The goal of this short study is two-fold: first to understand more of our BASIC Methodist beliefs, and second, how to better express our beliefs to others. We used the foundation of the Articles of Religion and the General Rules as a framework for our study. Just as Underwear is the foundation of our clothing, usually unseen, intimate, different preferences on different people and keeps the rest of our ensemble together, so are our theological doctrines .
You can read the one-page General Rules with us by clicking here.
You can read the 2- pages of the Articles of Religion with us by clicking here.
Let me begin with my thanks to our group. I rarely get to discuss theology at any depth and have never had as much fun as I have with YOU GUYS!
Methodists begin by teaching the method to growing into our theological understanding. we start with Scripture, use our God given brains to reason, reflect that with our Christian tradition and then translate into our living experience. Add to that the fact that we are wonderfully mad as Biological, Psychological, Social and Spiritual and we look for balance in all things as we discern and discuss the words about God that we use.
We discussed our assumptions, or better our deepest beliefs, and how they color our understanding of God. I shared mine, which are varied and admittedly overanalyzed. Things like my role as a pastor to a community and not a congregation, the Bible as a touchstone, connection to God and people, the sacraments as a source of amazing comfort , on an on. We encouraged to know our assumptions, non-negotiables and grow a willingness to be both “Critical and Constructive”. See page 78-89 of the Book of Discipline.
The articles give us a language of faith but it is up to us to make them personal. They are precisely written and intentionally placed in an order of importance. Everything flows from God, trinitarian in our understanding, but ONE GOD. We spent most of our time speaking of the sacraments.
The sacraments, specifically, Baptism and Holy Communion ( or the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist as you choose), are also a language of faith. They are a doing of the story of God as Creator, Jesus as prophet, priest, King and redeemer, and the Holy Spirit as the real worker in these powerful acts of faith. It is amazing how common touchable elements such as water, juice and bread can reach to the invisible part of ourselves and awaken our relationship with Christ.
We also discussed the five sacramental acts of worship that other Christians count as sacraments, namely-confirmation, penance, orders, matrimony, and extreme unction. They aren’t bad, just don’t carry the weight that the Baptism and Communion do.
Each of us had stories of a time where the sacraments helped us to make sense out of something or met a spiritual need. We had an “All Saint’s Sunday” a few weeks ago that was particularly powerful to me. Each of us had a different take of what name we use for God when we pray. Ultimately, the goal of any sacramental experience is to form our lives into a living Holy Communion.
The question was asked, “how do you do that”. This study must become more than words. The short answer is to “attend to the ordinances of the church”, whether that is worship, study, prayer or service, in such a way that God is made real to us personally. If God is that real to us personally then it will leak out into the lives of others.
I will not outline the 125 articles here but will point you to the link above and invite anyone of any denomination to look through them and discover your stance on the individual parts. Please don’t stop there though. Look at the whole of who God is and how overwhelming his love and grace is for you. Studying these different pieces is not meant to just tickle your ears but to open your heart to a deeper working and practical walk with Jesus!
All of this and we never discussed the organizational structure once. We will get to that on our next installment sometime after New Year’s
Next week we will take a November 23, 2015 off for the Thanksgiving holiday. Our new study will be announced soon. All are welcome to join in the study at any time on Mondays at 6:00. Everyone is welcome to add with a comment on the doctrinal statements below.
Thank you Captain Underpants for adding a little humor to a serious subject.