I grew up in an Amazon church.
We attended worship every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night. Attended VBS, Sunday school, and every youth program ever. Sang in the choir. Prayed, as needed. Put my money in the offering plate. I believed myself to be a “Prime” member.
To be completely honest, I was happy for God to stay out of my business; but I was careful to do all these righteous things so that when I needed something from God, all I had to do was click the Prayer link, Select what I needed, move it into my Cart and click the Order Now button:
- Comfort when sad and blue.
- Healing when sick.
- Encouragement when afraid.
- Pass this test.
- Win this game.
- A better parking space.
And so on. Christianity as I learned it was all about what God can do for me and not at all about what God expects from me.
My home church would have been very familiar to Methodist founder John Wesley—a Biblical scholar, an Oxford theologian, and a priest in the Church of England—because the same style of Christian faith was the norm in the Church of England back in the 1700’s.
Brother Wesley was appalled by this Amazon-style or vending machine type religion and worked tirelessly throughout his life to preach salvation through faith in Christ and to teach us what it means to live a Christian life.
I’ve studied and cherished Methodist history for years, and there is one thing that never ceases to amaze me—Rev. Wesley was wildly popular. In 1755 Wesley introduced a new Service of Covenant Renewal; 1,800 people showed up.
At TUMC we will share Wesley’s service on November 19 and, as you will see, it’s not for those who choose an easy going, Amazon-lite style of life. Will you offer God your whole heart? Will you let God fashion your life? Brother Wesley calls us to trust our lives completely into God’s hands. To prepare us, Wesley taught five-steps we each need to take:
- Step 1: Confide in God
- Step 2: Compose Your Spirit
- Step 3: Claim the Covenant
- Step 4: Choose Faithfulness
- Step 5: Connect to God in Prayer
Join us over the next five Sundays in exploring Wesley’s Five Steps to Spiritual Renewal in small groups and Sunday morning worship.
Have you ever gotten really excited about learning something new: playing golf, playing piano, learning to write, a new craft or hobby? Maybe you became passionate about running a marathon or a new diet or exercise program. You register for lessons; you develop a plan. The second week is hard. Week 3 harder still. Week five you skip a few days. Week 7 your enthusiasm flags. Over time the flame flickers or winks out altogether.
For many of us this happens in our faith life, too. We start strong, our heart strangely warmed; but later, we lose passion for God. It’s quite normal, Wesley admitted. It certainly happened to him. To rekindle and renew our faith we must make room in our lives for mystery, awe, and wonder. Covenant renewal calls us to set aside our need for certainty and security, and learn to trust God with our lives. It’s up to us, with gratitude and contrition, to say, Lord, I promise to give my whole life to this venture with you.
I invite you to join me and all willing souls at TUMC in this venture over these next five weeks, as we adventure with Christ and prepare our hearts and minds to renew our covenant with almighty God.
All good things to you in Christ Jesus our Lord,
Rev. David Gilliam