Sunday’s Scripture ~ Genesis 3:1-13
This week we Fall.
Temptation enters creation – temptation leads to sin – sin leads to separation from God – sad times.
There have been discussions about sin since the dawn of time – literally! – and the world of sin is a very dark place. Sin is a slippery slope on which our feet have very little traction. We are not in a place to get out of sin on our own. John Wesley, Methodism’s founder, knew this as he argued against ruling Pelagian thought, which stated that through humanity’s own devices we can save ourselves from sin or secure our own salvation. Wesley believed there is nothing that humans can do, no work that humans can complete, to secure their own salvation.
BUT! We can walk and work alongside God to secure our own salvation, and this is possible because God first acted in giving us grace. In Wesley’s participatory system of working out one’s own salvation, individuals have the choice to either accept or deny God’s grace because, for Wesley, grace never compels.
The Wesley Brothers – John the great sermonizer and Charles the great hymn writer (who wrote sermons from time to time) – referred to a person who is still in the darkness of sin and not yet conscious of God’s grace working in his or her life as a “sleeper.” Yes, they are awake and function in life; they eat, they work, they watch movies, they may even worship, but as they are not personally aware of God’s grace-filled presence, they remain asleep.
(Take a brief stretch break…we are about to jog through some Wesley Brother sermons!)
In his sermon “Awake, Thou That Sleepest” Charles Wesley describes the “sleeper” as one who sleeps “that deep sleep of the soul into which the sin of Adam has cast all who spring from his loins; that supineness, indolence, and stupidity, that insensibility of his real condition, wherein every man comes into the world, and continues till the voice of God calls him” (I.1). Charles, like John, believes that the sleeper remains in this state of “darkness” where the sleeper “has no knowledge of [him or herself]” until the sleeper hears “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead” (I.1 and II.1). This summons to “awakeness” is God acting in prevenient grace – that grace that goes before us and stirs us to awareness of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. Once awakened from “darkness,” Charles believes the sleeper recognizes that “God is light, and will give [Godself] to every awakened sinner that waiteth for [God]” (III.2).
In “The Spirit of Bondage and Adoption,” John furthers Charles’ understanding of how prevenient grace stirs the slumbering sleeper. While asleep, John writes the sleeper “remains a willing servant of sin, content with the bondage of corruption; inwardly and outwardly unholy, and satisfied therewith; not only not conquering sin, but not striving to conquer, particularly that sin which doth so easily beset [him or her]” (I.7). Nevertheless, through grace “God touches the heart of him that lay asleep in darkness and in the shadow of death,” which awakens the sleeper and enables the sleeper to recognize his or her present state of bondage due to sin (II.1).
God touches the heart. God has already touched the heart through grace. This leads to a stirring of God’s presence in our lives and leads us to call out to God to save us. God acts – we respond – and together we work out our salvation.
So though we are fallen, we are not casualties to sin. God always has a plan and invites us to join in the work. And in doing so, we recover the imago Dei – image of God – in which we were and are created.
Reflection: Can you recall when you became aware of God’s presence in your life and you called out to God? Share your story with someone this week. Ask them if they have experienced their own awakening by God.
Pray for those in our community who are seeking to name and discern that which stirs them that they may come to know and be in relationship with God. Pray for the “sleepers” that they will recognize the present presence of God in their lives. And pray that you remain aware of God’s presence and follow God’s leading.