The Pyramid of Faith -
Four Ways God Speaks To Us, Part 2:
T is for Tradition
May 8, 2011
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
1 I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications.
2 Because He inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call on Him as long as I live.
Our sermon series during this May, my friends, is about getting in touch with God. How does God get in touch with us? We talked during Lent about our reaching out to God in prayer. We talked about different kinds of prayer, different ways that we reach out to God.
How does God reach back to us?
Here is the good news. John Wesley, the founder of our church, came up with a theological system. His system had four sides and is known as the "Methodist Quadrilateral." It depicts four ways to pursue truth, four tests of the truth of an idea. It is a study of the ways that God speaks to us.
The basic premise is that everyone needs to be connected to God. We need the divine connection. The job of our church, and our job as Christians, is to help people to make that connection happen. We need that spiritual connection to God, we always need God.
There was a great Christian who lived many, many years ago. We have come to know him as Saint Augustine. He said many wise and beautiful things. He lived a very wild youth, and one of his earlier prayers was, “Dear God, Take temptation away from my heart! But not yet.” (laughter from the congregation) Later on he said these beautiful words, “Oh Lord, our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” This is exactly what we are talking about. No matter who we are, no matter what our age is, we have the need for the divine connection.
1. Scripture - The Holy Book
We began last week with the first side of this four sided pyramid of faith. On the first side of the pyramid is the letter “S”, which stands for Scripture, the Holy Bible. This is a remarkable book! This is no ordinary book! This is a book that is Holy, it contains ideas that come from God. You have to sift through it a bit and use some judgment, but you will find divine ideas that are magnificent. Friend, it is worth exploring! Continuing with my assignment from last week, I encourage you all to open the Bible at any place, begin to read and see if you find any phrase that lights up for you. If so, please send me an email or call me, I would love to talk about it with you. Please explore; you are listening for the voice of the Lord!
Here is one example. Take a look at the Scripture from today. Look at Psalm 16. It says, I love the Lord. Why? Because he has inclined his ear to me and heard my voice and my requests. What does that mean? Because God listens. If somebody really listens, they understand! Really? God understands me and my complicated, mixed up life? He really does? Doesn't an insight like that bless us? Scripture is the primary way God speaks to us. That's just one example from a Book filled with divine insights.
2. The Second Way - The Tradition of the Church
The second side of the pyramid starts with the letter, “T”. The second way God gets in touch with us is Tradition. For John Wesley, tradition meant one thing - the tradition of the church. The Bible is Holy Ground and from that Holy Ground grows a tree; that tree is the church. The church tries to “live out” what the Bible says. The second way that God speaks to us and strengthens us is through the traditions of the church. This week, think about the traditions of the church that you love. For some it is Ash Wednesday, for some Holy Thursday, some come to Good Friday, to Communion. Tradition is God’s tool for reaching out to us.
You are in church today because you want to say, "Dear God, I love You." But here's a wonderful thought too: The church is here because God wants to say "I love you" to you! God Himself wants to speak to you through the Sunday morning experience! Coming to Church is a two-way conversation with the Almighty!
The Tradition of the Church is a powerful tool through which the Lord Himself speaks to us.
Let's look at three things we experience at church through which God can speak to us:
• Sacraments and
• Saints are three things about the church that God uses to communicate with us.
Sunday after Sunday we are here together exploring the Scriptures, praying together. My hope is that each of you feels better when you leave this place than when you came in because you are connected here with the love of God. Amazing things happen during the service of worship. Ideas and insights come to us. Sometimes, feelings overwhelm our soul. We hear scriptures read that can change our lives. The Sunday by Sunday services are an open door for God's ideas and God's love.
Holy Communion is an especially powerful Tradition of the Church. Jesus made himself known in the sacrament of the breaking of the bread with the disciples on the way to Emmaus as He does every time we have Holy Communion. The power of the actions of this sharing of bread and cup bridge the gap between God and His children in a unique way.
In the Roman Catholic tradition, Saints are people who are near perfect who have passed all kinds of tests, whose lives are carefully examined. In our tradition, Saints are the deeply devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. They are people who have touched our lives in powerful and positive ways, and influenced us to love God and His Son Jesus Christ.
I could tell a great positive story of each and every person in this room, about how you make manifest the love of God. When you come to church you get to meet the saints. I could tell you of remarkable people, whose names you may not know and the wonderful things they have done in their lives. People like Joel Nystrom who used to sit right over there, a man who always had the deepest devotion to the Lord and to the people of God; an “encourager”, a man who made the world a better place for having been here.
Oh, I could name you so many names from days gone by; but they might be only names to you. Matt Hunter, Fred Trogler, Very Hatfield, Bill Tremayne, Jack Robinson, Virginia Thorpe, Sylvia Rapp; so many, so many; I have a story of faith and dedication and courage and generosity and caring and encouragement to tell about each one.
But what's important are your stories, and your saints; the people you remember that have influenced you, and helped shape your faith in the Lord. Who are they, friend? Here's the good news - they are all around you. They are right here for you to meet, these are the kind of people you meet at Church. And you are one of them, too. Saints may be the most powerful way that God brings His love and His ideas to you.
Please come and take part, enjoy the services, the sacraments, and the saints. Come, and listen for the voice of God through the Tradition of the Church.
It's the second panel on the Pyramid of Faith, the second side of Wesley's Methodist Quadrilateral.
More next week.
God loves you; I do, too. I wish you a blessed week, friend.
© 2011 Anthony J. Godlefski