Sunday, July 31, 2011

Charles Wesley on Holy Communion

While I know that Methodism has a strong emphasis on a sacramental theology I was still surprised by the numbers of Holy Communion hymns. It takes a number of songs to even begin to tackle all the images, perspectives, and power of the Eucharist. This Sunday we'll gather at the table again and be drawn into our own experience of the past, present, and future of God's salvation through Jesus Christ. The following Charles Wesley hymn stood out for me in my preparations.

Sinners, obey the gospel-word!
Haste to the supper of my Lord!
Be wise to know your gracious day;
All things are ready, come away!

Ready the Father is to own
And kiss his late-returning son;
Ready your loving Saviour stands,
And spreads for you his bleeding hands.

Ready the Spirit of his love
Just now the stony to remove,
To apply, and witness with the blood,
And wash and seal the sons of God.

Ready for you the angels wait,
To triumph in your blest estate;
Tuning their harps, they long to praise
The wonders of redeeming grace.

The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
Is ready, with their shining host:
All heaven is ready to resound,
"The dead's alive! the lost is found!"

Come then, ye sinners, to your Lord,
In Christ to paradise restored;
His proffered benefits embrace,
The plenitude of gospel grace:

A pardon written with his blood,
The favour and the peace of God;
The seeing eye, the feeling sense,
The mystic joys of penitence;

The godly grief, the pleasing smart,
The meltings of a broken heart,
The tears that tell your sins forgiven,
The sighs that waft your souls to heaven;

The guiltless shame, the sweet distress,
The unutterable tenderness,
The genuine, meek humility,
The wonder, "Why such love to me"

The o'erwhelming power of saving grace,
The sight that veils the seraph's face;
The speechless awe that dares not move,
And all the silent heaven of love.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Pentecost Hymn John Wesley Liked

John Wesley edited a Henry More verse for his publications as early as 1739. I like the strong Pentecost words and imagery.

On all the earth Thy Spirit shower;
The earth in righteousness renew;
Thy kingdom come, and hell’s o’erpower,
And to Thy scepter all subdue.

Like mighty winds, or torrents fierce,
Let it opposers all o’errun;
And every law of sin reverse,
That faith and love may make all one.

Yea, let Thy Spirit in every place
Its richer energy declare;
While lovely tempers, fruits of grace,
The kingdom of Thy Christ prepare.

Grant this, O holy God and true!
The ancient seers Thou didst inspire;
To us perform the promise due;
Descend, and crown us now with fire!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Charles Wesley Hymn on Prayer

Jesus, my Saviour, Brother, Friend,
On whom I cast my every care,
On whom for all things I depend,
Inspire, and then accept, my prayer.

If I have tasted of thy grace,
The grace that sure salvation brings,
If with me now thy Spirit stays,
And hovering hides me in his wings.

Still let him with my weakness stay,
Nor for a moment's space depart,
Evil and danger turn away,
And keep till he renews my heart.

When to the right or left I stray,
His voice behind me may I hear,
"Return, and walk in Christ thy way,
Fly back to Christ, for sin is near."

His sacred unction from above
Be still my comforter and guide;
Till all the hardness he remove,
And in my loving heart reside.

Jesus, I fain would walk in thee,
From nature's every path retreat;
Thou art my Way, my leader be,
And set upon the rock my feet.

Uphold me, Savior, or I fall,
O reach me out thy gracious hand
Only on thee for help I call,
Only by faith in thee I stand.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Charles Wesley For Service

FORTH in thy name, O Lord, I go,
My daily labour to pursue,
Thee, only thee, resolved to know,
In all I think, or speak, or do.

The task thy wisdom hath assigned
O let me cheerfully fulfil,
In all my works thy presence find,
And prove thy acceptable will!

Thee may I set at my right hand,
Whose eyes my inmost substance see;
And labour on at thy command,
And offer all my works to thee.

Give me to bear thy easy yoke,
And every moment watch and pray,
And still to things eternal look,
And hasten to thy glorious day.

For thee delightfully employ
Whate'er thy bounteous grace hath given;
And run my course with even joy,
And closely walk with thee to heaven.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Another Charles Wesley Hymn I/We Need Today

"God of all power, and truth, and grace"

God of all power, and truth, and grace,
Which shall from age to age endure,
Whose Word, when Heaven and earth shall pass,
Remains and stands for ever sure;

That I Thy mercy may proclaim,
That all mankind Thy truth may see,
Hallow Thy great and glorious Name,
And perfect holiness in me.

