Sermon Thirty Two Fanaticism, an evil influence

john                                            audio clip

Wesley begins this sermon in a defence of Christians born of the Spirit who were called enthusiastic in his day. His introductory paragraphs are not really an introduction to his main points, more like a side address. The world calls us mad when we talk about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Basically the world doesn’t mind us when we feed them or clothe them, so don’t even mind if we pray for them but if we begin to talk about the changes wrought in our lives in any sense inwardly then we are called mad and this rings true today as it ever did before.

Wesley’s main thrust though is not about enthusiasm per se but fanaticism. He considers fanatics dangerous because it undermines the very real efforts of ordinary Christians to bring people to Christ. Now he doesn’t mince words in this sermon, he talks of madness and delusions. People who were workers of miracles, prophets and charismatic leaders all came under scrutiny by him.

He has sound advice for anyone who thinks God is telling them to do something, study the Bible. Ask yourself where will I be most holy, do the most good and be the most use for God?

Being useful in God’s service is particularly important to him. And that is key really. If we have a dream or a vision that God is calling us to do something, especially if it something which is going to turn your life upside down. We have to be sure we can be useful in that situation. For example I would love God to direct me to go to Lanzarote and minister to the people there. But I know that is not his plan for me, I like sunshine, I have mates there, I would enjoy myself thoroughly. But I am of more use going on a train to Dublin to spend two hours with someone in crisis, I am of more use when after fourteen hours with someone they are refreshed and able to continue on, I am of more use sitting on the floor with someone who has no hope for however long they need me. Does it intrude in my life? Am I uncomfortable? It is a part of my life, my family adjusts, yes sometimes it is cringingly uncomfortable, but I am of use so I don’t run.

It is like mid study – a phone call that lasts more than an hour, study time lost – yes but listening to someone in need is what God wants me to do. And he wants us all to do that. We are a people who listen. We are a people who are there for other people and for each other. We are a people who are not mad, or fanatical, but we are a compassionate people, a people who care.

John Wesley cared for all these people he called fanatics, he so wanted them to come to know “true religion” that of the transformed heart. He loved his fellow believers, the waverers, the barely there and the unbelievers. He was scathing – but to get a response. We need to respond to God’s call not fanatically but with love, grace and mercy, just as Jesus did.

Trial

The next step is video, another scary step but one I will take when the time comes. For now this is scary enough, getting used to hearing my own voice recorded, warts and all. This recording is from the service last night in Millstreet. There are things I would do differently in hindsight but don’t we love that hindsight chip. And there was one part of the message I couldn’t deliver because there were so many visitors, I will get it in sometime there, because it is a very special congregation who have taken me into their hearts. They love because first He loved them. Praise the Lord for Millstreet Methodist. Praise the Lord for their new vision of visibility. I thank the Lord that I took that scary step one day eighteen months ago and arrived into their congregation for a trial service that didn’t happen for someone else. They are a blessed bunch of people.

The first half of the sermon is not recorded and sadly it was Kirby’s last outing, she will be made into soup this week by the beautiful Eileen. Clare will be struggling with plantain and okra. I like to challenge people!

 

Sermon Thirty One How Christian faith upholds the moral law

john                                         audio clip

Wesley suggests that people are very vague over what Law it is we are to follow.

Now anybody who watches crime drama on television or is aware the story of Al Capone’s capture, knows that successful criminals keep the law of the land apart from their one area of expertise.

It may surprise the world that I have never been arrested, I have never been in the room with the table, three chairs and a tape recorder. The police or Garda Siochana have never arrived at my door to take me or indeed my husband.

Most people break the law, some don’t know they have broken it, others are more flagrant. Paying taxes, giving full disclosure on all financial transactions – do we do that? Keeping to the speed limit, all the time, not just when passing through a town or when someone flashes us to slow down for the speed camera. When we think the law is unjust so we go on our turf bank and cut the sods. When we have an illness that Cannabis helps to alleviate the pain so we grow our own. Drink is so expensive so we distill potín in our shed. We can’t afford fuel so we use the red fuel for the tractor. We cross the road – not at a crossing, jaywalking.

We break the rules or flout them in some cases. “How dare the government tell me I can’t smack my child!” Sadly I have heard this often.

But if we are vague on government laws, rules and regulations, imagine how we are with God’s rules when we no longer, or have ever picked up a bible and read it.

Some of us Christians see the commandment of love and we know God’s grace so we think that it extends to all the world. And it does but it has to be picked up. We have to cry out to Jesus to be our Saviour.

I am thinking this week about the testimony I will give on Friday. Packing all the mercy of God that was needed into two minutes is a feat I am not capable of, it took me weeks to go through every box in my attic head and ask for forgiveness. I had done so much wrong, and had had so much wrong done to me.

Last night, when I expected to sleep soundly after delivering the message (yes with mistakes and omissions and yes I did get tongue tied but in the room, there was such love for me that graciously they saw pauses) but I expected to sleep. Instead another sleepless night. Tormented by the past, remembering the face of human judgement when I told someone my story, do I want to bring that on me again? Why is there a call on my life? I have been the worst of the worst.

About five o’clock this morning a rainbow appeared in my thoughts, a rainbow of power and might, that cut through all the boxes I was lining up. That is the past and there it will stay.

That rainbow, that covenant that God has made with me through Jesus Christ, his blood shed for me at Calvary has washed me clean. There was a fair amount of scrubbing to get every last stain out but I am now clean in him. He looks at me and loves me, just as I am. And I know that is why I have a call on my life because of the conversations I am able to have with those people who think they are the worst of the worse or have had the worst done to them.

The moral law that Wesley talks about, it is the way Jesus described it, not about ticking boxes – I do not murder but in the heart being able to say, “I have had no ill thought against anyone,” and maybe it was only for a minute before an ill thought came again and then we have to throw ourselves on God’s mercy again. Live such beautiful lives that the Jesus is seen through us.