Friday, March 27, 2009

Changing The World

I've mentioned several times on this blog that I am a relatively new Methodist. A question I am often asked regarding this decision is, "Why, for crying out loud??" Isn't Methodism one of those boring, stodgy, mainline groups that are more of a social club than a church and don't really believe what they preach?

That's their reputation (and some of the things they do on a national level make me wonder), but I don't find the Methodists I've met that way at all. Instead I find a group of people who are doing their best to follow John Wesley's way of doing Christianity. And really, I joined the Methodists because of Wesley.

He didn't invent any new, esoteric doctrines, just taught plain old, garden variety, Apostle's Creed Christianity. But his approach to Christianity was different; it returned the ancient teachings to their original, radical, revolutionary sheen, like an art restorer removing layers of patina from Michaelangelo's paintings in the Sistine Chapel.

Wesley developed his "method" as he went, almost on the fly, and although he wrote about it incessantly there aren't many places where he explained in a nutshell what he was doing. But Andrew Thompson, who writes the GenXRising blog, summed it up pretty concisely yesterday in an article he wrote for the United Methodist Reporter:

By “Wesleyan approach,” I’m referring to what we find in the teaching and ministry of John Wesley. It involves the universal offer of God’s free grace in Jesus Christ, the grace-empowered need for human response to God, and the calling for Jesus' disciples to grow continually in grace through works of devotion and compassion. It seeks “holiness” — not in the sense of “holier-than-thou,” but as the way to explain how God renews our souls through grace so that we overcome sin.

"Grace," as Mr. Wesley perceived, is the thing that animates Christianity, changing it from a collection of mere words and rituals into an electric force that remakes the world. "Grace" is the sheer mercy of a King for powerless subjects, mercy that he bestows purely out of his own love and goodness.

God's jewel-like Earth and beautiful children are sick and broken, the Christian message says, due to the metaphysical infestation called "sin"; God, purely out of this grace, battles relentlessly to get them back and restore them to their former glory. Battles even to the point of coming down here and absorbing our sickness for us on a Roman cross. All we need do is reach out and accept that free gift.

That's why I'm a Methodist, to be part of a movement that enables humans and this planet and the universe itself to be what they were originally intended to be (which got seriously broken along the way) -- and thereby change the world. Maybe it's because I'm a child of the '60's but I'm never happier than when I'm changing the world.

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