Going on to Perfection

Stripped image of John Wesley

Stripped image of John Wesley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Do you believe you are going on to perfection?”

 

Perfection?  What an impossible goal, some of us might think.  We are just trying to do the best we can, and we know that we are not anywhere near perfect!  How could the question even be asked.  We are often encouraging ourselves and others to self-acceptance.  Self-acceptance is difficult enough, much less the idea of perfection.  What a question!

 

This is a question that is regularly asked, however.  It is asked of those being ordained in the United Methodist Church.  It was asked by John Wesley to any who were leadership in the early Methodist movement.  United Methodist believe in perfection.  Steve Manskar in wesleyanleadership.wordress.com says:  Wesley defined perfection as “love [seated] upon the throne which is erected in the inmost soul; namely, love of God and [humankind], which fills the whole heart, and reigns without a rival” (Sermon 92: On Zeal). It is the “holy tempers” formed in the soul: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

 

It is a lofty goal, but we are called to aim high.  We are called to self-acceptance, but we are also called to grow in God’s grace.  We are always a work in progress.  We need transformation.  We need to strive towards perfection.  If you don’t believe that you are going on to perfection, then where are you going?  Are you headed anywhere?  Are you just staying where you are?

 

 

 

This week, let us accept that we are not perfect, but we are going onto perfection.  We are on a journey.  Let us work towards being more fully the people God has created us to be.

 

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Warn them about the ashes

English: The forehead of a man with a cross dr...

Image via Wikipedia

Each year I would call a friend a couple of days before Ash Wednesday.  I would remind her to warn her office mates.  Many in her office were unfamiliar with Ash Wednesday.  If they were aware of it, they were not aware that the president of the company always attended an early service.  He would receive a very obvious cross on his forehead.  He would not wash the cross off.  Therefore, encountering the boss was encountering him with a large black cross on his forehead.  Warning the other employees was for their sake. It was hard not to stare at the boss’ forehead.  It was the first indication co-workers would have about the boss’ active participation in worship.  He never discussed the mark on his head.  He never discussed faith.

 

My friend would explain that this was a mark of the sinful nature of all people, including he boss.  It was a statement about the finiteness of life and the need for God.  Some would readily agree with the sinfulness of their boss.  Others would just nod.  Still others would say, why?

 

While I cannot answer questions for that man, I can tell you my understanding of the ashes of ash Wednesday.  We need a reminder.  We need a visible reminder that we cannot do I on our own.  We need help.  We need God.  We need God’s grace, poured out particularly in the person of Jesus.  We need to be brought back from our ideas that life is about us, that we can handle our lives, and that we are in control.  We need God.  Being marked reminds us of our dependence.

 

It also reminds us that we were already marked.  We were marked as God’s own during our baptism.  When the water of baptism is administered, a person is visibly marked as God’s own.  While the water dries, the mark of God on our life still remains.  We are loved by God.  We are children of God.

 

The outward sign of God’s grace may no longer be visible, but God’s grace is still with us.  The ashes may only be visible for a short while, but our need for God remains.  Remember that you are dust, but you are saved by grace.

growing grass

Grassphoto © 2008 Ian T. McFarland | more info (via: Wylio)I grew up in the suburbs, and I always believed that grass grows everywhere.  Sure, I knew that some neighbors had more lush lawns that others neighbors.  Some folks in the neighborhood used a service to have greener grass.  There was a general but intense dislike of crab grass, but grass always grew.  It would even invade flowerbeds and need  to be removed.  Yes, it sometimes needed re-seeding or fertilizing, but those were just efforts to make it grow healthier, stronger, or not turn brown in the summer.

As an adult I have learned that grass does not always grow.  In my backyard, there are lots of areas that grass does not grow.  There is the area under the trees. Moss grows there.  Apparently there is not enough exposure to the sun for grass to grow.  Around the fence line there is no grass.  Our dogs patrol the fence line barking at the various animals and noises beyond our yard.  They have trampled the grass.  There relentless running and patrols keep grass from growing.  In the middle of the yard there is a large patch of dirt.  I have no idea why there is no grass there.  It is the yard’s very obvious bald spot.  The dirt is hard packed clay, and it seems an uninviting location for grass.

The condition of my lawn led me to thinking about the condition of our souls.  Sometimes we assume that everyone, including ourselves, are prepared to be places where the Holy Spirit can dwell and produce spiritual fruit.  This is not always the case.  The conditions need to be right for the spirit to grow and flourish within a person.  There needs to be exposure to God and to living a life of faith. Otherwise, the person has no way of getting exposure to God’s grace, like the area in my backyard under the trees.  Another person may be feeling so completely trampled that there is no hope of grass growing.  The grass or grace has been stomped out of the person, and they have no hope for anything different.  This is like my fence line.  Then there are people whose lives seem to be absent of God’s grace, and there is no clear reason why they are not growing in God’s grace.  Sometimes we just don’t know what is going on within another person.  Our job  is to tend to our souls in order to create an ideal environment for God’s grace to grow.  Our job is also to help others be nourished so that God’s grace may grow within them.  So, how does your grass grow?