One of the defining marks of John Wesley’s own faith and the eighteenth-century Methodist revival was that it involved not only the emotions but also the intellect—the head as well as the heart. This is of course was partly due to the fact that the leader of the revival was, after all, a faculty member of Oxford University. When I first joined the United Methodist Church as a young adult, I was drawn to the fact that I was encouraged to think critically about my faith and the world. It was okay to have questions and doubts. I didn’t have to “check my brain at the door.” But I also appreciated not having to check my heart at the door either!
Tragically, many vocal expressions of Christianity today seem to be anti-intellectual. There is a sense among many religious “nones” that I meet that the only way to be a follower of Jesus is to reject modern science, adopt a narrow world view, interpret the Bible literally and woodenly, and to refrain from asking difficult questions. Yet Wesley, the Oxford fellow and preacher, had a way of holding together a passionate faith and a rigorous intellect. I believe that approach to Christianity holds the greatest promise for reaching an increasingly secular society today.
On the flip side, many of us that lean more toward the “head” have difficulty embracing heartfelt worship and connecting our faith in God with our real-life experiences. Indeed, I was discussing the “head and heart” balance with someone from our own community this week and they reflected that, “Our commitment to antiracism must be more than just an intellectual pursuit. But a lived heartfelt reality.” As a community with much heart and head, we are challenged to discover the balance between both of these in order to forge a new Methodist reveal of sorts today in the U District and beyond.
As we will consider this Sunday, Christ comes to us full of both truth and grace, head and heart (John 1:14-18). Join us this Sunday as we explore further the early sparks of the Methodist movement and what they might mean for us today as we continue in our Reignite worship series. Hope to see you in the comments on Facebook Live!
– Rev. Paul Ortiz