I have been somewhat absent from the blog this past couple of weeks. In some ways that has been a good thing – a chance to stand back and pause, then come back to it fresh and with a different perspective.
Day 24 of “Light the Fire Again” is very much about Wesley’s mission to the poor in an age when there was no safety-net of the “welfare state” that we have today. Poverty was extreme and its consequences impossible for me to imagine now.
For those who have nothing at all, and for whom life is a burden to be endured, the message of hope offered by the gospel story must have been like a light shining in the darkest night. To know that, as worthless as they might feel, and as totally inconsequential as they seemed to the world… to know they were wanted, loved and treasured by a God who gave everything He had for them – that is a powerful message of hope.
Poverty takes many forms – Wesley showed the world that those who have little in the way of material possessions may be rich in spiritual blessings. This transformation from material poverty to spiritual wealth was often sudden, violent and noisome. Wesley’s journals are full of accounts of meetings at which people cry out, collapse as if in great pain before peace would come, tremble uncontrollably and suffer convulsions. Sometimes this would go on for many hours. On 30th July 1739 Wesley recalls one woman who’s master (she was a servant at a gentleman’s house) would not allow her to return to her work because “he would have none in his house who had received the Holy Ghost”.
I confess that I find it hard to reconcile this level of passion and transformation with the church of today that is my daily experience. It’s not that I somehow hanker for people to be falling over in the aisles, convulsing in spiritual anguish and screaming as they are released from demonic manifestations! But I am hungry to see a people of God who are willing to allow God to rule in their lives and who are prepared to say, “my life is Yours – do with me as You will”.