Charles Wesley vs. Phillips Brooks

We're getting closer, friends. In less than 24 hours we'll know who will be competing against Harriet Bedell for the Golden Halo. Yes, you heard that correctly, Harriet Bedell! Did anyone who filled out a bracket have Harriet competing in the championship round? Anybody? Harriet capped off a stunning Cinderella-like romp through Lent Madness 2014 by defeating Lydia yesterday 54% to 46% and will vie for the Golden Halo on Spy Wednesday with either Charles Wesley or Phillips Brooks.

But first, Charles and Phillips stare one another down in this battle of wordsmiths. Hymn writer and preacher. Though, to be fair, Wesley preached a bunch of sermons and Brooks wrote some hymns. And many generations have been inspired by their passion and creativity.

To make it this far, Charles Wesley defeated John Wesley, Thomas Merton, and Anna Cooper while Phillips Brooks turned away Simeon, Catherine of Siena, and Julia Chester Emery.

Oh, and congratulations to the Lent Madness Faithful for helping us achieve our goal of 10,000 likes on Facebook! We had great faith in you and the milestone was tripped at 10:18 pm Eastern Standard Time by a Canadian (of all things) proving that Lent Madness is indeed a global phenomenon. Or at least that Maple Anglican is a lot more influential than we thought.

After watching Tim and Scott's last Lenten edition of the award winning (well, not yet but we're optimistic and/or deluded) Monday Madness, let's see what the Archbishops have to say about today's match-up:

Charles Wesley


Charles Wesley Writing, by Richard Douglass

The other day, I asked a friend what I should say in order to convince you, dear reader, to cast your vote for Charles Wesley in today’s Lent Madness match-up. I was given a definite and absolute answer: “it’s all about the hymns!”

In one sense, of course the case for Charles Wesley centers on his 6,000+ hymns. For me, those hymns have been present at some of the most dear and cherished moments of my life –- I’ve attended weddings and funerals and sung Love Divine, All Loves Excelling. I recall the Christmas Eve eucharists as child where I would be so excited to sing Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. Easter morning was never complete without Christ the Lord is Risen Today/Jesus Christ is Risen Today. 

His hymns punctuate the seasons of the church’s year (as with Come Thou Long Expected Jesus and Lo! He

Charles Wesley, from St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, San Francisco, CA

Charles Wesley, from St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, San Francisco, CA

Comes with Clouds Descending), and they provide language to express our desire to offer our highest praises to God (O For a Thousand Tongues To Sing!). At times, they simply stand in awe and amazement at God’s incredible love for us (And Can it Be That I Should Gain?).

But in a larger sense, I like Charles Wesley for way more than writing my favorite hymns. Because for Wesley, the hymns -– magnificent as they are –- were but other tools in his toolbox –- yet another way of striving to reach every last person with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Charles Wesley wanted every last person on earth to have that same feeling of confidence and assurance in Jesus Christ’s love for them, just as he had experienced his own “strange palpitation of the heart” and assurance that Jesus loved him on that Pentecost Day in 1738.

It’s no secret that this mission of Charles Wesley often led him right up to the edge of trouble. With his brother, Charles received disapproval from church authorities when, casting aside long-standing practice, he went out into the fields to preach the gospel to people who otherwise never would have had an opportunity to step into a church. And preach he did –- to thousands upon thousands.

unnamedAnd the hymns…Charles Wesley’s many hymns were to him yet another means by which the gospel could be heard, that Jesus Christ could be known, and Jesus’ love could be felt by everyone. The famous 19th century American preacher Henry Ward Beecher once confessed his understanding of the power of those hymns to stir the heart when he said: “I would rather have written that hymn of Wesley's, Jesus, Lover of My Soul, than to have the fame of all the kings that ever sat on the earth.”

Charles Wesley was described by those who knew him as “a man made for friendship.” And for him, that’s what all those hymns, all those sermons, and all his work was all about: friendship with God and with neighbor.

That’s a commitment, and a ministry, that we can sing about today and every day, even as we, like Charles Wesley, cast our crowns before Jesus… lost in wonder, love, and praise.

-- David Sibley

 Phillips Brooks

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

In the later decades of the 19th Century Phillips Brooks, rector of Trinity Church, Boston, was a national celebrity. It was a time when, unlike today, being widely-known, much less widely-respected and beloved as Brooks was, was no small feat.

Once clocked by a reporter at preaching more than 200 words per minute, Phillips Brooks must have been a been a magnetic, not to say breathless, preacher. We can’t know. Thomas Edison’s phonograph was not widely in use by Brooks’s death in 1893, but Martin Luther King, Jr.’s son has claimed that the cadence of Brooks’s sermons influenced his father’s preaching style. If we have Brooks to thank, in small part, for “I Have a Dream,” then we owe a great debt.

Upon reading his sermons more than 100 years later, it’s remarkable how overcome I am by a potent jolt of inspiration. I want to be a better person. I want to serve God with my best self and my whole heart. Sign me up!

Listen to the man:

The danger facing all of us -- let me say it again, for one feels it tremendously -- is not that we shall

Hall of Fame of Great Americans, Bronx Community College

Hall of Fame of Great Americans, Bronx Community College

make an absolute failure of life, nor that we shall fall into outright viciousness, nor that we shall be terribly unhappy, nor that we shall feel that life has no meaning at all -- not these things. The danger is that we may fail to perceive life's greatest meaning, fall short of its highest good, miss its deepest and most abiding happiness, be unable to render the most needed service, be unconscious of life ablaze with the light of the Presence of God -- and be content to have it so -- that is the danger. That some day we may wake up and find that always we have been busy with the husks and trappings of life -- and have really missed life itself. For life without God, to one who has known the richness and joy of life with Him, is unthinkable, impossible. That is what one prays one's friends may be spared -- satisfaction with a life that falls short of the best, that has in it no tingle and thrill which come from a friendship with the Father.

Brooks knew that it all comes down to love, as he shared so eloquently in a letter to young Helen Keller.

Trinity Church, Boston

Trinity Church, Boston

“There is one universal religion, Helen - the religion of Love. Love your Heavenly Father with your whole heart and soul, love every child of God as much as ever you can, and remember that the possibilities of good are greater than the possibilities of evil; and you have the key to Heaven.”

The words Brooks shares are not bound by time. “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” Indeed, they are met in Christ every night of our lives. And his call to prayer to a God who knows no bounds sounds like it was written yesterday.

“Pray the largest prayers. You cannot think a prayer so large that God, in answering it, will not wish you had made it larger. Pray not for crutches but for wings.”

-- Heidi Shott


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Lydia vs. Harriet Bedell

We started Lent Madness 2014 with 32 saints and now we're down to four. The Faithful Four. Who will win the coveted Golden Halo? Only a few short days and your voting participation will give us the answer. But it's come down to this: Lydia, Harriet Bedell, Charles Wesley, and Phillips Brooks.

Today we begin the first of two Faithful Four match-ups as Lydia takes on Harriet Bedell. In this round we ask our Celebrity Bloggers to briefly answer one question: "Why should Saint XX win the Golden Halo?" Speaking of which, how about a round of applause for our fabulous CB's who toil away in the salt mines of Lent Madness without nearly enough recognition? They are truly the backbone of this operation and are worthy of our gratitude. Please do hound them for autographs when you spot them wearing sunglasses and baseball caps just trying to lead normal lives.

To make it to the Faithful Four, Lydia defeated Moses the Black, John of the Cross, and Basil the Great while Harriet turned back Joseph Schereschewsky, Thomas Gallaudet, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. (click on the names of defeated opponents to view previous match-ups and refresh your memory about these two saintly women).

And, in case you were wondering, we're tantalizingly close to our goal of 10,000 Facebook likes. Over 9,920! Encourage that freshly minted teenager who just became eligible for an account to like us. Compel your grandfather for whom you just did spend the last five hours setting up his new computer and teaching him how to use Facebook to join the Lent Madness party. We can do this!

Finally, here's the Archbishop's Update highlighting today's battle:


unnamedSt. Lydia, unlike other saints, stands in the shadows. No legends, no stories of miracles, no healings. She just shows up in Acts, does her thing, disappears again. Yet she has lasted. She is a saint of paradox, standing with feet in two worlds..

Her very name, in Acts, is a contradiction. She’s Lydia Thyatira, which indicates she is from Thyatira, a town known for its dyeworks, but she appears in Philippi of Macedonia. She must have moved her family from the small town to the more-bustling crossroads of Philippi at some point. She’s a transplant, at a time when people didn’t move from their hometowns. She’s from two places at once.

She’s a powerful business woman in her community and head of her own household. That’s rare in her time and place. While we have other examples of female heads-of-households during the Pax Romana, it wasn’t common, and Lydia running her own prosperous dye business would have raised a few eyebrows, and caused a few Roman patriarchs to despair for the soul of the Empire. A strong woman in a strongly patriarchal society, she would not have been the most popular person.


Paul and Lydia, Church in Philippi

When we meet her, she is praying with the Jewish community, but she hasn’t converted. And she’s not at the synagogue; she’s at the riverbank, with the other God-fearers. Even when it comes to matters of faith, she’s holding several things in tension.

And yet, when she meets Paul, she’s drawn to the Jesus that he preaches, to the Jesus that he describes. She is immediately baptized, along with her entire household. And her life is changed. From that moment on, the entirety of her wealth, her status and her resources are dedicated to starting and sheltering the Christian mission in Philippi.

It’s impossible to crawl in the mind of another person, so who knows what drew her that day by the river. But perhaps part of the attraction was her unique blend of paradoxes. Perhaps she recognized in Jesus a sort of kindred spirit, who held together in himself the ultimate tension of heaven and earth, God and humanity.

unnamedPerhaps she found in Paul a kindred spirit who recognized her full potential for, in the words of Paul himself, “In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free, for all are one in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Whatever the case, since then, she has been an inspiration for countless others to find their own voice in ministry. The ministries, the churches dedicated to Lydia testify to her enduring legacy. Even though not much is known about her, and even though the political whims of the later church never allowed for the popular devotion accorded to other saints, Lydia’s unique brand of dedication, perseverance, and faith have inspired many in their faith.

So who better to wear the Golden Halo than Lydia? Let’s give it to the woman who emerged from the shadows to lead the early church, and poured all she had, paradoxes and all, into the Gospel.

-- Megan Castellan

Harriet Bedell

unnamedLast summer the assignment of saints descended from the Supreme Executive Committee. I scanned the list for mine, pausing at Harriet Bedell. I had no idea who she was. These many months later, I am glad for the privilege to learn her story and to share it with you, the citizens of Lent Madness Nation.

(Oh, wait. That’s Red Sox talk best saved for tomorrow’s write-up on Phillips Brooks.)

Bedell’s story is infused with the stuff we associate with saintliness: charity, sacrifice, poverty, tenaciousness, courage, humility. The beauty of her story is also measured by the frailty that seeps through her narrative. In her early thirties, when she first arrived at the Oklahoma mission, she blanched at learning to ride a horse. Rather than embarrassing herself by asking tribal members to teach her, she took a horse out on the range and taught herself to ride in private. We can only imagine the bumps, bruises, and wounded pride she sustained in the process.

Nothing is wasted in God’s economy. Bedell’s experiences in Oklahoma paved the way for her years in Alaska just as those years prepared her for her unnamedlong ministry among the Seminole in Florida. “Miss Harriet Bedell, of long experience in Indian work...for three years past has lived of the most isolated spots in interior Alaska,” wrote Hudson Stuck, Archdeacon of the Yukon, in 1920. “Such a post requires a missionary entirely absorbed and happy in the work, and such a one is Miss Bedell.”

Her devotion to God and to the people she served may have been grounded in faith but its expression was always practical. The naturalist Thomas Barbour called her, “a hard-nosed realist.” And no account of Harriet Bedell would be complete without a listing of her no-nonsense “Rules of Life.”

  1. God is first.
  2. Don’t worry. Put all in the hands of God. Don’t think or talk about troubles.
  3. Don’t hurry.
  4. Don’t eat too much between meals.
  5. Don’t do two things at the same time.
  6. All life involves sacrifice.

unnamedThat sacrifice serves as a remarkable example. Bedell, who died in 1969, never saw a movie or owned a radio. She lived a life solely focused on her call from God. Marya Repko’s biography, Angel of the Everglades, records a letter from Bedell to Bishop John D. Wing of the Diocese of South Florida. She wrote, “Our days are very full and it is so impossible to work at letters. The care of the sick is an important part of our work. They send for us or bring their sick ones to the mission...In the glades visits we often find medicine-men caring for the sick. At first they were not friendly but going as we do with Indians they saw we wanted to help.”

Repko writes, “When an influenza epidemic broke out in 1937...she took the sufferers into her own home where she fed them soup and aspirin. Her efforts were appreciated by the Medicine Man who called her ‘sister.’ She was also known as “in-co-shopie,” the woman of God.”

Photos courtesy of Florida State Archives

-- Heidi Shott


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