Thy sanctifying Spirit pour,
To quench my thirst, and make me clean;
Now, Father, let the gracious shower
Descend, and make me pure from sin.

Purge me from every sinful blot;
My idols all be cast aside;
Cleanse me from every sinful thought,
From all the filth of self and pride.

Give me a new, a perfect heart,
From doubt, and fear, and sorrow free;
The mind which was in Christ impart,
And let my spirit cleave to Thee.

O take this heart of stone away!
Thy sway it doth not, cannot own;
In me no longer let it stay,
O take away this heart of stone!

O that I now, from sin released,
Thy Word may to the utmost prove,
Enter into the promised rest,
The Canaan of Thy perfect love!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jesus the Sinner's Friend Proclaim

I'm drawn to Charles Wesley today and his gift for expressing in a few lyrical words great truths of life and faith. So, I find myself looking through some of his hymns. I've seen this one listed as the Conversion Hymn or titled by the first line. The passion and the imagery are striking! I've never sung it (that I can recall) but it offers a profound theology that needs to be proclaimed in song, in worship, and in everyday witness.

“Where Shall My Wondering Soul Begin?”

Where shall my wondering soul begin?
How shall I all to heaven aspire?
A slave redeemed from death and sin,
A brand plucked from eternal fire,
How shall I equal triumphs raise,
Or sing my great Deliverer’s praise?

O how shall I the goodness tell,
Father, which Thou to me hast showed?
That I, a child of wrath and hell,
I should be called a child of God,
Should know, should feel my sins forgiven,
Blessed with this antepast of Heaven!

And shall I slight my Father’s love?
Or basely fear His gifts to own?
Unmindful of His favors prove?
Shall I, the hallowed cross to shun,
Refuse His righteousness to impart,
By hiding it within my heart?

No! though the ancient dragon rage,
And call forth all his host to war,
Though earth’s self-righteous sons engage
Them and their god alike I dare;
Jesus, the sinner’s friend, proclaim;
Jesus, to sinners still the same.

Outcasts of men, to you I call,
Harlots, and publicans, and thieves!
He spreads His arms to embrace you all;
Sinners alone His grace receives;
No need of Him the righteous have;
He came the lost to seek and save.

Come, O my guilty brethren, come,
Groaning beneath your load of sin,
His bleeding heart shall make you room,
His open side shall take you in;
He calls you now, invites you home;
Come, O my guilty brethren, come!

For you the purple current flowed
In pardons from His wounded side,
Languished for you the eternal God,
For you the Prince of glory died:
Believe, and all your sin’s forgiven;
Only believe, and yours is Heaven!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Of Washington DC & United Methodists

I was out watering my tomatoes and cucumbers this morning in hopes the continued heat and drought wouldn't hurt my plants and we'd continue to get fresh vegetables. Watering and nurturing plants is a peaceful Saturday morning ritual that helps me think and helps me get in touch with life.

Unfortunately, I was also decompressing from the latest news as our U.S. politicians in D.C. can't seem to work together on anything, and in particular currently can't figure out how to deal with the debt ceiling talks and avoid financial default. The people of the country are held hostage as the Republicans and Democrats wage war against each other standing for their party platforms.

Beyond the exasperation with the lack of common sense, and the aggravation that none of these jokers seems to be working for the average person, I'm also reminded of a larger truth this morning. One of the TV morning news programs had a mixed panel of D, R, and independent citizens talking through this debacle. As is typical, there seemed to be a common sense wisdom as the group talked through their own feelings, ideas, and best way forward in this matter.

This all reminded me the good wisdom of Methodist conferencing. Historically we've found greater strength and power as we dialogue together and in all the voices better hear God's voice. Methodism came into being at the same time as the colonies became the United States, therefore everything from our polity/governance to the way we dialogue and make decisions are related. Now I'm not talking about the default position many UM annual conferences have fallen to which is really more of an orchestrated religious convention with thousands of people. Rather, I'm thinking of conferencing as a way of dialogue that allows the different voices to be heard, yet is open to the larger wisdom of the group and of God. This isn't just majority or loudest voice approach, but something different. This way has some "give and take" to it, a sense that everyone has the best interest in mind, and that we'll still be brothers and sisters even if we have different positions. Imagine how that might change a religion or country if we returned to civility, a quest for the common good, and an eagerness not to demonize one another but to grow more in love of God and of neighbor!

