We have had a delightful start to our Wesley trip. We've already seen a number of sites I mentioned in the recent sermon series including the grave of Samuel Wesley (John's father), the Rectory where the Wesleys lived, and Oxford where Wesley studied and worked as a teaching fellow.
As I write to you from the dining room of our hotel there are high wooden beams in the ceiling, large pictures of erudite scholars and leaders of the nation and chandeliers that look like lighted torches (symbolizing the light of knowledge). Everything speaks of the power of education. (As well, just around the corner is The Eagle and the Child pub where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien often met. Tolkien, who is buried here in Oxford, helped bring Lewis to faith)
This is what shaped John Wesley's life. He grew up with parents who highly valued education and saw to it that he and his siblings were well taught. He attended one of the most prestigious schools in the world and throughout his life valued the importance of education. And this was never a challenge to faith for John Wesley but a deepening of it!
Something we did not cover in our series on Wesley is his contribution to theological thought. Wesley took Luther's reformation banner of "justification by grace alone," and expanded the concepts of the dimensions of grace. Wesley developed an ordo salutis, or "Order of Salvation," explaining the work God does along the way in the Christian life. The key tenets are:
- Prevenient Grace: The work God does in a life even before a person becomes aware of their need for God.
- Repenting Grace: God's activity that awakens the heart and makes one aware of his/her need to be saved.
- Justifying Grace: The act of Christ on the cross granting us salvation not because of our works.
- Sanctifying Grace: The ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that develops our character.
- Christian Perfection: The ultimate aim of life - not to be made perfect in deed, but perfect in love through Christ who is pure love.
Wesley preached these intellectual thoughts in soul-gripping fashion. He combined the head and heart. Faith for Methodists is not about emotional response alone. We must engage the mind and understand what we believe. At the same time faith is no lofty intellectual pursuit. The heart must be set afire with the love and mercy of God, for that is what stirs one to live for the purposes of God.
Head and heart. I think about that here in Oxford. Wesley's head was instructed, but after he left here his heart would be "strangely warmed." Tomorrow we will visit Bristol where Wesley preached to uneducated coal miners who, it is reported, would be so touched by his preaching that you could see the streaks of tears on their faces running through the coal soot.
If your faith is running dry right now, this summer might be a good time to re-engage your mind. Grab a good book that stirs your thinking about God. Such stirrings will seldom just stay in your head!
Have a great Sunday of worship!