Awakening to Wesley

John Wesley and the theological perspective he contributed to the spiritual formation of disciples of Jesus Christ reallcom 6y was profound.  The Methodist movement he is credited with founding not only brought holy living back to the forefront of Christian responsibility, it gave practical structure to those seeking to live a life deeply influenced  by grace without overlooking the need for believers to be involved in social justice.

In many ways John Wesley was a spiritual genius.  He had the amazing ability to digest the unique contributions of several approaches to spiritual formation and fit them together in a manner that benefit those whom he taught and inspired.  He quest for his own spiritual perfection produced a strong, scripturally sound, and practical approach to serving God and promoting the Gospel.

My awakening to Wesley has been a journey through “Christian” consumerism, fundamentalism, the pseudo-piety of partisan politics, free church folly,  and bureaucracy based program oriented spiritual formation.  Awakening to Wesley has been a freeing, uplifting, and spiritually satisfying event.   The Wesley quadrilateral (Wesley did not give this approach it’s name) of Scripture, experience, tradition, and reason is such a useful tool for understanding the spiritual quest.  Wesley’s views on prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace magnify the blessings God seeks to give us through love.  Wesley’s call for disciples to seek perfection in the desire of our heart and soul powerful motivator for developing in the Christian quest.

And then there is the structure of supervision.  Everyone in the Methodist church is supervised.  There is a realistic understanding of the depravity of humanity and our weaknesses.  We need to be subject to one another.  This is not a matter of ecclesiastical control but of support and care.  To know you are accountable and to have someone who is helping you stay on track is a gift that opens the door to deeper development as a servant of God.

Yes, it has been a joy to awaken to Wesley.  It is good to learn more about this man who has given us all so much to help us draw closer to our Lord and to have a stronger base from which to seek to fulfill God’s purpose for us.

Where do We go from Here?

labyrinth1

The figure at the right is called a labyrinth.  I plan to make one in the in fence in area at the back of the church. The labyrinth has been used by Christians for centuries as a tool to help them in prayer walking and in meditation. At the spiritual retreat I went to a few months back there was a labyrinth that Juanell and I walked and prayed on together. It was an uplifting experience.

The thing about a labyrinth is that you are always progressing toward a goal but sometimes the path seems to lead away from the center.  If you trace the labyrinth at the right you will discover this for yourself.

This last Sunday we had several meetings.  The trustees met and discussed the things we need to do to take care of the facilities we now use.  We talked about the old building.  We talked about parking lots.  We talked about air conditioners, fans, exit signs, insurance, utilities, and making at least one bathroom ADA compliant for any challenged folks who might come to our meeting place.  We also talked about speakers, the gas leak, and the work day we had just completed.  The discussion had a lot of passion, truth, compassion, differing opinions but all with hearts wanting to do what is best for our church and ministry.  We are fortunate to have such good trustees.

We do have a problem.  We have a lot of things needing to be done and a limited amount of resources.  Our trustees understand this and will do the best they can to prioritize and organize to make the most of what we have.  It is going to be a lot of hard work.  The meeting went longer than the hour set aside.  Still, it was a needed and good meeting.

Next we had a finance committee meeting.  Again good people met and had serious discussions.  I talked too much, but I felt as pastor in need to say what I said.  It too was a good meeting.  Responsible and thoughtful steps were taken to help this committee have a better handle on our finances and set some priorities as well.

After this meeting we had a VBS planning meeting.  We want to reach children AND their families.  VBS can be a good tool to help us in this cause.  This year we want to do a VBS that involves the majority of the members of our church.  Hopefully everyone will be willing to give some time to this project.  Prayerfully everyone will be willing to be stretched a bit in their comfort zones.  But again, this is a concern of finances.  Those planning VBS also know our resources are limited.  The is agreement on the part of everyone that we should not spend what we do not have!

Finances, faith, and the future are like a labyrinth.  The journey to where we want to be can at times be confusing.  However, if one sticks to the path and continues to move forward the goal will be obtained—UNLESS, unless we do not know what the goal is or if we do not think the goal is worth the effort or time.

There are those who claim to know exactly what God’s will is for everything the church does (I am speaking of the church in general not our church).  I do not make such claims.  I do know that God gives visions and missions like the ones God gave to Nehemiah and to Paul.  I do pray for direction in the things I try to bring to the attention of our church.  I believe if what I bring up is good then it will be affirmed by the majority of the people who have the responsibility for the oversight of that area.  I have no problem being told no, nor do I believe those who say no (or yes) are any less in the will of our Lord than I.   I do, however, believe it is wrong to just try and maintain where we are.  The church is a living organism.  If it is not growing, moving, thriving, it is dying.  The book of Revelation has something to say about churches on that subject.   If we will not be used of the Lord, then the Lord will use someone else.  Where there is no vision the people perish.

So, the question for us is, “Where do we go from here?”  What is the goal(s)?  Are we making sure we are on the journey together?

I am going to make a labyrinth.  I hope you will walk it and pray we me.

The Desire to Worship

NIV Psalm 95:6  Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;

I use the book “Divine Hours” by Phyllis Tickle as a prayer guide in my daily prayers.  I deeply enjoy the discipline of keeping the offices of prayer.  It has been a very rewarding (and at times) challenging practice.  The office allow God to speak to me in ways I might have missed otherwise.

One of yesterdays readings caused me a bit of uneasiness.   It had to do with God’s desire for authentic worship and God’s disdain for “playing” at worship.  It also reminded me of a quote I used to keep on my desk:

“Most middle-class Americans tend to:
worship their work;
work at their play; and
play at their worship.
That which we worship, we serve,
and that which we serve we will give our all–heart, soul, mind and body.”

-Gordon Dahl

The last thing I want to do is to “play” at my worship.  However, staying true to doing liturgy (the work of the people) is not easy when the culture looks at worship simply as an option in their lives.  Worship becomes something we attend.  It becomes something we chose to do.  It is something which should meet our “needs” or we will not attend (since we “pay” i.e., give money we should get what we want).

In our culture going to church or worshiping is something we do when we have the time or the inclination or it does not conflict with our schedule.  We pick the church or churches we attend based not on seeking true worship but on the style, comfort, familiarity, or the church’s potential to be used to meet other selfish needs.  The the rise of the market-driven “church” that is more focused on niche marketing and be specialty shop that a vessel for the worship of God and the presence of Jesus on this earth.

Isaiah 29:13  The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.  These words are echoed by Jesus:  Matthew 15:7-9  You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:  “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'”

The above verses were used by some to blast the traditions of worship handed down by the church.  However, it is not the tradition that is being condemned but the attitude of the heart.

Is this where we are at?

John 4:23-24  Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The word for truth also carries with it the meaning of genuine, real.  It is my prayer and growing desire that in God’s bringing about perfection in me that I willingly and eagerly seek to be above all a true worshiper who lives not by the desire of my selfish nature but through the altruistic nature of the Spirit of God that draws me to gather with others who:  Psalm 95:6   Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.