Answering Morgan’s question: “What are some ‘churchy’ words you have heard of only at church?” the confirmation class offered dozens of words before coming up with this one – grace. Morgan circled that word and erased all the others.
Confirmation at Munholland is offered for 6th grade and up. Most are in middle school. Teaching this age is challenging, but Morgan keeps it innovative, interactive and lively.
Next she played “Amazing Grace” on her iPhone as we listened with eyes closed. Her question: “What did you notice in the lyrics?”
Answers included: Blindness; Amazing; Saving; Lost becomes Found; Sweet Sound – “what was the sound?”
The confirmation lesson was about grace and the teaching of John Wesley. A confusing and potentially boring topic. But not with Morgan. First she made clear that while John Wesley started the Methodist Church, he is not the one we worship. Jesus Christ is the head of our church as he is head of all Christian churches.
Morgan described Wesley’s three types of grace using the house analogy.
- Prevenient Grace is God’s favor on us before we even know we need it. It is precious and unrequested, like a parent providing for an infant who cannot yet speak.
- Justifying Grace is God’s favor through Jesus’ work on the cross, and is ours when we accept God’s forgiveness and make Jesus our Lord and Savior.
- Sanctifying Grace is God’s guidance and favor as we seek to “hit the target” of pleasing God through our words and actions.
It’s like a house, she said. We are covered by God’s grace – prevenient grace- when we are outside, on the porch. When we choose to go through the door – the one and only doorway, through Jesus – we are justified, reconciled to God in a way we could never achieve on our own. And once inside, saved, we have God’s sanctifying grace helping us to please God more and more with our lives.
Grace is for everyone, in one of these forms. God loves us all, deserving or not.
That would have been enough of a lesson for most teachers for one day, and a great message for Easter Sunday. But Morgan went on to teach the essence of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.
What’s that, you ask? Most adults don’t know what that is. I didn’t understand it until I took a course at Asbury Seminary. It describes the guiding principles of the Methodist denomination in a graphic way. Each of the Quadrilateral’s four sides contributes to the living theology of the Methodist Church. So in a United Methodist confirmation class, it gives kids an idea of what makes our denomination distinct from others.
- Scripture is one side: 2Timothy 3:16 says all scripture is ‘God-breathed.’
- Reason is another: We don’t check our brains at the door and we use science appropriately to understand our world.
- Tradition is another side: We appreciate the history of the church and keep its tradition in healthy balance with the other principles.
- Experience is the final side: It helps the church learn from its mistakes and remain alert to God’s leading and inclusiveness.
Cool. Maybe that is too geometric and flat to be remembered by 6th graders. So Morgan gave us another way to see the same idea. She said it is like a wind chime. The Bible is the circle that holds the chimes together at the top. Reason, Tradition and Experience are three chimes hanging from it. But a wind chime make no sound without wind. Wind is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. So the Holy Spirit blows through the Wesleyan Wind Chimes, creating a sweet sound. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound….
It was a lot to absorb for those kids. I was ‘on the porch’ until I was 29 years old. And no one told me about why Methodists are the way they are. As these young people make the choice to be confirmed in the Methodist Church, I pray that they truly understand that grace is amazing. The Christian faith asks us to accept God’s love through Jesus. The rest will come as they step through the door of the house and hear the sweet sound of the Holy Spirit making music in the church.
Amazing Grace: How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.