“The world is my parish.” (John Wesley)
10. Guest Post: Park View Community Mission. Lee Ann Powers, an member of Christ Community United Methodist Church in Lynchburg wrote about the mission of Park View Community Mission, a Lynchburg District mission. Lee Ann writes passionately about this ministry and links this work to the work of the early Christians as evident in Acts. Lee Ann is a student of Eastern Mennonite Seminary and is on the deacon track.
9. Waiting is Hard. This was my only Advent post for 2011, but it was viewed a bunch of times this year. I write about not passively waiting, but waiting while actively being about kingdom work. The disciples felt asleep, are we falling asleep as well?
8. Sex in Heaven? The title, I’m sure, is what made this one get so many views. A friend shared a story about what a question raised in a Bible study with older adults. I thought it was worth sharing.
7. Religious Respect? I wrote this after a news story came out that US military personnel burned copies of the Koran. Why do we disrespect one religion by using another? This post also received the most comments in 2012.
6. Wedding Planning: the invitation. I’m actually surprised there weren’t more wedding planning posts in this list. But a lot of them were posted in 2011 and seen then. Megan and I were married in April of 2012, and a lot of people were keeping up with our plans via our blog.
5. Looking through a . . . peephole? This was a quote shared with me by one of my former youth group students. I came across it randomly one day.
4. Team Snoopy. I have been writing for Hollywood Jesus.com, and one of the perks is I am sent DVDs to review for the site. This was one of those reviews. In the review I draw a connection between Charlie Brown and Habakkuk and the lessons we can learn from both.
3. Faith Fumes. This was a devotion I had written in early 2012. In it, I compare our spiritual life running on fumes, like we tend to do with our gas tanks. In fact, I was doing that this morning. I share the General Rules from John Wesley that help us keep our tank full.
2. Empty Pages. I wrote this post back in May of 2011. I found some old journals I had kept one day and after looking through them, I reflected on the empty (and not so empty) pages in those journals. Journal writing has been an important element of my spirituality.
1. How to Care for Introverts. I stumbled upon this graphic on Facebook. It is so true! As an introvert, I agree with each of these 12 points. Someone has randomly posted this on Pintrist, so I welcome all those who find me through Pintrist.
- I am no longer my own, but thine.
- Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
- Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
- Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
- exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
- Let me be full, let me be empty.
- Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
- I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
- And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
- thou art mine, and I am thine.
- So be it.
- And the covenant which I have made on earth,
- let it be ratified in heaven.
as used in the Book of Offices of the British Methodist Church, 1936
Have you ever driven your car and pushed its limits on its gas? “I can make it a little bit further before I have to stop and get gas,” we rationalize. That gas needle gets lower and lower and we keep going and going. We say that we are running on fumes. Don’t we do that with our faith? We go and we go and we go running on our faith supply, all while our faith needle gets lower and lower and lower.
Lots of things cause this to happen. Words with friends (and not the game) can cause us to distance ourselves from others and faith. Choices we make like drinking from a red solo cup, or taking a hit off that joint, or joining in with the name calling, or ignoring someone on purpose, or hanging out with questionable people can lead us down the wrong path. Someone says something or does something to us and we get angry at that person. Our anger blinds us to see that person in any other way.
All of these (and many more) are like a dark cloud hovering over us distancing us from God, from holy living, and from the community of faith. Yet, we tend to keep going rather than stop and refill our spiritual tank. And when we do that, we find ourselves getting weaker and weaker. So, how do we refill our tank?
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, provided Christians with these General Rules for living in the Christian community:
- Avoid evil of all sorts (or do no harm)
- Do good of all sorts
- Attend upon all the “ordinances of God” (or stay in love with God)
Professor Ted Campbell talks about these Rules as a “kind of contract by which Methodists held each other accountable from week to week for their moral conduct.” In particular the community held each other accountable when it came to the “ordinances of God”. This included public worship; reading, studying, and preaching/teaching of the Scriptures; Holy Communion; private and public prayer; and fasting. These practices are also known as “means of grace.”
United Methodists understand means of grace as the ways in which God channels grace to humanity. When we come to the Table and receive the bread and the juice we are experiencing God’s grace. When we study the Scriptures alone, in a group, or during worship we are experiencing God’s grace. When we spend time in prayer we experience God’s grace.
When we participate in these private and public spiritual disciplines – when we really participate in these disciplines – we refill our spiritual tank. In essence the more time we spend in holy time with God, the more our spiritual tank will stay full. Because we need a full tank when it comes to choosing between what is right and what is easy.
Albert Outler, in his Theology in the Wesleyan Spirit, discusses how John Wesley “plundered the Egyptians” in order to communicate the Gospel. Wesley, whom Outler calls a “folk theologian”, found ways in which to effectively communicate the Gospel to large crowds.
Outler explains that the early church father, Origen coined this metaphor upon reading Exodus 12:28-36. A metaphor, as Outler explains, “pointing to the freedom that Christians have (by divine allowance) to explore, appraise, and appropriate all the insights and resources of any and all secular culture” (77).
The 20th century theologian Paul Tillich, in his Theology of Culture, suggests that religion and culture need to come together like a fine balanced weaving. One cannot over power (or over shadow) the other. A balance between religion and culture is needed, Tillich argues, in order to effectively communicate the gospel.
Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster, in their book The Godbearing Life, suggest that one of the roles of youth ministry today is to translate the gospel. We can translate the gospel using elements of culture such as literature (both classic and modern), science, philosophy, flim/television, and technology. If we do not make the connection between our lives, our world, and the Gospels, then the Gospel will never get translated.
Wesley was known as a man of “just one book”, that book being the Bible. For Wesley, Scripture was primary. According to Outler, “It was [Wesley's] profound sense of the Bible as a ‘speaking book’ that gave him his freedom to ‘plunder the Egyptians’ and guided him in the use he made of their treasures” (80). Wesley lived in the Scriptures. And by doing so, he was able translate the Gospel he lived in, in an effective way that took the Gospel to places it otherwise may never have gone.
Aren’t we called to do the same?