Friday, February 7, 2014
While I’ve been sharing this week about what moved me along in my journey to worship with Methodists, there is a larger picture in view than just my story. It is the question: considering all the denominations and different ways of worship, different doctrines, worship styles, how shall we view and treat each other across those lines?
God has given us a few (hundred) examples. John Wesley preached from a great text which captures the spirit of God’s way for us to be different and still cooperate.
In his sermon “Catholic Spirit” Wesley described Jehu as a “mixed character”. He was a hard-driving political type, city-dweller. On a mission to clear the land of idols, false religion and apostasy, Jehu met Jehonadab, a tent-dwelling, aesthetic who would have nothing to do with cities and wine parties. Yet Jehonadab was fiercely devoted to Moses’ law and serving God.
You could not have found two totally different men; yet both shared a passion to serve God.
Jehu asked Jehonadab two questions, the first of which was – Is your heart right? Jehu was asking him, are you a child of God? Jesus would later explain what that’s like:
“‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37 - 40 (KJV)
It’s important to note that Jehu did not ask Jehonadab if he lived like Jehu lived, or would sign a doctrinal statement of agreement. He wasn’t interested if Jehu called himself a Methodist or Presbyterian, or even if he liked NASCAR; Jehu was interested to know if Jehonadab’s heart was passionate for God.
This is what Wesley described as a “catholic spirit”. This is the spirit of Jesus’ loving God and neighbor. Catholic spirit is catholic love.
Jehu’s second question to Jehonadab was simpler – take my hand? It simply meant, let me help you up here in this chariot so we can join together and get busy.
I believe Wesley got to the heart of it when he preached this sermon – he didn’t demand a person take communion like he did, or at all. He wasn’t interested in your method of baptism, or if you baptized at all. He didn’t care if you used written prayers or let it flow extemporaneously. What he cared about was whether you love and serve Almighty God and all people.
Wesley finished his sermon this way:
Let all these smaller points stand aside. Let them never come into sight "If thine heart is as my heart," if thou lovest God and all mankind, I ask no more: "give me thine hand."
Therein is my understanding of the answer to the larger question about denominations, switching and whether you’re left-leaning or right-leaning. Put the junk aside and let your love for God BE your love for others.
We live in a culture of anger, selfishness and finger-pointing. How can we possibly talk about the love of Christ when, even inside the church, we make so much over which way is right, and who should be in charge? We must stand with our hearts right and hands extended in a catholic spirit.
Heart checkup time; do you love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength?
Are you ready to deny self and offer your hand to others…even those who hurt you?
Catholic spirit rocks!
Portions of this last part of the series was influenced by my reading the thoughts of Dr. Don Haynes, a former professor of mine.
You can read Dr. Haynes' blog “Wesleyan Wisdom” on this topic here: http://unitedmethodistreporter.com/2013/09/27/wesleyan-wisdom-can-united-methodists-learn-pope-francis/