Pentacost Fire

Conversion Experiences

I grew up in Allentown, PA in a section of town called Midway Manor, which was a small, middle-class, lily-white community of red brick houses with surrounding yards, originally built by Lee Iacocca’s father for returning G.I. My family’s home purchase was one of the first ones. I was three months old in November of 1946 when we moved in. The only old structure, which was in the middle of the community, was an old PA Dutch farmhouse, and that served as our neighborhood church. In that church, I knew that the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God loved me…and that was the one belief that never deserted me. This church of my childhood was a Moravian Church.

I left Allentown to go to college, and I’ve lived many places since then. I’ve noticed that whenever someone asks what church I grew up in, and I answer “Moravian,” I get a blank look and a “Huh?” or “What’s that?”

Eventually, guided along a long personal roller coaster of spirituality (and the occasional blocking thereof), I came to the United Methodist Church…for me, I’ve come home. And Methodists…anyway, the ones who know Methodist history… know of the Moravian Church. Charles Wesley had been strongly influenced by Moravians over a number of years, and he even worshipped with them for a while. In fact, on May 24, 1738, just 276 years ago this week, at a Moravian meeting on London’s Aldersgate Street, John Wesley had a personal experience that revolutionized his ministry. He converted his understanding of the way of salvation. He wrote that his heart felt strangely warmed, as he recognized fully that he did not have to earn his own sanctification. He knew that Grace was God’s freely given gift. “Verily, FREE GRACE is all in all!  FREE IN ALL, and FREE FOR ALL.”  Wesley understood the meaning of what the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-10:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God–not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

John Wesley wrote, “I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

Interestingly, his ministry-partner, his younger brother Charles, who is better known as one of the most prolific poets and hymn writers ever, had his own profound spiritual experience just days before John’s Aldersgate experience. Through dropping his eyes to random Scripture, through message upon followed message, he also was assured of God’s Grace.

Charles Wesley wrote, “I saw that by faith I stood; by the continual support of faith, which kept me from falling, though of myself I am ever sinking into sin. I went to bed still sensible of my own weakness, (I humbly hope to be more and more so,) yet confident of Christ’s protection.”  Charles, being Charles, then wrote the words to two more long beautiful hymns!

When his brother had his Aldersgate experience three days later, Charles wrote another hymn:

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

God touches each of us in different ways…and we are often changed…sometimes subtly, and sometimes radically. Sometimes our experience comes in a whisper, and sometimes with shouts of glory! Safe within the loving Grace of God, we have renewed assurance that all is well. We don’t live in these mountain top experiences …we let the energy play out as it will…and we accept the life messages as they come, guiding us into more sacred space to live our lives. We know that every moment of our lives is the powerful peak experience we have now…let’s receive it with gratitude and joy. Amen.