Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
November 15, 1998
|A new age, with a new heaven and a new earth
The end of this age
|384: Love Divine, All Loves
545: The Church's One Foundation
|The prophet sings as the Psalmist!
Sing a jubilant song
|685: Now, on Land and Sea
702: Sing with All the Saints in Glory
|Luke 21:5-19||Stand firm||463: Lord, Speak to
529: How Firm a Foundation
|2 Thessalonians 3:6-13||Be an example--live your faith||384: Love Divine, All Loves
650: Give Me the Faith Which Can Remove
Have you ever worked on a project knowing exactly how you would do it and exactly what kind of results you expected, and then found something completely different at the end? It probably happens to most of us from time to time. It also seems to be among the experiences of John and Charles Wesley. Each had gone to the American colony called Georgia. Each had aspirations of success in their work and ministry. Each became discouraged and returned to their native England. Each had life changing experiences. Each became the instrument of a message that advanced the Methodist movement with a force neither of them had ever imagined.
Throughout this course of events, God was working in the lives of the Wesleys and the communities around them. No one could have expected things to unfold the way that they did. Historians still find far reaching impacts from the religious fires that ignited during the years of the Great Awakening--years when the Wesleys and many others advanced Christianity with great boldness. Many even attribute the American Revolution to the philosophies and rhetoric of the Great Awakening.
The Wesleys were ministers and sons of ministers. From the home environment in which they were raised, they probably thought they knew exactly how to go about ministry and exactly what kind of results to expect. What a surprise awaited them! Where they thought they would find success, they found failure. When they thought they had found failure, they found the love of God in great abundance. This message John carried from the pulpit. This message Charles carried in his pen. This story we find of this week's featured hymn:
Charles Wesley wrote some of his hymns to promote his brother John's doctrine of entire sanctification. The second verse of his "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" asks God to "take away our bent to sinning." This was too much for Calvinist Augustus Toplady. In a magazine of which he was editor, Toplady wrote an article in refutation, detailing a picture of man's potential for sinning. He arrived at the mathematical conclusion that a man of eighty is guilty of many millions of sins, a debt he can never hope to pay but for which he need not despair because of the sufficiency of Christ. He closed the article with an original poem. "A Living and Dying Prayer for the Holiest believer in the World." This poem, now one of the most beloved hymns of all time, we know under the title, "Rock of Ages," was born out of party spirit (Frederick John Gilman, The Evolution of the English Hymn, Macmillan, 1927, pp. 223-225).
What a wonderful and unexpected blessing we have today--on account of that discord! To this writer, Love Divine, All Loves Excelling was also an unexpected fit with this week's Lectionary passages. Here are the words (including those "controversial" lines in verse 2):
|1. Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heaven, to earth come down;
fix in us thy humble dwelling;
all thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation;
enter every trembling heart.
|2. Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit
into every troubled breast!
Let us all in thee inherit;
let us find that second rest.
Take away our bent to sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
end of faith, as its beginning,
set our hearts at liberty.
|3. Come, Almighty to deliver,
let us all thy life receive;
suddenly return and never,
nevermore thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray and praise thee without ceasing,
glory in thy perfect love.
|4. Finish, then, thy new creation;
pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee;
changed from glory into glory,
till in heaven we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise.
May you be lost in wonder, love, and praise this week, too.
God bless you--
|Passages suggested are from The Revised Common Lectionary: Consultation on Common Texts (Abingdon Press, 1992) copyright © by the Consultation on Common Texts (CCT), P.O. Box 340003, Room 381, Nashville TN 37203-0003. Reprinted with permission of CCT.|