John Wesley in the 21st Century
In July I enjoyed a John Wesley Pilgrimage as a part of my renewal leave. I have returned refreshed, excited, enthused, educated, and motivated. It was especially exciting to learn more about our forefather, John Wesley, of whom I thought I already knew quite a bit.
I am left wanting to answer two questions for you. First, “Who is this dude?” and second “Why should I care?”
Well, John Wesley was not only the founder of our Methodist Church (that, by the way was not his and his brother Charles’s intention), but John and Charles Wesley were great leaders in 18th century England. “Why should I care?” you ask. “This is the 21st century … that was over 200 years ago!” Oh, how I wish the Wesleys lived today to witness their effect on our present day because they were so relevant to their time in history and I know they would be relevant to our day.
You see, John and Charles never intended for their followers to be any more than good, faithful members of the Church of England, but in encouraging them and teaching them and discipling them, they created one of the most effective denominations of our present day - The United Methodist Church. John was conservative in nearly every area of his life and loved the Anglican Church, but he also was and would be understood today as a radical reformer. Jesus was radical in his way of loving others and offering forgiveness and grace in his way of reaching out to others. John Wesley was the same way in his 18th century world and would be in our modern day. While he believed in the traditional ritual of the church, he found himself preaching out-of-doors, wherever he could gather an audience.
What did he preach about? What was his main concern? It was offering the love of Jesus and assuring others of the love of Jesus and encouraging others to love their neighbor as themselves.
John Wesley confronted the question “How does one live a holy life in front of God?” His concern was for holiness of heart and life. And holiness, specifically where and how it applies to our present daily life, was the concern of John Wesley. In other words it was not about just “talking the talk” about God and our relationship with God, but it was mostly about “walking the walk,” taking our faith to our family, the community, the marketplace, wherever you are … the larger world.
Wesley cared about what we do, as Christians, and how we think and act about the concerns for education, health care, war and peace, poverty, voting, economics, truly engaging in and loving our neighbor. John Wesley cared deeply about these issues as he cared deeply about the Greatest Commandments that Jesus shared in Matthew 22:34-39
The Greatest Commandment When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
You see, as we’ve said in worship over and over, love is the key … love is what matters.
Walking the walk with you,