Friday, August 29, 2014

Things Methodists Should Know- 2

Where did we come from, we Methodists? I try to remember our own story when I start fussing about the current religious situation – with new churches started every day of every brand and no brand. It goes back to our founder, John Wesley. Father John was born June 17, 1703. He was one of nineteen children of Susannah and Samuel Wesley. Samuel was a priest in the Church of England, and poor. There were no public schools; so, Susannah was the teacher. She taught each of them, the children that survived, reading, writing, arithmetic, and religion. She was a profound influence on her children. Also, among the children was Charles. John would grow up in the Church of England and would respond to a call to be a priest like his father. He attended Oxford University, with his brother Charles. By all counts, John was a scholarly, introverted, snobbish Englishman. But something started to happen with him at Oxford. Weekly he would get together for Bible Study with some other students. They would study and then visit prisoners to witness. Think of these university students visiting others who were in prison. These students were made fun of by others and given the name “The Holy Club”. Then, they were made fun of again and named: “Methodists”, because of their stern methods and disciplines. It was meant to be a term of derision but it stuck. And, so it began. John himself went through many ups and downs in his spiritual life. He did not feel that he was doing enough to be right with God. The disciplines where there, but not the experience. So, he met and prayed with other Christians looking for the deep experience of faith. One of the deepest of his experiences came on May 24, 1738. He went to a meetinghouse where they were studying the Book of Romans. And John wrote in his journal:
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death. I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me and persecuted me. I then testified openly to all there what I now first felt in my heart. But it was not long before the enemy suggested, “This cannot be faith; for where is thy joy?” Then was I taught that peace and victory over sin are essential to faith in the Captain of our salvation; but that, as to the transports of joy that usually attend the beginning of it, especially in those who have mourned deeply, God sometimes giveth, sometimes withholdeth, them according to the counsels of His own will. After my return home, I was much buffeted with temptations, but I cried out, and they fled away. They returned again and again. I as often lifted up my eyes, and He “sent me help from his holy place.” And herein I found the difference between this and my former state chiefly consisted. I was striving, yea, fighting with all my might under the law, as well as under grace. But then I was sometimes, if not often, conquered; now, I was always conqueror. Thursday, 25.—The moment I awakened, “Jesus, Master,” was in my heart and in my mouth; and I found all my strength lay in keeping my eye fixed upon Him and my soul waiting on Him continually. Being again at St. Paul’s in the afternoon, I could taste the good word of God in the anthem which began, “My song shall be always of the loving-kindness of the Lord: with my mouth will I ever be showing forth thy truth from one generation to another.” Yet the enemy injected a fear, “If thou dost believe, why is there not a more sensible change? I answered (yet not I), “That I know not. But, this I know, I have ‘now peace with God.’ And I sin not today, and Jesus my Master has forbidden me to take thought for the morrow.” Wednesday, June 7.—I determined, if God should permit, to retire for a short time into Germany. I had fully proposed, before I left Georgia, so to do if it should please God to bring me back to Europe. And I now clearly saw the time was come. My weak mind could not bear to be thus sawn asunder. And I hoped the conversing with those holy men who were themselves living witnesses of the full power of faith, and yet able to bear with those that are weak, would be a means, under God, of so establishing my soul that I might go on from faith to faith, and from “strength to strength.” [The next three months Wesley spent in Germany visiting the Moravians.]
More later. Blessings! Dave Nichols

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Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.

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A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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