For those of a Methodist heritage and an awareness of our roots, the words, “I felt my heart strangely warmed” is one of those instantly recognisable phrases and would immediately be associated with John Wesley’s Aldersgate experience. Billy Kennedy referred to this at the Live Pentecost Service on the BBC recently.
In a Pioneer/New Church context the language used would probably be quite different, but however it may be expressed, the effect is one of being transformed into new life and a new experience of God by the saving power of the Holy Spirit.
That meeting at Aldersgate Street was one to which John Wesley went “very unwillingly”. This is something which resounds with me in the context of Netley. I have confessed previously that there are times when I have gone to Netley with a heavy heart – at the end of a long week, full of long days, knowing I have a full weekend ahead and just wanting to put my feet up at home with a glass of beer!
And yet, those have tended to be the occasions when I have been the most uplifted by the experience. When the words “strangely warmed” barely do justice to the sense of God’s presence – times I have been driven to my knees, when tears have flowed, when strange words have been released, visions have been seen and prophetic words spoken.
I have been prayed over, anointed with oil, blessed and cared for, received the quiet wisdom of friends and gone away knowing that I have been in the presence of a Holy God.
These powerful experiences, wonderful as they are, are not for us alone. Wesley knew that. It is my greatest desire that everyone should know and experience this kind of transforming power and love of God. Heavenly father, Holy Spirit, give us the strength, the courage and the will to make you known. As Wesley put it – we have nothing to do but to save souls.