Journey Through Lent


April 03, 2019

As we journey through Lent to the cross, it is beneficial to be accompanied by the verse of Charles Wesley. I want to look at hymn 374 in The United Methodist Hymnal, which is printed as a poem. It is a pleading by God for sinners to turn from death to life.

As we read the hymn, what strikes us first is that Charles understands salvation as the work of the Trinity. In the first three verses God our Maker, God our Savior and God the Spirit each ask us to turn to God. It begins this way:

Sinners, turn: why will you die?
God, your Maker, asks you why.
God, who did your being give,
made you himself, that you might live;
he the fatal cause demands,
asks the work of his own hands.
Why, you thankless creatures, why
will you cross his love, and die?

We were created by God, in God’s own image. But we are not the way we are supposed to be. God’s love reaches out to us in Jesus Christ so that we can regain the life which we have lost.

Sinners, turn: why will you die?
God, your Savior, asks you why.
God, who did your souls retrieve,
died himself, that you might live,
Will you let him die in vain?
Crucify your Lord again?
Why, you ransomed sinners, why
will you slight his grace, and die?

God loved us so much that God became one of us and died for us, that we might have new life. This is more than a desire for the prodigal to return home. It is God going out in the far country to find us and bring us home. God takes the initiative and yearns for our response.

The Holy Spirit reaches out in love to enable and invite us to turn to God:

Sinners, turn: why will you die?
God, the Spirit, asks you why;
he, who all your lives hath strove,
wooed you to embrace his love.
Will you not his grace receive?
Will you still refuse to live?
Why, you long-sought sinners, why
will you grieve your God, and die?

John Wesley often spoke of what God had done for us in Jesus Christ and what God does in us through the Holy Spirit. Because of what God does for us we are forgiven and reconciled to God. But the goal of salvation is a new life in Christ. It is our being restored to the image of God by the Holy Spirit so that we love as God has loved us in Jesus Christ. Charles puts it this way:

You whom he ordained to be 
transcripts of the Trinity,
you, whom he in life doth hold,
you, for whom himself was sold,
you, on whom he still doth wait,
whom he would again create;
made by him, and purchased, why,
why will you forever die?

As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NRSV), “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

The promise of salvation is that we can be created anew, given a life of love that not even death can take from us.