Ten candles had been lit to remember the saints who had claimed the promise of the resurrection this past year. The candles were flickering throughout the service. The wax dripped along the edges of the candlelabra.
Eventually, the candles would run out of flame, or the flame would run out of candle. The flickering candles reminded me of our own spiritual lives. We strive toward perfection, as John Wesley would say, to live holy lives. We strive to carry the light of Christ into the world.
But eventually our light gets dim and flickers out.
We understand works of mercy as helping the poor, visiting those in prison, and be a voice against injustice. Occasionally, we need to re-light our candles to be about these works of mercy. Works of piety, on the other hand, are those things that re-light our candles. The following are included as works of piety:
Attend Worship: Public worship, in whatever style that may take, is a way for us to connect to God. Through the praise, the prayers, the testimonies, and the proclamation, we are stretched to experience the Holy in a way that will re-light our candles as we prepare to share the Light for the coming week. For John Wesley, this also included participation in the sacrament of Holy Communion. Wesley understood that communion was a converting experience. As such, all are welcome to the table to experience this grace.
Join a Small Group: John Wesley felt that Christians should search the scriptures. While scripture reading was prompted in the home, Wesley also felt that Christians should search the scriptures together in small groups. Small groups are safe places where members are nurtured in their faith and challenged to live out their faith. If your place of worship does not have a small group that fits you, consider starting one organically with other people who are looking for the same.
Be intentional about a Devotional and Prayer Life: Recent studies have confirmed that the place where children and youth develop in their faith the best is the family unit. John Wesley’s mother, Susanna, is well known for teaching her children faith. She was a faithful person, and is rubbed off on her children. So, it is no surprise that John Wesley promoted family and private prayer as essential to the life of the Christian. This intentional devotional and prayer life is an opportunity to listen for the Holy and what God is calling us to as we re-light our candles.
Fast: John Wesley was a practitioner of the ancient spiritual practice of fasting. Typically fasting refers to not eating during a certain period of time. During the season of Lent, for example, many Christians will fast from meat. The purpose of fasting is to redirect our focus on God. At times our lights start to get dim when we focus on other things. Perhaps fasting from whatever is distracting us from God will help us to re-light our candles.
The Christian faith is grounded in love of God and love for each other. The deeper we form our spiritual self, the wider we are able to share the Light in our communities. These works of piety described above can enable our works of mercy.