Chad Holtz writes at the Asbury Seedbed about the one thing most important to take away from seminary:
The great Scottish preacher Robert Murray M’Cheyne once said “The greatest need of my congregation is my own personal holiness.” I learned this lesson the hard way since getting my Mdiv, and have discovered it’s reality in the church I’m now privileged to serve. The people you will one day shepherd will not care what grade you got in church history or how many papers you had selected for peer review. They will care, however, about how well you know the Good Shepherd and that the authority from which you speak each Sunday comes not from book, but heart knowledge.
Asbury Seedbed offers its answer in 7 minutes.
From John Wesley’s sermon “Self-Denial“:
The will of God is a path leading straight to God. The will of man, which once ran parallel with it, is now another path, not only different from it, but in our present state, directly contrary to it: It leads from God. If, therefore, we walk in the one, we must necessarily quit the other. We cannot walk in both. Indeed, a man of faint heart and feeble hands may go in two ways, one after the other. But he cannot walk in two ways at the same time: He cannot, at one and the same time, follow his own will, and follow the will of God: He must choose the one or the other; denying God’s will, to follow his own; or denying himself, to follow the will of God.
Rachel Held Evans and her prolific comment posters have a fascinating conversation going on sexuality and holiness.
Perhaps instead of virginity…or even purity (which carries something of an either/or connotation, I think)…we ought to talk about the path of holiness. Holiness, to me, means committing every area of my life— from sex, to food, to time, to work—to the lordship of Jesus. It means asking how I might love God and love my neighbors in those areas so that the Spirit can grow love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in the sacred soil of everyday life.
Holiness isn’t about sticking to a list of rules. It isn’t something you either have or don’t have, keep or lose. It’s a way of life, filled with twists and turns, mistakes and growth, uncertainty and reward. And, (to make matters even worse for the fundamentalists), a holy lifestyle often looks different from person to person, though the fruit of the Spirit is the same.
Ken Schenck of Wesley Seminary here in Indiana wrote a post recently about reformulating the language of key Wesleyan doctrines on holiness to communicate better to contemporary audiences. The whole post is worth reading.
Here’s one small piece.
The old language of eradicating the carnal nature is dead. Nobody thinks in these sorts of terms. I tried to see if I could sell the following language: the Spirit part of your life can so come to dominate the flesh part of your life that you love God and others with ease, overcome temptation with ease, and sometimes don’t even notice that your flesh part is even there.
Does the church really believe in the holiness of people with disabilities? Some people believe the church should do good things for the poor. but do we believe in their holiness?
These questions from Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, challenge me.
In my ministerial formation class this year, I shared with my group that I’ve been wrestling for some time with the question of who sets the norm for faith. Do people that our society calls “normal” — people whose bodies and minds function in ways we recognize as proper — serve as the standard when we ask questions about holiness and salvation?
If so, the we need to come up with adjustments and accommodations to deal with people whose bodies and minds do not work in “normal” ways. We say things like: “Well, to be saved, you have to repent and pray to Jesus for forgiveness, but Joey does not have the IQ to understand that, so God makes an exception.”
Is that the right way to understand it?
Or is it perhaps the case that the mentally disabled or impaired are the norm of spiritual life and relationship with God, and we “normal” people complicate and confuse things? Like the people of Israel who demanded a king, when they already had God, we demand a system of complex ideas to give our big brains something to do other than seek communion with God and neighbor. God obliges us, just as he obliged Israel by giving them king Saul.
I’m not sure these thoughts really get at the questions raised by Vanier. I do find the questions provocative. Do we believe in the holiness of people with disabilities? What do we mean by holiness when we ask this question?
What do you think?
Chad Holtz on finding our footing as pastors:
It is so easy to get swept up into the tidal wave of causes, of programs, of things that in the end are nothing but works and in the doing of all this stuff we gain a false sense of assurance that we are children of God. As Jesus said, we should have the one but not neglect the other. We ought to be concerned with our neighbor but this ought to arise out of a deep love of God. Holiness, what Wesley defined as a “recovery of the image of God, a renewal of soul after his likeness,” must become the heart’s cry of us all, particularly those of us who bear the name “pastor.”
God is beautiful. The world often is not.
God is loving. People often are not.
God is just. The world often is not.
God is merciful. People often are not.
God is steadfast. People are like grass that withers in the sun.
God is committed. The world can’t be bothered to care.
God is compassionate. People have places to go and things to do.
God is peace. The world craves war.
God is forever. People fear tomorrow.
God is fierce. The world is easily distracted.
God is joy. People often are miserable.
God is holy. The world loves darkness.
Among the top three or fourth verses that animated the early Methodist movement, Hebrews 12:14 has to be one of the least quoted in churches today.
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
I wonder why we speak of it so little?
If anything, it often seems, we argue for the opposite, like heart surgeons handing out Haagan-Dazs ice cream on the hospital ward.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
How do we speak of God’s holiness in ways that make people desire holiness for themselves?
Go read Kevin Watson’s passionate and deeply challenging post.
We are dying because what we are for is not enough. Our imagination and energy have drifted away from proclaiming the gospel with passion, energy, and conviction. When we encounter broken people, too often we are unsure if Jesus is enough.
Jesus is more than enough. And the truth is that he is all that we really have to offer. Thanks be to God, in Christ we are offered forgiveness of real sins, and freedom from sin’s pull on our lives. And as long as we are alive, we have the incredible opportunity to share this message of reconciliation and healing with the world.
Craig Adams thinks that if we would just read our bibles with open hearts and minds, we’d come to share the same conviction that seized John Wesley: true Christianity is inward and outward holiness.