John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, is one of the few theologians who has a theology of perfection. He believed and preached that all Christians could reach perfection in this life and should always work towards this. Without going into too much detail of how Wesley came to this position or his theological understanding of perfection, I would like to look at ways to move deeper into our relationship with God. Like any relationship, if one of the persons involved stops being intentional or invests only minimally in the relationship, the relationship can become static or even fail. This is often much to the surprise of the one who thought everything was fine and there was no need to be intentional in maintaining or growing the relationship.
Discipleship, our relationship with Jesus, naturally grows over time because God is always intentionally invested and working on the relationship. Lent is a time we look at how we are investing in the relationship in response to God’s love and examine if we are intentionally moving towards that perfect relationship. Like most relationships, the deeper we go into our relationship with God, the richer and fuller we find it to be. Sometimes a birth, death or other major life altering event causes us to recognize how precious a given relationship is but those events can overly stress a relationship if care and attention has not been given before.
The United Methodist Church has provided a tool to help open a path for discussion and reflection as individuals and congregations, on how we can be more intentional about our relationship with Jesus. The tool gives us words to talk about our “Life of Worship,” “A Life of Hospitality,” “A Life Open to Jesus,” “A Life Obeying Jesus,” “A Life of Service,” and “A Life of Generosity.” As shared in our recent joint Board of Stewards and Program Council meeting, the link if you would like to explore this tool is http://discipleshipsurvey.com/member.html. Each person is asked to create their own account/access. Where it asks for the district, we are the Las Misiones district and the name of the church is under SAnt: Laurel Heights. Our specific code is HOPEANDJOY. All your answers are anonymous.
In addition, I have been invited to help those interested in deepening their relationship with Jesus find disciplines to explore. It could be that the discipleship tool caused you to be curious about some area in your faith relationship. I will be drawing from a spiritual staple of mine written by Richard J. Foster and Kathryn A. Yanni titled “Celebration of Discipline: the Path to Spiritual Growth.” The book, study guide and journal can all be found on Amazon. During worship, I will be preaching on six of the disciplines and how they relate to the scriptures appointed for each of the six Sundays in Lent and Easter Sunday: Prayer and Luke 4:1-13, Meditation and Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18, Fasting and Isaiah 55:1-9, Worship and Luke 15:11b-32, Service and John 12:1-8, Submission and the Palm/Passion readings from Luke and Celebration on Easter Sunday reading from Luke 24:1-12.
These are just a few of the 25 options and exercises offered for us to explore in this one book. There are many more. A study sheet will be provided each week to encourage each person to find a level of accountability. In this way these services will reflect what Wesley referred to as “Class Meetings” where larger groups met weekly to learn the basics of faith and hold each other accountable in love. You may want to form a smaller group of (four to five) people with a spiritual coach you trust and respect to explore these disciplines together with a more intense focus on faith training and accountability in what Wesley referred to as “bands.”
Every meaningful relationship deserves attention and nurturing. These are just a few options for you to explore during Lent to encourage a deeper relationship with the one who cannot love you more deeply.