Sermon preached by Dr.Francis Henman at the Circuit Farewell Service for The Revd.Jeongsook Kim at St.Johns Methodist Church, Nottingham on the 24th of July 2016.
Text “Again, a second time, the voice spoke to him, ‘What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane’ ” Acts 10 v.15. (JB)
Peter was having an exhausting week. Things had not gone at all as he had expected. A few days earlier he had received an emergency summons to visit Jaffa where a leading member of the Christian community – Dorcas – had died suddenly. Peter found himself raising her back to life. A few days later Peter was on the flat roof praying and meditating. It was nearly lunch time, and the cooking smells from the kitchen below drifted up to him and distracted him. He fell asleep and had a strange dream or vision. A sheet containing all sorts of animals appeared before him, and he was told to kill and eat. But everything on the sheet was forbidden as food to Jews, so Peter refused following an automatic reflex. Three times this happened and each time the voice chided Peter, ‘What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane’. Almost immediately there were visitors at the door of the house asking for Peter to go to Caesarea to visit a Roman Centurion named Cornelius. Inspired by his vision Peter went and the first non-Jewish family was converted to Christianity. Peter had had to learn that God’s love and care has no boundaries. He wants all humans to have fellowship with Him.
This message was central to the Methodist revival. It is at the heart of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral :- All need to be saved; All can be saved, All can be saved to the uttermost; and All can know that they are saved. Charles Wesley’s hymns are full of the repeated word ‘All’.
Love, like death, has all destroyed,
Rendered all distinctions void;
Names, and sects, and parties fall:
Thou, O Christ, art all in all. [H&P 764 v.5] or
Mercy for all be all their song,
Mercy which every soul may claim,
Mercy which doth to all belong,
Mercy for all in Jesu’s name. [H&P 772 v.7] or
You all may find favour who come at His call:
O come to my Saviour! His grace is for all. [H&P 805 v2 lines 3-4]
The Wesleys concerns were for all and for all their needs. They had no thoughts of pre-destination,no selectivity by class or wealth. They were as at home preaching to the miners of Kingswood as the intellectuals of Oxford. They established an orphanage in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Education from the most elementary 3 Rs in slum conditions, to training his preachers. Wherever he went, John Wesley ran medical clinics with state of the art electrical treatments available! This was part of the secret of their success.
In the recent years when I functioned as a Pharmacist on the edge of St. Anne’s in a shop where the staff beside me were Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim, and our customers included addicts, prostitutes, poor and wealthy, I learnt a lot! We all respected each others’ beliefs and one of my best experiences was when the proprietor’s brother told me that knowing me had led to a deepening, and better understanding, of his own Hindu faith.
Following the recent referendum we must fight hard to prevent any ill treatment of any minority in our land. God is the creator of all that is, so all humans are His children. All are our brothers and sisters. All must be treated fairly with respect and honour, whatever their nationality, religion, ethnicity or skin colour.
We have already noted that Peter’s vision came to him when he had gone up on the roof to pray. But if you read the story in Acts you will also find that Cornelius prayed frequently. Indeed the vision, that inspired him to send to Joppa to ask Peter to come, resulted from Cornelius’ devout prayer life. The life of the individual believer, and indeed of the Church itself, develops as a result of the devotional life of individuals. We must be open to the guidance of God. Prayer must be a two way business in which we not only tell God our concerns, but we are open for God to guide our thoughts and inspire us to new actions. Sometimes we are slow to take God’s inspiration on board. Peter had to be shown the vision of the sheet three times, and he only understood the message when Cornelius’ servants came knocking at the door. It is through a regular devotional prayer life that we place ourselves in the position to hear and understand God’s messages to each one of us. When you switch on the radio you will only be able to hear the programme if you have tuned it in to the correct wavelength, and set the aerial at the correct angle and pointing in the right direction. Our devotonal life aligns us to God. Otherwise it is more difficult for Him to get through to us.
