I’ve always loved the means of grace even before I knew what the means of grace was! My mom loved to tell the story of when I was about four. I had seen a church sign about Pontius Pilate and asked her, “why would ‘punch the pilot’ want to kill Jesus any- way?” One time in the sixth grade, I went to church and the pastor preached about Samuel's call in 1st Samuel 3 of the Old Testa- ment. He asked the congregation if we had ever heard God call our name. I wanted to stand up and tell him, “Yes!” But I was a little timid in that Pentecostal congregation. In the eighth grade, when I was attending mass at Saint Ann’s Catholic Church, I saw my best friend Chris who was an altar boy hold the book for the priest saying mass. I knew then that the place I belonged was at the altar presiding at the Lord’s Supper even though I couldn’t talk about it that way yet.
When I got to seminary and found out that the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, had named the usual means of grace as one of the ways that we know, experience, and receive God‘s love on a consistent and Scriptural basis, I was overjoyed! The usual means of grace are prayer, searching the Scriptures, the Lord‘s Supper, fasting, and Christian conferencing. Even though I did not know those words while I was growing up, I was already interested in keeping these practices and becoming a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ. Now as a pastor, it is my joy to share these practices in the Christian community so that we may all deepen our devo- tion to follow Jesus Christ.
The means of grace offer us the method that brings us to a greater depth of faithfulness and Christian community. These means of grace are in fact the Good News of Jesus Christ put into practice by his disciples. These means of grace drive us inwardly in the practices of piety, devotion, and worship, and drive us outwardly in greater avenues of mercy, justice, and compassion. When John and Charles Wesley were at Oxford they put these practices into place in their life and formed what they called the "holiness club.” That’s how they became known as the “Methodists," they had a method to living out their faith in Jesus Christ.
I invite you to come learn more about the practices that we call the means of grace, both as a time of learning and growing togeth- er, and as a time of putting our faith into action as we begin the new year together.
By Rev. Jon Stouffer