Saturday, September 28, 2019
Sermon Summary (9/15/19) “Living Our Beliefs: Life Together” (Acts 2:41-42; 46-47)
I realized how far I had to go in my Christian walk when I opened a Maxie Dunnam workbook and it said our goal was to become “Little Christs.” It seemed like a road too far. It would have been one of those things that Jesus would have said, “It is impossible for humankind, by nothing is impossible with God.” Of course, he said too, “Enter by the narrow gate...for the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few that take it.” It seems that few in our society even find the gate!
Yet in centuries past, our Methodist forefathers “renewed the nations, particularly the church, and spread scriptural holiness across the land. What was the “method in Methodism”? Scholars agree that it was small groups, “Societies, Classes, and bands,” groups that followed the General Rules of “First, do no harm; then Do good; and then Follow the ordinances of God. The later were means of grace, Private devotions, prayers and fasting; Public worship and the sacraments; and People, ie. Community and service.
It was community where people learned, were mentored, and held themselves accountable, all essential elements of transformation. Grace moves us from where we are to where God wants us to be. It is God through grace that moves us toward becoming “Little Christs.” What is impossible for us is possible with God. Wesley found that without Societies, that all the preaching like apostles did little. He chose never to strike a stroke without being able follow the blow with small groups.
It is “Life together” that forms us. Wesleyan small groups were mandatory in England and later in America. Attending small groups in America gave participants a ticket to attend Sunday worship. In 1850, the church chose to no longer make them mandatory. The acceleration of church building slowed and then began a slow decline. The blow was no longer being struck.
Yet others will say that the most successful churches in America are employing Wesleyan small groups while Methodists have abandoned them. Saddleback in California, Willow Creek in Chicago, North Point in Atlanta all emphasize Wesleyan small groups. I sat with a pastor from Las Vegas this past week., a church that attends 7000 weekly. He was responsible for training and sustaining 350 small groups of about 4500 participants. Their “Life Groups” are the heart of the church, the families of the participants. As their name implies, they give life to the church.
When Rosemary and I moved to Connecticut, there was one historic building, the Methodist Meeting House (1811), not a church, a meeting house. It was meeting as a society, a community, that was the heart of the church. If we want to once again spread scriptural holiness, the method will be Wesleyan small groups once again. So may it be with us.
Saturday, September 7, 2019
Sermon Summary (8/25/19) “Living in Relationship With the Triune God” (Luke 2:41-51; 3:21-23a)
Last week we said there are some that say “You can believe anything and be a Methodist.” Not so, but we do an inadequate job of teach what we do believe. My very first theological conversation was with my Grandpa. I was five. I can see myself standing next to the kitchen counter. I asked, “And who made God?” He relied, “Nobody made God. God had not beginning and he will have no end.” I just found out this week that he was quoting the catechism of the church, what the church taught. We don’t’ do that anymore. My Mother’s baptismal booklet had a catechism in it that parents were to teach. Guess you else learns when you teach?
Last week we talked about the First Commandment, “You shall have no other God’s before Me.” (Ex 20:3) This week, the practical divinity of the Triune God. What does it matter? What does a Triune God do for us?
It is the Triune God with whom we have relationship. When we say “Our Father,” we are not talking about God’s gender, but of a being with whom we have a relationship.
When we say, “God the Son,” we acknowledge a God who became like us, to share life with us, to suffer with us and for us., a God who loves us so much that he gave his life for us. At the baptism of Jesus, God said, “This is my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” God was quoting from Isaiah and the listeners knew that it was a passage we call the “Servant Song.” God is telling us that his incarnate Son would be a suffering servant.
A Holocaust survivor tells of a death camp hanging that all were forced to witness. One of those hanged was just child. A man asked, “Where is God?” He answered, “There on the gallows.” Jesus, the Son, suffered for that child and for us. Jesus is God, the Savior. He is also God of the promise, the “first borne of the dead.” “Because he lives, we can live also.”
When we say, “God the Holy Spirit,” we mean God present with us, to teach us all things, to prod us, to bring us into the right relationship with God, to move us from who we are to who God wants us to be. The Holy Spirit is the means of grace, God’s love for us. And he links us to Jesus Christ; the Holy Spirit links our lives to the life span of Jesus!
It is the Triune God with whom we have relationship! Who is God? He is the Triune Being who has a relationship with us. Where is God? He is there on the gallows. Wherever there is suffering, God is in the midst, What is God doing? He is working to overcome the suffering, to bring good out of evil, working for reconciliation and wholeness to all of creation. “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done.”
John Wesley on his deathbed said, “Best of all, God is with us.” Be grateful that that is so. Amen.