase that got him in the most trouble). Perfection in this sense is not perfect performance, but rather perfect love—that our intentions and actions are all designed toward honoring and representing God with our lives.

            In fact, the Greek word teleos is variously translated as “mature, perfect, complete.” The goal of the Christian life, for Wesley, was not simply waiting around for heaven, but growing into mature people of faith who are representatives of God’s kingdom of grace that is breaking into this world. As Paul would say in Philippians 3, we are “citizens of heaven” that colonize the earth—not seeking so much to go “home” to heaven but to bring the best of heaven here.

            Methodist Christianity, therefore, is very much focused on the present—where are we now in our relationship with God? How are we representing the character of Christ in this world? What are we doing to grow in maturity and love?

            One way to illustrate how prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace work together is to understand it as a house. Prevenient grace is the porch, where we meet God. Justifying grace is the door through which we are welcomed into new relationship and sanctifying grace is the process of being made at home in the rest of the house, where we become more and more like the chief resident.

            This week we celebrate world communion Sunday and it gives us an opportunity to talk about the Wesleyan Methodist understanding of grace drives our sacramental life. In the United Methodist Church, we celebrate two sacraments – baptism and holy communion, both of which reflect our theology of grace.

            John Wesley said the sacraments were “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace” – tangible signs that point to something going on inside of us. The water of baptism represents life itself—new birth, that which sustains life, cleansing and renewal. While some Christian traditions emphasize baptism as a response to God, our tradition goes a bit further and says that baptism represents and acknowledges what God is already doing in us—making us part of a new family called the church and giving us new life.

            One of the reasons we baptize infants is because of our understanding of God’s prevenient grace. It’s an acknowledgement that God is at work in the life of a child even before the child knows who God is. It’s a sign that they are part of our family, part of God’s family. It expresses more that present relationship made possible by God’s grace rather than eternal salvation. Because baptism in our tradition is a sign of God’s initiative, we only do it once because God’s grace is always good!

            At the same time, baptism can be a sign of justifying grace. When we baptize an adult who had made a decision to follow Christ, we recognize that God has been at work in their lives through prevenient grace, but also that through this person’s repentance and faith and God’s faithfulness they are now being washed clean by God’s grace. No matter what age one is baptized, the sacrament is a sign of new relationship in the present, a new start.

            But while baptism is the sign of a new relationship, communion is the sacrament that sustains the relationship for the long term. The bread and cup represent many things, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us being the primary remembrance. In the liturgy of communion we remember or “re-embody” Christ’s sacrifice for us and celebrate the grace we have been given.

            In holy communion, all the stages of grace are present. We celebrate open communion, which means that anyone who seeks to know Christ is welcome. As a sign of prevenient grace, God’s grace given to all, communion serves as an invitation for people to go deeper into their relationship with God. We celebrate an open table because we believe that someone coming in off the street who may not have any knowledge of God may in this sacrament find the whole story of God’s grace and love available to them. As we like to say, it’s Christ’s table and that means Christ sets the guest list! Children can share, too, because they are not excluded from the grace of Christ.

            At the same time, communion is a sign of justifying grace—a recognition that Christ’s sacrifice enables us to be forgiven from sin and begin a new life. Christ’s body broken and blood shed for us paid the penalty for sin and his resurrection gives us the hope of new life. When we take this meal, we acknowledge that we are in need of change and reconciliation with God, so we come humbly knowing that we come only at God’s invitation and not because we are worthy.

            But communion is also a sign of sanctifying grace—the grace that enables us to grow deeper in our relationship with God. It is the family meal, celebrated with others who follow Christ around the world. It is strength for the journey, a constant reminder of who we are and whose we are.

            To be a Methodist is to recognize the power of God’s grace, God’s reach toward us in love. God wants to make us whole, give us new life, remake us in his image. God has gone to great lengths to offer that grace, even offering himself in Christ.

            The question for us is how we will respond to that grace, for it only becomes transformational when we embrace it. We can choose to receive it and live according to it or continue on our own. God does not force us to love him.

            But when we choose to follow Christ, when we choose new life, great things can happen to us individually and collectively—we can be God’s instruments for bringing the beauty, wonder, and grace of God’s kingdom into this world even as we await it’s final transformation when Christ return. To borrow from Leonard Sweet: “Our job is to make earth look more and more like heaven, so that when Christ returns it’s not such a culture shock!”

