Wednesday 27 May 2020

Wesley Day

Reflection given at a Community of Brendan the Navigator evening service to commemorate Wesley Day on Tuesday 26 May 2020

This evening we join with our Methodist brothers and sisters in Christ in commemorating John Wesley’s heart-warming and life-changing experience in Aldersgate, London on 24th May 1738. So, what exactly did John Wesley experience?

John wrote this in his diary that very night:
“In the afternoon I was asked to go to St. Paul’s. The anthem was, ‘out of the depths have I called unto Thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice.’ - words from Psalm 130, which we have just heard - John continues:
“In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans.”

He would have heard these words of Luther.
“To fulfil the law is to do with willingness and love for the works which the law requires.
Such willingness is bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ.
But the Spirit is not given except through the word of God which preaches Christ.
As Paul said: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine
heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
So faith makes righteous for it brings the spirit through the merits of Christ.
And the Spirit makes the heart free and willing as the law requires; and then good works proceed of themselves from faith.
Grace is the good will or favour of God toward us which moved him to share Christ and the Holy Spirit with us.
Therefore, when we believe in Christ, we have the beginning of the Spirit in us.
Faith is a divine work in us, which transforms us, begets us anew from God, bringing with it the Holy Spirit.
O this faith is a living, busy, active, powerful thing!
Such confidence and personal knowledge of divine grace makes its possessor joyful, bold, and full of warm affection toward God and all created things;
All of which the Holy Spirit works in us through faith. Pray God that he may work this faith in you.”

These words had a profound effect on John, as they may also have on us - his diary entry continues:
“About a quarter before nine, 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… I then testified openly to all there what I now first felt in my heart.”

As well as John’s experience, we also commemorate this evening his brother Charles Wesley’s own conversion experience, just three days before, which inspired him to write over 6,000 hymns, many of which we still love to sing today.

What does the experience and life’s work of these two brothers mean for us today in 2020?

We see in them examples of the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of human beings very much like you and me, if gifted in ways that almost all of us are not. Their smouldering faith was kindled into a fire that led them, with others, to evangelise Britain, Ireland, and America. They brought multitudes of men and women, who felt alienated from the established church, to follow Jesus and consciously seek holiness of life. They themselves remained Anglicans, but after their deaths the hardness of other hearts led to the sad separation of the Anglican and Methodist traditions.

So it is wonderful today to be able to celebrate the Covenant relationship between the Methodist Church in Ireland and the Church of Ireland. Through this Covenant both churches mutually acknowledge a common faith and each other’s ordained ministries. And both churches commit themselves to share a common life and mission, and grow together so that unity may be visibly realised.