Discipline. It’s a word that can trigger strong reactions. Athletes value it. Two-year olds and teens resist it. For United Methodists it’s that book that holds our history, our beliefs, and our rules. Sometimes we struggle with its contents, which are constantly under review as our global church grows and attempt to live int oGod's call together.
Discipline is also the Wesleyan way of life that formed the USA’s middle class with attention to character, work habits and savings in an encompassing atmosphere of grace.
In our current age, guided often by emotions, returning attention to our will can re-equilibrize teeter totter lives. And doing so in a supportive community of Jesus followers makes it soul work instead of just another self-improvement exercise.
Here are 22 questions the members of John and Charles Wesley’s Holy Club asked themselves every day in their private devotions over 200 years ago. If we dive into this list without practice, it can feel like a jump into the deep end. But time spent with these questions reorients us to a God saturated environment and the daily examen begins to flow. Forming a small group that regularly meets to share what we learn is the Wesleyan way of Christianity.
1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
3. Do I confidentially pass on to another what was told to me in confidence?
4. Can I be trusted?
5. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits?
6. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
7. Did the Bible live in me today?
8. Do I give it time to speak to me every day?
9. Am I enjoying prayer?
10. When did I last speak to someone else about my faith?
11. Do I pray about the money I spend?
12. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
13. Do I disobey God in anything?
14. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
15. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
16. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy, or distrustful?
17. How do I spend my spare time?
18. Am I proud?
19. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?
20. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
21. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
22. Is Christ real to me?
Welcome to the Holiness club! (Wesley)
"Take heart; get up, he is calling you."- Mark 10:49
We Christians are entering the last few weeks of the liturgical season called “ordinary.” And yet I don’t remember the last time that life felt “ordinary.” Ordinary time in the church, once called “Kingdomtide, “flows from the Feast of Pentecost, in which we invite again the Holy Spirit to flood our lives. It is a season reclaimed by American Protestants in the aftermath of WW2 as we tried to make sense of the world again. Ordinary time begins by celebrating Trinity Sunday. The remembered chaos of Pentecost is followed by assurance that the Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit create dynamic, not static, order as creation unfolds. The season ends with Christ the King Sunday, which always creates cognitive dissonance for me, on the doorstep to Advent’s birth story. It is a celebration of Christ victorious over sin, leading the way into God’s kindom. "Take heart; get up, he is calling you."(Mark 10:49)
If you use a lectionary-based devotional, you’ll have been recently following the story of Job. In this week’s happy ending, after grueling weeks of suffering, you read that Job’s fortunes are wondrously restored:
' Therefore, I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
'Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.'I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.
Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring.
The LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys.
He also had seven sons and three daughters.He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch.
In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job's daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers.
After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children'schildren, four generations.And Job died, old and full of days. Job 42: 3b-17
Happy endings don’t get much better than that!
The happiness, (in scripture the word is actually “blessedness”) came after Job was able to see past his devastating misfortunes, to hear past his friend’s inept attempts to confront and comfort, when he was able to just sit and know God’s presence with him. When he recognizes himself, not as creator but as creature. When he becomes vulnerable to God’s mercy.
It’s a pattern that repeats throughout scripture, building momentum across tie and space. We heard Jeremiah’s words earlier today: See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here.(Jeremiah 31: 8)
And still we wake to news of death in the pews in Pittsburgh, just three blocks from Fred Roger’s house; of famine in Yemen; the anxiety that seems to pervade our nation was not lessened this week by a series of bombs mailed to prominent leaders up and down the east coast.
The NY Timesnotes this morning that “Mass shootings have become a recurring part of American life, and religious institutions a recurring setting. In each case, the shock is compounded by the violence at what is supposed to be a safe space for peace and healing.”
With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble…. (Jeremiah 31: 7-9)
This morning’s passage from Mark gives us a question that I find one of the most powerful anywhere in scripture. When the blind beggar Bartimaeus persisted in calling out to Jesus, Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?"(Mark 10: 51).
I wonder how it might change each of our lives if we took an ordinary moment, every day, to hear Christ asking us this question and to give him our most honest answer.
It seems to me that human listening to that question is the space through which many mercies flow.
Even while we are yearning and working for a happy ending, both for ourselves and for our world, healing comes in the form of many mercies.
You can become Jesus’ voice asking, “what do you want me to do for you?”
You can become Jesus’ heart opening to the answer.
You can become Jesus’ hand taking the hand of the person in need.
I invite you to make time this week to visualize Jesus asking you this question with all the love in his wide open heart.
"Take heart; get up, he is calling you."- Mark 10:49
Karen L Munson
A pastor and artist, I'm wondering while I'm wandering through God's marvelous creation.