God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God
Approximate Notes for Sunday Message: Methodist Roots
Scriptures: Psalm 150
568: “Christ to the World We Sing”
198: “My Soul Gives Glory to my God” (we will use melody #57)
2001: “We Sing to You, O God” (the same melody as # 715)
!!!! Special Thanx to Rev. Adam Hamilton for giving me idea for this sermon series
In the next few weeks I want to concentrate on what it means to be making disciples for Jesus in the context of a Methodist Church. Making Disciples encompasses mission, outreach, revival, worship, discipleship, Bible Study and Christian fellowship, just to name just a few ways that are available to us. The way we live out our understanding of Scriptures, our faith and our devotion to God is largely dependent on what is going on around us.
To begin with, we need to look at how Methodism started. In order to do that, we need to understand the history and times of England that lead to the period of time when Methodism was born.
John Wesley (28 June,1703 – 2 March, 1791) was a founder of the Methodist movement. He lived at a time when many of his contemporaries found their faith and their relationship with God fading if not completely vanishing. John Wesley found his own faith renewed through the works of the Holy Spirit, and he led a revival of the Anglican Church in 18th Century England. That revival spread like a wildfire through the English controlled territories and colonies; the future United States of America being one of them.
The goal of today’s sermon is not to discuss history; the goal of today’s sermon is not to discuss theology. The goal of today’s sermon is to draw a parallel between the times when Methodism started and our own lives, to shed light on how we can be a catalyst of renewal and regeneration.
It all started with King Henry VIII (1491 – 1547); today he is known as the king of England who kept getting rid of his wives. Believe it or not, he was not the monster that we think him to be. His primary concern was the succession of the throne of England.
Henry VIII needed a son to continue the monarchy. Hence he kept marrying and divorcing wives who bore daughters. Most of his wives were given the option to bow out gracefully and quietly retire to a monastery.
When Henry’s first wife failed to produce a male successor for the throne of England, the King asked the Pope to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon (who happened to be a Hapsburg). Among other reasons, the Pope did not want to offend the Hapsburg family who ruled most of Europe and refused the annulment.
To counteract that, Henry VIII decided that the Church of England would cease to be Roman Catholic and would become Anglo-Catholic; in effect Henry took charge of the Church of England. That occurred during the time when the Reformation was spreading like wildfire through the continent of Europe.
After Henry VIII death, his illegitimate son Edward became King Edward VI (1537 – 1553). Edward was sickly; he became the King of England when he was nine years old and ruled England until his death at the age of 16. King Edward VI continued in his father’s footsteps, taking the Church of England further away from Roman Catholicism and towards the Protestant Reformation that was happening on the continent of Europe.
After Edward’s death, his half-sister Mary (1516 – 1558) came to the throne of England in 1553. Mary’s mother was a Hapsburg and a staunch Catholic; Mary was raised as a Catholic and she wanted to take the Church of England back to the Roman Catholic Church. Her vision for the church was to go back to the way church had been before her father took the church away from Rome. To show her resolve, she burned three prominent Anglican bishops at the stake in Oxford in the first three month of her reign, and during her reign she burned and executed countless clergy and laity who refused to profess allegiance to the Pope or who were suspected of harboring protestant ideas. That earned her the nickname “Bloody Mary.” She died from influenza in 1558.
After Mary’s death, Queen Elizabeth (1533 – 1603) became the Queen of England. Elizabeth was raised a protestant and she took the church back to Anglicanism. She ruled England until 1603 and under her direction the Church of England moved towards the High Church.
By that time Reformation took a firm hold on the continent of Europe and on the English Isles there were two religious factions: High Church Anglicans and Puritans. Puritans wanted to bring purity and simplicity to faith and to the church; they wanted to get rid of bells and smells, they viewed expensive icons, ornate decoration and gold-leaf in their churches as extravagant.
In the 1600s, two bloody civil wars were fought partly because of conflicts between Anglicans and Puritans. Depending on who was in power, common folks had difficulty figuring out who they were and how they were to do church. Mistakes were deadly, people lost their lives for professing their beliefs. People did not know whether they were puritans, or Catholics or Anglicans. People became weary of religion, tired of conflicts, tired of arguing over their faith. Most people simply checked out.
John Wesley was born in 1703 into that world of indifference and apathy.