            But let’s make that grace personal. Where do you find yourself now in relationship with Christ? Have you heard God’s call to you in prevenient grace, but maybe you’ve been resisting it? Do you desire to live a new life made possible by justifying grace—a new birth and new start? Or have you been living fairly comfortably in the knowledge that you are forgiven, but haven’t grown in your faith—that you haven’t been “going on to perfection?”

            Today is a great day to take stock of where you are in relationship to God. As we come now to sharing communion together, I invite you to reflect on these things and spend some time in prayer. What has God been saying to you? How will you respond?

World Communion Sunday

This Sunday is World Communion Sunday, celebrating the sacrament with Christians around the world. I hope you’ll join us for worship this week, which will feature colorful flags from many different nations, some different languages in our liturgy, songs by both our choir and praise band, and communion together in both services. I’ll be continuing the sermon series on "The Method in Methodism" with a look at God’s grace revealed to us in the sacraments. It’s going to be a festive Sunday, so I hope to see you there!

This morning I’d invite you to pray with me for the folks of Bailey, Colorado who experienced another Columbine-type shooting in their high school. My foster brother, Chuck, is a reserve sherriff in that county and was on the periphery, helping out with this terrible tragedy. In this world where danger and terrorism seems so prevalent, we can only pray and work for God’s peace.

Why I Do What I Do

     One of my best friends here in town is Pastor Jeff Louden, my Lutheran colleague. When I was appointed here in July of 2003 (more than 3 years ago, can you believe it?), Jeff was at the door after the service to greet me and welcome me to town, stopping here before going to serve his own congregation that morning. Since then we have met together often for coffee or for chili at the Mid Mountain Restaurant at Park City Mountain Resort during the ski season, just to share our joys and struggles in life and ministry. Everyone should have a friend like this with whom they can be brutally honest (and who is not afraid to tell you when you are, well, full of it!).

     Jeff is also an instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School and spends a few weeks each summer leading young adults and training them in wilderness travel and ethics in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. After returning from this summer’s trip, he shared with me a piece that was written by another instructor a few years back that he reads at the end of every course. It’s a little essay titled, “Why I Do What I Do.”

     The writer describes the various reasons why he loves his job—from learning to live simply, to physical health, to relationships, to his understanding of life being shaped by time in the wilderness. In a world where so many people tend to gripe about their jobs, this little essay speaks volumes about the joy that one can find when they feel like they are fulfilling their calling.

     Jeff and I met for coffee at Starbuck’s one morning and were talking this over. We got to thinking that it would be a great exercise for us to think about jotting down our own list of “Why I Do What I Do” items as a celebration of what it means to be in ministry. I started working this out during my morning devotional time and while I’m far from finished, there were a few things that leapt to mind:

    1. I believe that I’m fulfilling my calling more than doing a job. As one of my seminary professors once put it, “When God calls you to ministry, he’s not doing you a favor.” Sometimes, that feels true—just ask the biblical prophets who often got skewered by people to whom they were trying to bring good news. The flip side of that, though, is that when God calls you, God also equips you. When you are called, tasks choose you rather than you choosing the task and everything from preaching on Sunday to emptying the garbage cans after Wonderful Wednesday has meaning and value because it is part of the larger picture. I believe that I’m called to be here and to serve in ministry. I rely every day on God to equip me to do that well.

     2. I have the privilege of being involved in the significant moments of peoples’ lives.

I was recently officiating at a wedding for one of my former youth group kids. We are close to her family, she babysat our kids, and we have been on mission trips and in Bible studies together. To be present and facilitate her marriage wonderful young man was a real gift to me. Every time I baptize an infant, work with a family through grief, and even greet people on Sunday I am reminded that my ordination and presence is designed to be representative of God in those important, life-altering moments. There are times when I don’t represent God as well as I should due to my humanness getting in the way, but somehow God’s grace gets through anyway in spite of me. It is a special privilege to be with people when it matters.

     3. I get to bring God’s Word to a congregation each week. Much of my week is spent thinking—thinking about scriptural texts and what they mean, thinking about what God has to say to our world, thinking about how to convey God’s truth in a new and life-giving way. Unlike a guest speaker or religious pundit, I get to bring what God is showing me  to the same congregation every week where we can all wrestle with these words, be convicted by them, receive grace through them, and have our lives changed by them in relationship with each other over time. As I look out at your faces every Sunday I am reminded that God’s Word is not something that can be peddled, as Paul once said, but something shared within a community of faith. For me, Sunday morning is where God’s Spirit and Word and our listening ears meet together. I love that whole process and I am always amazed that God can use me to bring his Word. Sometimes I don’t know how God does it, but I do know that God’s Word, as it says in Isaiah 55:11, shall never return to him empty!

