“I look upon the whole world as my parish” – these were John Wesley’s famous words, reflecting the fact that he was now resigned to the fact that he would no longer be likely to hold priestly office in an Anglican parish.
Wesley’s vision and calling came at a high personal price. I found myself wondering how it might feel if I was banned from preaching in a Methodist church; indeed from preaching in any Methodist Church; in my own Methodist church. There are times, especially early on in my preacher training, when I felt pretty upset at what I felt was misplaced criticism. But these are shallow wounds that are easily healed and God teaches us, with time, to walk in humility and to know when and which battles are worth fighting for.
It is, however, always difficult to predict how things are going to turn out. What seems like a terrible injustice or painful decision at the time may subsequently turn out to be for the best; indeed may prove to be the only way for us to see and to work through God’s plans for us.
The Methodist Church would not exist if Wesley had not had such a troubled relationship with the church of his upbringing. The social consequences of that, in parts of the UK, especially some of our greatest cities, would have been huge. The early church spread in the way that it did precisely because it was being persecuted in Jerusalem. Paul, after his conversion, was hounded from city to city, and it only served to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ more quickly and to places it might never have been heard.
When we recognise the gentle prompting or firm direction of God in our lives, we must learn to trust in a heavenly Father who knows our needs before we do; who has a plan for our lives and will provide what is needed for us to fulfil His purposes.
We are wise to pause, as we climb the mountain, to stop and admire the view as well as watching for the stones on the path we are treading.