This is the message that I presented at Grannie Annie’s Kitchen this morning, Saturday, September 14th. I am using the Scriptures for the 17th Sunday after Pentecost (Year C) – Jeremiah 4: 11 – 12, 22 – 28; 1 Timothy 1: 12 – 17; and Luke 15: 1 – 10 – but am focusing on Paul’s words to Timothy.
We served some 93 people this morning. My thanks to the 10 volunteers who helped serve the people and then clean up. Please contact me if you are interested in being a part of this ministry in some way.
I had a choir director a few years ago who was always encouraging us to sing with a little more feeling; so that it meant something to us. This was, to be sure, a departure from the way most of that particular choir had been raised in the Methodist Church. And that in itself was a little unusual because one of the things that early Methodists were known for was their singing.
But over the years that part of Methodism seems to have disappeared. I see this in both the traditional and modern hymns we sing and how we sing. There is no feeling to the song, just some words put forth with a musical accompaniment.
Now, this isn’t necessarily a piece about music or singing but rather about how one feels, whether it be in singing or in everyday tasks. It is about the life that we have and the life that we lead. How do others see us? Do they see us as individuals who struggle with life, very sad, often angry, and certainly not blessed? Or perhaps they see us as people who are able to love, in spite of their present status or troubles, patient in trials, rich in hope, strong in adversity. Can they bear witness to the knowledge that every day God is present in their lives and that He has provided for them as He does for the sparrows in the sky?
John Wesley called this holiness, the act of living a life that displays an active love of God and neighbor that penetrated every part of their life. Those passing by could see the fruit of this holiness.
Now, we need to understand that holiness is not an all or nothing thing. You may have some holiness but you need to continue working on it, otherwise you risk losing what you had. Now, you also have to understand that you cannot gain this holiness by doing good works. Lord knows, Wesley tried and he failed.
I think we know many people who think that they have this holiness, if not because they are doing good things, then because they walk around proclaiming how their lives are blessed, and by contrast, yours is not. That very attitude, which I saw growing up and which I still see today, almost drove me from the church.
That sort of attitude is very closed and not open to life and what we might encounter each day. And a closed life fails to recognize that we need to have an openness to the creativity of life to which God calls us.
But in our move to a truly open society we must be always ready for the surprises that will spring forth, both those that assist in the creative process and those which threaten to destroy the creative process.
We must be aware that there is more to life than just what happens each day. If we are not willing to look for that which is beyond the boundaries of our thought, we can find ourselves quite easily caught in the present, with no hope for the future.
We have to ask ourselves if there is some power that breaks through into our lives and frees us from those forces that would limit what we do and constantly threatens us with destruction?
When we hear of the life of John Wesley, we know that he had developed a method for living, a method for achieving the knowledge that salvation was his. But we also know that this method did not work because it lacked one singular item, the presence of the Holy Spirit.
It would not be until that moment that we have come to Aldersgate that John Wesley would know that one could not work at gaining that feeling; that it came with an open heart and acceptance of the knowledge that Christ was the truth, the way, and the life.
It was that singular sensation of his heart being strangely warmed that told him of the presence of the Holy Spirit and that gave him the ability to take the Methodist Revival to a higher and more successful plane.
I chose the reading from 1 Timothy for this morning because we have Paul telling Timothy that his life had changed because of Jesus. It does not matter what translation of the Bible one reads; Paul points out that his life was pretty worthless before his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus. And how many of us have a life like that, one full of invective, arrogance, hatred and ignorance? How can we ever expect anything good to come out of a life like that. And yet Paul says that because of God’s grace he was able to be saved.
In the passage that we read today, Paul is passing on to Timothy the mantle of leadership. And each one of us, whether we know it or not, whether we truly understand what lies before us, also receives that same mantle. Each one of us understands and knows in our heart the evil, the sin, and the violence that encompasses this world. And in accepting Christ as our Savior we are able to cast aside, as Paul did, that evil, that sin, that violence and rely on the merciful God who can bring good out of evil.
We are now in a position, as was Paul, to received forgiveness and then be in a position to pass it on to others.
When John Wesley began the Methodist movement, he did so by looking out to world. It was when he took Christ into his heart that his life began to change and the Methodist movement began to change the world.
My challenge to you today is look at where your life is at today. Perhaps you need to bring Christ into your life. Now is the time to do so, to say that I repent, I cast aside all that I once was and begin a new, with Christ in my life.
If you have accepted Christ in your life, then you need to seek ways that will enable your own holiness, your own love of God become more visible.
Without Christ, our lives will always be a reflection of our past; with Christ, we have a new vision for the future. Our challenge will always be to decide what we want to see.