A Church dedicated to renewal
As I put this article together, I am mindful of the events of this quarter, from Ash Wednesday to Easter, Ascension and Pentecost, when Methodist were encouraged to take part in the global nine-day prayer movement, ‘Thy Kingdom come’ and those in between such as General Church Meetings, Church Anniversary, Aldersgate Sunday or Wesley Day.
It is said that in the second century AD, Christianity was under attack from Greek and Roman thinkers who argued that it was a godless religion which engaged in barbaric practices. These attacks gave rise to a group of people known as apologists, those who defended Christianity against these charges. One of the earliest of these defenders was a Greek philosopher, Aristides, who addressed his apology to the Roman emperor Hadrian. These are his words:
Christians love one another. They never fail to help widows; they save orphans from those who would hurt them. If a man has something, he gives freely to the man who has nothing. If they see a stranger, Christians take him home and are happy, as though he were a real brother… If they hear that one of them is in jail, or persecuted for professing the name of their redeemer, they all give him what he needs… This is really a new kind of person. There is something divine in them.
That is the defence of the Christians by a man who was not a Christian himself, but who argued that the good of the Christian community was evident for all to see. About seventy years before the philosopher wrote his defence of the Christian faith, St Paul wrote to the Christian community at Corinth, a thriving Christian community in a city that was renowned both for its culture and its uncleanliness, encouraging them to see themselves as God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:9-11. 16-17); a temple of God where Jesus himself is the foundation.
The Greek word for church is ekklesia, which does not mean a building, but an assembly called together, a community of those who believe. As a community of believers, we are united in faith under the leadership of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is our foundation. Like the community of believers at Corinth, we are invited to see ourselves as God’s building – not a building of bricks and mortar, but a building of flesh and blood, a community of faith and charity where we have, and continue to dedicate ourselves in the service of the Gospel.
However, we cannot stay dedicated just by existing, as all too aware, our dedication can become old and tired; become disenchanted with the Church as number decline; there are times when all of us become tired of it all. That is why we need to renew our dedication! I hope the Easter season has equipped us for the journey ahead to growing the faith.
In remembrance of Aldersgate Sunday, celebrated on 24th May, Steve Harper, author of ‘Five Marks of Methodists: The Fruit of Living Faith’ writes that John Wesley found himself overseeing a growing number of Christians who wanted to live their lives according to the gospel in ways that held them accountable to each other, between 1733 and 1738. He says that by 1742, this collection of people had become an identifiable movement within the larger Christian Church; some occurring outside of London and beyond Wesley’s ability to oversee everything taking place. And so, in anticipation of what would become the Annual Conference, the yearly gathering of leaders who prayed to discern what they were supposed to believe, teach, and do, Wesley wrote the foundational document called ‘The Character of a Methodist’, to provide the sustaining strength for what Methodism would become. In it Wesley gives five marks to confirm our identity as genuine and fruitful disciples and followers of Christ:
1. A Methodist Loves God
2. A Methodist Rejoices in God
3. A Methodist Gives Thanks
4. A Methodist Prays Constantly
5. A Methodist Loves Others
I hope that these five marks will grant a greater knowledge and appreciation for why you follow Jesus, while serving as solid foundation to bearing the fruit of a living faith.
Meanwhile, we send warm greetings to you, especially to those who don’t feel 100%; may the Lord embrace you with His love as we begin another month. We also send our condolences to all who are mourning loved ones.
Finally, we hold before all our young people in this period of exams. We pray that the Lord will surround them with His love, alleviating all anxiety and stress during time brings.
May the Lord bless you all, and bless you kindly,
Revd. Abe Konadu-Yiadom