Wednesday 3 October 2007

Ready for all thy perfect will

Westminster Abbey for a service to celebrate Charles Wesley's 300th anniversary, with senior representatives of the Methodist Church.

Rowan preached a really insightful sermon, pointing out that John and Charles weren't joined at the hip. There were many points of profound and sometimes bitter tension and conflict between them in their personal and spiritual lives. John was the proclaimer to the world, Charles the builder up of the Church — Mr Emergent and Mr Inherited. Both brothers show us, in their tension, but especially by what held them together in the face of tension, the primacy and effectiveness of grace. The energy of the Church for worship or witness is rooted in grace, secured by vision.

Charles wrote many thousand hymns, including one we sang which you don't often hear these days, containing the Christian gospel (personally speaking) in four lines:
Since the Son hath made me free,
let me taste my liberty,

thee behold with open face,
Triumph in thy saving grace.

By his writing Charles enables millions of people today to be drawn into his seeing. As for the tension, there's no life here below without it.

Much of the imagery of Charles’ poetry is simple but profoundly sacramental, in a way that must have seemed outrageously Catholic in Georgian England:
Hosanna in the highest
To our exalted Saviour,

Who left behind for all mankind

These tokens of His favour:

His bleeding love and mercy,

His all redeeming Passion;

Who here displays, and gives the grace

Which brings us our salvation.

Louder than gathered waters,

Or bursting peals of thunder,

We lift our voice and speak our joys

And shout our loving wonder.

Shout, all our elder brethren,

While we record the story

Of Him that came and suffered shame,

To carry us to glory.

Angels in fixed amazement
Around our altars hover,

With eager gaze adore the grace
Of our eternal Lover:
Himself and all His fullness

Who gives to the believer;

And by this bread whoe'er are fed
Shall live with God for ever.

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