A note from Rev. Diane about Aldersgate Sunday:
I’m very excited about worship this week --- we’ll be celebrating our Wesleyan heritage through music and reflection! Our worship will focus on the meaning of salvation as shown in John and Charles Wesley’s sermons, lyrics, journals, and lives.
This week is known as “Aldersgate Sunday” or “Heritage Sunday.” We are commemorating John Wesley’s Aldersgate experience on May 24, 1738.
He went “rather unwillingly” to a church meeting on Aldersgate Street, and while listening to Luther’s preface to Romans (not the most exciting read), God worked something miraculous in John’s heart: his heart was “strangely warmed” and he knew with assurance God’s grace and love.
While Aldersgate is the most famous moment within John Wesley’s journey of saving grace, we know through his own theology—as well as his experience—that it was not the only or most important moment. All of us have ups and downs in our lives and our faith journeys. Doubt and belief, trust and impatience—they all mingle together at different times. Through it all, God is working in us.
Charles Wesley (John's brother) put this experience of saving grace into lyrics and poetry. He wrote each of the hymns that we will sing on Sunday. These hymns represent just a small fraction of his over 6,000 published hymns. Two of his most famous songs are the seasonal hymns “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” We Methodists are a people of song!
We are also a people of deep discipleship and grace. The Methodist movement that John and Charles Wesley started had high expectations and high commitments as well as a high reliance on God’s grace. As the people called Methodist, we celebrate God’s grace working throughout our lives. Salvation is a lifelong process not limited to one particular moment. Grace infuses every aspect of our lives. John Wesley identified these graces as prevenient grace, justifying grace, regeneration, sanctifying grace, and full perfection in love. Together, these graces form the via salutis (way of salvation).
On our journey of salvation, God gives us the grace to be fully what God is—love. This “perfection in love” is the fullness of salvation, the completion of what we were meant to be: God’s image-bearers. Full, perfect love is possible in this life, as well as the life to come.
To close with a quotation from John Wesley’s 1741 sermon “The Almost Christian”:
“The great question of all, then, still remains. Is the love of God shed abroad in your heart? Can you cry out, 'My God and my all'? Do you desire nothing but him? Are you happy in God? Is he your glory, your delight, your crown of rejoicing? And is this commandment written in your heart, 'that he who loveth God love his brother also'? Do you then love your neighbor as yourself? Do you love every [person], even your enemies, even the enemies of God, as your own soul? As Christ loved you? Yea, dost thou believe that Christ loved thee and gave himself for thee? …And doth Christ’s Spirit bear witness with thy spirit, that thou art a child of God?”