Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Aldersgate Day

It's been a while since my last entry, and with the activities coming up this summer, it may be some time before my next entry. However, having missed discussing Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, I didn't want to miss Aldersgate Day, as well.

For those who don't know what Aldersgate refers to, let me explain briefly. Aldersgate is a street in London, and on that street, in 1738, there was a meeting of a certain society. It was a kind of Bible study or prayer meeting. It was at one of those meetings on May 24, 1738 that John Wesley had an experience that would forever impact the Methodist/Wesleyan movement.

After years of struggling to know his own sins forgiven, during that society meeting, while Martin Luther's Preface to Romans was being read, John Wesley experienced his heart "strangely warmed," and an assurance was given him that Christ had saved him from his sins. It is that doctrine of assurance that has become one of the distinct contributions of Methodism to the larger Church.

This past Sunday evening, we held our annual Aldersgate Service. This is a practice that I began while pastoring in Greencastle, IN. It was quite successful, there. However, it has been slow starting in Evansville. Nevertheless, I was thrilled to have the Rev'd. Charlie Cross and his wife, the Rev'd Karen Cross participate with us. Charlie is the senior pastor, and Karen the associate pastor at Alexander Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Evansville.

We had a wonderful time celebrating our common heritage and worshipping the God who still strangely warms the hearts of those who place their trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

I wish I had more time to focus on Aldersgate, but, at the least, I wanted to make a brief mention of that which has become a spiritual touchstone for the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Jesus, the Sinner's Friend

In my April 25 post on "How a Wesleyan Goes to Scripture," I indicated my devotional practice of incorporating into my praying of the Daily Office the singing of hymns taken from The Works of John Wesley, vol. 7, "Collection of Hymns for the Use of The People Called Methodists" (Bicentennial Ed.). Yesterday, I sang a hymn, the last verse of which I have quoted from the pulpit a number of times. I first became familiar with it through a little booklet entitled, "Hymn Poems of Charles Wesley for Reading and Singing," issued by Tidings, Headquarters for Evangelistic Materials, Nashville.

I would like to share a few verses of the hymn with you this morning as a powerful reminder of the grace and love of God for sinners. (The wording is slightly different between the two sources, and the Wesley's Works edition, surprisingly, makes no notation of a discrepancy. The following comes from Wesley's Works (hymn #128, page 239):

1. Jesu[s], the sinner's friend, to thee,
Lost and undone for aid I flee,
Weary of earth, myself, and sin -
Open thine arms, and take me in.

2. Pity, and heal my sin-sick soul;
'Tis thou alone canst make me whole,
Fall'n, till in me thine image shine,
And cursed I am, till thou art mine.

5. At last I own it cannot be
That I should fit myself for thee;
Here then to thee I all resign -
Thine is the work, and only thine.

6. What shall I say thy grace to move?
Lord, I am sin - but thou art love.
I give up every plea beside,
'Lord, I am damned - but thou hast died.'

(The wording of the last line in "Hymn Poems" is "I give up every plea beside - Lord, I am lost, but Thou hast died." In either case, the expression is a powerful reminder of our utter dependence upon God and our Lord's abundant love and grace towards us.)

Friday, May 2, 2008

United Methodists Maintain Stance on Homosexuality

The General Conference of the United Methodist Church concludes, today. I had the opportunity to try to follow some of the events via their live stream. I confess that I was a bit envious of some of their worship practices. They certainly were not as "high church" as one might find in an Anglican meeting of this sort, but oh how I wish that I could see some of their liturgical content in a Nazarene General Assembly!

As for the business . . . there was a lot! Far too much for me to report on or even follow. However, as the title of this post indicates, the delegates of the United Methodist Church General Conferences retained their position on homosexuality. They continue to affirm homosexual people as being people "of sacred worth," and at the same time describe homosexual activity as being "incompatible with Christian teaching." Although the vote, as in years past, was fairly close, nevertheless it was a solid victory for those who seek biblical integrity.