March 4, 2010

Homily for John and Charles Wesley

Today the Church gives thanks for the lives and ministries of John and Charles Wesley. Born in Epworth, England, the fifteenth and eighteenth children, respectively, of The Reverend Samuel and Mrs. Susanna Wesley, John was ordained in 1728 and Charles 1735. They came into their own in a period of time known as The Great Awakening and are now known as the founders of the Methodist Church, even if they both went to their graves affirming Methodism as a part of the Anglican Church. John, Charles, and a fiery preacher named George Whitefield came to Georgia to share the Good News and because of their burning zeal they made a lot of enemies and won a lot of souls.
The Wesleys took on strict "methods" of practicing their faith based on the rubrics and the model of daily prayer set out in the Prayer Book. In the years that followed both found themselves having strong conversion experiences. John wrote of his conversion on May 24, 1738, "I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for my salvation; and an assurance was given to me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death." Central to their Methods was the weekly reception of Holy Communion, and it is not doubted that the Holy Spirit was all over those two Wesley boys.
To John was given the gifts of administration and preaching. His model of ministry is still used by Methodism to this day as are his sermons which are still read by preachers as they prepare homilies. To Charles, God gave an amazing gift of music, specifically in the writing of hymns. Charles wrote more than six thousand hymns, twenty-four of which are in our 1982 Hymnal, including such favorites as; "Christ whose glory fills the skies", "Come thou long expected Jesus", "Hark! the herald angels sing", and "Jesus Christ is risen today."
The Wesleys were specially gifted by God. They took seriously the call of Jesus to proclaim the Kingdom of God, but they were no more special than any of us who sit here this noon. Just as they were gifted in preaching and composition, so are we gifted in our baptisms for the up building of God's Holy Church. You may not know it, but we have each been given gifts and are called to be a light to the nations so that God's salvation might reach the ends of the earth. It comes, like in the case of the Wesleys, when we allow God's Spirit to work within us. When we become certain that Jesus saved even me. With that trust and that salvation, we are freed to do the Good Work that God has set aside for each of us; service to the Church, the knitting of shawls, prayers for the sick and alone, the building of homes for those in substandard housing, breaking the cycle of poverty by giving children the opportunity to enjoy the fullness of their education, and on and on. You might not be out there preaching on the street corners and slaying people in the Spirit, but each of you is, in your own unique way, enabled to do the work of ministry and move forward God's great plan for his Creation.
Today we are reminded of what God can do in us when we allow him the space to work. If you find yourself cooled to God's Spirit, allow him to warm you up because God is ready to do great things through you. Let him in. Do his work. As Charles wrote, "Visit, [God] this soul of mine! Pierce the gloom of sin and grief! Fill me, radiancy divine; scatter all my unbelief; more and more thyself display, shining to the perfect day." May the Spirit of God fill you with all joy in believing. Amen.

No comments: