The John Wesley Fellowship began in 1977, with Steve Harper and yours truly being two of the first John Wesley Fellows chosen. I have told the story of Ed Robb and AFTE this past Fall on the blog so I will not repeat it. Here are some of the senior fellows attending the meeting. […]
Over the weekend I was at Kokomo Indiana doing an event for Grace UM Church, and Pastor Steve and his wife told me the following remarkable story.
In the 90s, Steve was helping lead an E.O. tour in Israel with his Bishop, and they had gotten permission to have the Garden Tomb locale closed off to serve communion to the several hundred ministers and lay people on this tour. Little did Steve expect what his Bishop was going to ask him to do, once the gates had been closed and the service commenced.
Meanwhile, back in Indiana his wife was at home in bed. She was awoken at about 2 in the morning by a strong sense that God wanted her to get up and sing. She was not best pleased with this order from headquarters and questioned it, but finally was obedient to that strong sense she needed to do it. So, as she told me, she got up, sat in her chair, and started by singing Amazing Grace and then went through a repertoire of familiar hymns and choruses she knew by heart. She had no idea why she was doing this, but doing it in the middle of night sitting in her chair she was.
There is an eight hour time difference between Jerusalem and Indiana, and at the very hour Steve’s wife was singing away it was 10 a.m. in Jerusalem. It was at that very hour Steve’s bishop made an odd request— “Steve, get the service started by leading them in singing”. This request was odd because Steve has a difficult time remembering even names, but remembering lyrics to hymns? Forget about it– he admits himself he can’t do that at all. Naturally the bishop’s demand must have frightened Steve, but he got up there prepared to get things started with the singing– beginning with ‘Amazing Grace’. To his own amazement he not only suddenly remembered the words to that hymn, but a whole series of other ones whose lyrics he had not memorized. And so all was well at the Garden tomb and communion went off as planned.
Only later, did Steve and his wife realize what was happening. Steve was singing the very hymns his wife was singing at the same time half way around the world— no lie! When they compared notes, yep, you could say Steve was channeling his wife’s 2 a.m. songfest! One little footnote. Methodism was born in song, and to this day its theology is best and most frequently conveyed in song as well. It is only natural for Methodists to ‘connect’ through the music of the Wesleys, Newton, Watts and the other classic hymn writers. But on that day, there was a very special and unconscious divine connection between a husband and wife. You know it is often said that once ‘the two become one’ the only question is— Which One? On that day Steve needed his better half to take over in his hour of ‘lead’– and she did!
This whole marvelous story reminds me of the John Muir dictum, which I will paraphrase here from memory— ‘We look at life from the back side of the tapestry and mostly what we see is the loose threads, the knots, the dangling cords. But occasionally light shines through the tapestry of life, and we get a glimpse of how the divine hand has woven the darks and lights altogether into a beautiful larger design’.
On that day, a ‘harmonic convergence’ happened in the life and ministry of the Beutlers, and as his wife said to me at lunch yesterday, it has served as a good reassurance and confirmation of God’s hand in their lives when rough times have come along since that day.
“God works all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to (their) choice/purpose.” — Rom. 8.28