Tuesday, February 23, 2021

A Quote From John Wesley

I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.

The Continued Value of Written Prayers

Today, I was searching my blog for a particular quote, when I ran across a post that I had made back in 2012.  It was a response to a colleague who, as a part of an assignment for a "Spiritual Formation" class, had interviewed me about my regular use of written prayers.  The specific question that he had asked was, "How does your use of written or rote prayers help you to know God and to grow in your faith?"  

Ironically, I am currently teaching a class on Spiritual Formation, and I recently recommended to my class their taking a look at the Book of Common Prayer.  It is likely that, if I were to be asked that same question today, my answer may include some additional elements, but I think that the original answer that I gave back in 2012 still rings true.  And, perhaps it may be helpful for some who, today, may have a similar question about the value of written prayers.  -  With that in mind, I have copied my original response, below:

I have, for the past 12 years [now 21 years], or so, prayed the Daily Office as a part of my spiritual disciplines.  At times, it has just been Morning Prayer.  At other times, I have prayed Morning and Evening Prayer.  I also pray the Litany on Wednesdays and Fridays.

In praying the Daily Office, I have most often used John Wesley’s The Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America, which was his (slight) revision of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer from the Church of England.  -  John Wesley faithfully prayed the Daily Office each day, and he passed on to the Methodists in North America a Prayer Book for their use each Lord’s Day.

In addition, I use other written prayers from the BCP and other sources in both corporate worship and personal devotions.

These prayers do not replace, but supplement my other prayers.

I find that God uses these prayers to help to shape me as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.  The prayers have been prayed by Christians back to the early Church all the way up to today from around the world.  In this regard, God reminds me that, while my relationship with the Lord is deeply personal, it is not at all isolated.  God has made us to be a people, not just individualistic, “Lone Ranger” Christians.  -  The prayers serve as a sort of catechism in molding me in the Christian faith and life.

God uses these prayers to help me to pray beyond myself, as well.  By that I mean that they keep me from focusing just on my own concerns and move me to pray for those things that God would have me be concerned about.  Thus, God shapes my outlook and shapes me in Christlikeness. 

The prayers give me words that better articulate my own prayers.  They help me say what needs to be said.

Through these prayers God teaches me about my relationship to God, in that they set my priorities in prayer.  They call me to confession, but also remind me of God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness.  They remind me that thanksgiving is more than with “our lips,” but “with our lives.”

One of the most important prayers, for me, is the Collect of Purity.  While it is not a part of the Daily Office, it is a part of the regular Sunday service of worship, and I have incorporated it as part of my personal disciplines.  It is prayed by Anglicans and others every Sunday.  It has been said that it summarizes well what Wesley was talking about when he spoke of Christian Perfection (or Entire Sanctification).  It is a part of the context in which Wesley developed and articulated this biblical doctrine.  -  As I recall, P.F. Bresee once responded to some Episcopalians by saying something like, Why do you consider it strange that Nazarenes claim that God answers the prayer that you pray every Sunday? 

Since we are called to live under God’s sanctifying grace each day, the Collect of Purity is a prayer that helps me to seek God’s face, each day to the end that God might “cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of [God’s] Holy Spirit that [I] might perfectly love [God] and worthily magnify [God’s] holy name through Christ our Lord.”

Through these prayers, God focuses my day.  God draws me to Himself.  And then, in Evening Prayer, God puts my day in perspective and review.  -  At this point, I simply could not conceive of not including written prayers as a part of my spiritual discipline.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Worship on the First Sunday in Lent

Below, is the worship service at Main Street United Methodist Church, New Albany, Indiana, on the First Sunday in Lent, February 21, 2021:

Friday, February 19, 2021

Love, the Essence of Holiness

Today, as a part of my praying Morning Prayer, I sang two wonderful hymns that I would like to share with you, the readers of this blog.

The first is by Paul Gerhardt and is translated by John Wesley.  (It is on page 499 in the Sing to the Lord hymnal)

Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me

1. Jesus, Thy boundless love to me
No tho't can reach, no tongue declare;
O knit my thankful heart to Thee
And reign without a rival there.
Thine wholly, Thine alone, I am;
Be Thou alone my constant flame.

2. O grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell, but Thy pure love alone;
O may Thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown.
Strange flames far from my heart remove;
My ev'ry act, word, thought, be love.

3. O Love, how cheering is Thy ray!
All pain before Thy presence flies;
Care, anguish, sorrow melt away
Where'er Thy healing beams arise.
O Jesus, nothing may I see,
Nothing desire or seek but Thee!

4. In suff'ring be Thy love my peace;
In weakness be Thy love my pow'r;
And when the storms of life shall cease,
Jesus, in that important hour,
In death as life be Thou my guide,
And save me, who for me hast died!

The second hymn is a Charles Wesley hymn.  (It can be found on page 500 of the same hymnal):

Jesus, Thine All-victorious Love

1.  Jesus, Thine all-victorious love
Shed in my heart abroad;
Then shall my feet no longer rove,
Rooted and fixed in God.

2.  O that in me the sacred fire
Might now begin to glow,
Burn up the dross of base desire,
And make the mountains flow!

3. O that it now from heav'n might fall,
And all my sins consume!
Come, Holy Ghost, for Thee I call;
Spirit of Burning come!

