“Walking in the Light!”
(From 1 John 1: 5-9)
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Happy Easter Church! Some of you may be thinking, “But Easter was last Sunday, Pastor Claudia!” Well, I am here to tell you today that Easter is not just one day, but a whole season of celebrating the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus. Don’t pack away your Alleluias and Easter songs, because the Easter Season has just begun! It begins with a joyous Easter morning celebration, like the one we had on our lawn last Sunday, and it runs all the way through the day of Pentecost, which is on May 23 this year. In scripture, the number 40 often signifies a season of transition and change. Easter season is a period of forty days, a time for us to transition into our new life of walking in the light of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
The symbol of our United Methodist Denomination is an empty cross and a flame. That is because we share with the world that we are an Easter people. We celebrate the empty cross as a symbol that Jesus rose from the grave, conquering sin, death and the grave once for all by this victorious event. It shows the power of God’s indescribable and unconditional love for us. Therefore, we are now a people of faith on fire with the very power and Spirit of our Lord. Thus, we have the symbol of the flame as an ever-present reminder that Christ is alive and the light of his love is aflame in our hearts and lives forever.
Paul shared with the Galatian Church that when the light and Spirit of Christ are in us, they bear good fruit in our lives. Galatians 5: 22-23 states, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Is the light and Spirit of Christ in you this Easter season bearing some good fruit in your heart and in your daily living as you transition into a fully rejoicing Easter people?
John Wesley, credited as the founder of our Methodist denomination, was often asked about the characteristics that define a Methodist. The term “Methodist” was often used as a disparaging term for the methodical manner of practicing their faith John Wesley and his followers adopted. People of his day were curious about how Methodists understood themselves and their life of faith against the backdrop of prevailing public opinion. As we consider what it means for us to be an Easter people of faith in our world today, I would like to share with you some excerpts from John Wesley’s written response to this question. Wesley writes:
THE distinguishing marks of a methodist are not his opinions of any sort. His assenting to this or that scheme of religion, his embracing any particular set of notions, his espousing the judgment of one man or of another, are all quite wide of the point. Whosoever therefore imagines, that a methodist is, a man of such or such an opinion is grossly ignorant of the whole affair, he mistakes the truth totally. We believe indeed, that all scripture is given by inspiration of God. We believe the written word of God to be the only and sufficient rule, both of christian faith and practice. We believe Christ to be the eternal supreme God. But as to all opinions which do not strike at the root of christianity, we think and let think. So that whatsoever they are, whether right or wrong, they are no distinguishing marks of a methodist.
[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 strength. God is the joy of his heart, and the desire of 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 forever!”
He is therefore happy in God, yea, always happy, as having in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life, and overflowing his soul with peace and joy. Perfect love having now cast out fear, he rejoices evermore. He rejoices in the Lord always, even in God his Saviour: And in the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom he hath now received, Abba, Father!
And while he thus always exercises his love to God, by praying without ceasing, rejoicing evermore, and in everything giving thanks, this commandment is written in his heart, that he who loveth God, loves his brother also. And he accordingly loves his neighbour as himself; his heart is full of love to all mankind, to every child of the father of the spirits of all flesh.
Agreeable to this his one desire, is the one design of his life, namely, not to do his own will, but the will of him that sent him. His one intention at all times and in all things is, not to please himself, but him whom his soul loveth. He has a single eye. And because his eye is single, his whole body is full of light.
By these marks, by these fruits of a living faith do we labour to distinguish ourselves from the unbelieving world, from all those whose minds or lives are not according to the gospel of Christ. But from real christians of whatsoever denomination they be, we earnestly desire not to be distinguished at all: Not from any, who sincerely follow after what they know they have not yet attained. No: whosoever doth the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister and mother. And I beseech you brethren, by the mercies of God, that we be in no wise divided among ourselves. For opinions or terms, let us not destroy the work of God. Dost thou love and serve God! it is enough. I give thee the right-hand of fellowship.
Let us strive together for the faith of the gospel; walking worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called; with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbear∣ing one another in love, and endeavouring to keep the unity of the spirit, in the bond of peace: there is one body and one spirit, even as we are called with one hope of our calling: One Lord, one faith, one baptism; One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all! (Excerpted from the Thomas Jackson edition of The Works of John Wesley, 1872.)
Did you take note of the many references Wesley makes to fruit of the Spirit as evidence of the Spirit’s both living in and working through us? Wesley’s discussion of the character of a Methodist includes and tends to support Paul’s conclusion in Galatians 5 that the Spirit living in us bears good fruit in our daily living. So, Peninsula United Methodist Church, an Easter people transitioning into a people aflame with the light and Spirit of Christ, I ask the historic Wesleyan question: “How goes it with your soul?” How are you doing this Easter Season of 2021? We have all been through a difficult year. But, just as the Spring season is showing us signs that God is doing something new and wonderful all around us, this Easter season reminds us that God has also done a powerful thing for us in raising Christ Jesus from death to new life. No matter how difficult the road we travel, we are not alone. God is with us, and there is nothing that can ever separate us from God’s love, as revealed to us in the life, death, and victorious resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus from the grave. We are consistently called to new opportunities to both experience and share the life-changing power of the cross of Christ. It is an empty and victorious cross aflame with light and new eternal life in his Spirit. We can possess the spiritual fruit of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,” because Christ is with us and living in us, as we continue walking in his light this very Easter season. Amen!
Hymn: “He Lives”
(words and music- Alfred H. Akley, 1933).
I serve a risen Savior, he’s in the world today; I know that He is living, whatever foes may say. I see his hand of mercy, I hear his voice of cheer, and just the time I need him, he’s always near.
Refrain: He lives, he lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He lives, he lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart.
Mission for Easter giving:
Bishop Tracy Malone is promoting a capital campaign called Teach, Reach, Bless to build a dormitory on the campus of Africa University for women students to give them an opportunity to focus on their studies and keep them safe from often dangerous commutes.
More information can be found at www.EOCUMC.com/teachreachbless/. Contributions can be made to PUMC with “Africa” in the memo line.