“Whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword
come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head.”
“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.”
Wesley printed this sermon in a pamphlet, but it was preached as well in 1744 at St. Mary’s Oxford before the university on August 24th.
So imagine if you will a bunch of faculty and students pressed into the church pews on a summer’s day listening to John Wesley preach. He would have been in the raised pulpit which has a spiral staircase and the amplification would have been all his own.
He dismisses the “extraordinary” gifts of the Spirit and concentrates on the “ordinary.” He first talks of love and uses phrases he has used before to describe the love of God and our response in loving God with all … and loving our neighbour. Usual themes for Wesley are outlined in great detail with lots of references from the New Testament and the odd Psalm, Isaiah and Ezekiel.
In the first three sections he is talking about the ideal, looking back to the 1st century church as a model church with no vices as they first individually became Christian, then joined together in community and finally began to evangelise to the ends of the earth. They are very rich in depth of scripture and extremely easy to follow and get engaged with.
In the final section he talks about a practical application and begins by asking “Where does this Christianity exist?” At this point I suspect the shuffling would have begun. Because no longer are we talking of history but are now talking about Oxford – is it Christian at all? This question could be asked of our own towns and villages and of our own congregations. By the time he has got to point six I imagine the teachers & professors are more than a little uncomfortable if they have open hearts to the conviction of the Spirit. As we today, as Christians, can we say we are filled with the Holy Spirit so the fruit of the Spirit are plainly seen in our lives. Do we instil by persistent living with purpose, curiosity of those around us.
A guy whose blog I read was passing time with a shopworker whilst waiting to meet someone and in the course of the conversation asked would they like a prayer. Later he returned with a word (well a few actually) for her and she was moved by this action. Are we so infused with the Lord that we could boldly and confidently ask likewise?
Wesley is most disparaging to fellow clergy including himself among them. His phrases are “we” and “us” rather than “you” or “ye,” so he does not exclude himself from the criticism.
Is it possible for scriptural Christianity to be at large in our towns, villages and cities. I was surprised a few weeks ago by a neighbour who flagged me down specifically to ask me to pray for a particular situation. We get a reputation by living with purpose or intention.
Wesley was in one sermon trying to stir up the young students to practice what they preached, to challenge those over them to live their lives with holiness and instruct then, what they were living, and also to encourage all listeners to look back to the 1st century church and relearn what community, evangelism and personal devotion could mean.
We too look back and learn from Wesley and his ilk, and the 1st century church. We are being challenged to rethink church that is accessible to a society that has forgotten God, or has never known him, accessible to those offended and hurt, accessible to those who are not welcome elsewhere.