June 27, 2021: Wesley Sunday
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – Wesley Sunday
Scripture: Matthew 6:9-13
- Sunday, June 27, 2021: Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – Wesley Sunday
- Time for Centering: “Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown,” by Charles Wesley, Arr. by Larry Shackley; Pauline Olsen, organ
- Hymn 545: “The Church’s One Foundation,” by Samuel Wesley
- Special Music: “Praise the Lord Who Reigns Above,” by Charles Wesley; Bill Baughman, Ken Burres, Judy Croonquist, Stacey Fradkin, Randy Grubbs, Linda Jarvi, Patty Shoop, Jim Stoffer, Karen Toth, hymn Leaders
- Scripture: Matthew 6:9-13; Steve Downer
- Sermon: “Special Guest: Susanna Wesley,” Rev. Dale Kelley*
- “And Can It Be That I Should Gain,” by Charles Wesley; Octet
- “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” by Charles Wesley
- “And Are We Yet Alive,” by Charles Wesley
- Hymn 57: “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” by Charles Wesley, 1739
- Hymn 88: “Maker, In Whom We Live,” by Charles Wesley
- “Variations on “Maker, In Whom We Live,” Arr. by Terry Reitz; Terry Reitz, organ
A Presentation by Rev. Dale Kelley
I am graced by our Lord Jesus Christ to be with you ALL today, and to just talk to you a little about my life … and about my sons, John and Charles, who, as you know … were my rambunctious boys growing up, YET … ARE right now all about the countryside, PREACHING to many hundreds of people and WRITING many HYMNS to the Glory of God!
WELL …WHERE TO START — I don’t talk about myself often, at all … FOR – I am really a very simple woman … I am now a widowed grandmother of 71 … and recently living with my son, JOHN, at his FOUNDRY CHURCH … BUT more about that later!
SO, I GUESS, I’LL BEGIN MY STORY WITH THIS –
I was born in the dead of winter in rural England – January 20, 1669 – the 25th of 25 children! A large family we were! And happy enough, too … mostly! My father was to a noted scholar and clergyman who, when pressed, would not agree AT ALL with the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer and so he started his own small parish! A renegade he was, but beloved by his congregation!
All of us were well schooled and taught to think for ourselves! But PAPA never expected that when I was13, I would FULLY return to the Church of England.
He only “blessed my choice” AFTER he had me write out “both sides of the argument,” and present to him my own reasons for returning to it!
I married my husband, Samuel, just before my 20th birthday, and he was 28, a newly ordained priest in the Church of England. He was basically a good man, but OH MY … did we disagree on many things!
Though he left to me all the household duties …AND the child-rearing…!! He could barely abide my“strong–headedness,” as he called it!
He would SHOUT – “… Woman, why must you think about so many things that are none of your concern! It’s not fitting for a woman to have her own opinions — AND SO PUBLICLY!!”
I couldn’t help but have opinions – especially on the Church AND even about politics!
But Samuel’s feelings on this matter never changed. He often stormed out, leaving me and the children for MANY months at a time!
Well … one time after a five months absence Samuel returned home! AND WHAT CAN I SAY … JOHN WAS BORN 9 MONTHS LATER…
OH … but those were HARD times with a temperamental, RIGID husband!
Samuel had NO head for figures, and we were constantly in debt – particularly on a LOW clergy income …
AND … Samuel also wasn’t much of a preacher, really. He spent most of his time on translating the book of JOB into Latin! He claimed it would bring US AND himself – “fame and fortune!!” Well …that never happened… FOOLISH MAN!
We lived under the shadow of DEBTORS PRISON all our days…
MEANWHILE …DISCONTENT CONTINUED TO GROW AGAINST US IN THE PARISH…
OH …And … did I tell you I GAVE BIRTH TO 19 CHILDREN!? But 9 little ones died in infancy…Sad for us…truly … but all according to God’s will, I trust!
Such pregnancies left me in a bit of poor health, though our Gracious Lord continues to carry me onward… PRAISE TO HIS ALMIGHTY GRACE!
I schooled all my 10 children at home, and I had strong guidelines and discipline for my children – 16 RULES I HAD FOR THEM! And they followed them … mostly!
But my precious son JOHN did write to me later, – whilst he was a student at Oxford – that –the disciplines he learned from me, growing up, fitted him well as a Christian swimming against the tide of mainstream University life.
That brought grateful tears to my eyes, as I reflected back over those early years … … not only with him – but with ALL 10 of my children.
