Back in August (has it been that long?), I introduced one idea for a regular feature on this blog, "A Word of Prayer." Today, I would like to introduce you to a second - "A Word from Wesley." Through his sermons, journals, and letters, John Wesley had a lot to say to Christians and the Church of his day...much of which we Christians in the post-modern Church need to hear afresh today.
Through my study of John Wesley and his sermons, I have really come to love Sermon 39: Catholic Spirit. In fact, it is my favorite (as evidenced by the fact that I've already made reference to it here). In it, Wesley is not talking about the Roman Catholic Church, of course, but the desirable quality of universal love. The Scripture Wesley used for this sermon comes from 2 Kings 10:15 where we read of an exchange between Jehu, King of Israel, and Jehonadab, son of Rechab.
Jehu asked, “Is your heart right, as my heart is toward your heart?”
Jehonadab answered, “It is.”
Jehu said, “If it is, give me your hand.”
There is a lot more to the Old Testament story from which this verse comes, but it is this simple exchange between these two men, and the image evoked by it, that Wesley found so endearing.
Wesley first preached this sermon in 1750, preaching out of hope that in spite of the diversity of the evangelical revival going on around him, that it could be unified for a single, purposed renewal of the church. Still, differences are never easily reconciled. We see evidence of that every day. Even so, Wesley never wavered in his beliefs for the sake of unity. But what he always did, setting differences aside, was unconditionally extend his hand in friendship.
Wesley believed, as do I, that interfaith and ecumenical relations are a worthy pursuit. However, pursuing such relations does not mean we should compromise our beliefs.
“If it be, give me thine hand.” I do not mean, “Be of my opinion.” You need not. I do not expect it nor desire it. Neither do I mean, “I will be of your opinion.” I cannot. It does not depend on my choice. I can no more think than I can see or hear as I will. Keep you your opinion, I mine; and that as steadily as ever. You need not even endeavor to come over to me, or bring me over to you. I do not desire you to dispute those points, or to hear or speak one word concerning them. Let all opinions alone on one side and the other. Only “give me thine hand.”
I am convinced that Jesus so fervently prayed in the garden at Gethsemane that we, the people of God, would be one as He is one with God the Father because He knew unity would be our greatest challenge. You don’t have to watch the news, read the paper, or even peruse Facebook for very long before all that divides us overshadows all that should unite us.
"Though we can’t think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt we may.”
Are there relationships in your life that are in need of a Catholic Spirit? If so, extend them your hand.