given on Sunday, September 2, 2012
Three Simple Rules:
A Wesleyan Way of Living by Rueben P. Job
Today’s sermon is based on this book. Methodists grew out of a Christian movement of service, of making disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world. –Pastor Susan A. Smith
Here is the problem: How can we be Christians in today’s culture? And how can the John Wesley methods work any longer?
How can United Methodists possible fulfill the Greatest Commission of making disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world?
This places us in a real quandary, yet the very Wesleyan methods of serving one another is needed now more than ever because the chaos of the 21st century is causing more and more distance between humanity and God.
Rueben P. Job, a United Methodist Bishop, has taken Wesley’s mission statement and framed it into just “three simple rules.” He said in his introduction:
Forgetting the struggles and sacrifices of the past [referring to WWII] may have led to a complacency that took community too lightly, individualism too seriously, and neglected our call to faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (p.11)
The problem that we are not following God’s commandment and fulfilling his commission places us in a dilemma.
We have created a self-centered world taking care of just ourselves even though we hear the cries of so many around this globe. The dilemma seems impossible and we are so busy in our personal lives, how can we possibly live up to Wesley’s expectations. In today’s culture, Job’s choice of the word ‘simple’ just does not fit our lives, especially with our scientific and technological based world. Simple sounds just too easy.
Today, we desperately need a plan to live the Christian lifestyle described by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians. At the same time, we need to work to fulfill the commission that Jesus gave his disciples as he left the earthly life. This challenge sounds difficult, not simple.
Today, as tired as you are, stop and dream what life would be like if the world really did follow just three simple rules, rules that support and expand Jesus’ commission. Wouldn’t just three simple rules make the dream a reality?
Today’s United Methodists, and other denominations following the Wesleyan tradition, hear the words Wesley wrote in the essay, “The Character of a Methodist,” and struggle to understand:
What then is the mark? Who is a Methodist, according to your own account?” I answer: A Methodist is one who has the ‘love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him;” one who “loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind, and with all his soul; which is constantly crying out, ‘Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee! My God and my all! Thou art the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever!” (in Works, Vo. 8; page 341)
Add to this description the philosophy that Wesley presented and is probably one of the most recognizable quotes from Wesley:
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
All the images created by these two statements from Wesley places 21st century Christians face to face with a culture that seems to defy the very basis of Wesley’s theology—to serve one another. The small little book Three Simple Rules is Job’s attempt to demonstrate how easy Wesley’s methods can and do work right now in 2012, almost 400 years since Wesley began his efforts to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.
Job’s argument for the Wesleyan lifestyle is presented in his preface:
I believe we have reached a place where, as a people of faith, we are ready to give serious consideration to another way, a more faithful way of living as disciples of Jesus Christ. This way must be so clear that it can be taught and practiced by everyone. It must be accessible and inviting to your and old, rich and poor, powerful and weak, and those of every theological persuasion . . . Now it is up to use to see if we will take [Wesley’s blueprint], teach it, and practice it until it becomes our natural way of living—a way of living that will mark our life together and our lives as individual Christians. (p.10)
Let’s study this small book. During the next 2-3 weeks we are going to learn these three simple rules:
- Do no harm.
- Do good.
- Stay in love with God.
What better time to learn how to simplify our lives? We continue to dream of a transformed world whether right here in our community or anywhere on the globe. Now, let us pray together to hear God’s words as we learn these three simple rules. And then, lets act on our new understanding. We may not have been at the cross when Jesus died, but we trust the words of the Bible, and now we will take up the cross in order to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Help us to learn together how to be better Christians.
Help us to listen to Wesley and Job
in order to simplify our lives.
Help us to take our dreams
for our community, our family and our church;
and move into action to transform our world.
Thank you for speaking to our leaders
who step out and guide us in your name.
Open our arms, our hearts, and our minds
to new ideas, to new practices, and to new faces
as we struggle to serve one another in love.