Tag Archives: Methodism

The Right Heart

     “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”

         Jesus said: “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a             person.”

 

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

 “Is your heart right, as my heart is with your heart?”


The Wesleyan Covenant Prayer

I am no longer my own, but thine.Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.Put me to doing, put me to suffering.Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,exalted for thee or brought low for thee.Let me be full, let me be empty.Let me have all things, let me have nothing.I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

thou art mine, and I am thine.

So be it.And the covenant which I have made on earth,let it be ratified in heaven.Amen.

 

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Covenant Servants

 

“Give yourselves to the Lord as His Servants, and bind yourselves to him as His Covenant-Servants.”

—John Wesley

John Wesley wanted all Methodists to be “Covenant –Servants” of God. He pointed to the scripture in Deuteronomy as his basis: “Today you have obtained the Lord’s agreement: to be your God; and for you to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, his commandments, and his ordinances, and to obey him. Today the Lord has obtained your agreement: to be his treasured people, as he promised you, and to keep his commandments.” (Deut 26:17-18)  Wesley urged all people to take these words with profound seriousness. Today’s Methodists have fundamentally lost the Wesleyan concept of becoming a Covenant Servant. Our world is not in the habit of making covenants or doing service. Wesley put forth five ways to put this covenant into practice. Let’s try to recapture his concept.

English: Remember John Wesley, Wroot. Photo by...

SET APART TIME- Specifically, he pointed to the need of covenant people to have regular, secret time with God. Prayer, silence, and secret time with God are the fertilizer of the soul. Without such times we spiritually wither and die.

SERIOUSNESS OF SPIRIT- No relationship develops without a serious intent. The maker of the Covenant must be willing to work long and hard to keep the promises.

CLAIM THE GRACE OF COVENANT PEOPLE- With the covenant comes the grace of God, and that grace is beyond our human comprehension. People must claim and utilize God’s abundant grace on their journeys. Too often, we rely upon our strength at the neglect of the immeasurable strength of God. As covenant people that grace and strength is ours to use.

RESOLVE TO BE FAITHFUL- I can’t put it any better than Wesley himself. “Having engaged your hearts, open your mouth, and subscribe with your hands to the Lord, resolve in his strength never to go back.” The resolution is to never go back to life as it was before our covenant with God. Exercise control over our actions and our words as we strive to live for Him.

DO THE WORK OF THE COVENANT- We are commanded go forth to do the witness and work of the Lord. In our hands and through our words, the good news should manifest itself. Our work is done as if God were by our side watching our every move.

Wesley’s Covenant Prayer begins—“O dreadful God, for the passion of your Son, I beech you to accept your poor Prodigal now prostrating himself at your door: I have fallen from you by my iniquity, and am by nature a son of death, and a thousand fold more a child of hell by my wicked practices; but of your infinite grace you have promised mercy to me in Christ if I will but turn to you with all my heart: therefore upon the call of your gospel, I am now come in, and throwing down my weapons, submit myself to your mercy.” Life could be truly different if we all went to God in that frame of mind.

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A Word from Mr. Wesley #1

John Wesley (1703-1791), founder of Methodism

John Wesley (1703-1791), founder of Methodism 

‘The Methodists must take heed to their doctrine, their experience, their practice, and their discipline. If they attend to their doctrines only, they will make the people antinomians; if to the experimental part of religion only, they will make them enthusiasts; if to the practical part only, they will make them Pharisees; and if they do not attend to their discipline, they will be like persons who bestow much pains in cultivating their garden, and put no fence round it, to save it from the wild boar of the forest.”

—– John Wesley

John Wesley expressed the importance of us becoming fully developed believers of Christ. The fully devoted believers does not become a one dimensional Christian.

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A Word from Mr. Wesley

English: "John Wesley," by the Engli...

“The Methodists must take heed to their doctrine, their experience, their practice, and their discipline. If they attend to their doctrines only, they will make the people antinomians; if to the experimental part of religion only, they will make them enthusiasts; if to the practical part only, they will make them Pharisees; and if they do not attend to their discipline, they will be like persons who bestow much pains in cultivating their garden, and put no fence round it, to save it from the wild boar of the forest.”

—–John Wesley

John Wesley expressed the importance of us becoming fully developed believers of Christ. The fully devoted believer does not become a one dimensional Christian. One of the greatest challenges that the postmodern church faces is to rediscover what it means to be a believer in our world setting. There are so many problems, hindrances, and obstacles that plague believers today. Retreating into a one dimensional faith can feel quite comfortably.

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Wesley and Communion

Institution of the Eucharist

Institution of the Eucharist

John Wesley was a high church Anglican, when it came to the sacrament of Holy Communion. He very much believed in constant communion. He writes in a sermon of the same name.

I say constantly receiving; for as to the phrase of frequent communion, it is absurd to the last degree. If it means anything less than constant, it means more than can be proved to be the duty of any man. For if we are not obliged to communicate constantly, by what argument can it be proved that we are obliged to communicate frequently? Yea, more than once a year, or once in seven years, or once before we die? Every argument brought for this, either proves that we ought to do it constantly, or proves nothing at all. Therefore, that indeterminate, unmeaning way of speaking ought to be laid aside by all men of understanding.

—–John Wesley

Wesley received communion several times a week. He believed that it was commanded by Christ, and that the benefits (forgiveness, grace, assurance) of receiving communion should motivate one to commune constantly.

Wesley asserted that a Christian should study the passages in the Gospels and in 1 Corinthians 11  to come to a better understanding of the sacrament. He did not believe that Paul’s reference to “eating and drinking unworthily” referred to a lack of understanding of the meaning of the sacrament, but rather referred to celebrating in an unworthy manner in selfishness, and in a divisive ecclesial spirit. Infrequent communion also constituted eating and drinking unworthily.

Wesley never addressed the issue of whether an unbaptized person could receive communion, but given his context, he probably assumed that baptism was a prerequisite for coming to the Lord’s Table. He did, however, state that someone who is “earnestly seeking” may come to the table and find the grace they need. On occasion, Wesley did exclude some from receiving the Eucharist for various reasons. His understanding of open table was not a blanket invitation to everyone. Sinners must be earnestly seeking the grace of God, and in most cases one must be a member of a Methodist society. Soul-searching and prayer were important prerequisites, although Wesley did not exclude someone if daily events did not give time for such preparation. It was Wesley’s ecclesiological-oriented understanding of the sacrament that led him in this direction. It was the influence of the private religion in America on Methodism in the nineteenth century that led to open table as one of general invitation to all no matter what (J. Fitzgerald, in the Wesleyan Theological Journal, pp. 141-142, Spring 2007).

Wesley rejected with strong words the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, but as in baptism, he understood the sacrament as an actual means of the grace of God.

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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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John Wesley Fast

English: Portrait drawing of John Wesley, foun...

English: Portrait drawing of John Wesley, founder of Methodism. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is the “John Wesley Fast?
Each Thursday evening, after the evening meal, until mid-afternoon on each Friday, Methodist people are invited to follow Wesley’s example of fasting and prayer. During this time he did not take solid food but fasted and focused much of his time in prayer.

What is a fast? 
Normally persons do not use solid food, but continue with liquids during such a short but regular fast.

Who is invited to participate in the “John Wesley Fast?”
John Wesley expected the “preachers” to participate, and he wanted all of the Methodist leaders and people to follow this discipline.

Why this pattern?
Methodist people are invited to discover the power in this regular pattern and discipline that John Wesley followed for a half a century. For Wesley, the more important reason for fasting was that fasting is a help to prayer.

During this Lenten season let me suggest that we all observe the “John Wesley Fast” as a Lenten discipline.


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