Jesus said, “Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:7-8
“…since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.” Romans 3:23-25
Years ago I was visiting at my parent’s home on Legend Lake on the Menomonee Reservation. My uncle Everett and aunt Vi were visiting. Walking down to the lake front my uncle Everett commented to me, “Forrest, you are one of us now.” His words were filled with acceptance and love, a rite of passage for me. In a tumultuous time of my life, Everett reminded me that I belonged, that I was somebody special as a part of the family.
Some of the most memorable moments of my life have been those times where I have felt unconditionally loved and embraced, not because of anything I have done or accomplished, but just because I was me. I remember a powerful youth group retreat when I was a freshman in high school and the retreat theme was, “you are accepted in your past as approved.” At a time of fragile teenage identity, acceptance by God and the fellowship group around me was powerful. Later, while in graduate school and uncertain about the direction of my life, I had my first adult experience of my heart being “strangely warmed” as the presence of the Holy Spirit came powerfully upon me with freshness, setting my heart on fire with a new knowledge of the depth of God’s love and mercy, forgiveness and acceptance.
Today is Aldersgate Day, perhaps the true birthday of the Wesleyan Methodist community. Prior to this John Wesley was certainly rigorous in his disciplined desire to serve and please God. But there was a lack of inner joy and assurance of faith. He was troubled as he witnessed the strength of spirit of the Moravians as they weathered a storm at sea while returning to England. As he listened to the reading of Martin Luther’s commentary on the book of Romans, the wind of the Holy Spirit filled Wesley and he reports, “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.”
It is human nature to have a works-righteousness mentality. We want to earn our way in life. Yet, the Good News this day is that the invitation by God is one of grace, received by faith in what God has done for us in Christ. It is easy for me to slip back into working for the approval of God and people; sometimes I just don’t feel good enough! I am grateful for a day like Aldersgate Day to remind me that “it’s not about me, but about what God has done!” May your heart be warmed by God’s grace this day as you open yourselves to the acceptance and love of Christ.
Thank you, gracious God, for the gift of Life that you offer to use through Christ Jesus. Come Holy Spirit, send the wind of your grace to every compartment of our lives. Amen.