Francis Asbury, Circuit Rider

The following was written by Joshua for Telling the Stories that Matter.

Francis was well-acquainted with the highways and byways of the British Colonies in North America. This wasn’t because he was native to the land. No, Francis had been born in England–Staffordshire to be precise–to parents who were associated with the fledgling methodist movement within the Church of England. He only moved to the colonies after he had become a minister and accepted a calling and commission to be a missionary there. His familiarity with the many roads and paths in the land that would eventually be called the United States of America was not due to his social status within the territories. He did not simply sit back and look at maps and engage in artful political maneuvers. Throughout his life and ministry he was forever moving and always about the business of God. When he was asked what his approach to ministry was, he said “I’m going to live for God and get others so to do.” Instead, Francis’ familiarity with the highways and byways of the nation were due to use and due to the many miles he committed into God’s hands as he traveled ceaselessly to preach and minister.

Francis wasn’t the only methodist minister at work in the colonies but as the altercation that would later be called the “Revolutionary War” began to heat up and spill over into bloodshed, British ministers returned home for fear of reprisals.Francis, however, stayed where he was even as every other methodist minister returned to England. Eventually, he was the only one of his kind in the territory. This added to his workload but did not deter him from his mission. As worldly powers waged war over money, territory, and pride, Francis was proclaiming the Kingdom of God every night and every day as he rode horseback from meeting to meeting.While war was waged withbullets and blades, Francis engaged in spiritual guerrilla tactics in a world that opposed the Gospel he preached and professed. He preached anywhere that could hold the larger and larger crowds that flocked to him and often found himself preaching one of his powerful sermons in a field.

Francis Asbury traveled an average of 6,000 miles a year on horseback to preach and proclaim a faith that had clearly gripped him and motivated him to reach out to a world in need of good news. He was bishop to many ministers and spiritual director to many of the faithful. After his ministry, the number of people who could point to Francis as a spiritual father, guide, or mentor was nearly 214,000. This was up from the 1,200 or so that claimed methodist influence before the war. Methodism had grown in and even found a home on foreign soil. Though Francis had been the only one to stay through the war, there were over 700 ordained methodist ministers in the United States of America when Francis died.Francis Asbury died a leader and bishop of God’s people in a land that was not his own by birth or blood but that had been claimed with every fall of his horse’s hooves.

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G+M Worship – March 25, 2012 (Lent 5b)

The following is a liturgy/guide that was written by Joshua for the service of worship and prayers held at Grace and Main Fellowship on March 25, 2012. It was also posted on the site for Third Chance Ministries.

Worship on the Fifth Sunday in Lent – March 25, 2012

As we worship on this Fifth Sunday in Lent, we must be aware that we are drawing closer and closer to the cross with each second, minute, hour, and day. In less than two weeks, we will stand before an empty cross and a full tomb with the blood of the Lord God, King of the Universe, upon our hands. Let us not enter into these few short days lightly or without careful reflection. Even though we celebrate the resurrection this day—as Christians worldwide do every Sunday—let us not forget the blood that must be shed prior to that empty tomb.

As we light this candle to symbolize Jesus’ presence here with us in worship, let’s take a moment to invite Jesus to be present in our lives as well.

Lighting of the Christ Candle

The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Even as we journey to the cross : let us raise our voices in song.

Song: Nothin’ But the Blood

 

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

Psalm 51:1-12
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.
You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

 

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
Jeremiah 31:27-34

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
John 12:20-36
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

Group Reflection on the Scripture

Ignatius of Antioch, the 1st century Church father, bishop, student of John the Apostle, and martyr wrote a series of letters to a number of congregations as he was marched to his trial and execution. In his letter to the congregation in Ephesus, he wrote the following about the nature of Christian leadership, growth, and service: “the spirit of deceit preaches himself, and speaks his own things, for he seeks to please himself. He glorifies himself, for he is full of arrogance. He is lying, fraudulent, soothing, flattering, treacherous, rhapsodical, trifling, inharmonious, verbose, sordid, and timorous. From his power Jesus Christ will deliver you, who has founded you upon the rock, as being chosen stones, well fitted for the divine edifice of the Father, and who are raised up on high by Christ, who was crucified for you…”

Prayers for Others

The Lord’s Prayer

Lord God who is lifted up before the world on a cross of our own construction, we pray that you will grant peace, forgiveness, grace, and courage to all who call upon you. Show us how you have moved in our lives and to what you are calling us as we draw nearer to your cross and seek to carry our own crosses. Amen.

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you : wherever he may send you.
May he guide you through the wilderness : protect you through the storm.
May he bring you home rejoicing : at the wonders he has shown you.
May he bring you home rejoicing : once again into our doors.

Amen.

Oscar Romero, Martyred Enemy of the State

The following was written by Joshua for Telling the Stories that Matter.

Oscar Romero spent most of his free time around the Church when he was a little boy. Sure, he was active among his friends and did all the things that little Salvadoran boys did but when he had a stretch of free time you were likely to find him down at one of the local church buildings. He had been raised in a Christian family–son to Santos Romero and Guadalupe de Jésus Galdámez–and received a limited education. His limited education was not because of lack of intelligence or priorities but because of a relative lack of need for education within El Salvador in the early twentieth century. Oscar’s school, for example, only offered three years of education for its students. After that, a student would need to receive private tutoring if they were going to received further education.So, for the Salvadorans it was better to learn a skill or a trade than to receive an education and so Oscar learned carpentry from his father. Oscar showed some talent at carpentry but it did not prove to be the calling that was first and foremost upon his life. He did have receive private tutoring but academia was also not his primary calling. Instead, he became a priest in 1942and answered to a calling that had been brewing in his young mind on those lazy afternoons when he was likely to be found around the Church and its ministers.

Oscar’s ordination took place in Rome and he stayed a little while longer to continue his studies in theology. In 1943, however, things were becoming increasingly tense on the geopolitical scale and Oscar was summoned to return to El Salvador. When he finally made it home–he was held and detained occasionally because of his presence in Mussolini’s Italy during World War II–he began to serve the Church as best he knew how. Eventually, this entailed becoming bishop and even archbishop in El Salvador. His appointment to these positions of power was not always well received because he was not fully invested in the liberation theology that was so popular in El Salvador at the time. Further, he seemed to have no Marxist leanings and Marxism was becoming more and more popular with the less politically conservative members of the priesthood in Latin America. Everything changed, though, when Oscar’s friend Rutilio Grande was assassinated for advocating for the poor and politically undesirable.

Oscar had been a friend of the poor for years but not the extent of Rutilio. With the deafening thunder of the machine guns that made a martyr of Rutilio, Oscar was awakened to the incredible struggle that was already going on in El Salvador. He would later explain that Rutilio’s death impressed upon him that Rutilio’s cause had been good and just. In other words, the martyrdom of Rutilio Grande convinced Oscar Romero that the poor and disenfranchised were worth dying for. As archbishop, he was called to shepherd the People of God and care for its ministers. When Oscar realized that both were being killed, he said,”When the church hearts the cry of the oppressed it cannot but denounce the social structures that give rise to and perpetuate the misery from which the cry arises.” He wrote letters to Jimmy Carter–the President of the United States of America–asking that the United States stop sending money to the Salvadoran government because of the injustice that was being perpetrated with those funds. As he further invested himself in the life of the people he began to be questioned about why he would agree to do this since it likely meant he was signing his own death warrant. He responded, “I am bound, as a pastor, by divine command to give my life for those whom I love, and that is all Salvadorans, even those who are going to kill me.”

In 1980, he was officiating the Mass at a chapel and knew he was woefully under protected according to the security expectations of world leaders. Yet, he understood his calling to be a matter of commitment regardless of danger or potential cost. Just a few days before, he had told a reporter what it was he wanted to say to any who might be planning on killing him: “You can tell the people that if they succeed in killing me, that I forgive and bless those who do it. Hopefully, they will realize they are wasting their time. A bishop will die, but the church of God, which is the people, will never perish.” As he lifted the bread during the Eucharist the doors at the back of the chapel were flung open and gunfire was heard. A single bullet hit Oscar in the heart as he lifted the bread above his head and spoke of a God who loved the world–the poor and the rich, the powerful and the hopeless–enough to die for it. He had been executed by one of the governing body’s death squads. At his funeral, they threw bombs into the crowd–numbering nearly 250,000–and snipers fired into the panicked masses. The struggle was not over but Oscar had played his part well and with passion. He died a martyr and drew the attention of world leaders who began to suspect that something wasn’t right in El Salvador. He purchased this attention with his blood.

Peter O’Higgins, Though Criminal

The following was written by Joshua for Telling the Stories that Matter.

William Pilsworth was the vicar of the Church of Ireland in Donadea and had given room and board to Roman Catholic friars even though they disagreed on some theological matters. In 1641, there was a rebellion on Ireland and many fled the countryside to find refuge in Dublin. William was one of the last to do so and was detained by the rebel army outside of Dublin. When they searched his things they found a letter from a brother-in-law who asked William to kill a rebel and bring the head with him so that their family might purchase security from the powerful by spilling the blood of the hated. Though William had done no such thing and had no plans to do so, he was given a political choice: attend a Roman Catholic mass as an ally or die as an enemy.He refused to be manipulated and so he was marched to the gallows. Before the trapdoor released and William could plunge to his death, a Roman Catholic priest by the name of Peter O’Higgins intervened. Peter had never met William and knew nothing of him but gave a detailed and impassioned speech insisting that this execution would be an unholy and reprehensible act. Having been chastised by Peter O’Higgins, William’s captors released him.

The protestant government soon cracked down on the rebellion and moved into the area with speed and vicious efficiency. Peter remained in his parish even though he had been advised to flee the expected vengeance against Roman Catholics in the area. He was arrested and turned over to the military powers. The commander of the force, a man by the name of Ormonde, handed him on down the line to a lesser officer but expected that the Peter–a Dominican priest–would find mercy from those in whose hands he found himself.Almost twenty protestant clergymen wrote letters begging mercy and leniency for Peter but these appear to be ignored. He was beaten, abused, tortured, and finally marched to the gallows to die. He was accused of trying to convinced protestants to give up their protest but could only be found guilty of simply being Roman Catholic.When he stood on the gallows, he was presented with two pieces of paper: one was a warrant for his execution and the other was a pardon to be given to him on the condition that he recanted his faith.He had requested that the pardon be printed up for him to consider upon the gallows and his accusers had complied.

The assembled crowd looked on as Peter considered both documents. They couldn’t decide what they wanted more: to see the priest die or to see the priest sacrifice his faith for his life. They had long ago left behind devotion to the one who was the Bread of Life. He picked up the pardon and some in the crowd were excited as they imagined he would now recant his position and join with the protestants. Instead, he spoke loudly and for all to hear: “For some time I was in doubt as t the charge on which they would ground my condemnation; but, thanks to heaven, it is no longer so; and I am about to die for my attachment to the catholic faith. See you here the condition on which I might save my life? Apostasy is all they require; but, before high heaven, I spurn their offers, and with my last breath will glorify God for the honor he has done me, in allowing me thus to suffer for his name.” With these words, he threw the pardon to the dirt below the gallows. The trapdoor was released and he was hung for refusing to give up on his faith–the faith that this accusers claimed but had long ago forgotten. This was not a protestant or Roman Catholic faith alone; it was a faith that transcended political labels and rested solely in devotion to Jesus. As he slowly died at the end of the rope–and even as they were preparing to kill Peter–William Pilsworth stood at his feet repeatedly yelling: “This man is innocent! He saved my life!” Peter O’Higgins died on the 23rd day of March in the year 1642.

Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, Hospitable Monk

The following was written by Joshua for Telling the Stories that Matter.

When Cuthbert was a boy in Northumbria he didn’t have a father (since his father had died when Cuthbert was very young) but he did have many friends to spend countless hours with in the countryside. As was and is the case with boys of that age, they spent much of their time competing against each other in games and silly contests. They had footraces and wrestling matches. They goaded each other into doing foolish and silly things. In short, they did the things that boys do in their youth and tell increasingly fantastical stories of for the rest of their lives. One day, however, a boy barely old enough to be out with them and nowhere near old enough to compete or keep up with them approached the boys as Cuthbert held one of his friends down on the ground. The group of boys were excited to watch the wrestling match and were not surprised to see Cuthbert win since he was the best wrestler and most athletic among them. The boy–barely older than a toddler–started crying as he watched Cuthbert wrestle. The other boys were shocked–and to be honest a little embarrassed–at the little one’s tears. The boy said, “Cuthbert, stop being so silly and quit goofing around like this.” The crowd of boys jeered and laughed at him hoping that this would convince the little one to leave but he continued weeping. Cuthbert’s soft heart was stung by this and so he took the boy to the side and tried to soothe him. The boy said, “Cuthbert, showing off like that isn’t right for a holy bishop and priest like yourself.” As Cuthbert walked home that night, he reflected on the boy’s words and wondered if there was a hint of prophecy in them–was he really destined to be a priest and bishop?

Many years later, he was shepherding the flocks of his employer at night. It was the 31st day of August in the year 651 and Cuthbert was resting beneath a tree and looking up at the starry sky in wonder. Again his mind was drifting to questions of “calling” and “destiny” as his colleagues and friends told jokes and stories nearby under another tree. Suddenly, Cuthbert was amazed to see a bright orb descend to earth with piercing clarity. A moment later it rose more slowly while seeming to accompany another flaming orb back to the heavens before disappearing. Immediately, Cuthbert’s mind went to angelic visitation and the faith that his widowed mother had given to him. He rushed to ask his friends if they had seen it. He insisted that some great man or woman must have just died and their soul was taken up to heaven by one of God’s angels. When he entered the town the next day he asked around and found out that the revered Aidan of Lindisfarne had passed the night before and immediately Cuthbert knew what he had seen–the retrieval of the soul of Aidan. He dropped his shepherd’s crook and went to a nearby monastery. Soon thereafter he took vows and became a monk.

As Cuthbert served in the Church he became known for being gentle and hospitable even in the face of strong opposition. When the Synod of Whitby finally concluded that the Celtic churches must come into agreement with the Roman way of things it was Cuthbert that helped broker reconciliation by insisting that unity was more important than marginal disagreement. Through hospitality and furious love, Cuthbert was able to mend the wounds of the Church. Eventually, he became prior of his monastery and he served the Church well by taking care of the monks that he had been entrusted with. At one point he even became a hermit. He lived on an island by himself but was rarely alone due to the constant stream of visitors who came to seek his counsel, blessing, or healing prayers. Cuthbert accepted his visitors with a kind and welcoming heart even as he hoped for a little solitude in which he might worship the God who had called him from a young age to be a servant. Finally, he was called from his island to become bishop and serve the Church by overseeing its monks and ministers. He was reluctant but willing to accept this calling and served in the position capably for many years. At the end of his life a group of monks were sent to the island where he was living to take care of him in his final days. Having known that they were coming, the severely ill Cuthbert had dragged himself down to the beach to greet the men. When asked why he had come so far to greet them he had insisted that he wanted to save them the time and hassle of searching him out since they had never before visited Cuthbert’s little island. He finally died after being bishop–a ministry he had been called to from his youth–for only two years. In those years he distributed alms, prayed for the sick and worked many wonders in the surrounding countryside of Lindisfarne. He died on the 20th day of March in the year 687.

G+M Worship – March 18, 2012 (Lent 4b)

The following is the liturgy used by Grace and Main Fellowship in its service of prayers and worship on March 18, 2012. It was written by Joshua Hearne and was also posted at Third Chance Ministries.

————

Worship on the Fourth Sunday in Lent – March 18, 2012

Lighting of the Christ Candle

C.H. Spurgeon, the 19th century British preacher thought to have preached to over 10 million people in his lifetime, once preached, “What was there in the world that God should love it? There was nothing lovable in it. No fragrant flower grew in that arid desert. Enmity to him, hatred to his truth, disregard of his law, rebellion against his commandments; those were the thorns and briars which covered the waste land; but no desirable thing blossomed there. Yet, ‘God loved the world,’ says the text; ‘so’ loved it, that even the writer of the book of John could not tell us how much; but so greatly, so divinely, did he love it that he gave his Son, his only Son, to redeem the world from perishing, and to gather out of it a people to his praise.”

The Offering and Receiving of Blessings

The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Even as we journey to the cross : let us raise our voices in song.

 

Song: Come, Ye Sinners

 

O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever.

 

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.
Some were sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities endured affliction;
they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress;
he sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.
And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.

 

O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever.

Numbers 21:4-9

O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever.
John 3:14-21
O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever.

Ephesians 2:1-10

O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever.

Group Reflection on the Scripture

C.H. Spurgeon once preached about the brazen serpent in the book of Numbers, “Ah, so said some in the camp; they said it was only a brazen serpent, not a golden one, and how could a brazen serpent be of any use to them? It would not sell for much if it were broken up. What was the use of it? And so men say of Christ. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and they hide their faces from him because they cannot see how he is adapted for their cure. ”

 

Prayers for Others

The Lord’s Prayer

 

Lord God who is lifted up before the world on a cross of our own construction, we pray that you will grant peace, forgiveness, grace, and courage to all who call upon you. Show us how you have moved in our lives and to what you are calling us as we draw nearer to your cross and seek to carry our own crosses. Amen.

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you : wherever he may send you.
May he guide you through the wilderness : protect you through the storm.
May he bring you home rejoicing : at the wonders he has shown you.
May he bring you home rejoicing : once again into our doors.

Amen.

 


Patrick of Ireland, Servant to his Enemies

The following was written by Joshua for Telling the Stories that Matter.

Patrick’s father was a leader in his community and was named Calpornius. He was a deacon in the congregation they attended in Wales. Calpornius’ father–Patrick’s grandfather–was named Potitus and he was a priest in the area where they grew up. He offered the sacraments and mysteries of the Church to those who had ears to hear and eyes to see. Patrick had roots within the Church and found himself drawn to the ministry that his father and grandfather had likewise felt themselves called to. He was receiving an education that would likely end up with him becoming yet another member of his family in service to the Church when one day he was kidnapped by Celtic bandits and slavers on the Western coast of Wales. They forced him into chains and carried him back aboard their ship so that they might force young Patrick–only sixteen years old–to work for the highest bidder. In this case, he was bought by a man who made him a shepherd by trade. Patrick ended up on some lonely hillside–a stranger in a strange land–watching over sheep that were not his own.

 

For his six years as a slave to Celtic leaders he was mostly in isolation on some verdant Irish hillside. Since he was alone as he worked he began praying to himself. He began with the prayers he had learned as a child and these expanded into his own spontaneous prayers. He sang songs and hymns to sustain himself as he spent many lonely night with only sheep and goats for company. Finally, he began to hear God speak of liberation and escape. He heard a voice saying he would soon be free. A few days later a voice told him his ship was waiting for him and so he fled from his master that very day. He travelled for some time and through harsh conditions until he arrived at a port in eastern Ireland (200 miles from the place of his captivity). He boarded the ship and finally returned to his home in Wales. They greeted him with joy and gladness and toasted his return but after the parties had faded Patrick came to the stunning realization that he had missed six years of his life. All of his peers were well into their professions and careers and he had fallen woefully far behind in his education. His dreams of becoming a minister like all of the others had been shattered aboard the slaver ship that had stolen him away.Patrick ended up in the home of family–a stranger in a familiar land–watching his friends go on without him.

 

He didn’t know what to do with his life but he couldn’t shake the strong calling he felt upon his life. As he was adrift in his life and uncertain how he should continue he had a vision. In the vision a man named Victoricus came striding across the Irish Sea toward Patrick. In Victoricus’ hands were many scrolls. Each scrolls was a letter–written to a certain person–and he was handing them out to those God had called to serve. Patrick waited eagerly in his vision and received a scroll titled “The Voice of the Irish.” In it he heard the laments of the Irish people who begged the former slave to come back and bring the Gospel that taught love for enemies and forgiveness from all sins. He must have wondered if this wasn’t a mistake to be sent back to the people who had enslaved him as a missionary. Yet, as he reflected upon the vision he became more and more certain that God was calling him to be a missionary to the Irish. So, he went–one of the first Christian missionaries to leave the Roman Empire. Patrick ended up in some foreign boat on his way back to Ireland–a stranger crossing the Irish Sea–following after a calling that God had given him.

 

Patrick baptized thousands of people in Ireland as he brought his own particular style of preaching and teaching to them. He did not have the same education as his many peers and colleagues but he knew well the people he had been called to serve. He confronted Celtic warlords with bravery and courage knowing that they would respect him for it and want to know what faith he held that gave him such courage. He brought the faith to the Irish in a way that mediated the sacraments and mysteries of the Church to a people unfamiliar with the history and symbols of the Body of Christ. Patrick became the vehicle by which the grace of God was translated into Irish hearts. He ordained thousands and became a bishop missionary welcome in countless homes throughout the hills of Ireland. Patrick ended up in the land of his enslavement–a hero in a beloved land–watching over sheep that had become his own.