Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Social Holiness?

John Wesley once said something like, “there is no holiness but social holiness, no gospel but social gospel.”

This has been so badly misused by Methodists. We hear the phrases “social holiness” and “social gospel” and assume it means some program of activism. What he meant was that we are not individual Christians. It's the basis of the small-group discipleship the early Methodists emphasized: our holiness is among us, and so is our gospel. We grow in grace as we meet together and hold each other accountable.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

I Didn't Go to a Methodist Church Sunday

Many years back, a friend of mine told me that she no longer went to a Methodist Church. She had grown up at First Methodist in Lexington, KY, but she had moved North to pursue her Ph.D. The Methodist churches in the area—she could not figure them out. I don't remember what she said was not jibing. But I think I resonate with what she felt. Jessie's family is from Illinois. Over the past 6 years when we come to visit, we have been to some Methodist churches in the area. I have yet to hear the Gospel in a Methodist church in Central Illinois. Something has gone bad wrong.

As we were thinking about where to go, we knew for starters that we were not going to a Methodist church. That such a decision has been made would have bothered me a few years ago. But now I don't really care what has gone wrong or why. Can't fix it. But I am not going to go to a Methodist church here, waiting to see what happens, or hoping we might get to hear the Gospel.

We decided to worship at a non-denominational church we heard about from a friend of Jessie's we met at the bike shop.

I totally succeeded in turning my pastor-mode off. Normally it feels like I am a 12 o'clock preacher, woulda-done-this, I-don't-believe-I'd'a-done-it-that-way... But I worshipped the Lord with gladness. And even moreso because the Gospel was clearly presented. I thanked the pastor for his sermon.

You can make a living by telling the church it's dying and presenting your plan to revive it. We are dying and it's because we are... too conservative... too liberal... don't have a contemporary service... sing hymns...didn't apologize for the Crusades...

Methodists are dying in this country and will deservedly die out because we don't preach the Gospel. We have a lot of money and a lot of property-- we can probably drive this thing into the ground for another 75 years.

Or we can preach the Gospel.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Old Paths

An old friend sent me a note of encouragement after I had started posting here again. He said that “we who claim a Wesleyan heritage have wandered far from the old paths... and we are suffering and shall suffer for it.”

I paid close attention when I read this in Wesley's Journal last night:

Jun 20, 1760 “I exhorted them to 'ask for the old paths and walk therein,' that they might 'find rest to' their souls.”

And imagine my surprise when I read today, from Jun 31, 1761, that Wesley preached in Newcastle, exhorting the people to “stand in the ways and see” and “ask for the old paths” and “walk therein!”

Wesley was quoting from Jeremiah 6, here is 6:10-19 for some of the context:

To whom can I speak and give warning?
Who will listen to me?
Their ears are closed
so they cannot hear.
The word of the Lord is offensive to them;
they find no pleasure in it.
But I am full of the wrath of the Lord,
and I cannot hold it in.
“Pour it out on the children in the street
and on the young men gathered together;
both husband and wife will be caught in it,
and the old, those weighed down with years.
Their houses will be turned over to others,
together with their fields and their wives,
when I stretch out my hand
against those who live in the land,”
declares the Lord.
“From the least to the greatest,
all are greedy for gain;
prophets and priests alike,
all practice deceit.
They dress the wound of my people
as though it were not serious.
‘Peace, peace,’ they say,
when there is no peace.
Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct?
No, they have no shame at all;
they do not even know how to blush.
So they will fall among the fallen;
they will be brought down when I punish them,”
says the Lord.
This is what the Lord says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
I appointed watchmen over you and said,
‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’
But you said, ‘We will not listen.’
Therefore hear, you nations;
you who are witnesses,
observe what will happen to them.
Hear, you earth:
I am bringing disaster on this people,
the fruit of their schemes,
because they have not listened to my words
and have rejected my law.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Faith in Action

One of the blessings of reading John Wesley's Journal is that it is like having someone come alongside you and teach you about pastoral care.

Aug 10, 1760.  "I took an account of the society, and was grieved, though not surprised, to find such decline.  I left 290 members, I find only 233. And what will the end be, unless those that remain learn to bear one another's burdens?"

Dec 24, 1760. "I visited as many as I could of the sick.  How much better is it, when it is practical, to take relief to the poor than to send it!  For both our sake and theirs.  For them, because it is so much more comforting, and we can help them in both spiritual and physical needs.  For our sake because it is more likely to soften our hearts, and to make us naturally care for each other."

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Selections from Wesley's Journal

Jan 29, 1759
"By repeated experiments we learn, that though a man preach like an angel, he will neither collect, nor preserve a society which is collected, without visiting them from house to house."

June 4, 1759
"After preaching I rode on to Newcastle. Certainly if I did not believe there was another word, I should spend all my summers here; as I know no place in Great Britain comparable to it for pleasantness.  But I seek another country, and therefore am content to be a wandered on earth."

June 24, 1759 "What marvel the devil does not love field-preaching.  Neither do I: I love a commodious room, a soft cushion, a handsome pulpit.  But where is my zeal if I do not trample all these under foot, in order to save one more soul?"

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Hi All,

Something tells me it is time to start posting here again.  We'll see how it goes.  For the moment, some research I am doing gives me material for this blog.  I look forward to giving us some meat from Wesley and the early Methodists!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Brief Look Into Emmaus

On the Mondays after communion on Sunday, Jessie and I go to an assisted living facility where a number of our church members live. Actually, the only reason they let me come is because I bring Nadia! One time I did not--she was out of town with Jessie--and they told me not to do that again.

It is a wonderful time of sharing communion and ministry.

I shared briefly today from Luke 24, the disciples on the road to Emmaus:

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him

He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

This passage has critical importance for Christian doctrine and preaching, insomuch as Jesus is speaking about the Scriptures.

“How foolish you are and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” This is the content of the Apostolic Preaching, what we ought to teach even today, that Jesus is revealed in the Old Testament, and Jesus is the fulfillment of all the purposes, promises and power of God.

“And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” This is the purpose of preaching, the teach the truth about Jesus as revealed in the Scriptures. Christianity has at its core a stable teaching, not a range of possible interpretations.

When He broke bread, their eyes were opened-- indeed, the sacrament can do this for us.

“Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the scriptures to us”-- The power of the revelation in the written word mediates the presence of Christ to us, even as the sacrament does. The faith is not known by reason, but by revelation and encounter with Jesus, from which we have, among other things, lots of reasoning to do.