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Imagine a world

On the eve of Aldersgate Day, the Rev. Jack Harnish encourages the proclaiming of God’s redeeming love.

Retired clergy, Michigan Conference

“Imagine a world where love is the way.” In a world where hatred and bigotry seem to reign and guns of death haunt our schools, where angry rhetoric and rumors of war seem to have the day, this weekend we paused long enough to watch a beautiful wedding in an ancient chapel.

For Americans, it was amazing to see our nation represented in the stirring music of an African American choir and cellist and to watch the grace-filled dignity of the Mother of the Bride who modeled the best of our nation. But when the Most Rev. Michael Curry took to the pulpit, we knew we had church! He preached the Gospel in a setting that easily could have called for sentimentality or formality and proclaimed the faith in front of millions of wedding watchers around the world. With that wonderful use of repetition which would have elicited “Amens” from every black congregation in the States, he said:

Imagine a world where love is the way. Imagine this tired old world when love is the way. When love is the way, no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again. When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the Earth will become a sanctuary. When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields down by the riverside to study war no more. When love is the way, there is plenty good room for all of God’s children.

Actually, I thought he sounded like a Wesleyan Methodist rather than an Episcopalian! Because Methodist theology and life is all about love. For the Reformed tradition and the Calvinists, faith was lived out in carefully stated doctrine and enumerated dogma, but Wesley never wrote his version of Calvin’s “Institutes”, he wrote sermons which applied faith to life as it was lived out in love. For the Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism of his day, faith was lived out in liturgy to be observed in sanctuary, but for Wesley faith was proclaimed on the street corners and even standing on his father’s tomb, because faith is to be lived out in loving service for the world.

There are those today who would like to turn Methodism into a dogmatic tradition where everyone has to agree on what they consider to be orthodox truth–primarily around human sexuality and in opposition to acceptance of homosexuality. That has become the litmus test for what it means to be a “like-minded, spirit-filled, orthodox United Methodist”. But that misses the fact that we are first and foremost a movement centered in grace, not law, proclaiming the transforming love of God which, as the Rev. Curry said, has the power to change the world.

And if once again, we Methodists would have our “hearts strangely warmed” by the flame of Aldersgate, if once again we would proclaim the redeeming love of God in Christ, as the Rev. Curry said, “the world will discover fire once again.” 

~the Rev. Jack Harnish blogs at “Monday Memo.” Recently retired from Birmingham: First UMC, Jack now lives on Platte Lake in Northern Michgian.

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