This past week was not only "Heritage Sunday" for United Methodists (celebrating UM history and the future), but the commemoration of John Wesley's Aldersgate experience was also in the mix mid-week. John Wesley, of course, was not only the "founding father" of the Methodist movement in England, but he also looked funny in a wig . . . which may also account for why he had so many problems with the ladies. Really . . . what woman would want to date a guy who smelled like horse manure and spayed white flour into his hair?
Nevertheless, one of my friends described John Wesley this week as a "bad ass". This was a compliment. John Wesley took on some of the most overwhelming social evils of his day (mid-1700s): including child labor, slavery (in England and the American colonies), poverty, ignorance, and "cold" religion. One of my favorite Wesley quotes is attributed to an encounter Wesley had with a fellow was said, "Mr. Wesley, God doesn't need your knowledge of Greek, and Hebrew and all of your book-learning!"
To which Wesley responded, "How true, sir. But God doesn't need your ignorance either!" Nice comeback, Johnny boy!
About a year ago I wrote this poem commemorating John Wesley's Aldersgate experience (where he went to a church meeting, heard someone reading a commentary on Romans written by Martin Luther, and felt his heart strangely warmed by Christ's love and received an assurance of his salvation). I wasn't wearing a funky wig at the time I wrote this poem, but if my wife wanted me do something different or if she wanted me to look like a younger man, I might be willing to shave my chest and dye my hair. I'm sure Wesley would have had a better marriage if he'd done this!
John Wesley at Aldersgate
Tired and weary in the truth or
Spurred by duty's firm estate
Mr. Wesley learned from Luther
Late on night at Aldersgate.
None proclaimed the kingdom missal,
Holy sang, or set apart;
Dry the words of the Epistle
That strangely warmed the faithful heart.
And from the boredom of a reading
Heaven opened, faith returned,
And fanned a flame for Christ exceeding
Stained glass walls, and bricks . . . and burned.