(The following is a devotional I wrote for our recent Staff Retreat at the Foundation, and, as is my habit, I share it here with you.)
Those Methodists … they don’t have any real beliefs. If you are Methodist, you can believe
anything you want.
From Ken Carder’s book, “Living our beliefs…”
Wesley and the Methodists “were fully committed to the principles of religious
toleration and theological diversity, they were equally confident that there is
a ‘marrow’ of Christian truth than can be identified and that must be
conserved.” (p25) What do you
believe – those deep, marrow beliefs – that there is a God, that he is alive in
the world. That he cares about us –
loves us – all of us -- beyond our imagination.
The Methodist emphasis
upon “practical divinity” or holy living, therefore, recognizes the integral
relationship between beliefs and behavior, faith and works. It is not a diminishing of the importance of
beliefs; rather, it is a declaration of the importance of beliefs in shaping
who we are and our relationship with God and the world. (p27) If we really believe what we say we believe,
that it has to make a difference in what we do.
Sometimes we want these hard and fast statements of faith,
so that we can say, “I am right, and you are wrong.” That’s too easy. The United Methodist Faith is more
complicated than that. Wesley’s
Methodism doesn’t just say, “I believe…”
It says, “I believe, and my beliefs will change my actions.”
It is easier to say, “I am right and you are wrong” than it
is to say, “I love God. God loves you
and me. In order to love God, I must
love you, and that love will change who I am and what I do.”
Wesley wrote, “What
then is the mark? Who is a Methodist,
according to you own account?” I answer:
A Methodist is one who has “the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the
Holy Ghost given unto him;” one who “loves the Lord his God with all his heart,
and with all his soul, and with all his mind, and with all his strength. God is the joy of his heart, and the desire
of his soul; which is constantly crying out, “Whom have I in heaven but
thee? And there is none upon earth that
I desire beside thee! My God and my
all! Thou art the strength of my heart,
and my portion forever.”
Believing that our faith is lived out in our lives, Wesley
developed a way to live – the General Rules.
The process had two steps – trying to live out the rules, and then,
because if we attempt to do it alone, we will fail, living out the rules in a
group whose members would help each other.
Our work in the Foundation is ministry. We’ve known that all along. We work as a team. We’ve known that all along, too. Jeff has asked us to examine what we do in
the light of the three simple rules, and I imagine we are all finding that our
faith in God has impacted our living of the mission of the Foundation, and that
as a team, we are better able to fulfill our calling to this ministry.
And when we do that, we find that God is there, meeting us
at the center of what we believe and what we are doing.
Labels: Carder Beliefs, Methodist