Today, 24 May, is “Aldersgate Day” or “Wesley Day” in the Methodist tradition . Why, you might ask, is this, and what does it have to do with our theme of Peace?
The day gets it’s name from an experience that the founder of Methodism had on 24 May 1738 in Aldersgate Street in London. It was an experience which he recorded in his journal, which brought him peace and would shape the rest of his life. In his journal, Wesley writes:
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.https://www.ccel.org/ccel/wesley/journal.vi.ii.xvi.html
At this point in his life John Wesley had been exploring the Christian faith for many years, in fact he was already ordained as an Anglican Priest; yet in this moment something clicked, something sank in that he hadn’t quite understood before and he felt his “heart strangely warmed”. In this moment he acknowledges that he could trust the person of Jesus Christ, that he could have faith in Jesus and know that his sin (those things that separated him and separate us from God) had been taken away through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
I don’t think that John Wesley ever defined what his heart being strangely warmed meant but on 25th May, the day after his Aldersgate experience he wrote this in his journal after going to St Paul’s Cathedral:
Yet the enemy injected a fear, “If thou dost believe, why is there not a more sensible change”? I answered (yet not I), “That I know not. But, this I know, I have ‘now peace with God’.
Through his Aldersgate experience, through his faith in Jesus, Wesley knew that he had peace with God. For me that experience of his heart being strangely warmed was the work of the Holy Spirit confirming the faith he had declared, and demonstrating in a physical way the peace that he had with God. I don’t know about you but one of the ways I know whether I’m at peace is in my stomach and whether it is comfortably at rest or has unpeaceful butterflies. For me that sense of stirring or peace in my stomach is often God speaking to me. I would hazard a guess that it was something like this for John Wesley in his heart – but we’ll never know for sure!
As the various blogs and posts this month have shown, peace is many different things, but for me the greatest peace can be found through faith; faith in Jesus Christ, faith which strangely warms our heart and gives us peace. In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that he gives us his peace and that the peace he gives is different from any peace the world can offer (John 14:27). Maybe this is a peace you already know; maybe it’s a peace you’ve thought about but not explored; maybe it’s a new idea for you.
Why not explore this peace a little further?