Summary: This message talks about three strands of DNA which make us United Methodist.
Today we’re going to talk about three strands of DNA which make us United Methodist. In 18 years of being a Methodist pastor, I realized this week that I haven’t preached on this topic, which amazes me. So I’m excited about this message this morning.
There’s the story of a bakery whose sales were lagging though its breads were wonderful. So the baker decided to put out a sign on the street which read, “Best bread in town.” A few doors down another baker responded by putting out a sign on the street which read, “Best bread in the parish. Still another bakery on that block put out a sign which read, “Best bread in the state.” Frustrated by all of the signs going up and seeing his business decline, another bake put up a sign which simply said, “Best bread on the block.”
I want to be clear: this message is not about ranking one denomination against another. Methodists believe that all Christians are equal. We believe we all worship the same God and claim the same Savior and each has a contribution to Christendom and the kingdom of God. I had a conversation with one of Luke’s friend’s mothers the other night about her son going to Camp Istrouma with Luke. What she said floored me. I had alot of dealings with (I’m not going to mention the denomination) in Mississippi and they looked down on me and my Catholic faith. In fact, they said I needed to be saved and convert to their denomination. And quite frankly, I don’t want my son going to a camp where he’s going to be ridiculed, made fun of, called an idol worshipper and told he’s got to become a Methodist or he’s going to hell. Now let me say that’s not representative of most of that denomination’s ministers and laity I know. But as Methodists, I made it clear to her that we don’t believe we’re more right than Catholic, or Baptists or Pentecostals or any other Christians.
This is the reason we have an open communion table. Everyone is welcome at this table. You may be Catholic, Nazarene, Assembly of God or non-denominational, but if you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are welcome at this communion table. This is also why we don’t re-baptize. If you go to another church, some of them will say you have to be baptized again. Methodists say, because every Christian faith is valid, every baptism is valid because it’s not the church which did the baptism but God himself. And if we re-baptize then we’re essentially saying that God messed up the first time and God just doesn’t do that. He’s perfect. But we would also be saying that God is not working through that denomination and we just don’t believe that is true because there is one God, one Spirit and one Savior we worship. So Methodism and this message is not about espousing why we’re better than the next guy down the street or why we’re right and they’re wrong. It’s about what we contribute to the kingdom.
Why Methodist? A Methodist is a person who has made a commitment to the practice of daily disciplines. Methodism is more about how you practice your faith more than doctrines of what you believe. Wesley preached these words in Glasgow England: “There is no other religious society under heaven which requires nothing of men in order to share their admission into it but a desire to save souls. Look all around you; you cannot be admitted into the church or the society of the Presbyterian, Anabaptists, Quakers or any other unless you hold the same opinion with them and adhere to the same mode of worship. The Methodists alone do not insist on your holding this or that opinion; but they think and let think.” Wesley had seen enough division within the church over social and political issues that he avoided them altogether. But he stood strongly on the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith. The one requirement for those who desired to become a Methodist was “a desire to flee from the wrath to come and to be saved from their sins” and a commitment to live out one’s faith in practice and save souls. One could only accomplish this through daily disciplines.
Paul wrote, “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” Training: a daily regimen which connects you to God, helps you to become more like Jesus and live out the will of God. Many of you know a great part of my life is concerned with my health. I have a weekly regimen of working out in the gym which focuses on specific parts of the body spread over 5-6 days a week mixed in with cardio 3-4 times a week. I also have a daily regimen where I eat 5-6 six small meals a day which have a mix of 50% protein, 30% carbohydrates and 20% fats. All of these are methods to get me and keep me in the best health possible. Did you hear the word methods? That’s where the name Methodist came from which initially was used derogatorily because of our mehodical practice of the faith.