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Gareth Powell Edit(1)

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Yesterday I was talking to someone, visiting someone, and on their wall was a picture of Wesley preaching on his father's gravestone at Epworth. And – the most extraordinary story – the rector had refused him entry, and his father had been rector at Epworth! Was that early on in his ministry? Yes, Wesley had been his father's curate in Epworth. Oh had he? So it was even the church where he had ministered? Even the church where he had ministered. And he had gone back as part of his commitment to preach and, as was not uncommon, was refused entry to preach in the parish church. And taking matters into his own hands, he thinks that his father's grave is a good foundation, in more ways than one. It's a convenient place to stand, but it says something about the faith in which he stood. An extraordinary symbol. And it's also I think, one of the things I was just looking at and thinking, of the tragedy of the division between what is now Methodism, but at the time he would have thought himself to be an Anglican, he used Anglican liturgy and he would – as we're talking about today and encouraging people to pray, he would have used that phrase Thy Kingdom Come. I look at people like that in those days, what would he have been thinking – if you'd said to him, what do you expect when you pray, Thy Kingdom Come? The important thing to remember about Epworth in the Methodist narrative is that in many respects, at the age of four or five, Wesley's life was changed dramatically by a fire in the rectory. And just at the point of collapse, Wesley was rescued from an upper window in the rectory. And in many ways that says a great deal about the future of Wesley's faith. His mother believed he was a 'brand as plucked from the burning'. Therefore I think there's a moment of transformation at that juncture; he understands it later on in his life. That to participate in God's kingdom is an extraordinary revolution within oneself and it's a revolution in the world about the things that really matter. And of course Wesley's mother, who taught him how to pray, Wesley’s mother felt that moment showed that Wesley was contributing – she wouldn't have put it this way – was contributing to the transformation of the rule of God. And that it was his role, initially as an Anglican curate and then as a travelling preacher, to say as much as he possibly could, in as many forms as he possibly could, to as many people as he possibly could. And therefore the transformation, Thy Kingdom Come, for Wesley, I think, is a realisation that you are participating in the reign of God's love. That you are called to bring about transformation and that you do it exactly where you are. So when the Methodist Church institutionally is taking a phenomenal part in this wonderful gift that we've all received from God, that has taken us all by surprise I think in the way that it's grown, what's your hope, when people round the world are praying, Thy Kingdom Come? It sounds to me as though you're saying that they're committing themselves to action as well as to seeking God's actions. Yes, I think it's the recognition, I think Thy Kingdom Come, that we're part of a bigger picture, across time and space, we find ourselves united with all God's people, but this is something that I participate in, that I'm called to do by the grace of God, because God's Kingdom is about the now. And therefore I do that whether I'm a Methodist minister, whether you're an Anglican priest; you do it whether you're cleaning, whether you're engaged in banking, whether you're engaged in physics, it's the understanding of the possibility of God's grace in any of those encounters. It's phenomenally challenging. Earlier today I was in the place where I opened my life to Christ over 40 years ago, 42, 43 years ago – and with the person who in that room led me to faith, and my heart had been warmed, to use a rather Methodist expression, in the previous couple of years particularly in Kenya with my encounter with the East African revival. But he was saying he'd he'd only been a Christian himself for a very short period and yet one thing he knew at that moment was that to testify to his own faith in the grace of God and the gift of God was crucial But that springs out of that prayer, Thy Kingdom Come. Yes, and each of us needs to communicate something of that, don't we? You and I are only able to say Thy Kingdom Come became others helped us to say it. And they helped us to begin to understand it. So rather like Wesley''s preaching on the foundation of this own spiritual nurturing by his mother and father in Epworth, each of us relies hugely on those who've gone before us in the faith, but we're also enriched by the way we talk about our faith. And I think the other dimension to Thy Kingdom Come is also a willingness to act and speak in ways that give glimpses of the kingdom. That's one of the reasons that every day here we pray for the unity of the church. Because I think that one of the things that demonstrates the reality of the kingdom is differences being overcome, in the way that Jesus overcame the difference between, the gap between ourselves and God. He bridged that gap and he calls us to participate in that way. There is inherent in the desire to see God's kingdom come a desire for the unity of all God's people. Hmm, absolutely. And we've become complacent I think, even oblivious perhaps to the scandal of our disunity. Too comfortable with it. I think that's absolutely wrong. And that's both about church institutions – and I dare say in our less alert modes, we think we can get by without God's grace. Do you know, that's exactly what we were talking about earlier today. We slip back into that. And Thy Kingdom Come to me reminds me that it's God's kingdom, it's not my work. And it's his initiative, not my bright ideas. And that prayer is another way of sort of essentially saying 'O help! I don't know, I don't know how, when, where.' But Thy kingdom come. And the quid pro quo is, I will take part in Your actions. Indeed, and neither is it quite saying, OK then God come and do your stuff and I will just respond, it's the active participation in the very nature of God's love.

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Posted by: annafjmorris on Apr 5, 2018

Gareth Powell Edit(1)

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