Imagine if our US government might truly return to some of our "roots," and weren't so beholden to any party, constituency, or group that pays our bills or keeps us elected. Imagine if we are working for the good of all, and as interested in listening as we are to talking. What if our desire is to create a more "perfect union" so that the way we conduct business and he decisions we make have the interest of all citizens in mind. Can't we still grow a stronger community and nation through adversity?

Oh, but there is also a warning in some of this for United Methodism. I'm hoping as we move toward General Conference that we recall these distinctions, beware the fiasco we currently see in DC, and resolve to take the higher road which will lead us to God.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Renegade UMC Clergy, Bishop, and Conference

Imagine if your United Methodist pastor, who had been serving your church, resigned his/her position, but stayed in the area. Then imagine if half your church left to follow the previous pastor in a new ministry AND somehow received endorsement by the bishop even though all ties of the church and clergy had been severed with the UMC. Doesn't make sense, does it?

A couple of years ago I met Revs. Mike and Sherri Morrissey who are elders in the Kentucky United Methodist Church. They were serving as General Board of Global Ministries missionaries (the sending agency for the UMC) in Thailand. I met them in the late summer of 2009, and by the fall had them sharing the exciting opportunity with my international mission team of ways our church could support new United Methodist congregations in Thailand.

In April 2000, while exchanging e-mails in hopes of an upcoming visit to our sister church in preparation for them to receive a work team from my congregation, I found out that the Morrisseys were finishing up their time as GBGM missionaries. They said they'd remain in the country and begin work on the Thailand Methodist Mission. This was effective in June 2010. But as I soon found out TMM had no relation to UMC work in the region, and had no connection to Methodism other than the fact that two ordained, full connection United Methodist clergy were starting a new ministry.

I have tried to work through conversations and e-mails with GBGM and others to make sense of this. You can imagine the challenges with a church mission committee trying to "get the picture!" How do we work through GBGM and a connectional mission approach when a US bishop and annual conference seem to be facilitating ministry outside of United Methodism and the established structures? While missions is often a messy business this was becoming more complicated than most situations I've encountered over 15 years of international experience.

Through the first half of 2011 my international mission committee and I learned much more about the United Methodist work in Thailand. It turns out that some of the churches "split off" and are no longer associated with the United Methodist mission. Apparently the new Thai churches weren't very United Methodist! This is offensive to me as my church, and others, have lost funds we have invested in those churches and clergy thinking that certain typical United Methodist protocols would be in place to protect UM assets. It turns out that, once again, international missions is risky business.

Now I realize there is plenty of work in the Kingdom, and we don't all need to belong to "my" denomination, but this just isn't the way to do business.

I've just returned from 9 days of medical missions in Togo, west Africa, and in catching up on the United Methodist annual conferences news round-up was saddened to see an added layer to the story. I had posted an earlier blog, and reached out to GBGM hoping the Kentucky UMC would be dissuaded from taking up a mission offering at their annual conference in partial support of the Morrisseys. I would have been happy for all the proceeds to go to the good work in Venezuela to a seminary that trains Methodist clergy and is working in partnership with that conference! Sadly I see that $82,000 is going to the Venezuela Methodist church planters AND to start a new church in Thailand ( KY UMC Annual Conference Report ).

So many questions... Why is the KY UMC and bishop actively supporting efforts in direct opposition to United Methodist ministry? If a full connection clergy is serving in some other location in the world beyond their annual conference, and the supervision and accountability of bishop, district superintendent, and conference Board of Ordained Ministry, shouldn't they fall under some similar shared structure of the umbrella of United Methodism? Why can't we all get on the "same page" on this and act as a connectional church? Is the distrust of GBGM that deep or is this merely entrepreneurial missions gone haywire? Where is the "check and balance" in the larger UMC if there is no supervision and if no one in KY UMC is going to do anything about it?

If this were occurring in a US annual conference you know a District Superintendent and Bishop would be all over it! It all seems contrary to our United Methodist ways of holiness, of ministry, and of mission. Perhaps General Conference 2012 should take up such matters as a case study of how NOT to be in global mission and ministry. Also, can we change our ways so that bishops aren't bishops for life?! They sure seem to lose their edge after a few years, and similar to Methodism in other parts of the world, likely need to rotate back into the everyday realities of life and ministry in the local connection.

On second thought, maybe this isn't so bad. Perhaps I'll get the North GA UMC to back me up as I start a new Methodist church in Louisville KY. I've always loved that town and have a lot of friends there!

Rev. CherLue Vang, GBGM Thailand Missionary

Gary & Cindy Moon, GBGM Thailand Missionaries at orphanage

UM clergy/missionaries establishing churches outside UMC auspices