Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Aldersgate Day

*Today is the day that all good Wesleyans/Methodists celebrate!  Today is Aldersgate Day!  Now, it may be that a few of the readers of this blog may be unfamiliar with Aldersgate.  And, of course, it is a strange name, thus, it is not easy to discern what it is about.  So, what is Aldersgate Day?

In a nutshell, it is the anniversary of John Wesley's "Evangelical Conversion." As the United Methodist Book of Worship puts it, "On Wednesday, May 24, 1738, John Wesley experienced his 'heart strangely warmed.' This Aldersgate experience was crucial for his own life and became a touchstone for the Wesleyan movement."

Aldersgate Memorial in London
So, why is it called "Aldersgate"?  Well, the name refers to Aldersgate Street, the location of the Society meeting where Wesley experienced his strangely warmed heart.

Prior to this Aldersgate experience, Wesley had sought assurance of his sins forgiven, but he was unable to obtain it through his many pious works.

During his trip to Georgia, where he would serve as a missionary, the ship on which he was sailing encountered a terrible storm . . . right in the middle of their time of worship. But the thing that caught Wesley’s attention was that, while the English on board were screaming for fear of their lives, the Germans simply continued singing.

Wesley asked one of them, “Weren’t you afraid? Weren’t your women and children afraid?” The man simply said, “Thank the Lord, we were not afraid; we are not afraid to die.”

Later, Wesley met with one of the German pastors for advice. The pastor asked him, “Do you have the witness within? Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God?” Wesley was caught off guard (not something that happened very often). And so the pastor asked, “Do you know Jesus Christ?” Wesley said, “I know he is the Savior of the world.” The pastor replied, “That’s true, but do you know he has saved you?” Wesley said, “I hope he has died to save me.” “But do you know?” And then comes those powerful lines from John Wesley, “I said, ‘I do.’ But I fear they were vain words.”

This marker is located at the probable
site of Wesley's Aldersgate experience
 However, what was to happen to Wesley on May 24, 1738 would forever change his answer, and forever change the world.

John Wesley, himself, describes what took place that evening in his journal as follows: "In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."

Another marker in memorial of John & Charles'
"Evangelic Conversions"
Wesleyan/Methodists remember and observe Aldersgate Day, because it not only shaped the life and ministry of John Wesley, but also the entire Methodist movement from that time until today. It not only marks the spiritual experience of Mr. Wesley, but it calls us to worship the God who still "strangely warms the hearts" of all who place their trust in Christ alone as Lord and Savior. This experience illustrates so well the Biblical doctrine of Assurance.

We can, by grace through faith, know our sins forgiven. We can, by grace through faith, have an assurance that Christ has "taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."  As the apostle Paul says, "For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.  When we cry, 'Abba! Father!' it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God . . ." (Romans 8:15-16, NRSV).  -  Praise be to God!!

Let us pray: Almighty God, in a time of great need you raised up your servants John and Charles Wesley, and by your spirit inspired them to kindle a flame of sacred love which leaped and ran, an inextinguishable blaze. Grant that all those whose hearts have been warmed at these altar fires, being continually refreshed by your grace, may be so devoted to the increase of scriptural holiness throughout the land that in this our time of great need, your will may fully and effectively be done on earth as it is in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

(Prayer by Fred D. Gealy, as printed in the UMBW.)

(The pictures in this post were taken during my trip to England for the 2001 World Methodist Conference.)

*Much of this post is drawn from and adapted from my 2009 post.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Baptized into Christ's Church

Anglicans and Roman Catholics are currently meeting together for the third Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission.  Part of these early days is being spent re-examining their goal of seeking "restoration of complete communion in faith and sacramental life" and discussing how that goal should be understood today.  (I must confess, I would think this would be an interesting discussion given the new ordinariate!)

More about this meeting can be viewed in this article, and I'm sure the Anglican Communion News Service will continue to post updates.

What I found fascinating (and the reason for my post) was the report that Roman Catholic Biship Gabriele Mana of the local diocese of Biella visited with the Commission.  During that visit, he stated that within his cathedral there is a baptistery [sic.] with a font that predates the division of Christianity in 1054.  (Can you imagine!)  He went on to say that he had "given permission for all Christians to use this baptistery [sic.], for baptism is common to us all.  The more we love our Lord, he said, the easier it is for us to come closer to one another."

The Baptistery of Biella

I personally find this to be a powerful opportunity for Christians in that area to demonstrate what John Wesley called a "catholic spirit" (i.e., universal spirit) by taking advantage of the bishop's offer and reinforcing the truth that we are not baptized into a particular denomination, but into the Church of God.

What would be even cooler is if Christians from various denominations could (perhaps annually) hold a joint service of Christian baptism using this ancient baptismal font.  -  Way to go, Bishop Gabriele!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

May Issue of WMC First Friday Letter

After several months of hiatus, a new "First Friday Letter" has been issued.  It has been the usual practice of the Rev'd. Dr. George Freeman, General Secretary of the World Methodist Council, to issue a "First Friday Letter" to members of the Executive Committee of the WMC.  This letter has been distributed to other Council members, as well as to interested other parties.  As far back as October of 2009, these letters have been made available online at the WMC website.  They typically contain news items and other information from the various denominational members of the Council, as well as general WMC information.

In the current issue covers such topics as the newly nominated successor to Dr. Freeman (the election of +Ivan Abrahams as General Secretary will take place at the upcoming meeting of the World Methodist Council in Durban, South Africa); The 20th World Methodist Conference; updates on Anglican-Methodist dialogue; Prayers for Disaster Victims; The Global Digital Theological Library; World Methodist Evangelism Institute Seminars; WMC/Salvation Army Dialogue; World Sunday for Peace; And +Thomas Hoyt of the CME being honored.

A link to download the current and previous letters can be found, here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Remembering Susanna Wesley on Mothers' Day

Mother's Day is not a part of the Christian Calendar.  For those of us who are liturgically minded, it likely doesn't play a large role in our planning of worship.  For many Christian churches, however, it is a part of their "liturgical calendar."  Whether it plays a big role in your worship gathering or not, the celebration of Mothers' Day can be (ought to be) very important.

A friend of mine, Keith Kiper from The Circuit Rider blog, emailed a link to an article about Susanna Wesley, the mother of John & Charles Wesley, and, thus, the mother of Methodism.  The article was written by Anne Adams, who is currently on staff at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas.  The article can be read at the Indiana South Wesleyan Life blogspot, which serves the Indiana South District of The Wesleyan Church.  -  I thought the article may be of interest to some of the readers of this blog.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The National Day of Prayer

I just returned from our local City/County Building where I attended a service for the National Day of Prayer.  In light of this day, I offer the following two prayers.  The first is taken from the 1928 (American) version of the Book of Common Prayer.  The second comes from the 1979 BCP.

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will.  Bless our land with honourable industry, sound learning, and pure manners.  Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way.  Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues.  Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth.  In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.