Netley – Day 7 – Turning Points

Today’s reflection dwells again on Wesley’s confession that his “heart was strangely warmed”.  This was a turning point for Wesley.

I have experienced a number of turning points, or milestones, these past four or five years.  one of them was at Netley:

After we began our Friday nights of prayer and worship I struggled with it for a while.  I had considered myself a fairly “progressive” Methodist – I play guitar, sing and write songs, help lead a worship band and would even pray prayers that hadn’t been written down!  I didn’t even wear a tie when preaching!

But I was used to an environment where songs were sung in a fairly predictable order, words were on the screen and we had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen next.  Services would have a plan and we would stick to the Order of Service unless there was some unplanned calamity.

Our Friday nights at Netley are very different.  I remember a period of some weeks becoming more and more frustrated that we had stopped projecting words and that songs might go on uninterrupted for anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes for a single song.  These would string together and we might sing or have some background music for two or more hours.

One Friday evening I reached a moment where I sat back in my chair, opened my eyes and saw the most amazing picture of worship.  People with hands outstretched, kneeling, prostrate on the ground or just quietly reflecting; some singing, some not, some lost in scripture.

It suddenly came to me, as a revelation, that I was the only one in the room not in a state of of worshipful grace.  The problem was not with anyone else, or with what we were doing – it was with me and the ecclesiological baggage that I was carrying.  I resolved to open my heart and let go.

In the following weeks I eased my soul and found that this was a time when I could connect deeply with scripture.  When I felt I had sung enough I could simply open my bible and dwell, for as long as I wished, on a piece of text and wait to see what God revealed through it.  I had never experienced the bible like this before.

There have been other significant occasions that I shall save for another day. But when I look back at this one I realise that we have a choice as to how and whether we engage with God.  He delights in our worship and no more so that when our hearts and our heads both say “yes” and both speak the language of love and grace.

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