Friday, May 24, 2013

What Warms Your Heart? (Strangely or otherwise)

Today is a special holiday for Methodists. Some call it Aldersgate Day, others Heart-warming Day, others simply Wesley Day. We celebrate the anniversary of John Wesley's "heart-warming" experience, which in some ways is unfair because his brother, Charles, had a similar experience three days earlier.

275 years ago, on May 24, 1738, John Wesley had an experience of his heart being "strangely warmed" at a prayer meeting on Aldersgate Street in London. It was not a "conversion" experience in the sense that he became a follower of Jesus in that moment. He had been a deeply committed Christian all his life. But Wesley had just arrived back in England after a missionary stint in the American colonies that was a complete and total disaster.

Wesley had grown up in a very pious home, and his type-A personality led him to try to control everything. As a result, he was always trying to earn God's love, and he had finally hit a wall and realized he couldn't be good enough and work hard enough to be worthy (however he defined that) in God's eyes. At this prayer meeting, he was hearing someone read from Martin Luther's Preface to Romans, expounding on Paul's theme of how grace and nothing else connects us to God and makes us whole.

While none of Luther's works, particularly this one, are the most heart-warming things one can read, it spoke to the point of crisis that Wesley found himself in. He finally let go and made room for the Holy Spirit to assure him that he was right with God.

On this Aldersgate Day, I see the church wrestling with itself over how to "get it right". We assume that if we get our theology or ethics correct, if we have the proper stance on human sexuality, if we worship better or make better appointments, or generally achieve any kind of "better" performance (again, however you define that), that God will approve of us and shower us with blessings of more people in the pews and dollars in the plate.

So today, let's "let go", even just for a moment. Let's set aside all these things that we argue about, important though they are, and simply celebrate what we already see God doing amongst us. What warms your heart today?

It warms my heart to see the people in Oklahoma who are helping their neighbors dig through the rubble of their houses, even though their own house was destroyed, too.

It warms my heart to see the people in my church who are the most materially needy be the first to volunteer to serve others who are in need.

It warms my heart to see people reconcile with one another and let go of old grudges when they realize that life is too short to stay mad at one another.

Update: it warms my heart to see this! A Sikh woman's gracious response to a rude post on Reddit actually caused the poster to reconsider his actions, open his mind, and apologize! (there are some 4 letter words, but the heart-warming awesomeness is worth it)

Those are some of the things that warm my heart on this   Day. What warms your heart? Leave a comment and let's bless each other today.

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