     Well, those are just three that I thought of and I know that there are more. Writing out “Why I Do What I Do” is a great exercise for shifting the focus off of ourselves and our desire to do “something better” in the future and instead look to the joy and satisfaction of being right where we are. I encourage you to try it: take an afternoon or an evening with a good pen and a clean sheet of paper and write down all the reasons and benefits of doing what you do, be it your profession, your parenting, or something else that gives you joy. Perhaps you’ll begin to see things differently!

The Method in Methodism: Part I (9/24 Sermon)

     One of the more interesting phenomena that I was confronted with upon being appointed to Park City Community Church was that many of our people didn’t (and some still don’t!) realize that we have long been a church connected to Methodism. I’ve even heard that there was a time in the not too distant past that the church considered throwing off that particular denominational moniker. My theory, however, is that the confusion over our church’s Methodist identity has almost everything to do with perceptions of church practice and polity than with theology. After all, the United Methodist Church does do things a little differently than many others – like having pastors appointed to churches by a bishop rather than by congregational vote. It’s always interesting to see the reaction of people in the community who ask me, “What brought you to Park City?” and I answer, “I was sent here!”

   The truth is that our church became a “community” church back in about 1919, when two congregations in Park City – one Methodist and one Congregational – decided to merge and put themselves under the Methodist umbrella. I like the “community” emphasis over the denominational emphasis, too, since most of the people who come here have no Methodist roots. No matter what the denominational label we are, after all, all after the same thing—a relationship with Christ.

     But I want to suggest to you that there is much to be gained if we would be intentional about reclaiming our church’s Methodist roots, learning about them and even looking at how recapturing the historic distinctives of our theology and practice could be helpful to us and, even more, lead us to our own kind of spiritual revival. As I look around at the United Methodist Church, I have observed that the denomination itself has become less and less Methodist and more and more institutional—concerned more with bureaucracy and institutional survival rather than making disciples for Christ. Other churches have adopted the Methodist way of doing church and have been effective in making disciples. A recent survey by Baylor University on religion in America says that mainline denominations like United Methodists are in decline as more and more people move toward more independent evangelical churches that are more clear about who they are and what they believe and what they expect of their membership. Now, granted, there’s a lot theologically in some independent churches that is suspect, but the trend does speak to the hunger that people have for a real experience of God that affects their daily lives. Just like the rest of the culture, churches have become more and more polarized into liberal and conservative camps which dilutes the impact of the Gospel for everyone.

     My working premise—my thesis statement, if you will—for this series is this: The theology and practice of the Methodist brand of Christianity, understood in basic terms, may provide an alternative to this polarization—not a middle ground, but a different way of seeing the Christian message that may unite rather than divide us. Paul Wesley Chilcote, who is a Methodist scholar teaching at Asbury Seminary, my alma mater, says that the uniqueness of Methodist lies what he calls a “conjunctive theology” – not a system of religious either/ors, but a relationship of both/ands. Early Methodism was focused on joining worship and theology with works of compassion and justice—what John Wesley called “practical divinity.” You saw that in action last week as Linda Hilton shared with you about Crossroads Urban Center – which is a classic example of Methodist theology and practice at work: faith worked out in engagement with the poor. Faith and works together form the centerpiece of our heritage.

     We’ll be looking at these both/ands throughout this six-week series, but today I want to give you just a little bit of background on the Methodist movement—a little history to set the stage for the rest of the series. To do that, we need to go back a ways in church history…

     You may recall that in the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation began when Martin Luther, a Catholic monk, nailed his 95 theses or critques of the Roman Catholic Church on the door of Wittenberg Cathedral in Germany. Others followed suit, bucking the power of the Church which had essentially ruled church and state in the Western world for some 12 centuries. In England, the reformation found its legs not so much on religious grounds as it did in the personal circumstances of the English King Henry VIII, who wanted to divorce his wife, Catharine of Aragon, and marry Anne Boleyn instead. The Pope refused to authorize the divorce, so Henry declared that he was starting his own church—the Church of England, which would eventually become (and still remains) the state church. The Church of England is also known as the Anglican Church and the Episcopal Church in America retains ties to it today.

