Saturday, March 3, 2007

John and Charles Wesley Feast Day

Today is the feast day of the Wesley brothers, John and Charles. John was best known for his preaching and Charles for his hymns, many of which we still sing today. Both served in the Church of England, and neither intended to found a new denomination. The separation to Methodism occurred after their deaths.

The brothers attended Oxford University and received an education in the classics. John was later named a fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford. I have visited John Wesley's study, which is preserved at Lincoln.

I love this story that James Kiefer tells at The Lectionary web site about an incident in John Wesley's life:

But, although Wesley found it natural to approach the Gospel with habits of thought formed by a classical education, he was quick to recognize the value of other approaches. The early Methodist meetings were often led by lay preachers with very limited education. On one occasion, such a preacher took as his text Luke 19:21, "Lord, I feared thee, because thou art an austere man." Not knowing the word "austere," he thought that the text spoke of "an oyster man." He spoke about the work of those who retrieve oysters from the sea-bed. The diver plunges down from the surface, cut off from his natural environment, into bone-chilling water. He gropes in the dark, cutting his hands on the sharp edges of the shells. Now he has the oyster, and kicks back up to the surface, up to the warmth and light and air, clutching in his torn and bleeding hands the object of his search. So Christ descended from the glory of heaven into the squalor of earth, into sinful human society, in order to retrieve humans and bring them back up with Him to the glory of heaven, His torn and bleeding hands a sign of the value He has placed on the object of His quest. Twelve men were converted that evening. Afterwards, someone complained to Wesley about the inappropriateness of allowing preachers who were too ignorant to know the meaning of the texts they were preaching on. Wesley, simply said, "Never mind, the Lord got a dozen oysters tonight."

Charles was the better hymn-writer of the two. He wrote over 6000 hymns, including about 600 for the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.


Here's a verse from one of his most popular hymns:

Oh for a thousand tongues to sing
my great Redeemer's praise,
the glories of my God and King,
the triumphs of his grace!


The preface for the feast day:

Lord God, who inspired your servants John and Charles Wesley with burning zeal for the sanctification of souls, and endowed them with eloquence in speech and song: Kindle in your Church, we entreat you, such fervor, that those whose faith has cooled may be warmed, and those who have not known Christ may turn to him and be saved; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

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