Fred Sanders recently preached the sermon (“Stewards of the Mysteries”) as part of the ordination service for Jason Sexton as he was ordained in the EFCA at Tulare Evangelical Free Church, Tulare, CA. Sanders concluded with a story from the life of John Wesley, which he then powerfully applied/challenged/prayed for Jason (emphasis mine).
I close with a story from the life of John Wesley, whose evangelical ministry in the eighteenth century marked him as one of the great stewards of God’s mysteries, as he tried to manage that “surprising work of God” that spread so rapidly in connection with his preaching. In many of the places where he preached, something like riots broke out. By 1749 he had a full decade’s experience of dealing with these disturbances, and had developed a lively sense of how to ride along with the unruly energy of a mob until just the right moment arrived for him to speak up and take command. In a brief note in his journal about one such riot, he describes how he waited for his moment, and then took it. “I called for a chair,” he writes. “The winds were hushed, and all was calm and still.” As he began speaking, he felt the power of God at work, and he recorded what happened within him that enabled him to minister to the mob: “My heart was filled with love, my eyes with tears, and my mouth with arguments.”
May God fill your heart with love: Love for the world that he sent his Son to save. . . . Love for a public that doesn’t always invite love, and is often on the verge of riot.
May God fill your eyes with tears: Tears like those that Christ wept over the city of Jerusalem. Tears drawn not so much by the momentary afflictions or the thousand shocks that flesh is subject to, but by the deeper tragedy of human souls imprisoned in lives that are godless, hopeless, prayerless, comfortless.
And especially as a theologian, may God fill your mouth with arguments: Arguments that take the mysteries of God and make them plain to this generation. Arguments that take every thought captive to Christ, and destroy all speculations that set themselves up against God. Arguments that name connections nobody else has seen, that bring the greatest moral good clearly before the mind’s eye of a city, a state, a nation, a world that needs to be moved by persuasion and not by brute force. Arguments that win, that are faithful, that speak the truth in love, as is fitting for a steward that is found faithful.
My prayer: Merciful and gracious Lord, fill my heart with love, fill my eyes with tears, and fill my mouth with arguments.
My hope: May this be a prayer that is prayed by and for all ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ!