John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, identified the major threat to the vitality of the Spirit’s movement in the new church as “the growing prosperity of the Methodists.” Wesley’s experience was that an increase in wealth resulted in a decrease in the reliance on grace, a lack of discipline, and separation from the poor. He believed Christians had to look the poor in the eyes frequently, intentionally. In fact, Wesley believed Christians should not strive to love and help the poor from a superior position, but to actually live as simply as possible so that we could actually be with and learn from the poor. At the point we Christians truly understand the situation of the poor from their vantage point, we.see.Christ.
[Christ] who, though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave ~Philippians 2:6-7
Christ is the slave standing in front of us! Right there in the midst of the everydayedness of the poor, we will find Him. He is not usually prominent in places of prosperity. While on earth, He was born in a stable, He had no home, He ministered to outcasts, He was crucified between two thieves and was buried in a barrowed tomb. Jesus calls us to the poor because He wants us to be like Him, and that is where He spends His time.
Last week at the School of Christian Mission with my granddaughters, I was spurred on to work for social justice, reconciliation and system change. I am so thankful for my heritage in Methodism. John Wesley lived on 30 pounds per year and when he died he had only pocket change to his name. He believed he was to live in such a way that everyone’s needs could be met until Jesus came again to make all things new.
All the elements…will be new, indeed entirely changed as to their qualities, although not as to their nature….All the earth shall then be a more beautiful paradise than Adam ever saw….He that sitteth upon the throne will soon change the face of all things, and give demonstrative proof to all his creatures that his mercy is over all his works.
But until that day, Wesley believed the foundation of our faith rested in the poor.
Religion must not go from the greatest to the least, or the power would appear to be of men.
So this morning I awaken and think about what this Parish Nurse will do. I have a van load of supplies from my friend who is a Bayada Home Health Pediatric Nurse manager. She told all her clients that if they have left over supplies to give them to her because I had a place they could be used. Three times now I have loaded my van with supplies and it has only been a month since she sent out the call. There is a fortune in medical supplies here, I can assure you. The special formula in the cases that I have a picture of here are probably worth $1000.00 retail. These will be loaded into cargo containers for shipment anywhere in the US or world where people need them.
I took this van load of supplies over to the Sojourner Truth soup kitchen, a drop-off place for anyone wanting to give supplies to Mission Central, our United Methodist Mission distribution center. I drove up and they were having breakfast going on. Sister Valinda yelled to two young men to unload my van and told me they were making a trip to Mission Central that very afternoon! Yeah!
In 1731 as a young professor at Oxford, Wesley began to limit his expenses so that he would have more money to give to the poor. He records that one year his income was 30 pounds and his living was 28 pounds so that he had 2 pounds to give away. The next year his income doubled, but he still managed to live on 28 pounds and gave 32 pounds away. In the third year his income jumped to 90 pounds, but he kept his expenses to 28 pounds and gave 62 pounds away.
In 1744 Wesley wrote, “[When I die] if I leave behind me ten pounds…you and all mankind [may] bear witness against me, that I have lived and died a thief and a robber.” When he died in 1791, the only money mentioned in his will was the miscellaneous coins to be found in his pockets and dresser drawers.
I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses,