Discipleship in the Wesleyan stream of Christianity is a balance between personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ and a response to that relationship by engaging the work of social justice. A life devoted to justice in the absence of relationship must find ways to yield to the filling and guiding presence of the Holy Spirit. A life devoted to Jesus Christ absent of any social response to this love must find ways to embody the life of Jesus Christ in the world.
John Wesley taught us that there are means of grace by which we come to know Jesus Christ more fully. These means of grace are worship, the Eucharist, studying the scriptures, prayer, fasting, acts of mercy and compassion, and justice. Notice that we come to know Jesus through our actions and our devotion. Wesley believed that we specifically come to know Jesus more fully and practice our religion more faithfully when we locate ourselves among those who are marginalized. At Sunnyside we are making a strong effort to come to know Jesus through our work of justice. We are committed to understanding how race and racism impact other areas of justice. We are committed to addressing poverty through the Free Store, the garden, and the food pantry. These are all means of grace through which many have come to know Jesus more fully, and have strengthened our practice and integrity as a congregation.
Come this fall, we are going to enter a season that will strengthen our relationship with God and with one another through those more personal experiences of the means of grace (studying the scripture, prayer, small groups). In the book of Ephesians, Paul wrote “Live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” The key word here is “worthy” because in the Greek it is axios, referencing the axis point on a balance beam. If one item on the beam is worthy of the other then they are in balance. Do you ever feel like your life is out of balance? Do find yourself burned out on religion, on relationships, on service? Do you ever find yourself wondering why the work matters when there is so much suffering in the world? Do you find yourself grieving the violence and the division that is plaguing our nation? I am reminded of a great line from Barbara Brown Taylor when she said, “We give of ourselves entirely trusting that God will fill us with all we need to survive.” I fully believe that in our emptiness God will fill us, but in order to fill us we must meet God with open palms, in postures of expectation and receptivity to God’s work in our lives. For this reason, growing in grace through ministries of discipleship is a vital step.
I know it’s the middle of the summer. You have vacations waiting for you. But in the quiet of the morning ask yourself, ask the Spirit, if this grace is what you need right now. Is this what you need right now? Grace? Discipleship? Deepened relationship with God? May we all walk this path together.