Our Gnawing Hunger and the Class Meeting ©

I readily confess that this blog is only half formed and invite the perceptive reader to engage in wrestling the intersection of our gnawing hunger and the call to spiritually walk with Christ. Allow me the space and grace to interconnect some of my thinking and mediation. As I watch the craziness that is the current American race for presidential nominations in both parties, I cannot help but think that they reflect a deep anxiousness and gnawing spiritual hunger that has infected us as a civil populace. As the waning value system of an old (and previously) entrenched church culture passes from the scene, the vacuum left eats at our souls as both a church and a nation.  We know that the current level of political discourse and national dialog (or true lack thereof) is toxic and yet are unable to extricate ourselves from it.  (As a sidebar, this meets the definition of original sin for all – all means all! – concerned.) And yet our better natures cry for something more. The Lord calls us repeatedly to live in love and charity with all in need.  The unmitigated teaching of Jesus challenges us to trust the Lord.  “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. . . . Notice how the lilies grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. But I say to you that even Solomon in all his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these. If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, how much more will God do for you, you people of weak faith!  Don’t chase after what you will eat and what you will drink. Stop worrying. All the nations of the world long for these things. Your Father knows that you need them. Instead, desire his kingdom and these things will be given to you as well’” (Luke 12, 22, 27-31). Add to this teaching the Apostle Paul’s admonition in the closing part of Philippians. “Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks” (Philippians 4:6).  Stir with the faithful need to pray and trust.  The outcome I submit is what we long for - a sense of peace amid the storms of change that swirl around us. We instinctively know that we cannot get there on our own. Solitary spirituality can only take us so far.  The biblical admonitions to be together the body of Christ speak deep in the thunder of our times.  It is here I suspect that the Wesleyan Way of life following Christ has something to offer. In my ongoing reading of Kevin Watson’s marvelous book The Class Meeting: Reclaiming a Forgotten (and Essential) Small Group Experience, I think God is guiding me and our larger church but to its essential structure. Dr. Watson quotes Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke, 1798, Doctrines and Discipline:
“We have no doubt, but meetings of Christian brethren for the exposition of scripture-texts, may be attended with their advantages. But the most profitable exercise of any is a free inquiry into the state of the heart … Through the grace of God our classes form the pillars of our work, and, as we have before observed, are in a considerable degree our universities for the ministry.”
Then he adds, “A common method (joining every Methodist to a class meeting) and a common message (the necessity of repentance, faith, and holiness) were at the center of Methodism during its periods of most explosive growth” (The Class Meeting: Reclaiming a Forgotten (and Essential) Small Group Experience by Kevin M. Watson, pg. 53). There is much here to wrestle with and piece together. More later...