Reading: Luke 4. 18-19
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
In Bristol, near the city centre, there is a street called ‘Bread Street’. At the corner of that street, there can be found a small, bronze plaque, which reads “This is the place, where John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, first preached in the open air, on the 2nd of April 1739.” And, Luke 4. 18-19 is inscribed on it, as it was the text John preached on. It’s not surprising that he chose this passage for his first open air preaching, because he knew that the good news of salvation should go to everyone, particularly to the poor, the prisoners, the sick, and the oppressed. On that day, he preached to about three thousand people in the Brickfield. Amazing! This must have been his firm belief which was later on developed to the foundation of the Methodist doctrine. As Methodists, we are to agree to follow this doctrine which is kindly unpacked as so-called ‘Four Alls’: All need to be saved. All can be saved. All can know they are saved. All can be saved completely. These Four Alls are what we believe as Methodists. It doesn’t mean, however, we don’t believe what other Christians believe, or other churches don’t believe these four Alls. They may have slightly different interpretations. But, I don’t think they are different from the gospel truth. These Four Alls are the beliefs we are focusing on more in our church life. And, John Wesley articulated them, from his personal conversion experience on 24th May 1738.
But, to be honest, that’s not a new thing. That’s not something he discovered first. That is almost the same as what Jesus said to the crowds, to sinners and tax collectors: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ It means, all of you can be saved, if you trust me. And, Paul also said it so many times in his letters. For example, in Romans 4. 5, he says “To the man who does not work but trusts God, who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” It is to say, “You don’t need to prove your own life’s worth. You are delivered from that pressure. I accept you anyway, as you trust me”. That is so called, ‘salvation by faith, not by any goodness.
And, this is good news for all who struggle for acceptance, struggle for appreciation and recognition for themselves, especially for those who have the feeling that their lives are worthless, because it is God tells them: ‘I love you. You are precious to me. Believe me. I need you’.
This is actually, the most wonderful, the greatest invitation to real life, which we shouldn’t miss out. And, our response should be simply saying: ‘Thank you, Lord, for
your love. Thank you that you said Yes to me. I believe it. Use me as an instrument of your love. I trust you.’
With this conviction, John Wesley carried on going out to preach the gospel to the people who may not have heard it before. He committed himself fully to preaching the gospel, in all the ways he could, and he wants us to follow his example, as Methodists, by all the means we can, in all the ways we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can, as long as we can, until we can be saved completely. Well, we may find these words depressing as we are all locked down. But, I am sure there must be something we can do in our own places if we try to apply the principle of ‘All we can’ to our everyday lives. Amen.
Let us pray.
Lord our God, as we try to follow with all our hearts the examples of our forefathers, help us to offer to you our true thanksgiving, genuine penitence, sacrificial commitment, and a real hunger and thirst to know and serve you better. Lord, work within us now, as you did with our forerunners, so that what we declare with our lips we may believe in our hearts and display in our lives, to your glory. Amen.