5/24/98, E7C

“Shouting Methodists”
Psalm 47:1-7

erald Williams stood at the plate Friday night and broke a two run tie with a three-run homer. And our Atlanta Braves fans all stood and sang the Gloria Patri--- Not! Actually they broke out in spontaneous “Tomahawk Chopping” and shouting for joy! And the same will happen this afternoon as we “Shouting Methodists” attend the game as a group and witness today’s hero win the old ball game for the home team. I’ve been going to Braves games since 1968 with church groups and have seen some stayed, silent church folks really loose their emotions over America’s favorite sport.

Emotion has always been a part of our Judo Christian Tradition. Hear the words of our psalm: “Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy. For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the earth. He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet. He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves. God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.” (Ps. 47: 1-7, NRSV).

Still today joyous folk music is a part of modern Judaism. Remember the wedding scene in “Fiddler on the Roof?” This spirited music called klezmer is said to be the most exciting aspect of today’s synagogue worship.

The attention of mainstream America has been grabbed by contemporary Christian and gospel music. Several years ago I had to transport my daughter’s car from Athens to Jesup and through the sand hills of South Georgia all that I could get on the radio was gospel, I was of course scanning for the news, but then I heard LeAnn Rimes singing about Jesus---what a voice. The little car became a temple. Later I learned that she was, and still is, the teenage rage of contemporary gospel music.

I have been guilty of musical snobbery in rejecting much of the music that is sweeping the nation. Some of us have been trapped in a time warp and feel that the only music that is appropriate for worship is highbrow, or classical. My snobbery has been a rejection of the country gospel of my Uncle Joe’s Oak Ridge Quartet. However, in recent years I have come to appreciate the old, and the new, gospel sound. For millions of folks this is the mainstay of their religious expression. Seminary professor Tex Sample points out that 12 % will tolerate classical music, whereas 75 % have some appreciation for the gospel sound. He says that we are driving people away from our churches with dead music. Of the forty new churches that our North Georgia Conference has started in the past ten years, nearly all use contemporary Christian and gospel music in worship. Most churches that are growing across America have broadened their music to include more popular styles.

During this year’s membership training class for children, David asked the question, “What did we tell you last week about the founder of Methodism’s experience of the assurance of salvation?” “O that’s when John Willey had that funny feeling inside at Aldersville?” Nathan Barkson spoke up. And a pretty good answer it was. Our movement was birthed out of an emotional experience between a man and his maker.

Today Sunday is the 260th anniversary of John Wesley’s Aldersgate experience; generally marked as the beginning of the Wesleyan Revival that swept England and the world. Here are Mr. Wesley’s exact words from Wednesday, May 24, 1738. “In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street (London), where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation: and an assurance was given me, that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

Today we Methodists are, in our higher form, are still called, “The people of the religion of the heart strangely warmed.” Sometimes we are even referred to as the “Shouting Methodists” or, “The Singing Methodists.” This rediscovered form of experiential Christianity has marked our common witness wherever we have gone. It has been a benchmark of our great church over the years. Most of our early members, were “Shouting Methodists.” What a proud heritage we celebrate. However, religious experience has to be more than a heritage, it must be a present reality. It is not so much a church held doctrine, but is the inner witness of each believer. We each bear Aldersgate in our souls. It is not so important that we actually shout out loud with our voices, but that we shout inside with our souls.

Today we are privileged to have visiting with us Dr. and Mrs. Marling Elliott. Prof. Elliott was my Greek and New Testament teacher in college and was most instrumental in shaping my youthful exuberance into something that could be used in pastoral ministry. He taught me that emotionalism can be genuine in quietness. He may recall saying one day in class that., “I feel most closely related to God whenever I am inward and silent in worship.” That has been a major part of my own experience in worship.

It is said that Mr. Wesley himself never participated in the shouting and loud emotionalism that accompanied his preaching and outdoor worship services. He often warned of the dangers of outward emotionalism, while defending the genuineness of heartfelt emotion. You see, subjective human feelings can be manipulated for the wrong purposes, but allow the person without proper discernment to think that they are experiencing the genuine article. Most of us have been in worship services that seemed to unduly contrive, or concoct spiritual displays.

Our aim is song, and praise, and a consensual feeling of the very real presence of the Divine in worship. Our heart need to be allowed to feel the blessings and anointing that the Spirit has for us. Spiritual worship is the lifeblood of our Church.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

5/24/98, E7C