Pastor’s Letter for March 2024


Pastor Jim Martin of St. Matthew United Methodist Church in Weston, WV
Pastor Jim Martin

John Wesley’s Methodist movement in Great Britain did not start out to become a church.  It was a movement within the Church of England.  The movement was organized into larger groups called societies and the societies were made up of smaller groups called classes (think Sunday school). 

When a Methodist class met, the lay leader began by asking each class member, “How is it with your soul?”  What a great question!  What a great way to help those who wish to grow in their faith in God through Jesus Christ!  For me, “How is it with your soul?” helps me reflect on my journey with Christ, where I have been faithful and where I have been less than faithful.  It moves me to examine with the Holy Spirit my “growing edges” so that I may grow into whom God desires me to be.   It is a good method to practice in observing a holy Lent. 

However, I wonder if there may be some who feel that this exercise called Lent is a drag.  Should not life in God be about praising God’s name in song that lifts up the heart.   Don’t misunderstand me:  It is good and wonderful and necessary to lift up our hearts in song and praise to God. 

But if we desire to grow in our love of Christ and each other, an honest check with ourselves is crucial to discern what God is asking, and yes, even demanding, where God wants each of us to grow.  This process of growing in faith is what Wesley called sanctifying grace – a lifelong pursuit of “going on to perfection” in Christian love.  Our Christian love is measurable, it is observable.  You might say it is incarnational.  Christian love is demonstrated in and through our flesh and bones.  It is a love that is manifested in our relationships with one another (even our enemies), in our generosity, and in other outward signs of graces, gifts, and fruit. 

Undoubtingly you have heard someone say, maybe even me, that one cannot get to Easter without going through Good Friday, yet so many eschew Holy Week services because it seems to be “too much”, or that “it’s a drag.”  Admittedly, these services are somber and even dark.  The Good Friday Tenebrae Service (translated Service of Shadows) is literally dark by design. 

Some of us look for ways to get out of Lent and Holy Week. But here we are: stuck in the middle of it.

Parker Palmer, an inspiring Christian writer who practices his faith in Christ as a Quaker, tells about participating in an Outward Bound program at 40 years old.  One exercise had the small group rock repelling down a 100 foot cliff.  He didn’t want to do it.  But he put the harness on, something called a Swiss seat, and configured the rope through a carabiner so that he could lower himself down this rock face.  Halfway down he froze suspended 50 feet above the ground below.  Minutes passed and Parker became aware that no one was going to help him get out of his position.   The Outward Bound guide at the bottom called to him asking if there was a problem.  Parker’s reply surprised himself.  Sounding like a child he said, “I don’t want to talk about it.”  The guide called out and told Parker it was time to learn the Outward Bound motto:  “When you can’t get out of it, get into it.”  And after a moment, Parker “got into it” and continued down the rock face and got through it.

As followers of Christ, let us answer Wesley’s question as we continue to strive to observe a good and holy Lent.  “How is it with your soul?”  remembering the Outward Bound motto, When you can’t get out of it, get into it. 

In Christ,

Pastor Jim