From Pastor Steve

Mary Lou FosterPastor's Blog

From the Barber Shop to the Pulpit… Being Methodists in Hopkins County

Some of you know I get my hair cut at Briley’s Barber Shop just across from the courthouse in Sulphur Springs. But not until my last haircut had the owner, Mike, cut my hair. As I sat down in the chair and Mike was draping the “hair apron” on me did I know he was a Methodist since he used these “Methodist words”: “So are you coming back for another year at Wesley?”

I said, “Indeed I am!” He smiled and I instantly knew I was talking to a fellow Methodist.

Let me go back 13 years to my first Methodist church in Paris. I was asked by a member in April of 2002 if I was going to be back for another year. It really caught me off-guard. I wasn’t sure how to answer that question until I chatted with my friend, Burt Palmer, then pastor at Calvary UMC, Paris, and now the pastor at Polk Street UMC, Amarillo.

Burt smiled and said, “Cook, if you have not been called by the DS (Methodist lingo for District Superintendent) by now, you will be back!” He then told me about the consultation process that is in place for all parties in Methodist churches: Church/Pastor, DS/Cabinet/Bishop. It was a teachable moment for me. So when Mike asked me if I would be back for another year, I knew immediately I was talking to a Methodist!

Being Methodist and talking Methodist go hand-in-hand. I remember the great JOY of learning about John Wesley’s expression and interpretation of Grace. Shucks, I’d been singing “Amazing Grace” as long as I can remember. But from previous church experience, I was not taught about the “One or Undivided Grace” expressed in at least three ways: Prevenient (think preceding) grace which is God acting in our lives before we ever know God, such as the baptism of a baby, or actually sense God at work in our lives; Justifying grace is the moment we are made aware of the presence through God’s Spirit wooing us toward the love, mercy, and forgiveness of our sins (the salvation experience); and Sanctifying grace is the ongoing process of God restoring God’s image in us which was marred by the sin of Adam and Eve (Genesis 1-2) and going on toward perfection, being made perfect in heart of holiness life (great Wesley words). To be sure, we Methodists affirm much of what most Protestants believe: God expressed as the Trinity, salvation by faith only in Jesus Christ, the Church as the Body of Christ, the sacraments of Holy Communion and Baptism, confession of our faith, forgiveness of sin, etc. But when it comes to Grace, we are distinctive and we live out Wesley’s three basic rules as the People of God in community: 1. do no harm, 2. do good, 3. attend upon the ordinances of God (prayer, searching the Scriptures, and receiving the Lord’s Supper). These make us Wesleyan United Methodists!

I don’t think my barber knew the “can of worms” he was opening within me when he asked that simple, but uniquely Methodist question: “Are you coming back to Wesley for another year?” But thanks to friends like Burt Palmer, Doug Miller, Pete Adrian, Eddie Jean Adams, Vivian Crowson, Brian Bosworth, etc., I am “going on to perfection” now!

While I’m “gracing you” with this article, allow me to share what we Methodists received from our founder, John Wesley, as The Means of Grace (ordinary ways we experience God’s Grace but by no means “limits” God’s Grace to us. These include the following: Works of Piety such as receiving Holy Communion (or the Lord’s Supper), Public Worship of God, Ministry of the Bible (Holy Scriptures), Prayer (family, private and public), Fasting (abstaining from food to honor God), Holy Conferencing (at the District, Conference, and General Conference levels as well as retreats, etc.), and Works of Mercy for humanity (clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, and visiting those in jails or prisons). These are several, but not all, of the ways God honors as Means of Grace to “one another!”

The hymnist said it right, “ Marvelous Grace of our loving Lord; Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt; yonder on Calvary’s Mount outpoured, there where the Blood of the Lamb was spilt.” Another thing I should say is, we preachers are always open to a new or fresh word wherever. It may be in the barber shop or at the grocery store or from a friend’s voice or even a text from Facebook. Hebrews 4:12 says it best: “The Word of God is living and active …” GRACE!