Friday, January 29, 2010

Sermon continues

The introduction to the sermon is here.

The Head: The Third Order of Business
Third of all, there are a group of beliefs that get me excited as a Christian. Yes, I said third of all. It may seem strange for me to start with the third group of things instead of the first. In fact, you might chalk it up to those illogical Wesleyans. Figures, that they would get things out of order.

Wesley has sometimes been put down for not being a thinker like, say, John Calvin. (And let me make it clear that despite the statues of Wesley on campus, John Wesley was not the founder of The Wesleyan Church, and we are not bound in any way to follow his exact teachings.) But back to Calvin—Calvin produced a lovely, systematic theology that logically goes through Christian beliefs. But what did Wesley leave behind? What is the resource for the Methodism he started?

It’s a series of sermons. So it figures that I would put things having to do with our heads third on the list of things that excite me. That’s because I believe the head is God’s third order of business, not His first order of business. That’s what I take from the Bible; and, yes, I am a Wesleyan.

Of course, I’m saying this at Indiana Wesleyan University, a Christian academic community. The head may be God’s third order of business in general, but within the body of Christ, the head is our first priority here. IWU is not a church. This is a chapel service, but I sure hope you don’t substitute this gathering for becoming a part of a local church in a permanent community. Our number one task here is to address your heads.

But it is God’s third order of business. I start with the head because there are some things I believe as a Wesleyan that I think almost everyone here believes as well. We might call those things "Common Christianity." I’ve put on the screen my own wording of the Apostle’s Creed, which will be familiar to many of you. These are things I think almost everyone here in the room believes. They are certainly things I believe. And, yes, I am a Wesleyan:

We believe in God, the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin, Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead and buried. He descended to the dead. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven, And is seated at the right hand of God, the Father, Almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, The holy Church universal, (you probably know that line better as “the holy catholic church,” but what it means is the Church everywhere), The communion of the holy, (which is what the saints are, the “holy ones,” and that is you and me and all the Christians who have ever lived), The forgiveness of sins, The resurrection of the body, And never ending life, (or as you may have said it, “and life everlasting.”)

These are things all of us who are Christians believe and we have for almost two thousand years. These things are important, even though they are only God’s third order of business.

Something else that we all hold in common is our valuing Scripture. All of us who are Christians—at least Christians in continuity with the last 2000 years (There are any number of people who still call themselves Christians today who are quite different from Christians in the past). All of us who are Christians would affirm the words of 2 Timothy 3:16:

All Scripture is God-breathed, And beneficial for teaching, For correction, For improvement, For training in righteousness.

I don’t care whether you are a Roman Catholic or a Baptist or a Lutheran or a Pentecostal or Reformed or a Wesleyan, you affirm that Scripture is a God-breathed source of divine teaching and training.

I believe you will also find in every Christian group those who also believe that the Bible is without error. There are Catholics who believe the Bible is without error and Baptists who believe the Bible is without error. There are Lutherans who believe the Bible is without error and Reformed people who believe the Bible is without error. There are Pentecostals who believe the Bible is without error and yes, Wesleyans believe the Bible is without error.

But even saying this brings us to a sobering moment. We have suggested that there are godly, righteous people in all of these groups who will be part of the kingdom of God. And we have suggested that there are people in all these groups who believe the Bible is without error. And yet we still have significant disagreements in what we believe the Bible teaches.

I remember talking to a family member once about the Wesleyan tradition—the Wesleyan tradition thinks this or the Wesleyan tradition does that. After a little while the family member got a little tired of me talking about the Wesleyan tradition. “Stop talking about the Wesleyan tradition,” they said. “We just read the Bible and do what it says.” Yes, and so do the Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans, Reformed, and Pentecostals I just mentioned.

It would seem that even to say the Bible is without error doesn’t actually say much. The far more crucial question is which interpretation of the Bible is the right one or authoritative one.The fact that God hasn’t got all the godly people from all these different groups on the same page with regard to the details may suggest that the head—at least on these sorts of details—is not God’s first order of business.

That’s what I think. And, yes, I am a Wesleyan.

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