His grandparents were convinced Puritans. His parents were faithful Anglicans. John Wesley had roots on both sides. Because of that John Wesley knew that Puritans had something very important to say; John Wesley knew firsthand that Puritans understood something about God. At the same time he knew that Anglicans also knew something about God and that Anglicans also had something extremely important to teach about who God is. Wesley’s premise was that if we bring Puritanism and Anglicanism together, we will gain a better understanding of who God is and stronger faith will result.
Because Wesley had roots on both sides of the isle he understood that our faith will be stronger and more productive if we build bridges of cooperation instead of calling each other names and building walls of separation.
John Wesley’s idea was that if you love Jesus and I love Jesus, it is secondary whether we agree on infant baptism. John Wesley’s idea was that if you love Jesus and I love Jesus, it is secondary whether we agree on predestination. If you love Jesus and I love Jesus it is enough for us to be friends and sisters/brothers in Christ.
That was the spirit of the Methodist revival; all of a sudden you did not have to hate other people in order to be a Christian. Look at what John Wesley wrote in his notes to the New Testament:
I cannot flatter myself so far … as to imagine that I have fallen into no mistakes in a work of so great difficulty. But my own conscience acquits me of … having written one line with a purpose of inflaming the hearts of Christians against each other. God forbid that I should make the words of the most gentle and benevolent Jesus a vehicle to convey such poison. Would to God that all the party names, and unscriptural phrases and forms, which have divided the Christian world, were forgot: and that we might all agree to sit down together, as humble, loving disciples, at the feet of our common Master, to hear his word, to imbibe his Spirit, and to transcribe his life in our own! (Wesley, “Notes” 9).
In his sermon titled “A Catholic Spirit,” John Wesley wrote
But even though a difference in opinions or modes of worship may prevent an entire external union, yet need it prevent our union in affection? Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without doubt, we may. In this all the children of God may unite, even though they retain these smaller differences. These remaining as they are, they may help one another increase in love and in good works (Wesley, “A Catholic Spirit” 4).
John Wesley understood that maybe, just maybe, we do not have all the answers. John Wesley’s premise was that we should approach our relationship with God, our understanding of who God is, and how we should live out our faith and devotion to God, with “fear and trembling.”
Philippians 2:12-13 NIV 2010
12 Therefore, my dear friends … continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Today we live in a world that is just as polarized as the world into which John Wesley was born.
In John Wesley’s world people checked out of faith and did not want to have anything to do with religion. Today we have generations of young men and women who make a conscious choice to not associate with any church or religion or denomination – we call them “nones” because they check “none” on their census registration when answering the question about the religious faith they associate with.
In John Wesley’s world we had Tories and Wigs. In our world we have Republicans and Democrats.
In John Wesley’s world we had Puritans and Anglicans. In our world we have Fundamentalists and Progressives, Liberals and Conservatives. Each group does not even hesitate to use incinerating rhetoric to describe others; all we have to do is listen to talk radio or watch TV. All sides are guilty.
Our world needs Jesus, and the people called Methodists are in a unique position to be the catalyst of reconciliation due to our roots and traditions. Our world needs the spirit of cooperation that is a part of our Methodist tradition. It is our tradition to build bridges of reconciliation and cooperation that unite us instead of erecting walls of separation that drive a wedge between us. Our world and our culture needs to revive a tradition that teaches us to treat others with respect, instead of calling each other names. Our world needs to revive a tradition of taking the time to understand what others bring to the table and maybe, just maybe, work towards a common understanding so that our common problems can be solved, so that all of us can ease each other’s suffering and make this world a better place.
Philippians 2:1-5 NIV2010 Imitating Christ’s Humility
1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value OTHERS above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…
As I said earlier, the goal of today’s sermon is not simply to discuss history; the goal of today’s sermon is not to discuss theology. The goal of today’s sermon is to draw a parallel between the time when Methodism started and our own lives today, and to see how we can use our traditions to be a catalyst of renewal and reconciliation in the world around us.
Wesley, J. (n.d.). John Wesley: A Catholic Spirit. Retrieved 09 02, 2013, from The Voice: Biblical and Theological Resources for Growing Christians: http://www.crivoice.org/cathspirit.html
Wesley, J. (n.d.). Preface to the New Testament Notes. Retrieved 09 03, 2013, from Wesley Center On-Line: http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/john-wesleys-notes-on-the-bible/preface-to-the-new-testament-notes/
!!!! Special Thanx to Rev. Adam Hamilton for giving me idea for this sermon series