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“Uneducated Preachers” in The Church

Picking up where we left off yesterday regarding John Wesley’s 52 Standard Sermons, let me get out of the way and let’s listen to Wesleyan scholar Ryan Danker —

The Sermons of John Wesley form an essential part of the Wesleyan Methodist theological corpus. Any person who would want to know “the way to heaven” according to Wesley would look to these sermons.

One will find in them the work of a true theologian, a theologian who, throughout his life, searched for the great truths of God and preached a message of responsible grace to the people of eighteenth century Britain which is still vital and contemporary for us today.

John Wesley himself must be understood in his own Anglican context. John Wesley never left the Anglican Church. He was an ordained priest in the Church of England and continually fought to keep the Methodist Connection within the Established Church. He was a mixture of evangelical and High Church tendencies.

Much has been said concerning the fact that John Wesley never wrote a “systematic theology”. Some have gone so far as to claim that he was not a theologian at all due to this fact. But from what we have seen within the context of Anglican theology, John Wesley is a classic Anglican divine (theologian). The Sermons of John Wesley would then be considered a major, and important, part of his theological writings.

Within Anglicanism the official theological documents were the Book of Common Prayer (BCP), the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, and the Book of Homilies. These homilies (sermons) were to be read to the people of the Church of England and were considered a standard for religious orthodoxy. Thomas Cranmer, who also wrote the original BCP, compiled the first book of homilies. Cranmer was burned at the stake by “Bloody Mary” and today is considered an Anglican martyr. 

Wesley, as an Anglican, understood the importance of a standard set of sermons for the people. Richard Heitzenrater states in his book, Wesley and the People Called Methodists, “Wesley no doubt has the function of the Book of Homilies in mind as he designed these volumes – homiletical material that provided a solid doctrinal basis and boundary for homiletical proclamation by uneducated preachers” (Heitzenrater 177).

— I can’t answer for you, but I’m both humbled by our Wesleyan tradition and honored to be a part of it.

Mr. Wesley was of a profoundly inclusive “both/and” mindset rather than a spiteful “either/or” outlook.

Good stuff.

Hope to see you back here tomorrow.


“Not Being Methodist Enough” — Funny or Sad?

Randy Jones is a colleague who gave me his generous permission to share this with you —

I knew a pastor who decided to preach Wesley’s 52 sermons and was asked to move for not being Methodist enough. True.

— So…is that funny, or is that sad? You tell me.

Backstory: I’ve been given to believe that the small book titled John Wesley’s 52 Standard Sermons was a regular resource for early Methodist circuit riders and lay preachers.

Somewhere along the way I picked up the notion that if all one had were a Bible, a Hymnal, and John Wesley’s 52 Standard Sermons, one was good to go for a year. The joke went that after a year the Bishop and District Superintendent would move that pastor in a year anyway, so 52 sermons was all that were needed.

Always seemed to me that if a current copy of The United Methodist Book of Discipline, our ever-changing policy and polity guide, were added to make a pastoral library of four rather than three books, things might have gone smoother for that pastor facing a move every year. But what do I know? And I digress.

As Randy said, he knows a pastor who decided to preach Wesley’s 52 sermons and was asked to move for not being Methodist enough. True. Imagine that.

Just let that sink in for a moment.

And again, I ask you: is that funny or sad?

You tell me.


A Moveable Church

From The New York Times* —

Santu Mofokeng grew up under apartheid, coming to a love for photography in his teens. 

Over a few weeks in 1986, during his commute to and from work, he made a series of remarkable photographs on the Soweto-­Johannesburg train.

Whether the ride was in the early morning, late afternoon or evening, people congregated in the train’s coaches, turning them into spaces of prayer and religious song. The train became a movable church. 

A movable church arose out of necessity in this instance, but isn’t a church that’s moveable the idea all along?

And yes, moveable church is an image that works at couple of levels.

By the grace of God, may our churches indeed be moveable! 






Listen Louder Than You Play

[If you’re confused by today’s title, simply scroll down to my last several days’ blogs.]

“Listen Louder Than You Play!” is way more than a clever, even ironic, sign on the wall of an elementary school band room.

It’s a call to not just hear but to pay attention and actively listen.

It’s a reminder, as some older person in our lives told us when we were kids, that we have two ears and one mouth for a good reason.

It’s another way of telling us about the mechanics of interpersonal relationships.

It’s about healthy balance —

By the grace given me I say to every one of you,

do not think of yourself more highly than you ought. 

Romans 12:3

and yet Jesus wasn’t kidding when he said,

let your light shine before others,

that they may see your good deeds

and glorify your Father in heaven. 

Matthew 5:16

— There’s a time to you and me to listen, and there’s a time for us to play our parts.  It takes both for the song of life to be complete.

Thanks be unto God for the opportunity!

Listen Louder Than You

[If you’re confused by the title, scroll down to the last two days’ blogs and easily catch up.]

“Listen louder than you play!” is not a call to silent passivity.

Nor is it some goofy challenge, as in “I can listen louder than you can!”

Let every person be quick to hear and slow to speak, says The New Testament in James 1:19.

Your contribution to the conversation of life is important.

“Listen louder than you play!” invites all to appropriately participate.


Listen Louder Than

If you missed yesterday’s blog here, please scroll down one and you can easily catch up.

“Listen louder than you play!” might make our old friend St. Paul smile. After all, he did advise us to not just be loud, crashing cymbals. (1st Corinthians 13:1)

Even the cymbal player in the Chester Municipal Band followed both the written musical score and the director, and then those cymbal crashes fit perfectly with what everybody else was playing.

Three times in the first three verses of his famous Love Chapter, St. Paul employs the phrase have love.

Do we?

Is it evident by how we “listen louder” than we speak that we’re also listening in love?

And when we talk, do our words themselves have love?

“Listen louder than you play!”

Let’s do.

See you back here tomorrow.

Listen Louder

The Municipal Band of Chester, IL recently celebrated their 80th Anniversary. It was an honor to sit in with them and play trumpet under two outstanding directors, John Birchler and Steve Colonel.

On the wall of the rehearsal space was this sign —



— and its lingering effect on me for this past week has been significant.

We were all there to play music, and we were all there to play music together.

But if all we’d focused on had been our own playing, the music would have suffered and might even have been lost.

“Listen louder than you’re playing” applies to everyday life, too. As Proverbs 18:2 spins it, A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

Let’s “listen louder” today.