4.  Refining Fire, go thro' my heart;
Illuminate my soul.
Scatter Thy life thro' ev'ry part,
And sanctify the whole.

5.  My steadfast soul, from falling free,
Shall then no longer move,
When Christ is all the world to me,
And all my heart is love.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Ash Wednesday 2021

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent.  -  Unfortunately, due to the virus and our weather, the Main Street United Methodist Church, where I serve, is unable to meet together.  Therefore, I have prepared a brief video (a little under 20 minutes) for Ash Wednesday as we enter into the Lenten season.

I invite you to join with us, and may God's blessings be with you as we observe a Holy Lent!

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Transfiguration Sunday

 Here is the worship service at Main Street United Methodist Church on Sunday, February 14, 2021, Transfiguration Sunday.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Worship at Main Street UMC, February 7, 2021

 Here is a video of the worship service at Main Street United Methodist Church for Sunday, February 7, 2021.  The sermon calls us to use our "super-vision" and to remember what we already know.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Worship at Main Street UMC, January 31, 2021

 Here is a video of the January 31 worship service for Main Street United Methodist Church in New Albany, Indiana.  -  I hope that you will find the message on "The Authority of Jesus" to be an encouraging word!

Thursday, January 14, 2021

A Few Highlights From Today's Morning Prayer

 I will confess that these will seem a bit disjunctive.  (If I had not been hacked on Facebook, I would have posted these separately, there.)  Nevertheless, the following quotes/thoughts struck a chord with me, today, during Morning Prayer, and I thought I would share them with the readers of my blog.

The first was not really a part of Morning Prayer, as such.  However, prior to beginning Morning Prayer, I read today's devotion in the Reflecting God devotional.  A part of the format of Reflecting God is that, in the sidebar, it quotes a line from a hymn and a verse or so of Scripture.  The hymn that was quoted, today, was Katharina von Schlegel's Be Still, My Soul, and the line was:

    Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
    To guide the future as He has the past.

This is a timely comfort and reminder.  As I read it, I not only think of my own "transitional" time, but I especially think of my son who just headed back to Olivet Nazarene University for his final semester.  As he nears the end of his time in college, my son looks ahead wondering where God will lead him as he pursues his call to Music Ministry.  -  The song reminds us that we can, indeed, be still and know that the God who has guided us thus far will certainly continue to guide us in the future.

The second thing that spoke to me came from the Psalms.  In today's Psalm (Psalm 27), we find one of my two "favorite" life verses.  Psalm 27:4 says (in NKJV):

    One thing I have desired of the LORD,
    That will I seek:
    That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
    All the days of my life,
    To behold the beauty of the LORD,
    And to inquire in His temple.

As I said, this is one of my life verses.  It reflects "an eye single to Your glory" and our identity as the worshipping people of God.

The final idea that caught my attention was actually found in the study notes of my Bible for the Gospel reading.  -  As I noted, above, I am reading in the New King James Version. Now, typically, I prefer the NRSV.  That is the version from which I preach, and it is what I have been used to reading in my devotions for quite some time, now.  In the past, of course, I have read through the Bible in various translations, but the NRSV is my translation of choice.  -  So, why the NKJV?

Well, I decided that for this year, I wanted to read through the Bible using the notes found in The Wesley Bible: A Personal Study Bible for Holy Living*.  And, this study Bible was only produced in the New King James Version.  So, there you have it!  (As a side note, I think it will do me good to change up my reading for this year.)

Today's Gospel reading was the 14th chapter of Matthew.  This chapter included the story of Jesus walking on the water, along with His bidding Peter to come to Him on the water.  The notes commented on this: "When we ask according to His will, Christ accepts our offer to let Him show His power in us."

I find in this comment a spiritual challenge and encouragement as we have entered into this new year.

These are the three things that stuck out and spoke to me during Morning Prayer, this morning.  Perhaps God would use one or more as words of encouragement for you, as well.  -  Such is my prayer.



*This is not to be confused with The Wesley Study Bible, which a completely different study Bible.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Worship on Baptism of the Lord Sunday, January 10, 2021 - Main Street UMC


Episcopal Call to Prayer and Fasting - Church of the Nazarene

We have just completed celebrating the season of Advent and the arrival of the Messiah. Jesus came fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6-7)

What happens in one part of the world is not isolated but impacts us all. This is certainly true as we reflect upon the pandemic and the ways in which it has touched the whole world. This can also be said of political unrest, which creates uncertainty and destabilization around the globe. It is in these precarious times that God’s people turn toward the sure and certain hope that is found in Jesus Christ. 

As followers of Jesus, we seek ways to be loving, forgiving, and charitable. In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He reminds us: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). He continues by telling us that we are called to be salt and light in our world: “… let your light shine before people, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Like the Lord we follow, we are called to be peacemakers and to have a positive impact as salt and light in our world. This cannot be done apart from God’s grace experienced through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Therefore, the Board of General Superintendents is calling the global Church of the Nazarene to a week of prayer and fasting beginning on Monday, 11 January. When the church joins in prayer and acts in unanimity with Jesus’ vision, we are assured that God will do what we cannot. 

Please, join us each day next week as we focus on the need for spiritual renewal within the Church and for healing the great divides in our world.

Monday — Pray for spiritual renewal and revival to come to the Church. 

Tuesday — Pray for peace and opportunities to show Christ’s love to others.

Wednesday — Pray for the persecuted church around the world and for our missionaries.

Thursday — Pray for those who are suffering as a result of the global pandemic.

Friday — Pray for unity among God’s people and for healing across the nations.

Saturday — Pray for those who have yet to come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Sunday — Pray for the Holy Spirit to fill us again so that we may be empowered to be Christlike in this world.

Call to prayer and fasting - Church of the Nazarene