FROM THE BISHOP
R. LAWSON BRYAN
Easter marks the core of the Christian faith: the death on the cross and resurrection of Christ. As the sun rises Easter Sunday and ushers in the worldwide celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I can only imagine how Christians in all languages and continents, nations and people groups, will be celebrating.
I am amazed to think of Christians all over the world singing the words given to us in 1739 by Charles Wesley, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” (No. 302 in the Methodist Hymnal). We are Alive Together in Christ as we celebrate the resurrection by singing these words of our Methodist forebear, Charles Wesley.
During the seven-week Easter season, I encourage us to study the Wesley hymns, which are based on scripture and communicate to us the truth of Christ's resurrection. In “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” for instance, Charles Wesley writes, "Love's redeeming work is done...Fought the fight, the battle won." It's important to remember that Jesus - on the cross - was in a battle with sin and death and evil, and on Easter He won that battle and rose victoriously. That's why we have something about which to sing!
My question is this: “Are we singing our faith?” When we sing our faith, we lift our own spirits. We help ourselves rise above difficulties and dark moods and are able to live in the joy of Christ. The Wesley hymns for Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost give us the Biblical theology undergirding all that we do. They speak to us especially as we pass through this coronavirus pandemic.
I think of the Charles Wesley hymn, "Hail the Day that Sees Him Rise" (No. 312 in the Methodist Hymnal), about the ascension of Jesus, the 40th day after Easter. It mentions that as Christ ascended into heaven, the nail prints were visible in his hands. Even the ascended Lord showed the scars that represent the healing of the world in His own hands. And then 10 days later - 50 days after Easter - we have Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit leading to the birth of the Church. Once again, Charles Wesley has given us a song - “Spirit of Faith, Come Down” (No. 332 in the Methodist Hymnal) - that is actually a prayer to the Holy Spirit. I hope we will all be singing that prayer on the day of Pentecost, May 31.
When John Wesley was on the ship coming to Georgia a great storm arose. Wesley was afraid for his life. In the midst of his fear, he heard singing. He went to the bottom of the boat and found a group of German Christians called Moravians who were singing their faith. Wesley said to them, "Are you not afraid of dying?" They responded, "No, we're prepared to die." And so they kept singing.
Wesley wrote in his journal, “I am a fair weather Christian.” He was confessing that as long as things were going well he could talk a good game, but in the face of death he was afraid. To his credit, John Wesley began to earnestly desire the kind of faith he encountered in those Moravians. He asked God for the gift of that kind of faith. Two years later, at a Bible study in Aldersgate Street in London, he had the Aldersgate experience that propelled him forward in faith. Looking back, how grateful we are for all that John Wesley endured and for the way God raised him to a new life with a faith that was unshakeable!
During this unprecedented time in our lives, let us embrace the Wesley hymns and sing them vigorously and continuously. May we remember that Christ has risen indeed. He has come to bring us the life that we need.
I invite us to let Charles Wesley speak to us throughout the Sundays of Easter as we sing the hymns of Wesley. Christ the Lord is risen today! Hallelujah!
Alive Together in Christ,
R. Lawson Bryan
Click here to watch Bishop Bryan’s Easter message