Monday, February 21, 2011

Still A Holiness Preacher

Way back in August of 1992 (on the 22nd, to be exact), during our wedding ceremony, one of the pastors officiating the ceremony commented to my bride, "You're marrying a holiness preacher."  (For those not familiar with that kind of terminology, I was, at that time, a licensed minister and in seminary studying to be a pastor in the Church of the Nazarene.  The Church of the Nazarene was born in the "Holiness Movement" within Methodism and is the largest of the Wesleyan-holiness denominations.)

Several years have come and gone since that day.  I am now pastoring Centenary United Methodist Church in New Albany, IN.  (My elders orders are still in the Church of the Nazarene.)  And my wife is still married to "a holiness preacher."

There is much more to preaching "holiness" than just focusing on the doctrine and experience of Entire Sanctification or Christian Perfection.  Nevertheless, that is an important aspect of it.  And this past Sunday, the lectionary passage for the Gospel provided a great opportunity to preach on that very subject. The passage comes from Matthew 5:43-48, which ends with Jesus saying, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

This is one of my favorite "holiness passages" to preach from.  (It is actually the text that I preached from when I won the Corlett Holiness Sermon Award as a Senior at Nazarene Theological Seminary, way back in 1994.)

To go along with the sermon, we opened with (and then included, again, after the sermon with the Prayers of the People) the Collect of Purity:  "Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name, through Christ our Lord.  Amen."

That prayer truly encapselates the "holiness message."  In fact, I believe it was P.F. Bresee (the primary founder of the Church of the Nazarene) who once said to some Episcopalians (something like), "Why do you consider it strange that we, Nazarenes, claim that God actually hears and answers the prayer that you pray every Sunday?"

We also sang Charles Wesley's, "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" and a chorus titled, "A Perfect Heart."  We concluded with Wesley's, "Jesus Thine All-victorious Love," and St. Paul's benediction in 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24.

My sermon title was, "Nobody's Perfect . . . Are They?"  For those interested, you can listen to it at our church's website, here.

(Let me say that, when I first start, a person in the congregation corrects me on the particular movie that I am about to reference.  Also, we had a problem with the microphone in the midst of the sermon.  I do not know if that caused a problem in the recording.)


Kevin Jackson said...

I think a key to understanding holiness is that it is not only inward focused, but is also outward, and motivates a life of service. "Holiness of heart and life" as Wesley put it. I look forward to listening to the sermon!

Thomas said...

In your sermon you mentioned two points concerning perfection: 1) that we are going on toward perfection, and 2) that we should expect to arrive at perfection in this life. This would mean that there are some Christians who are in the process of perfecting (I would count myself among them), and then there are others who are already perfect(they have achieved the goal in this life, just as you say).

In other words, if we are supposed to expect perfection in this life, then it would stand to reason that some people (not me) have indeed already achieved it. Otherwise it would be an unrealistic expectation. So perfection is our goal, and you say that we will achieve it before we die, then I suppose some people are already at that stage...True?

This presents a question: What happens when people like me, who are not perfect but working toward it, die before we reach our goal? Is “perfection” necessary for salvation?

Or, is there the possibility of God perfecting our souls after death (i.e. Purgatory)?

Would an imperfect soul enter into heaven?