This Sunday I am talking about Methodism and Catholicism. After this two week stint (last week I covered Mormonism) and when I have a few free weeks in my preaching schedule I will probably look at world religions such as Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism.
Here are ten things I would say to a Catholic. (Sorry for the abbreviated notes. I'm on vacation this week and gave myself only 90 minutes to write the sermon.)
1. I admire the way you educate your children in the faith.
But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left. –Matthew 19-14-15
2. I admire the way you stand firm in your faith.
But there are some Jews—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—whom you have put in charge of the province of Babylon. They pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They refuse to serve your gods and do not worship the gold statue you have set up.” Then Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before him. When they were brought in, Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?” –Daniel 3:12-15
3. I admire the way you emphasize confession in a day when talking about sin ranks right up there in social acceptability with talking about sex and money.
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. –James 5:16
4. I admire the beauty and reverence of your worship.
Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care. -Psalm 95:6-7
5. I like how you emphasize the Lord’s Supper.
So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. -John 6:53-56
6. Methodists and Catholics agree on most things and most important things.
The Church of England (The Anglican Church – The Episcopal Church in the United States) split from the Roman Catholic because Pope Paul III excommunicated King Henry VIII because of Henry VIII’s actions surrounding his divorce. The Methodists split from the Church of England because John Wesley took the church to the street corners and evangelized coal miners. This was not considered proper. Many of our differences to this day have more to do with form and style rather than beliefs.
7. We both derive our theology from the same four sources: tradition, experience, reason, and Scripture. As Protestants in the Methodist tradition, we elevate Scripture above the other three sources. This makes us a little different.
This one issue explains our differences in many areas: priests not being able to marry / pastors being able to marry, annulments, the Pope, birth control, the elevation of Mary, purgatory, etc…
8. We simply disagree on transubstantiation.
Transubstantiation - μετουσίωσις – metousiosis - means the change of the substance of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. This belief originated in the 11th century, became widespread in the 12th century, and continues today.
Methodists see communion as a sacrament – an outward symbol of an inward and spiritual grace.
For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.” -1 Corinthians 11:23-25
9. We are close to believing the same thing about grace, but I’m still convinced the Catholic version of grace has too much to do with humanity and not enough to do with God.
Entire books have been written on this statement. Methodists see grace as a gift that only comes from God. Kindness happens as a response to that grace. Catholics often use the word charity. They would see faith as an active belief that is necessary for salvation.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. -Ephesians 2:8 (NIV)
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. -James 2:14-17
10. I hope for both the Roman Catholic and United Methodist Churches – that our rituals and our religions never emphasize form over power.
I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out. -John Wesley