     By the 18th century, the Church of England, however, had become a rather monolithic power in England, much like the Catholic Church had been for centuries before. The Church was more involved in the affairs of state than in spiritual matters. Priests were often absent from their posts, collecting pay while having others perform their work in absentia. The lines between poor and rich in pre-industrial England were sharply divided even in the church as the rich purchased subscriptions to the state church for political reasons and sat in pews while the poor were largely kept outside. Religion and politics were one and the same and the result was to the detriment of both (which is why our own founding fathers, coming from the English system, did not establish a state church of their own in their independence!).

     It was into this climate that, in 1703, John Wesley was born to his parents: Samuel, who was an Anglican priest serving the Epworth parish and his mother Susanna. John was the 14th of 19 children Samuel and Susanna would have together, though only 9 survived to adulthood. The Wesley home reflected some of the religious and political unrest of the era. Samuel was a Loyalist to the sitting King—William of Orange, while Susanna believed that the deposed King James was the rightful ruler. Money was tight and Samuel actually wound up in debtor’s prison at one point. When Samuel was away in London at a convocation, Susanna held prayer meetings in the parsonage because the curate who had filled in for Samuel at St. Andrews, his church, was ineffective. Susanna was a spirited, headstrong woman who instructed the children in faith and took on roles that were considered scandalous for a woman of her time.

     As the local parish priest there in rural Epworth, Samuel Wesley was the designated representative of the King. When the royalty decided to drain the marshes around Epworth, from the which the people gained their living, they took out their anger on the Wesleys. When John was 6 years old, the Epworth parsonage was engulfed in a massive fire that some historians believe was set by Samuel Wesley’s parishioners (if you ever get mad at me, by the way, please don’t burn down the parsonage!). John was miraculously saved from the fire, and his parents called him “a brand plucked from the burning” – believing that he was designated to do something important in his life.

John grew up and, as was expected, entered college to study for the ministry. His younger brother Charles would join him a couple of years later. They attended Christ Church College at Oxford. Oxford at the time was considered to be more of a social club for the rich and so the Wesley brothers were a bit odd considering their poor roots. It was there, however, that the Wesleys joined an emerging group called The Holy Club—a small group of students who were seeking a measure of spiritual devotion within the walls of the increasingly secular institution.

     Picture, if you will, a group of students who rose very early in the morning for prayer and Bible study, who held one another accountable for their failures, and who saw their mission as reaching out to the poor, even going to visit prisoners in the local jail. They read the scriptures for 6 hours a day, fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays, kept meticulous journals and generally maintained a strict discipline of life. They were considered by their peers to be religious fanatics and were thus called things like “Bible Moths” or “Sacramentarians” or “Methodists.” The name stuck, for they truly did have a method to their spirituality. Imagine, however, having your movement named after an insult!

     John and Charles would eventually be ordained as Anglican priests, but John especially was still searching for a faith that went beyond the formality and regimen of the Church of England. He was never satisfied with himself or his faith and was constantly seeking assurance that he was doing and believing the right things. He went to Georgia in the American colonies on a mission to the prisoners and Indians there…not so much because he was zealous about converting them to Christian faith but because he was searching for assurance of his own faith. The trip was a disaster—his methodology was a turn-off to the people in Georgia and a failed romance that ended badly sent him back to England confused.

     It was on returning, however, that all the discussion and wrestling and discipline he had subjected himself to began to pay off. In May of 1738, he had a kind of conversion of his own as he was listening to someone read from Luther’s commentary about the book of Romans. Suddenly, he had an assurance—a heart “strangely warmed” and knew that God’s grace was available to him and, indeed to everyone.

     It was then that the Methodist movement really began to take off. Wesley began to preach in the open air among the poor, the people whom the Church of England had ignored. He stood in marketplaces, at the entrance to the coal mines, and anywhere else he could proclaiming to the people that God’s grace and love were available to all. In one instance, he was in Epworth and was not allowed to preach in his father’s church because of the openness of his message. So, he went outside and stood on his father’s grave telling the people that God loved them and his grace was available to all. Wesley encountered resistance from the state church as we might imagine, yet he never left it. Methodism was always designed to be a reform movement within the church. That would eventually change, but in its early stages the movement was about connecting people to God in ways the church had failed to offer.

