December 29, 2015
I want to introduce you to Andy Miller. Andy serves as Seedbed’s Director of Publishing and when it comes to creating books, he’s a Jedi Master. He started his publishing career at the United Methodist Publishing House after which he founded his own publishing company, Providence House, which he ran for twenty-five years. He is a John Wesley aficionado a Methodist historian and a true churchman. He works out of our Franklin, Tennessee, headquarters, is married to Jane and is the proud father of two and grandfather of two. You will be blessed by his entry below.
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
“The ground of our hope, and the promise of our deliverance from sin and death.” This short remembered fragment of one of the creeds of the church has been on my mind constantly the last couple of weeks leading up to Christmas. While the words are quite familiar I couldn’t exactly put my finger on where they came from. I knew it was from somewhere in the worship part of the Methodist hymnal—but which reading exactly? It’s not part of the Apostles’ Creed, and not from the communion ritual or baptism or membership vows. Yet I can hear myself reciting the words with the congregation in worship.
The other morning I finally got serious about finding out which commonly recited liturgy contained this beautiful phrase. To my surprise it is from “A Modern Affirmation,” a creedal statement that was commonly read in the congregation I grew up in—but I’m almost sure I haven’t heard or recited it since the 1970s. Here’s the whole reading, some of us could probably repeat it in unison right now:
A Modern Affirmation
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is the one true Church, apostolic and universal, whose holy faith let us now declare:
Minister and People:
We believe in God the Father, infinite in wisdom, power and love, whose mercy is over all his works, and whose will is ever directed to his children’s good.
We believe in Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of man, the gift of the Father’s unfailing grace, the ground of our hope, and the promise of our deliverance from sin and death. [emphasis added by me]
We believe in the Holy Spirit as the divine presence in our lives, whereby we are kept in perpetual remembrance of the truth of Christ, and find strength and help in time of need.
We believe that this faith should manifest itself in the service of love as set forth in the example of our blessed Lord, to the end that the kingdom of God may come upon the earth.
The constant of recalling of a short phrase like that is quite unusual for me so I started to really take it to heart. I feel like Jesus has been speaking to me through this ultra condensed distillation of the Gospel. Jesus is the ground of our hope and the promise of our deliverance from sin and death. There’s a lot packed in here. Jesus is my foundation. He is my hope . . . He is my promise . . . He is my deliverer—from my natural sinfulness and from today’s actual sins . . . and death—from today’s living death and saving me from a possible future of eternal death.
As the days moved on toward Christmas and I was going through the usual motions of getting ready for experiences of worship and family sharing I found myself focusing more and more on Jesus. What an unimaginable act that God did through His incarnation so that each of us throughout all time can be reconciled to Him, filled with holy love, indwelt by His Holy Spirit, and made truly and alive—both now and in eternity.
Knowing and believing this to be true is one thing; living joyfully in the experience of it is something else entirely. So how do we get there? Of all people, the Wesleyans have communal practices that awaken the heart to these divine stirrings—intimate “bands” of brothers or sisters who will help us do life together. Don’t each of us need just a few folks who know us totally, will love us anyway, and will hold us accountable to our vow to grow ever deeper in our experience of the love of Jesus and the restoring power of the Holy Spirit? If you don’t have this type of a band then ask Jesus (who knows you and everyone around you really well) to help set you up with this group. You may be surprised to find that others nearby are yearning for the same type of spiritual friendships.
- Is it possible that the adverse circumstances in our lives are simply the doorway to a joyous new life of freedom that stands on the other side?
- What does is mean to be delivered from the bondage to sin; dare we accept this promise and live boldly in that confidence?
- If it’s true that an intimate band of spiritual friends is the best means for deepening faith, are you willing to ask Jesus to help you see who those persons are for you?
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J.D. Walt serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. firstname.lastname@example.org.