Monday, March 3, 2008

The Wesleys

Today, March 3rd, is the day when Anglicans and many others remember John and Charles Wesley. What is it that makes the Wesleys so important to the Church? Many Methodists think the Wesleys were Anglicans, many Anglicans think they were Methodists. The truth is they were deeply devoted to all God's people.

Their ministry became historic, because at a moment when our institutional church was not attentive to the individual, they were. They believed that the church had to intersect and engage people in their daily lives.

We talk about Mission. We talk about Evangelism. We talk about "sharing the Gospel of Jesus." But what is the incarnational reality of this Gospel work? I believe that it means each of us has to be so changed that we change the lives of people, and make a real difference in the lives of others.

To live the way of a Christian also means practicing an intimate relationship with God--modeling ourselves on Jesus, who called God "Abba." And this closeness with God, this intimacy, cannot help but have an impact on our relationships with all of God's other beloved children.

We can talk about mission. We can strategize about mission. We can come up with great mission plans. But until we reach across the chasm which separates those within the church from those living in the equally real world outside our walls, we have not engaged in mission at all.

The problem the church has to fight is its own narcissism. It ceases its missionary work, its work with suffering humanity, in order to care too much for the institution. It becomes too protective of the institution, and the executives forget that the Church was created by God not as an institution at all but as the Body of Christ on earth

At these moments the reformers come along. People like the monks and nuns of the Middle Ages, the Franciscans, Luther and Calvin, Tyndale and Cramner, Elizabeth, and then the Wesleys. In our own time we know Martin Luther King, Jr., or in our own denomination Bishop John Hines.

These visionaries change things: but they often become new powers and then become institutionalized. We have continued to believe in this reformation model of doing things. After serving in my office as Canon to the Ordinary for four and a half years, I see the struggle. I see how protecting the church can become a full-time business. Except that isn't our business.

We must seek a more catholic, universal model of stepping out into mission. We have been given resources: they must be unlocked. We have been given diverse worshiping styles: we must use them effectively and not squabble about them. We must embrace different styles of church planting and mission work. Twenty years from now some of our churches will be the same, but many more will be transformed into places with missionary distinction. Where the people in their communities and neighborhoods will know and say, "In those places, those Episcopal Churches, you find God, a God that cares and loves you. That church is filled with people who make a difference in the world around them, they taught me God is with me fact they changed my life."

I believe that we need a Bishop who will protect our gifts, and make them work for us, while at the same time creatively and energetically helping us to do what we were created to do: practice our faith in such a way that it changes the world.

This is what I want to do, with God's help, and yours.

My gracious Master and my God, assist me to proclaim, to spread through all the earth abroad the honors of thy name.

Jesus! the name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows cease; 'tis music in the sinner's ears, 'tis life, and health, and peace.

Charles Wesley

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  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
  • "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball