5 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
18: be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Today is not the day for long sermons: it is rather the time for catching up with people we have not seen for a while / for sharing our summer stories / and enjoying the last of the days of summer.
I am going to teach us a tagline used by the United Methodist Church: Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors. These are the three the headings to my sermon:
Do you remember the moment you fell in love: that moment when someone special touched your heart?
- It might have been your first love in Grade school. Or maybe you fell in love with that great love of your life.
- It might also have been the moment that your grandchild was placed in your arms
- It might even have been the moment when you held a puppy or a kitten.
We all know of moments when our hearts were opened up to the experience of love.
John Wesley, the man who began the Methodist movement, had such a moment in his life: He records in his journal that on May 24, 1738 his heart was “strangely warmed”. This description is something we can all identify with – a moment when our heart opens up to the emotions of loving and being loved.
This is a cornerstone of our United Methodist Church: we are people of open hearts. Ephesians 5:2 says: “walk in love, as Christ loved us”.
We are people whose hearts are open to receive the love of God.
And we are people whose hearts are open to sharing that love with everyone who meets us.
Let me tell you a Story: of a moment in my life when as a young man serving in the military, I learned something new about God: I was a new recruit and the sergeant came into our barracks and asked who had a drivers licence. And I was the idiot who put his hand up. That sergeant handed me a broom and said “Here – drive this around the camp chapel”. So there I was – resentfully sweeping out the chapel – when I had an overwhelming experience of God’s love for me. There was no service with great music, no carefully staged moment of spiritual blessing, and no great preacher: just me and a dusty broom: but God’s love touched me.
Let me be clear: I was not expecting God to show up! But God opened my mind to hear a call to a new chapter in my life – a call which led me out of the military, and which became the beginning of my life as a Methodist Pastor.
Ephesians 5:20 invites us to “give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Let us be willing to embrace everything that comes our way: and maybe, while we are sweeping up the remains of our day – we will discover that God’s love is holding us.
The second building block of our United Methodist faith: to have an open mind. Be open to learning new things. Be ready to grow and mature in your faith.
And in the same way – let us be open to allow other people their own encounter with God. God comes to each person as God chooses: let us open our minds and be willing to discover God at work in ways we do not expect.
We welcome everyone who wants to worship God. This is deep within our bones as United Methodist People: it began when John Wesley was a preacher in England. At that time the church was divided into superior people and inferior people. Everyone paid for their seat in church – the more expensive seats in the front, and the seats for the poor at the back. As a result, people in front were the royalty, and the wealthy – and the people in the last row were the poor. John Wesley brought people out of the gutters of London into church – and discovered that those who could not pay for their seats were not welcome because there was nowhere for them to sit.
So he took his church services out into the fields. The Methodist people met in parks, and in graveyards, and in coal mines: because John Wesley said that Christian worship should be open to all who want to worship God. Ephesians 5:19 invites us to address “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart”
The last building block of our United Methodist faith is that of “Open Doors”. Everyone is welcome to worship.
Let me close with this thought: if you have felt welcome here – then your understanding is shown in the way you welcome other people.
The fact is:
“You will never look in the eyes of someone who God does not love”
This church is not a liberal church, or a conservative church
We are not an old people’s church or a young person’s church
We are not a white church or a black church
We are God’s church – and everyone is welcome to join us
Because we have open doors.
Jesus did not chase people away – and neither will we”.
So the United Methodist Church has a byline: Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.