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Saturday, 4 October 2014

Label - or badge?

This afternoon, I spent a couple of hours with one of my former pupils.  I am delighted that there are a number of them with whom I meet, from time-to-time, for coffee (or tea) and a chat.  During the course of our conversation, I mentioned that there was a time when I dreamed of being inducted into a country parish, where I would have a horse and a dog, and would attend to my parish visitation on horseback - a latter-day John Wesley!

Okay, so some 'delusions of grandeur' creeping in there!  I forgot to mention to my young friend that the dog would always come with me, running alongside my trusty steed.

John Wesley was, at one time, somewhat biased with regard to denominations.  Then, it is recorded, he had a dream in which he seemed to be transported to the very gates of hell.  Seizing the opportunity, he inquired: "Are there any Presbyterians here?"  "Yes", was the reply.  "Any Romanists?", he asked.  "Yes", he was informed.  "What about Congregationalists, and Anglicans?"  "Both are here", came the answer.   Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, hesitated.  "Not any Methodists, I hope!"   To his dismay, he received the same, affirmative, response.

Suddenly, the scene changed, and he stood at the gate of heaven.  Once again he asked, "Are there any Presbyterians here?"  "No", was the reply.  He went down through the same list as before, each time receiving the same answer - "No!", until he came to the question that most interested him.  "Are there any Methodists here?"  He was shocked to, yet again, receive the same, stern, reply, "No!"

"Well then", he asked, "please tell me who is in heaven."  "!" was the jubilant Disciples of Jesusanswer.

When I attended Grammar School, we wore a uniform.  Part of that uniform was a blazer.  Each blazer had a label that gave some important information about the garment - the size; the material; the name of the manufacturer; the cleaning instructions.  That label was usually either at the back, under the collar, or in the inside pocket - both places out of sight.  However, each blazer also had a badge.  This was the school crest, and it stated the name of my school.  That badge was worn, proudly, on the breast pocket, in full view of any who cared to look.

Within the Christian Church, there are many labels, as John Wesley knew.  They provide, concerning each denomination, or other grouping, some important information regarding that group - the type of church government it espouses; its belief about the appropriate subjects for water baptism; its approach to the gifts of God the Holy Spirit; etc.  However, as a disciple of Jesus, I have a badge.  That badge is "Christian" ('disciple of Jesus' is a clarification of a word that has, sadly, become greatly devalued), and it is that badge that I wear, proudly, for all to see.  It is also that badge that identifies other disciples, and enables us to enjoy a unity of spirit that, I am convinced, is available nowhere else!

If I may use popular figurative language, when I arrive at the pearly gates, Peter will not ask if I was a Presbyterian, Baptist, Charismatic, or whatever.  All that I will require to gain entry is my badge - disciple of Jesus.  Well, actually, there is a bit more - but I've gone on long enough, so I'll share that in the next post!

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