It seems to me that this story has especial value to British Christians at this time. Since the referendum there has been a sharp increase in racial nastiness throughout the UK. People who have come into our country from other places have been given cause to wonder whether they are still welcome here. This is most regrettable – indeed it is totally unacceptable. Our country has always been accepting migrants from other places. If each one of us could look back far enough into our past ancestors we would find a forebear who came here from elsewhere. Some people tell me that the Henmans came with William the Conqueror as his Henchmen – that is people who cared for his Henches (or horses)! The diversity and talents of migrants have been a constant source of strength to our nation and its institutions. Our health service for example depends on many born and trained outside these islands. All that is true for every UK citizen. But as Christians we are taught to love and care for every human being whatever their race, religion, culture, colour or sexuality. Jesus Himself taught this by example and teaching such as the parable of the good Samaritan. Our text taught Peter that he must take the teaching and love of Jesus to those outside his own ethnic background. And when the Church in Jerusalem sought to censor Peter’s action in visiting, preaching to, and baptising Cornelius the Roman Centurion, his family, household and friends; Peter told them of his vision and of how the Holy Spirit had come to them just as Peter had received it at Whitsuntide. The Jerusalem Church accepted Peter’s word and rejoiced that God is sharing His love and grace with the Gentiles.
So in our present situation each of us must do all in our power to counteract, oppose and nullify any disparaging words or actions against any whose origins lie outside these islands. As our text says:- ‘What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane’
I believe the message of Peter’s vision has added relevance to you – Jeongsook. You are leaving us for a very special and searching position. I understand your new ministry will be in the vicinity of the Olympic Stadium in North London. I do not envy you going to London, but the particular part you are going to is one of the most racially diverse and culturally diverse any where in this nation. I, personally, will miss your intelligent and thoughtful preaching born out of your very good and well trained brain. I am grateful for your care when Margaret died. You have very great gifts. But I’m sure the connexion feels that, since you have been able to come to England from South Korea and make a success of living and working in a culture very different to that in which you grew up, you are especially well placed to serve in the most diverse place to which you are going. I am sure it will be very testing, but you are not going alone. The Lord will be with you. Through St. Paul He promised each of us
“You can trust God not to let you be tried beyond your strength, and with every trial He will give you a way out of it and the strength to bear it.” [I Cor. 10 v.13b. (JB)].
As you settle in the local community I am sure you will remember our text ‘What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane’. You will give true respect & honour to all you meet, whatever their race, religion, culture or sexuality or colour. You will show the universal love and care demonstrated by Jesus in His life on earth, and so you will bring honour to our Lord and help to counteract any hostility those you meet may have experienced.
But it will not all be testing problems. You will be near enough to get to know Wesley’s Chapel, and your musical soul may benefit from popping into St. Paul’s Cathedral to enjoy the beauty of the singing as you sit in the choir and hear Choral Evensong echoing round that wonderful building. It will lift your soul and inspire you to great things. It might even go some way to counteract the difficulties and pressures that living near the centre of London will bring.
Jeongsook, we send you into whatever the future may hold for you, with our love, our confidence in you, and our prayers for you. We are confident that, as John Wesley said, “Best of all, God is with us!” So do not forget us, and when you can, send God a prayer for us!
Visit to Epworth on 5/09 2015
John was born in 1703, the fifteenth child and second son of the Rev Samuel Wesley, Anglican rector of Epworth, and his wife, Susanna. They had 19 children but only seven daughters and three sons, Samuel Jr, John and Charles survived.
Susanna instilled in them the methodical approach that would later characterise her son’s approach to religion.
In 1709 their original family house was destroyed by fire. John aged only five had to be dramatically rescued: a brand plucked from the burning; as Susanna called him. The Epworth Rectory was rebuilt and the Wesley’s lived there until Samuel died in 1735.
Their new house is presented to recreate family in the 18th century, with a ‘psychic garden’ of medicinal plants and culinary herbs.
After more than a decade of spiritual searching, in May 1738 John had a spiritual experience that convinced him of the truth of his salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. He began to preach that this salvation was available to everyone.