OH … I raised my children with plenty of daily teaching – with the Word of God. GODLINESS WAS A WAY OF LIFE IN OUR HOME!
Before they could kneel or speak, the little ones were taught to ask a blessing on their food AND to repeat, the Lord’s Prayer both morning and evening, as they added their own prayers as well.
PRAISE TO ALMIGHTY GOD!
I tell you – My days were full – working the gardens, milking our several cows, schooling the children, preparing meals, and I ONLY found two hours a day to give to the LORD in prayer!
It was a struggle … I tell you … BUT my 10 active children, they DID KNOW and respect MAMA’S PRAYER TIME!
FOR … When my children saw me TOSS MY APRON OVER MY HEAD, that meant I WAS IN PRAYER AND COULDN’T BE DISTURBED! And I TOSSED that APRON MANY TIMES a DAY!!
WELL… MOVING ON WITH MY STORY …
WE spent most of our ministry years in the small bog-like rural parish of EPWORTH…
Many of the townspeople greatly disliked our family – Mostly because of Samuel’s rigid and moralistic pastoring and preaching!
OUR POOR CHILDREN WERE OFTEN INSULTED AND MOCKED IN THE STREETS. It was very sad – especially for the children, BUT – we persevered and prayed daily for these discontented townsfolk …
OUR little parsonage in EPWORTH burned down – TWICE??
We always suspected that THE FIRES were likely set by some of the townspeople!
ONE NIGHT SOME RUFFIANS – * SLIT OUR COW’S UDDERS SO THEY WOULDN’T HAVE MILK -* KILLED OUR DOG – * AND BURNED OUR FLAX FIELD!
THE night of the second fire, while I was pregnant with my very last child, we all scrambled to safety – BUT then WE realized that 6-YEAR-OLD JOHN was not among us!
Suddenly we heard his cries from an upstairs window! PRAISE BE TO GOD …two neighbors – one on the shoulders of the other — grabbed little John from the window – JUST SECONDS BEFORE THE WHOLE ROOF FELL IN!
John recalls that night by saying that it was God’s deliverance! … Years later he would QUOTE from ZECHARIAH, SAYING — he was saved like a “BRAND SNATCHED FROM THE BURNING!”
THERE IS ONE EPISODE WHICH – IN SPITE OF MYSELF – BRINGS SMILES TO MY MEMORY AND GLADDENS MY HEART …
I shall tell you what happened … You might appreciate it!
Well … on one of my husband’s sojourns FOR MONTHS AWAY … he sent a substitute preacher – MR INMAN – to care for the Sunday worship. Well, this pastor couldn’t preach at all well… and people were barely attending Sunday services.
So, I felt, after much prayer … that I needed to take the afternoon and evening hours – TO gather the family for singing HYMNS and PSALMS, and for prayer PLUS – I WOULD read a short sermon from Samuel’s – or my father’s – collection.
Quickly word spread AND soon there were too many for the parsonage.
BUT then MR INMAN felt threatened and sent a letter to Samuel!
He said that a woman leading such a group was not at all proper – AND – IN FACT – was even a scandal for the church.
NOW – I was not ignorant of the fact that a woman having any part in a worship service – even in her own – home was unheard of.
Finally, Samuel told me to discontinue the meetings altogether! However, I adamantly declined – as the meetings were a genuine ministry to those who attended AND — Mr. Inman was in fact, THE ONLY ONE WHO OBJECTED.
AND SO … THE SERVICES CONTINUED AND GREW – up to almost 200! … WE EVEN MET IN THE CHURCH! AS …WHERE ELSE COULD SUCH A CROWD GATHER!?!
BUT ENOUGH OF ME … LET ME SPEAK OF MY TWO SONS – JOHN AND CHARLES …
These two sons never cease to amaze me!
John was born my 15th child and second son, and Charles was my 18th little boy, born 4 years after John.
As students at OXFORD, John and Charles founded a society for the purpose of study and the pursuit of a devout Christian life. They called it the “HOLY CLUB“. They met weekly and set about earnestly trying to live a HOLY LIFE!
They had Communion every week, they fasted regularly, and they did not waste time with most forms of amusement and luxury! They frequently visited the sick and the poor, as well as many in prison.
I do declare … As these fellowships grew, they were first mockingly branded as “Methodist” by their fellow students because of the way they used a “rule” and a “method” to go about their religious affairs.
JOHN, who was leader of the club, ignored the mockery and claimed the title of METHODIST as a title of HONOR!
Most memorable, was when John came to me one day, very excited – almost breathless and told me that at a church meeting at ALDERSGATE he had felt his “HEART STRANGELY WARMED!!”
HE JUST KNEW THAT HE WAS SAVED BY GOD’S GRACE ALONE, AND THAT THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS CALLING HIM TO THIS NEW MINISTRY OF METHODISM!
Listening to him, and seeing the fire in his eyes, I felt this was a TRUE TURNING POINT in his life…
THANKS BE TO GOD!
AND… also CHARLES SENT ME HIS FIRST HYMN! He called it –
“And Can It Be that I Should Gain” https://hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/363
From then on, I myself went and heard John and Charles preaching in the streets and in the fields! They offered a rousing message of HOPE … to MANY hundreds of the hard-working people!
These were FOLKS who would rarely EVER dare to frequent a church…
COMMON FOLKS that the Anglican leadership considered “undesirables!!!” CAN YOU IMAGINE THAT?
I DO remember a time when John returned from an evangelistic tour in Ireland, and found that a TALENTED YOUNG LAYMAN WAS PREACHING to the crowds in John’s absence.
AND JOHN WAS INCENSED THAT SOMEONE NOT ORDAINED WAS PREACHING!
Well, I just told him straight out – that LAY MINISTRY was important, and that John just needed to go hear this young man!
I told JOHN just WHAT I FELT – that he was as surely called to preach as John himself was! And JOHN finally agreed!
As it turns out, this young METHODIST movement is growing SO fast, that LAY-preachers are right now being trained and sent out to teach and preach!
It gives me no end of JOY, to see how my two boys – now accomplished men – are awakening the “dead consciences” of much of England!
Last winter was bitterly cold, so John decided that he could NO LONGER Preach outside! So he and Charles, leased an “old boarded up munitions factory” WHICH THEY CALL THE FOUNDRY, and they have set about fixin’ it up to suit their ministries!
The VERY LARGE “preaching room” seats 1500 PEOPLE!! AND, the room behind seats 300! WE ALSO HAVE A CHARITY SCHOOL; A DISPENSARY, AN “ALMS-HOUSE” FOR 9 POOR WIDOWS, A LOAN SOCIETY, AND A “BOOK ROOM,” WITH A HUGE COLLECTION OF PSALMS AND HYMNS.
On the upper level, John has created apartments – one for Charles and his family and one for John, into which I just moved.
SIX MONTHS AGO AT John’s first two Sunday services, morning and evening, he preached to almost 6,000!!
That first evening Service was memorable! They came with their flickering lanterns, up that dark hill. Following – the tinkling of that old Foundry bell.
Especially at CHRISTMAS WHEN WE ALL SING CHARLES HYMN,
“Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” https://hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/240
AND … I can hear those mighty voices raised in one of CHARLES’ Hymns as they SING ON MANY SUNDAY NIGHTS …
“Let Us Plead for Faith Alone,” https://hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/385
FOLKS NOW ARE SAYING – far and wide – THAT JOHN AND CHARLES ARE
“POWER-HOUSES” FOR THE GLORY OF THE LORD!
Between John’s preaching and teaching and Charles’s poetry and HYMN writing …
… WELL – I guess they ARE having quite a powerful effect on folks … especially the hard-working poor! All to the GLORY OF GOD!!
I HEARTILY APPROVE of all that MY BOYS are doing! Especially their charitable works for the MANY POOR – FOR PRISON REFORM – AND for THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY!
JOHN and CHARLES now call “ANNUAL SOCIETY MEETINGS,” JOHN likes to call “HOLY CONFERENCING” and they start each meeting with one of CHARLES’ many hymns called —
“And We Are Yet Alive,” https://hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/553
I tell them that I PRAY MIGHTILY for all their good works!
Some of the IMPORTANT CLERGY in the Church of England, are FINALLY beginning to warm up to John and Charles! PRAISE GOD!!
YOU CAN’T HELP BUT SEE HOW THE VAST CROWDS OF “SPIRITUALLY HUNGRY” PEOPLE ARE RESPONDING TO THEM!
WELL…I’m looking forward to seeing how this ministry in the FOUNDRY will unfold!
It’s so exciting to be now LIVING THERE WITH JOHN, and TO BE DAILY among all the loving people who gather and worship there!
I told my whole family that when the Lord and his angels come to take me home
– there is one thing I want them to do …
…Gather the family – and any friends who want to be there …
And… as I take my last breath…and wing my way heavenward … to join that great cloud of witnesses … they are to sing Charles great hymn –
“O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing,” https://hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/57