Aldersgate Day

A prayer of Susanna Wesley:

Help me, Lord, to remember that religion is not to be confined to the church, or closet, nor exercised only in prayer and meditation, but that everywhere I am in Your presence. So may my every word and action have moral content. May all the happenings of my life prove useful and beneficial to me. May all things instruct me and afford me an opportunity of exercising some virtue and daily learning and growing towards Your likeness. Amen.

What a great day to celebrate John Wesley’s ministry legacy. David and I had so much fun putting together Sunday’s sermon celebrating Aldersgate Day, May 24, 1738; the day that Wesley’s heart was strangely warmed 282 years before. Growing up, I think that I knew that May 24th date even before I knew my own birthday. At the parsonage I have a wonderful picture of John Wesley hanging near the entrance door. It was a gift to my parents 60 years ago from a congregation where dad served in Baltimore. What a marvelous reminder of why we, as Methodists, care for the poor; spend funds on the mission and community; meet in small groups, and sing songs of the faith!

Though I have never been to Epworth – Wesley’s home, I can almost see him at his mother, Susanna’s, side learning to read from his textbook, the Bible, as she shared deep truths with him. She was so learned herself that she taught all of her children Latin and Greek. Our heritage is rich and begs us to use scripture knowledge in order to make sound decisions about how we spend life together at Cason.

I have never been to Aldersgate Street in London, either. I know that for Wesley, his year in America and the two years after his return, made him question his worth and vitality because the ministry was disastrous. And then came the invitation. Wesley reluctantly attended a small group meeting that evening on Aldersgate Street in London. As he heard a reading from Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans, he felt his “heart strangely warmed.” Wesley wrote in his journal that at about 8:45 p.m. “while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” The Letter to the Romans, especially chapter 3, became a bedrock of grace and faith for him. In those moments, Wesley knew that it was not what he did but what Jesus did for him by dying on that Cross that changed him and reminded him again that he could live in Christ and make a difference to others!

On Pentecost, May 21, just three days before, Charles Wesley, John’s brother, also had a Holy Spirit experience. Charles writes in his journal that he had “a strange palpitation of heart” that caused him to exclaim, “I believe, I believe!” Several sentences later he continues, “I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoiced in hope of loving Christ.” These men in their thirties were unstoppable and we at Cason, and all United Methodist churches, are the legacy of their great awakening and love for God and humanity.
This is who we are…the people called Methodist! I encourage you to stop and pray this prayer from Wesley’s Covenant New Years’ Service and let it penetrate your heart.

Joy, joy my friends at Cason! I sure love being your METHODIST pastor.

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O Glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

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