In 1739, a fellow member of the Holy Club, turned Methodist preacher, George Whitefield invited John start open-air preaching in Bristol. There John built the first Methodist building, for preaching and as lodging for his rapidly expanding band of travelling preachers, but also as a medical dispensary.
Charles, after also experiencing an evangelical conversion, became an influential Methodist preacher and a prolific hymn writer.
Unintentionally, John founded a world-wide communion which has not betrayed his vision. He never forgot that he owed all to a crucified God. He held together law and grace, faith and works, and lived his whole life in the truth that though one must lose oneself in God, one must never lose one’s neighbour.
In the 21st-century, the Methodist Church in Britain continues to be a movement Christians intent on discipleship: introducing people to the love of Christ, nurturing faith and engaged in action for social justice at home and abroad… Liz.Dodoo.
My pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
12th -20th November 2015.
I was in a group of 40 Christians, mostly from the Methodist churches around London, organised by the Methodist minister and two other ministers from the Pentecostal churches.
Going to, and actually setting foot on the land of Israel had a very special significance for me. As a Christian, I try to follow the footsteps of Jesus metaphorically and spiritually, I had not thought that I would also actually tread when he physically trod. So I was full of excitement.
We flew from Heathrow to Tel Aviv airport at 08.10 hours and arrived at 15.10 local time. We met our representative, an experienced local English-speaking guide who helped transfer us to Bethlehem Hotel in Bethlehem. Every morning we were woken up at 5.30, had breakfast at 6.30 and by 8 o’clock we set off on our tour bus.
We visited the following places:
- Ein Karem, Bethlehem- the home of Zachariah and Elizabeth, the parents of St John the Baptist.
- Beth-Phage, Mount of Olives. Mount Zion.
- Masada and the dead Sea
- The Garden Tomb, Western Wall, the Way of the Cross.
- Jericho, Cana, Yardenit.
In the Church at Cana couples who had already indicated to renew their wedding vows had the opportunity to do so. We left Cana and continued to Yardenit, the baptism site where I together with others, had the opportunity to renew our baptismal vows.
Other places we visited were Nazareth, Holy Caves, Mount Precipice, Mount Tabor, the Sea of Galilee, Chorazin, and Haifa.
Visiting places I have read about in the Bible from childhood, such as Nazareth and Bethlehem, brought the Bible close home and its accounts very real.
I was so spiritually inspired I have decided to go again next year, God willing. Liz Dodoo.
My pulpit journey.
My journey to leading worship.
I was a teenager when I joined a Methodist Church choir in Ghana. I was initially attracted to the choir robes and loved the hymns. Increasingly I got very involved and played several roles during special services. On my way to choir practice in the evenings, I walked through dark and quiet road encouraging myself by singing a song which translates ‘Don’t be afraid, I am with you. Be courageous because you are walking with the Lord.’ I would hear that something horrible that happened on that same route a few hours before or after I had passed there. This gave me confidence that the Lord did walk with me. I did not realise then that this was preparing me for the future, as this assurance has shaped my life, to date, that I am never alone.
When I came to England, I didn’t take to the Methodist Church, because those I attended did not have choirs. I did not feel spiritually fulfilled. Eventually I became a founding member of Pentecostal Church in London, of Ghana origin. To help promote the spirituality of the members we learnt about the Holy Spirit and met often to fast and pray. Additionally I joined its prayer group where we experienced healing and other positive answers to prayer. I felt a strong passion for intercessory service, and drawn to pastoral work.
When I moved to Nottingham, I continued to worship in a Pentecostal church. One day I attended a funeral service at Mapperley Methodist Church. I don’t know what, but I felt this was where I now wanted to worship. It was like going to where it had all begun. I took a course in worship leading so I could continue with what I was used to, praying with and for other people. Jesus Christ once said, ‘the wind blows wherever it wishes’ (John 3vs.8) I know how far have come; where he leads me, there I will follow. Liz.Dodoo.