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In the late 18th century many European countries were engaged in violent revolution. England was not one of them. Some historians credit a religious movement in that country with creating a climate that prevented such upheaval.

The Methodist Movement, spearheaded by John Wesley and his brother Charles, had its origins in the academic environment of Oxford. They were joined by a small group of other students in rigid religious rituals. Because of their methodical approach in their devotional and charitable activities they began to be called the “Methodists,” a derisive term.

This small group of people became known as the Holy Club. They rigorously practiced the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, fasting, and accountability but their religious fervor was not limited to such acts of piety. They regularly visited the prisons and hospitals. They established schools for poor children, offered basic medical care for those who could not afford it, provided housing for poor and elderly widows and their children, and much more.

The long term effect of this movement was due largely to the well-disciplined organizer, John Wesley. To what did he owe his strong faith, persistence, and tolerance?

Much is known about the impact of John’s mother, Susanna Wesley. She has been called the Mother of Methodism. “Her example of faith and religious reverence she set for her children inspired them to become powerful spiritual leaders and to launch the Methodist Movement.” Her constant devotion and strict discipline to the education and spiritual formation of her children certainly impacted John, the 15th of her 19 children.

Adam Hamilton* says, “If John learned about his faith from his mother, he learned how to deal with disagreements from his father and grandfathers.” His grandparents on both sides of his family were dissenters from the established Anglican Church but his parents were committed Anglicans. John “adopted a posture that is often called the via media- a middle way- that found truth on both sides of the theological divide.”

In one sermon that is among John Wesley’s most famous he said, “Though we can’t think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart? Though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may.”

Hamilton suggests that this spirit of Wesley leads us to “give them the benefit of the doubt. We assume the best in others, not the worst. We speak well of others, not poorly. We treat them as we hope to be treated. We listen more and talk less. We walk in other people’s shoes and try to understand what they believe and why. This does not mean we give up our convictions, but it does mean we test them.” The focus is intended learn what we have in common and to build bridges not walls.

It was this humble, listening, catholic spirit supported by a strong resolve to follow Christ wherever He would lead that transformed the religious practices and daily routines of people across England in the late 18th century. This helped to create a climate where social changes could be accomplished without widespread violence. One does not have to be a Methodist to see the value and to follow the precepts of Wesley but in doing so we just might make a better world.

Jamie Jenkins

*Revival: Faith As Wesley Lived It, Adam Hamilton, Abingdon Press 2014

 

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Last week I write about my recent visit to Cuba and my plans to return in October (you are welcome to join me). I spoke of the enjoyment of the experience and mentioned a few of the places we visited.

I could expand on the sites and people. There is much that could be said about the economic condition of the island nation just 90 miles from the United States. The pros and cons of the U.S. embargo could easily provide fodder for a long political discussion. I could compare and contrast the economies and governments of the two countries.

Instead, I want to share something which spoke to me about poverty and wealth and transcends the understanding of these two particular cultures.

image of worship - priest and worship at the catholic altar - JPG

On Sunday morning group leaders on the ship provided worship experiences for both Protestants and Catholics. Although attendance was voluntary, I am glad that I went. While Father Damien celebrated mass with the Catholics on board the ship, Rev. Bob Brown, one of the Protestant ministers, led a worship service in which we were introduced to a new song.

Cuando el Pobre (When the Poor Ones) is a Latin American hymn from 1971 written by J. A. Olivar and Miguel Manzano.  The English translation is by George Lockwood.

Bible

The hymn is a meditation on Matthew 25: 31-46, the parable of the great judgment, focusing on verses 34-36: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me’” (NIV).

The United Methodist Hymnal editor Carlton Young notes: “The central teaching (of the hymn) is the classic liberation motif that God in Christ is seen and experienced in the plight of the rejected of society: the homeless, the poor, and the parentless. In life’s journey, we are closer to God when we love them and share from our abundance of food, clothing, and shelter. Those who choose the alternative—greed, hate, and war—will ‘go away into eternal punishment’” (Matthew 25:46a).

CUANDO EL POBRE (UMH #434)

When the poor ones who have nothing share with strangers,

When the thirsty water give unto us all,

When the crippled in their weakness strengthen others,

[Refrain]

Then we know that God still goes that road with us,

Then we know that God still goes that road with us.

When at last all those who suffer find their comfort,

When they hope though even hope seems hopelessness,

When we love though hate at times seems all around us,

[Refrain]

Then we know that God still goes that road with us,

Then we know that God still goes that road with us.

When our joy fills up our cup to overflowing,

When our lips can speak no words other than true,

When we know that love for simple things is better,

[Refrain]

Then we know that God still goes that road with us,

Then we know that God still goes that road with us.

When our homes are filled with goodness in abundance,

When we learn how to make peace instead of war,

When each stranger that we meet is called a neighbor,

[Refrain]

Then we know that God still goes that road with us,

Then we know that God still goes that road with us.

 
Jamie Jenkins

 

A census worker knocked on the door. A woman answered the door and the census worker introduced himself and asked: “How many people live in this place?” The woman replied, “Well, there’s James, and Sylvia, and Monique, and Devon.” The census worker interrupted and said, “I don’t need the names all I want to know is the number of people who live here.” The woman at the door replied, “Nobody here has a number. Everyone here has a name.”

Have you ever felt like you were “just a number?” That you really didn’t matter?

Discrimination — Stock Photo #51591693

There are many ways to make people feel like they are “just a number.” To relegate persons to the margins. Treat folks like outcasts. Unimportant. Unwanted.

Poverty-17

Bureaucratic structures have a way of pushing people to the side. To exhibit the belief that the process is more important than people. Society has a way of prizing some while devaluing others.

A popular television series several years ago tapped into the feeling that many have of being “somebody,” being known and valued.

The theme song* struck a chord with millions who understood that “Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.” They knew that “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came. You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same. You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.”

The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah was assured that God knew him even before he was conceived and that his Maker had plans for him before he was born (Jeremiah 1:5). God reminded Jacob that he was a special creation whose name was known by the Creator (Isaiah 43:1).

In the perfect world everybody has value. Nobody is a number. Everybody has a name. Since our world is not perfect  we must be diligent in caring for one another and to make sure that no one is disregarded or treated disrespectfully.

Matthew 16:21–28, Jesus walks with His disciples

The Master Teacher, Jesus, taught us the worth of every individual. He said that even the smallest sparrow was valuable. The Creator, who took notice of even those little birds paid attention to the most minute detail of each human being (Matthew 10:29-31). In the Gospels, He regularly reminds us of the significance of those whom we call the “least” and the “outcast.” There are no “little” people with God. No one is “lost in the crowd.”  Every individual human being is precious to God.

Therefore, we are our commissioned to love and serve all people. Those who are prosperous and those who live in poverty. The well and the sick. Those who are on the top of the world and those who are crushed by the weight on their shoulders. The “up and comers” and those who are ” down and out.”

My wife says her mother made every one of her ten children feel like they were her favorite. She had a away of loving each one of them as if there was only one of them. I think God is like that. And we should be too.

Jamie Jenkins

*Where Everybody Knows Your Name Lyrics by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo