Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Wesleyan Take on Visiting the Sick

I believe that there is a "a marrow of truth" that stretches across humankind that can be expressed in the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.

• Truth is grounded in Scripture
• Truth is illumined by tradition and history
• Truth is colored by experience (or made vivid)
• Truth is confirmed by reason

My understanding of truth is grounded in these things – starting with the Bible. I take the Bible very seriously, not just literally and believe that the wisdom of these writings should always be considered but I also believe that each and every person maintains the right to rethink and rework their own personal theology throughout their lifetime. I believe in pure and true worship even though that may take on many forms and believe that the highest purpose of humankind is to glorify God and enjoy God’s presence forever. This is the reason we are created.

I am very sacramental and believe that the sacraments are not merely symbolic, but that something real and substanative occurs in the life of the partaker. I am involved in and impassioned by true social justice -- that which is grounded in the righteousness of God; in particular I feel that there is special concern for the poor and the oppressed expressed by all the prophet, by Jesus and by God. I believe that in each and every human interaction there is room for the Grace of God – prevenient, justifying and sanctifying and that as an expression of the Grace that we have received, we become the hands and feet of that Grace for others. This demands personal and corporate acts of mercy and acts of piety.

Acts of Piety can be both corporate and individual, in fact they have to be both. Balance is essential. They include: Prayer, Study of the Scripture, Holy Communion, Fasting, Fellowship in Christian Community and Healthy Living. Acts of Mercy also are corporate and individual, always considering what is right, correct and moral: Visiting the Sick and Visiting those Imprisoned, Feeding and Clothing those without, Earning, Saving and Giving all that one can, Opposition to Oppression in all the forms that it takes, being a Good Steward of all that God has made.

Therefore, as I act as a minister, I am God’s hands and feet. I act, not out of obligation or duty, but from an outpouring of the bounty that I am given and my grateful attitude. I can be a Grace-bearer for God and a conduit of God’s undeserved and unconditional love. By visiting the sick, Grace is given to both the patient and also to me in a real and concrete way. How does this work? It’s a mystery because it is essential and foremost God's inital action -- mine are just an outpouring of what God has already done. As with my beliefs about Eucharist, it’s not up to me, or about me nor do I have to understand it. It is a holy and sacred moment and visiting the sick has overtures of being sacramental.

In a sacrament, God uses tangible, material things as vehicles or instruments of grace. Wesley defines a sacrament, in accord with his Anglican tradition, as "an outward sign of inward grace, and a means whereby we receive the same. Sacraments are sign-acts, which include words, actions, and physical elements. They both express and convey the gracious love of God. They make God's love both visible and effective in a new and exciting way. This is what is done in the visiting of the sick. As I continue to visit, I am being shaped into the image of Christ – sometimes it is a blessing and sometimes it is a very painful experience.

So, this is what I've been thinking about.

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