WHAT’S OLD IS NEW AGAIN
Monday, January 1, 1776, entry of Rev. Francis Asbury’s journal: I am now entering on a new year, and am of late constantly happy, feeling my heart much taken up with God and hope thus to live and thus to die.
Francis Asbury sailed to America in 1771 at the ripe age of 22 years, unaware that he would never return to his birth country. He served as Wesley’s assistant during that first year, preaching in 25 different settlements. When the American Revolution broke out four years later, he was one of only two British Methodist lay ministers who stayed in the colonies. In an attempt to protect these early Methodist congregations, Asbury remained neutral in the conflict between Great Britain and the newly formed United States thus making him an enemy to the people in Maryland where citizens were required to take an oath of allegiance to the new country.
During 1775, while Asbury traveled preaching to whomever would listen and trying in vain to stay healthy, he also had to be aware of Paul Revere’s midnight ride, the battles of Lexington and Concord, the second Continental Congress meeting, and the battle of Bunker Hill. Asbury was not living and ministering in a vacuum. He was attempting to reach people who were living in a time of great uncertainty, political division, and even violence. Sound familiar? What’s Old Is New Again!
As Asbury began 1776, he started by writing two facts. He was entering a new year and he was happy. How was it possible for Asbury, a foreign man living in a foreign land which had recently declared war on his homeland, to be happy? Didn’t he realize that violence was at hand? Was he unaware of the financial insecurity the colonies faced? Did he not see neighbor fighting neighbor? How is it possible for Francis Asbury to be happy at a time like this?
Simply put, his heart was taken up with God. Not with anxiety or uncertainty or a fresh news cycle, but with God. Asbury was reading the Bible daily, praying hourly, meeting with like-minded people to discuss God’s will, and reaching out to those who had not yet been saved. It wasn’t just his heart that was taken up with God, but his mind, spirit, time, and energy, too. His life was taken up with God.
So, as I enter on a new year which may hold uncertainty and division, may I, like Francis Asbury, have a life taken up with God. Instead of losing weight, may I take on the weight of daily Bible readings. While exercising my body, may I also exercise my prayers. While meeting with friends, may I remember to focus on God’s will. And while worrying about my own needs, may I also remember to minister to the needs of those less fortunate. I think I’ll call it Francis Asbury’s “sure fire” recipe to a truly Happy New Year.
Anne Packard serves as Conference Historian and director of the Arthur J. Moore Methodist Museum on St. Simons Island. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.