Saturday, May 31, 2014

Inflame the Fire

John Michael Talbot has been one of my favorite musicians for quite some time, now.  His Simple Heart CD has been a great conduit of God's peace during times when I have experienced stress since back in 2000.  Brother to Brother, recorded by JMT and Michael Card has been one of my very favorite CDs of all time.

Today, as I traveled to and from the ordination service at the Indiana Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (more about that at a later time), I was listening to John Michael's Cave of the Heart CD. 

Cave Of The Heart

Cave of the Heart "sounds different" than many (or most) of John Michael's CDs.  Theologically, the theme of the CD harkens back to St. Paul's message to the Athenians in Acts, when he used the "altar to an unknown god" as his point of connection from which he said, "What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you" (which was my sermon text last Sunday, the Sixth Sunday of Easter).  -  In other words, from a good Methodist perspective, much of what John Michael does in this CD is consistent with a Wesleyan understanding of Prevenient Grace.

The song, in particular, that caught my attention was "Inflame the Fire."  (Since this is the second to the last song on the CD, John Michael has, by this time, moved from the prevenient aspects of grace that are found in earlier songs.)  -  This song captured my attention today, I think, for a couple of reasons.  First, there is the sacramental focus found in the song.  That of course would catch the attention of one who is committed to recapture the Wesleyan commitment to Eucharistic worship.

A second reason is the fact that certain of the lyrics of this song made a real connection with recent lectionary texts, including this Sunday's text, which has focused on what, again, is very consistent with a Wesleyan understanding of Scripture: the fact that it is the Holy Spirit who enlivens the Word to us as we faithfully go to Scripture seeking the face of God.  The Scriptures are intended to reveal Christ to us and to shape our very lives by the power of the Holy Spirit.

A third reason that this song captured my attention is what might be called a general sacramental understanding of life.  Another way of trying to get at that is that the song focuses on a very real, living God who is truly at work in "the ordinary ups and downs of life" (as JMT says of the song).

I hope that you will find the words of this song meaningful, as well.

Inflame the Fire
Spreading the fire of the gospel of God
Spreading the fire of the Spirit
Spreading the fire of His call on our life
To follow the gospel of Jesus
Look beyond the mere bread and the wine
To see the real presence of God
Look beyond the externals of life
To His presence within our hearts
Beyond the words on the page of a book
To the mystical Incarnate Word
Written deep in the spirit and soul
In the pages of life to be learned
Inflame the fire
Inflame the fire
Inflame the fire
Inflame the fire
Inflame the fire
Inflame the fire
The truth of law gives direction to life
To know the right from the wrong
But by itself it is never enough
To bring us to divine love
We need the [S]pirit of God in our life
To write the truth in our hearts
A truth beyond ideas and words
To a mystical truth of the heart
Inflame the fire
Inflame the fire
Inflame the fire
Inflame the fire
Inflame the fire

You can hear a bit of the song (and purchase songs from the recording), here.

John Michael's website can be found, here, and the website for The Brothers and Sisters of Charity at Little Portion Hermitage (founded by JMT) can be found, here.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ascension Day

Today is the fortieth day of the Great Fifty Days of the Resurrection (i.e., Easter) Season.  It is the day that Christians refer to as Ascension Day.  Many Churches will celebrate this day on this coming Sunday, Ascension Sunday.

As the name indicates, it is the celebration of the risen Christ's ascension into heaven where He is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

In celebration of Ascension Day, I offer the following Scriptures, hymn and prayer:
Christ's Ascension
After Jesus' suffering, he showed himself to the disciples and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.  He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.  On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?

He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.  "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky?   This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

Remember Jesus' words:  "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." 
(Acts 1:3-11; Matthew 28:20b, from "Sing to the Lord")

Hail the Day That Sees Him Rise
Hail the day that sees Him rise, Alleluia!
To His throne above the skies, Alleluia!
Christ, awhile to mortals given, Alleluia!
Reascends His native heaven, Alleluia!
There the glorious triumph waits, Alleluia!
Lift your heads, eternal gates, Alleluia!
Christ hath conquered death and sin, Alleluia!
Take the King of glory in, Alleluia!

Circled round with angel powers, Alleluia!
Their triumphant Lord, and ours, Alleluia!
Conqueror over death and sin, Alleluia!
“Take the King of glory in! Alleluia!”

Him though highest Heav’n receives, Alleluia!
Still He loves the earth He leaves, Alleluia!
Though returning to His throne, Alleluia!
Still He calls mankind His own, Alleluia!

See! He lifts His hands above, Alleluia!
See! He shows the prints of love, Alleluia!
Hark! His gracious lips bestow, Alleluia!
Blessings on His church below, Alleluia!

Still for us His death He pleads, Alleluia!
Prevalent He intercedes, Alleluia!
Near Himself prepares our place, Alleluia!
Harbinger of human race, Alleluia!

Master, (will we ever say), Alleluia!
Taken from our head to day, Alleluia!
See Thy faithful servants, see, Alleluia!
Ever gazing up to Thee, Alleluia!

Grant, though parted from our sight, Alleluia!
Far above yon azure height, Alleluia!
Grant our hearts may thither rise, Alleluia!
Seeking Thee beyond the skies, Alleluia!

Ever upward let us move, Alleluia!
Wafted on the wings of love, Alleluia!
Looking when our Lord shall come, Alleluia!
Longing, gasping after home, Alleluia!

There we shall with Thee remain, Alleluia!
Partners of Thy endless reign, Alleluia!
There Thy face unclouded see, Alleluia!
Find our heaven of heavens in Thee, Alleluia!

- Charles Wesley
(Thanks to Michael Scarlett for posting all of the verses on Sacramental Nazarenes' Facebook page, back in 2012.)

Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen (BCP)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Happy 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.)

*This post was originally posted in 2011.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

World Methodist Council Statement on the Mass Abduction in Nigeria

Twenty days ago, an estimated 234 girls between 16 and 18 years old were taken from a school in northeastern Nigeria by a group of Islamic militants called Boko Haram. Boko Haram was founded in Northeastern Nigeria and has been very active, and very violent, since 2009. The name translates, literally, as “Western education is sinful.”
This mass abduction has recently began to make news outside of Nigeria, and now is drawing attention to a search that has left more questions than answers. Recent news from Nigeria includedubious reports from the nation’s military about rescue efforts, a crackdown on those protesting the government’s response to the kidnapping and also claims by the leader of Boko Haram that the girls will be sold.
But the missing girls and their safe return home isn’t being spoken about enough.
The World Methodist Council would like to express concern over both the abduction and efforts to return of these children to their homes. We believe that every human being is born with a God-given dignity, and a fundamental right to an education.
As the collective voice of 80 million Christians in the Methodist, Wesleyan, United, Uniting and Nazarene faith traditions, the World Methodist Council has been a key player in ecumenical discussions between faiths, and an advocate of peace building throughout the world. The Boko Haram’s actions are contrary to everything that the World Methodist Council stands for.
During this time where the lives of 234 young girls hang in the balance, the World Methodist Council asks for prayers and solidarity.
Note:  This article came straight from a World Methodist Council email.  The original links for the news reports referenced in the article were not included when copied to this blog.

Another note: Completely as an aside, this is the first time I have seen the WMC list "Nazarene" as a separate designation.  -  Interesting.