     Methodist “societies” formed all over England, characterized by small groups where people held one another accountable for their spiritual disciplines. To be a Methodist meant more than just showing up on Sunday—it meant a life of devotion to worship, to individual prayer and study and to acts of compassion and justice among the poor. Wesley himself wrote a book called “A Primitive Physic” which was essentially a health manual that promoted simple cures for various diseases (he was particularly fond of cold water and electrification as remedies, by the way). The poor could come to a Methodist meeting house and receive these primitive medications free of charge—a kind of early health care system.

     Methodists also established schools to educate the poor and ministered in places that proper English society would not go—to the inner cities and to the poorest villages. When Methodism came to America in the mid-8th century, it became the first religious group often to arrive on the frontier, bringing good news to people trying to eke out an existence in a hostile environment.

     The point here is not to canonize John Wesley for sainthood. He had issues, like we all do. He was a control freak, perhaps even a bit depressed, had trouble with women, was very rigid and demanding. His theology was not even original and he seemed to change his mind often throughout his life. As biographer Roy Hattersley puts it, Wesley’s theology, especially early in his life, reflected more the book he had just read than his convictions. His own spiritual searching, however, helped him focus on a form of Christianity that was different than the other Protestant reformers, who were mostly Calvinists that believed that God had already ordained who was saved and who wasn’t. Wesley believed that humans had a God-given will to choose a relationship with God for themselves. We’ll explore that a little more next Sunday.

     Wesley was a prolific writer and preacher, but it was his passion for tapping into the deeper roots of what he called “scriptural Christianity” that really grounded the movement—a movement where head and heart went hand in hand. It wasn’t original (look at the book of Acts), but it was uniquely balanced and passionate.

     To sum it up, the Methodist movement was unique and began to change the fabric of a whole culture. A theology of grace that was available to everyone, the practice of spiritual disciplines to help people grow in the knowledge and love of God, the discipline of meeting together regularly for accountability and support, and engagement with the poor and marginalized were the foundational principles of the movement. It grew largely because it saw faith as being less about the trappings of institutional religion and more about the relationships we have with God and each other.

     In the 19th century, as America moved west, so did the Methodists. Methodist preachers were known as “circuit riders” – moving from place to place, bringing the message to people living in small villages, establishing societies and groups and then moving on. Wesley himself had traveled some 250,000 miles on horseback in England and that legacy was passed on to his spiritual ancestors. When people ask why we Methodist clergy move so much, well, that’s why! Our heritage tells us that we are sent to where we can do the most good.

     I can almost imagine the first Methodist circuit rider to come here to the gritty little mining town of Park City, preaching to the miners, establishing a small church, encouraging these rough and tumble people with a message of God’s grace. We’re here today because that movement took hold and we are still here offering that message to everyone.

     After a couple of hundred years, however, things tend to get stale and even a movement like Methodism can become institutionalized, formal, routine. Rather than moving around and taking the message to people, we tend to build buildings and hope that people will come to us. We tend to look out only as far as our neighborhoods and engage people who are like us, forgetting that the focus of Jesus and the thrust of our spiritual forebears was ministry with the people on the fringes of society. The disciplines of study, worship, and prayer that fueled the movement become things that we pay attention to only when we might have a few spare moments. We look at church as being an hour a week rather than a way of life.

     The thing that became most clear to me as I traveled in England this summer visiting Wesley sites and studying the Methodist movement is that we need to revisit these roots and really think and pray about what it means to be disciples of Christ and people characterized by holiness of heart and life. John Wesley prayed that the people who joined the movement would not simply become another static institution that acted as an escape from the world—rather, his focus was on creating a movement that would change the world as people engaged the love and grace of God and acted it out with those in need.

     But changing the world begins with change in us—a change that will only come when we are willing to be disciplined, engaged, passionate. The goal was and is, as Paul says in Romans 5, “God’s love poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” How we embrace and enact that love will be the subject of the rest of this series.

     There’s a lot more that could be said historically about the Methodist movement, but time prevents me from doing so here. I hope that you’ll be here over the next six weeks or listen in online. I’m also teaching a class on Tuesday evenings at 7PM, beginning this week, that will help expand on what we’ll be talking about.

     My prayer is that as we continue to study together, our collective hearts will become “strangely warmed” by the message of God’s grace and love and that we will see a revival in this place—that when people come here or engage us in the community, they would want to know how they, too, can experience the love of God and change their world. Let us explore together a method for doing so!

Wesley Trip Pictures Uploaded

Check the sidebar for some photos that I took during the Wesley Study Tour this summer in England.