Circumcision of the Heart

The first week of 2017, I shared with the Connectional Table members that I would be reading a Wesley sermon each week over the next year.  Using Outler’s Anthology of the sermons I started with the “Image of God” and this week have read “The Circumcision of the Heart,” a sermon he first preached in 1733.  Wesley describes what it means to be in a right relationship with God and attempts to offer words of wisdom that might guide the hearer’s thoughts about this relationship.  In particular, he states:

“To be more particular: Circumcision of the heart implies humility, faith, hope and charity.  Humility, a right judgement of ourselves, cleanses our minds from those high conceits of our perfection, from that undue opinion of our own abilities and attainments, which are the genuine fruit of a corrupted nature.”

Over the weekend, I gathered with seasoned scholars from our Methodist connection and new scholars from our Methodist family.  We had interesting and robust conversations about the future of The United Methodist Church.  Some felt fairly certain that our church had reached the point of no return and that our irreconcilable differences would be that which leads us down the road of separation.  Others felt that the questions we have about sexuality are dwarfed by the missional needs of the world.  I pointed back to our Disciplinary language in the preamble to our Constitution about unity and acknowledged our history of brokenness and humility.  Out of it all, despite our deep differences, participating in the conversation reminded me that each person in this conversation is a beloved child of God.  Whether I fundamentally disagreed with their conviction made them no less important in the eyes of God. 

Therefore, out of the dialogue, I spent time with several of these scholars, both individually and in groups and was blessed.  By approaching them with humility, I was able to see and experience their humanity.  And in the midst of these conversations my faith was deepened, hope in my heart arose and a sense of charity was extended to one another from all of us. 

I am fully aware that it is easy to say this when there is relative safety in the engagement of our dialogue.  I’m not at risk of having my very identity challenged, nor am I at an immediate risk of being arrested or convicted of my opinion.  But, if the church could provide safe spaces for people to have these kinds of conversations and offer ways to have deep authentic dialogue, then maybe together we can explore further what Paul was saying to the Romans in chapter 2 and what Wesley was saying to his listeners in this message.  What I do know is that it will take a change in our hearts to find the gifts that God has offered us to be together as the Body of Christ, united by his love and grace.

May it be so.

With God's Love,
Rev. Dr. Amy Valdez Barker

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