Category Archives: Methodist

Catholic Spirit

Stripped image of John Wesley

15When he left there, he met Jehonadab son of Rechab coming to meet him; he greeted him, and said to him, “Is your heart as true to mine as mine is to yours?” Jehonadab answered, “It is.” Jehu said, “If it is, give me your hand.” So he gave him his hand. Jehu took him up with him into the chariot.

2 Kings 10: 15

 

Such a simple and straightforward message is found in the words of 2 Kings, and yet we fail to see how monumental it is. Jehu had has just conquered Ahab, the evil king, and purged the kingdom of his followers. He then went further and met Jehonadab and had that simple question for him, “Is your heart as true to mine as mine is to yours?” The heart is the key to the worth of a person. Too often, we attach labels and reputations to others that are undeserved.

John Wesley in his sermon, “Catholic Spirit,” reminds us that we are all called to love with an unfailing love, and that unity is found in the heart of a man. He states, “Every wise man, therefore, will allow others the same liberty of thinking which he desires they should allow him; and will no more insist on their embracing his opinions, than he would have them to insist on his embracing theirs.” We make the mistake of demanding that all those around us see life in the way we see it-that they believe as we do, and even worship as we do.  Let us be reminded that God did not create robot clones, but persons of free will and persuasion. We find the unity of the church in allowing for these differences. Mr. Wesley calls that the catholic spirit, and I like it.

It’s time for the Church to get back on mission. The final command Jesus gave was not “get every nuance of theology right.” The command was, “Go, and make disciples of all nations.” We serve the same God, are saved by the same sacrifice, and were given the same Commission. Instead of focusing on our differences, we should focus on the One who makes us the same.

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The Monastic Path

Some sixteen hundred years ago men and women who sought a deep relationship with God went to the Egyptian desert to find a sense of peace and unity with Him. These men and women became known as the Desert Fathers and Mothers (the Abbas and Ammas.) They lived a simple and somewhat isolated life of work and prayer, and followed a three step program to mysticism. The goal of every monk was to see and feel the mystical presence of God.

The first level was Purgatio, a time when the young monks through prayer and ascetic practices sought to control their “flesh.” Specifically they were challenged to control their desire for wealth, lust of the flesh, and gluttony. This period of purgation could last for years, and didn’t conclude until they realized that the only control was found through grace. This grace came directly from the Holy Spirit.

Then the young monk went to the second step, Illuminatio. During this period the monks practiced the paths to holiness as revealed in the Gospel, identifying strongly with the Christ who taught the Sermon on the Mount. At this point the monk began to guide others in their paths of purgation, helping them to discover the grace of God. They entertained visitors and took on students as their resources allowed. Often the monk stayed at this stage until his death.

The final stage was Unitio, a period in which the soul of the monk was meant to bond with the Spirit of God in a union often described as the marriage of the Song of Solomon. At this point, many monks withdrew to the deep desert, modeling their journey after resurrected Christ, when he hid himself from His disciples, and appeared to them sparingly.

Amazingly, we can learn so much from desert monasticism. These pioneers of spirituality provide for us a personal path to God that works so well. Just imagine what  life would be if we would follow the path of the desert, as we sought God. Many of the conflicts and worst church experiences could be avoided. If each Christian saw as his first task to purge himself of the desires of the flesh (not just sexual lust), and then share his journey, without judgment, with someone else, we would teach and hold up each other. It would be the burning desire of every believer to assist others in finding their path.

I am not sure that any of us will ever get to this final stage. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, taught an order of salvation: justification, sanctification, and glorification. Unitio and glorification are similar theologies, and Wesley concluded that glorification was not possible in our lifetime. I agree with Wesley’s conclusion, but we can have such a joyful journey if we are mindful of ourselves and those around us.

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Filed under Christian Living, Commitment, Desert Fathers, Methodist, Missional Living, Monasticism, Sermon on the Mount, Spiritual Growth

Good Heart

Statue of John Wesley at Wesley's Chapel City ...

Statue of John Wesley at Wesley’s Chapel City Road, London. (January 2006) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Every wise man, therefore, will allow others the same liberty of thinking that he desires they should allow him, and will no more insist on their embracing his opinions than he would have them to insist on his embracing theirs. He is patient with those who differ from him, and only asks him with whom he desires to unite in love that single question: “Is your heart right, as my heart is with your heart?”

—-John Wesley from “Catholic Spirit”

The words of John Wesley ring loud and clear in this confusing and divisive time. Wise men allow others to differ from them without turning on them. The concept that we must all walk in step with one another or become enemies is destroying our churches and nation. Our political or theological stands are not the sum total of our being.. The heart reveals our true nature. We are people of good heart or bad heart. If we wish ill will and destruction with any who disagree with our opinions, then I would say that we are not of good heart. However, people of good heart and wisdom can embrace others even if they are not in full agreement with them. 

People of good heart:

  • Look for areas of agreement
  • Attempt to find the greater good
  • Work for the greater good
  • Seek truth
  • Understand there is more than one right answer
  • Give up power

To all I ask: “Is your heart right, as my heart is with your heart?”

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