God uses different influences to shape us into His vessels. For John Wesley, a co-founder of Methodism and Holiness movement, he was shaped by tragedy and grace. Richard Bewes in the book he compiled, Wesley Country: A Pictorial History based on John Wesley’s Journal explained that, ‘the Great movements for world evangelism have never sprung from appointed committees. In any generation a flame can be lit in the heart of an individual, a Wesley, a Whitefield… and society feels the difference.’ The physical flame of fire on the old parsonage at Epworth on the cold midnight of February 9, 1709 was not God’s will, but by God’s grace all had survived. It also shaped John Wesley’s ministry, ‘the most travelled individual of his own day, having covered in all the equivalent of ten times around the world (mostly on horseback).

Wesley’s parents, the Reverend  Samuel Wesley and his wife Susanna brought their family out into the garden, only to discover that their fifteenth and youngest child, ‘Jacky,’ who was six years old was still in the house. Wesley became a very special favourite of his mother’s because of his spectacular escape from the Rectory fire. Susanna used to speak of Wesley as her “Brand plucked from the burning”, and after the fire she made a vow: “I do intend to be more especially careful of the soul of this child.” Susanna’s firm belief: “I insist on conquering the will of children at an early age.” Susanna was careful of the souls and the bodies of all her children, especially John who was ‘well drilled as a detachment of guardsmen.’ John was able to form his spiritual and physical ‘lifelong habits, and it is not altogether surprising that his followers were to be called by the curious name of “Methodists”, for “method” had been well drilled into their leader by the time he was five.’ In a century when “The Christian world is asleep” and ‘bishops appointed by politicians with little regard to pastoral leadership’ Wesley was a loud voice that awakened the church and the nation, ‘regarding the world as his parish.’

The reflection is that God’s design can not be foiled, and Wesley as a very object of God’s gracious purpose can not be set aside. John’s story resonates with the Lord appeals to what He has done for Joshua (Zech 3:2). Joshua, as representing the people, the Lord said, “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” This proverbial expression beyond Wesley, the people of Israel, and Joshua is applicable to us today. We serve a God who is able to rescue us from amidst the terrible judgements which may be send upon us, and by which we might have been consumed as in a furnace. God is still in the business of unexpected deliverance from imminent calamity. The plan of Satan and his agents is to kill and to destroy, to keep people in “furnace of affliction,” waiting to be consumed, ‘but the Lord would not have it so; His grace and power had interposed to rescue His people from captivity, and He would complete the deliverance He had begun. The brand had been plucked from the burning, and was not again to be cast into the fire.’

310 years after Wesley was plucked out of burning reminds us of the power of the ministering Angels to intercede on our behalf, rebuking and reproving Satan for his malice and wickedness over the church. God is always ready to confound Satan’s schemes, stop his mouth, and silence him, in order to stop all accusations.

Wesley kept the memory his miraculous and narrow escape from fire, ‘referring to himself throughout his life as “a brand plucked from the fire.” It is important to note that, Wesley’s escape from the fire did not instil in him any immediate sense of destiny or mission and he even took up the undisciplined lifestyle of his schoolmates: ‘the next six or seven years were spent at school,” he later remembered, “where … I was much more negligent than before, even of outward duties and almost continually guilty of outward sins, which I knew to be such? Though they were not scandalous in the eyes of the world.” Beyond Wesley’s personal opinion of himself, ‘a brand plucked from fire’ have been related to his words about his warmed heart experience. This is in relation to warmth and fire as metaphors for burning faith, love and religious revival. 310 years after:  A Brand plucked out of the fire is about inspiring new hearts into those reaching out to a dying and divided world.  God has a purpose for us and He is able to pluck us from the turmoil of Brexit and divisions in our nations. The reflection is that in the midst of our tragedy, God’s grace is sufficient for us. 310 years after: A Brand plucked from fire points to Methodist and Christian thematic connection to fire and a call for us to keep to the symbolic and spiritual kind. Just as Wesley was rescued from an upstairs window, you also can be spared for a special purpose from windows of pride and immorality, especially, salvation ‘from the wrath to come.’