During Wesley Weekend, a short series based on services prepared by Rev Tony Buglass, working alongside Tricia Mitchell, of Learning Network North East, was emailed out to subscribers of the Great 50 Days email community.
If you are a subscriber, you will have received the series in four parts, concluding on Tuesday 24th May.
If not, we are running each part of the series over four days this week.
Here is part three
On May 24th we celebrated John's conversation experience. His diary for that day opens with the well-known words:
24th May, 1738:
"In the evening, I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate St, where one was reading Luther's Preface to the Epistle to the Romans."
When have you done something "unwillingly"? Perhaps gone to church, or to a social event or to work? What does it feel like to act begrudgingly?
Charles Wesley's words in 'O thou who camest from above' (Singing the Faith 564 / Hymns & Psalms 745) could be read as a hymn for our 'unwilling' days when we need God's help to kindle the flame or to be our fire when we are burnt out.
Let us pray for all humankind for whom we believe Christ died:
Lord, we pray for the peoples of the world. We bring to you our concern for those who suffer: the persecuted and oppressed; the hungry and destitute; the sick and the injured; the dying and bereaved, the refugee and the homeless. We think particularly of places we know which need your peace today: Palestine, Israel, Ukraine, Russia... We ask that you will fill our hearts with such love that we may work with you to bring the love and peace of your reign into this suffering world.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Let us pray for those who, like John Wesley, seek a deeper relationship of faith with God:
Lord, we pray for those who seek to know and love you better: For those looking for a purpose in life and those who feel attracted to the Christian faith; for those assailed by doubts about your existence or the power of your love; for those who doubt their own commitment or their own claim to be your followers; for the newly born babes in Christ and for mature Christians facing new challenges; for those who feel their faith is too much of the mind or too much of the heart; for all Christians, everywhere, as they strive towards the perfection of love in union with Christ.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
"Salvation by faith" – John Wesley
By contrast with our sometime human unwillingness to participate, John Wesley speaks in this sermon of God's generosity, God's "grace upon grace" to which our response comes from both head and heart:
"All the blessing which God has poured upon us are of his grace, generosity, or favour; his free, undeserved favour, since we have no claim to the least of his mercies. If then, sinful people find favour with God, it is 'Grace upon grace!' By grace you are saved through faith. Grace is the source of salvation, and faith its condition.
What faith is it then, through which we are saved? It is a faith in Christ:
Christ, and God through Christ. It is not simply a speculative, rational thing, a cold lifeless assent, a train of ideas in the head, but also a disposition of the heart. It acknowledges the necessity and merit of his death, and the power of his resurrection.
What salvation is it, through this faith? It is a present salvation – something attainable on earth by those who are partakers of this faith. You are saved from sin – from the guilt of all past sin, and being saved from guilt, saved from fear, and again from the power of sin."
I wait, till he shall touch me clean,
Shall life and power impart,
Give me the faith that casts out sin
And purifies the heart. Amen
Charles Wesley, Hymns & Psalms 749
Whether we greet today exhausted, unwilling, excited or fired up is not what matters. God is alongside and reaching out to us – may we be ready to listen.
Tricia Mitchell, of Learning Network North East, said: "Our short Aldersgate series is based on services prepared by Revd Tony Buglass drawing on the sermons of John Wesley and the hymns of Charles Wesley.
"I am grateful to Tony for his wisdom in bringing these contributions together and for sharing them with us."