I’ve done a fair amount of blogging over the years. When I started this blog my primary purpose was to blog about my experiences in becoming a United Methodist. So I’ve shared some of the theological reasons for my move from Baptist life to UMC life. And I’ve shared some of the process that I have been following in transfering my ordination to the United Methodist Church.
Right now I am in one of those in between times when the next step depends on me completing the next set of requirements. During the minimum of two years I am serving as a Provisional Member of the Iowa Conference I am required to complete three courses covering UMC history, doctrine, and polity. I am near finishing the UMC history class and hope to start on the doctrine class as soon as I can get signed up for it either through the GBHEM or a seminary in my area. That’s all very important to my moving forward in my desire to become an “Elder in Full Connection” in the UMC. But it does not make for exciting blogging.
In my previous denomination sometimes I blogged about internal denominational movements and denominational politics. But as I’ve considered what to write about in my current blog that subject matter has lost its appeal for me. It is not that I’m not interested in what is going on nationally and conference wide in the UMC. I am certainly interest in the future of the connection I am giving my life and ministry to. But there are a lot of bloggers writing about the Call to Action report who have been United Methodists much longer than I have. And yes I am interested in the outcome of legislation at General Conference. But I am not sure that I have anything new to contribute to that discussion with a world wide web of UMC bloggers already discussing GC at great length.
Instead, in my quest to find something worth saying, I want to use this blog to continue to talk about my pilgrimage of faith as a pastor serving in a new church family. I’d like to keep talking about it because I have come to believe that faith in Christ is a journey and not just a destination. And I believe the journey is a lot more interesting when you don’t act liked you’ve arrived already!
As I have been reading about the life and teachings of one of the founders of United Methodism, John Wesley, I have been struck time and time again that Mr. Wesley was a man on a journey of faith. In his early life he preached the gospel with a fervency and zeal that made him well known even in his younger years of ministry. He worked harder than most at seeking to living a life of holiness. He journaled in great detail about his spiritual walk in the hope that he would find an assurance of salvation.
And yet despite his many hours of zealous prayer, fasting, writing, journaling, preaching, and teaching he despaired of gaining that assurance. (United Methodists already know where I’m going with this story!) But Wesley didn’t find that assurance in his own work, as remarkable as it was, he found that calm heart warming assurance when he was struck by God’s grace. He was bowled over by an abiding assurance that God did indeed love him, that is was by grace that would be redeemed, and that this assurance (his Aldersgate experience) was a free, unmerited, unearned gift from the loving heart of Jesus Christ!
Like Wesley we all know we should work hard for the sake of the gospel. And particularly Mr. Wesley’s children in the faith hope to emulate his desire for the entire world to be his parish. Yet the greatest gifts we have received, a loving and caring God, the gifts of family, churches to serve in, Christian friends to enjoy, the beautiful creation that God has given us, are all pure unmerited gifts of grace.
John Wesley loved to write about grace, Prevenient Grace, Justifying Grace, Sanctifying Grace, grace in all its forms. Because he himself had experienced its power, its comfort, and its peace.
After Wesley’s experience at Aldersgate he found the next path that he was to follow in formation of the Methodist societies and their unique system of classes and bands. It was after his Aldersgate experience that Methodism caught fire and burned brightly with the flames of the spirit of which has touched the lives of millions! But it wasn’t John Wesley who accomplished this task. It was God’s grace, grace greater than our sin, marvelous matchless grace, amazing grace how sweet the sound…!
Now that is something worth writing about!
“8 You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. 9 It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. 10 Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.” Ephesians 2:8-9 CEB