Summary: Ninth in the "Back to the Basics" series, exploring the foundational beliefs of Christians. This sermon addresses the question, "What do United Methodists practice?"
[This sermon was the last in a series on the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith. The first seven were about the beliefs that all Christians share in common. Because it was preached in a United Methodist Church, we included this sermon about the practices of United Methodists. It clearly will be more helpful for other United Methodists, but I hope that non-Methodists will find it beneficial as well, since I am absolutely *not* claiming that simply because these things have been emphasized within the Wesleyan tradition that they are any less true for brothers and sisters in Christ from other denominational traditions.]
If someone asked you, “who are you?”, how would you answer that question? You’d probably start by giving your name and maybe describe where you live and where you work or go to school. But if, after saying those things, that person looked at you and said again, “OK, but who are you?” To truly explain who we are, we have to reveal how we live our lives. Our lifestyle really defines us.
As we conclude our series on Back to the Basics today, we are asking ourselves, “Who are United Methodists?” And that’s a question that has always required telling what we believe, and also telling how we live. So last week we focused on what United Methodists believe. This week we focus on how United Methodists live.
And how United Methodists live goes all the way back to our origins. When two of our church’s founders, John and his brother Charles Wesley were in college, they formed a small group called the Holy Club. These students wanted to practice their faith more sincerely. So they came up with a highly structured way to live, engaging in regular practices of prayer, Bible study, collecting food for the poor, visiting the sick and the prisoners, spiritual conversation, and so on. They even kept detailed notes about their daily activities and their spiritual conditions. And to keep them on track, they would meet to make sure they were following the structured lifestyle. Their goal was to have their outward life match up completely with their heartfelt beliefs.
Now, because they were so structured in the way they lived, people began to come up with names for them. You know how people are. Name-calling has always been one of the ways people label things they don’t understand. So this little group of students were called the “Bible Moths” because they spent so much time “fluttering” around the Bible. They were made fun of as “Methodists” because they were so methodical in the way they approached their faith. Methodist is the name that stuck.
Later in his life, John Wesley would write that: A Methodist is “one who lives according to the Method laid down in the Bible.”
And that’s exactly how Methodists were trying to practice their faith. They looked for what the Bible says about how we should live our lives, and they took those things seriously! They intentionally arranged their lives around those habits and practices that they found prescribed in the Scriptures.