I always figured I was born to be a Methodist, what with my birthday being May 24 and all. For those who may not know the significance of that date let me share this tidbit on John Wesley (founder/father of Methodism) with you:
Leslie Weatherhead was an outstanding English Methodist preacher and writer who tells of a visit to Aldersgate in London where John Wesley had his transforming conversion experience. In this small chapel he saw a plaque on the wall that read: “On this spot on May 24, 1738, John Wesley’s heart was strangely warmed.”
As Weatherhead prayed and pondered about Wesley’s “warmed heart” in one of the back pews suddenly the chapel door opened and an old man with a cane proceeded to walk down the aisle. When this man came to the plaque, not seeing Weatherhead in the back pew, he read out loud the words: “On this spot on May 24, 1738, John Wesley’s heart was strangely warmed.” The old man dropped to his knees and exclaimed, “Do it again, Lord! Do it again for me!”
Time and time again the followers of Jesus have testified to a similar experience and such transformations began on that Day of Pentecost following Jesus’ resurrection when his first disciples were moved by the Holy Spirit’s flame.
Do you long for your heart to be warmed? Do you yearn for the new life Jesus offers and promises? Do you hope for some transformation in your life? This Sunday is Pentecost – when we celebrate the Holy Spirit descending and filling us with power; come join us in worship and maybe, just maybe our hearts will be strangely warmed by God’s Spirit.
My dad would have loved the technological era in which we currently live. He loved gadgets. He loved taking things apart and putting them back together again. Although he would have turned 90 this year, I think he would still have enjoyed “playing” with the latest iPad, iPhone, and whatever else is out there. In some ways, he was ahead of his time.
In 1956 he bought a big reel to reel tape recorder. Why I’m not sure. It proved useful however. He recorded the multiplication tables on it, so my sisters and I could practice and learn. He mostly recorded fun stuff though – family gatherings, television shows, my sisters and I playing the piano, and stuff like that. One of his earliest recordings was of me when I was about 4 or 5 singing “Jesus Loves Me.” After I had grown older I would listen to that old recording and laugh as I heard myself belting out “Les, Jesus loves me; les, Jesus loves me.” You see I had trouble with certain letters and sounds (apparently the y was one I had trouble with) and even stuttered when I was a young child. I had to go to speech class before going to first grade and then while I was in first grade. Guess it all worked out though.
The other thing that got me to laughing as I listened to my young self was me singing the wrong lyrics. I boldly sang, “He is weak but we are strong.” Of course, it’s supposed to be, “We are weak but he is strong.” In a way though my words make sense too. Jesus became weak – he emptied himself of his divinity Paul tells us in Philippians – so that we could become strong. He allowed himself to be crucified so that we might have life and have it abundantly and that we might know forgiveness and salvation. He lives within us through his Spirit so that we are empowered to live the life he has called us to live and be the people he has called us to be. We are strong only because he became weak for us, even allowing himself to hang on a cross, which come to think of it, takes a lot of strength.
Are we living strong? If we know Jesus loves us, we can.
I just came from the Ministerial Alliance meeting where we spent a little pre-meeting time talking about what was going on in our lives. I mentioned that I had recently been to Fredericksburg, which led to a discussion about wild flowers and peaches. One of the other pastors commented that the best peaches she had ever tasted came from Pittsburg, Texas. She said they didn’t look very appealing – they were all wrinkly – but one bite was all she needed to convince her that those were the sweetest and juiciest peaches she had ever had. I, on the other hand, have had the most delicious looking peaches ever only to bite into them and discover they are too hard, or too mushy, or too mealy, or too something else. Looks can be deceiving, can’t they? As “they” say, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
The same is true for people of course. I’ve just finished reading the book, Unbinding the Gospel, which challenges its readers to see others through Christ’s eyes. The author, Martha Grace Reese, reminds us of an old Billy Graham pamphlet which encourages us to think of the Bible as a love letter that God has sent you; specifically you. Reese then encourages her readers to think of their lives as a love letter. She writes, “See the faces of the people around you – at work, at the shoe store, at your son’s Boy Scout meeting. Think: “These are people Christ wants me to care for.” “I am God’s love letter to them.” “And they are God’s love letter to me.”
She goes on to write:
If we live deeply with God, we will start to see fragmentary glimpses of people through Christ’s eyes. … Once we have these glimmers of how God must see us, we want to help God care for those people; we want to learn from them. Could life be different for the frazzled mother dragging her shrieking two-year-old away from the Twinkies display? Could God use you to bring a life-changing experience to the married businessman hitting on the flight attendant? To the lonely, brilliant physics student? How about the frazzled chef who snorts cocaine?… Envision the difference Jesus could make in these people’s lives. This “envisioning” is prayer.
May we look below the surface appearance and behavior and begin to see others through Christ’s eyes. We might just be surprised by what or who we find.
In Christ, Pastor Donna
If you have ever been to Fredericksburg, then you have probably been to Dooley’s 5₵ 10₵ 25₵ Store. It’s like walking back in time – maybe to the 1950s or early 1960s. Although the store has plenty of modern items, it’s the things of yesteryear that attract people. Like candy cigarettes, when is the last time you saw those? They certainly took me back to my childhood, those days when we thought smoking was cool, before we knew how bad they are for your health. For my friend, it was simply the way things were displayed, that brought back fond memories. A man got a kick out of the very non-technological pop gun. For another lady, McCall’s patterns seem to take her to another time and place. I even heard her long for the “good old days.”
For a brief time Dooley’s lets you go back to the times when things seemed simpler and more innocent. But eventually you have to leave the store and step back into real time in the real world.
Two scripture texts came to mind as I was thinking upon these things. The first is Philippians 3:13b, “But this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” The other isn’t a particular verse but rather the account of the transfiguration of Jesus. You recall that Jesus went up the mountain with Peter, James and John and is transfigured before them, as well as, being joined by Moses and Elijah on the mountain. The disciples want to stay on the mountain and enjoy this mountain top experience. Jesus says no, his ministry and mission must be lived in the valleys and plains and wilderness areas.
From time to time I think we would all like to stay on the mountain or live in the past where things simply seem better. But life isn’t found in the past; Jesus isn’t in the past either. Jesus is here now with us. Jesus is out ahead of us leading. Jesus is calling us to follow him, be his disciples today. Yeah, it’s fun to look back, but it’s hard to go forward toward the living Christ and the heavenly goal if we’re always looking back, isn’t it?
Go ahead and reminisce. Take a spin through Dooley’s. Look through your scrapbooks. Just don’t live there. Jesus calls us to live in the today, following him, becoming the people he died for us to be.