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Lost in love: A Wesley hymn devotion for Lent

A UMC.org Feature by Joe Iovino*
March 27, 2017

This is the third of four hymn devotions for Lent. Read more musical devotions.

What does it mean to live as a Christian? How can we continue to grow in our faith? Charles Wesley’s “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” is a prayer for God to guide us in our spiritual journeys throughout our lives.

Serving at a health clinic in Florida.

Lent is a time when many choose to grow spiritually by serving their communities. File photo by Mike DuBose, United Methodist Communications.

Lent is a time when many Christians focus intentionally on spiritual growth. Some attend Lenten soup suppers and Bible studies at their church. Others volunteer at the local food bank, join a spring break mission trip, or visit the lonely. Many others choose to donate to ministries near and far that work for justice and support those affected by unjust systems.

John Wesley, a founder of the Methodist movement and Charles’ big brother, called these activities means of grace. They are things we do to put ourselves in a posture to receive God’s grace in our lives (see The Means of Grace, II 1).

Some of these means of grace are worship and our devotional lives. They also include times of serving our neighbors and standing up for justice. Those who participate in these practices experience a deepening of their faith and understanding.

John called this process sanctification, or becoming “perfected in love.” He writes in a sermon, “If thou wilt be perfect… add love… It is not only the first and great command, but it is all the commandments in one” (The Circumcision of the Heart, I 11).

He is echoing Jesus’ answer when asked what the greatest commandment is: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind... [and] You must love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:37-40 CEB, cf. Mark 12:28-31 & Luke 10:25-28).

For the Wesleys growing as a Christian is all about being filled with love, which happens by the grace of God.

In an episode of UMC.org’s podcast Get Your Spirit in Shape, United Methodist Wesley scholar the Rev. Paul Chilcote describes sanctifying grace as “grace that pulls us forward, magnetically draws us deeper into love—God’s love for us and our love for others.”

“Love Divine All Loves Excelling” is a prayer for God to pull us deeper into love.

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