When I tore up the rug off the stairway at home to replace it in preparation for selling our house, I got a surprise. There was a note there under the underpadding. It read, “This carpet was put down by Carol and Katie and Alex in 1999” and each of us signed our name. Now there’s a new carpet on the stairs. I didn’t leave a note this time.
And then yesterday I was cleaning the patio. There’s a piece of cement that has our family handprints in it. On a different part of the patio there is another handprint with the date 1908 written in the cement.
Time goes by, we have spent time fixing up this old house, but it’s not ours to keep forever. It was here before I was born, sheltering families, and it will be here after I am gone, sheltering people not yet born.
The church is the house of God, it’s a place where people come to meet God and meet each other. It’s easy to think about “my church” and have a wish list of the ten most great things I’d like to see in my own personal church.
But that’s not what church is about. This is God’s house, and we get to live in it for a short time. What will we make of the time?
This week’s prayer: Thank you for letting us be a part of your church in this time and this place. Bless our discussions about the nature of First Mennonite.
This week we are going to continue on thinking about what it means to witness to Christ under pressure. More specifically, we want to talk about what it means when people in our congregation take faithful stands on different things.
Are we fine with everyone taking their own path? You think the environment is so important, so you are very careful about your fossil fuel footprint. Another person doesn’t bother with that, but they think that supporting the education of orphans is good, so they focus on MCC. Yet another person is very consumed with supporting the spreading of the gospel to people who have never heard it before. They support the Bible Society and Gideons. Each of these people lives out their faithfulness in their own way; it’s likely that we can all do this cordially in the same congregation.
But what about places where our witness is more controversial. You won’t pay your war taxes, and you want other people in the church to sign on to do this too. Or another person feels called by God to save the unborn babies killed every year through abortion, and they would like our church to have a service devoted to this.
We walk carefully in the community of faith, understanding that God lays different things on our hearts. At times the community joins together in solidarity. We put certain things in our budget, for example, or we work together to sponsor a refugee family. Other faithful endeavors are undertaken in a more private way.
These sorts of issues have led to deep divisions and anger in the history of the church. Hopefully today, our guiding rule is the love of Jesus. We want our community to be made up of love. Love before us, love behind us, love beneath us, love above us, love within us. Love will find a way, even through disagreement.
This weeks’ prayer: God grant me the serenity to be faithful in the things you call me to do, the peace to believe that other people have different callings, and the wisdom to know how to negotiate our differences.
Many of us hold to an active view of church membership. You choose to be a member by being baptized when you reach an age where you can understand salvation. You join the church and participate in the life of the church, attending worship, sitting on committees, helping to build community, donating to the offering, etc. etc. There is no end of things you can do in church. And you think about all this; part of being a Christian is trying to make sense of God and our place in the world.
But what about being in church as opposed to doing in church? Maybe church membership is not so much about what you accomplish or contribute or believe, but more about who you are. You are a beloved child of God. You are in God’s family. When you are in a family, there isn’t anything you can do to be more of a family member. It’s just something you are.
This week we are going to be talking about people with abilities and disabilities (that’s all of us), and how that figures into church membership. Come prepared to not just think differently, but be differently.
This weeks’ prayer: Thank you God for diversity in the church among the people of God; we are not all the same, you made us that way. We are your children.
Becky was a girl the same age as me, we grew up in the same church. I never got to know her. Becky was different. She didn’t go to school with the rest of us, and she never attended Sunday school or girls’ club or youth group. I saw her in church sometimes, and I knew her name, but I never got to know her.
A girl like Becky was called mentally retarded when I was growing up. She went to a special school for mentally retarded people. “Normal” kids never met “mentally retarded kids”, even in church, because they weren’t expected to be part of our world. They had their own world, that included their family and their special institutions. How did Becky feel about it? How did their family feel about it?
The label “mentally retarded” is now seen as a negative term; even though it was created in the early 20th century as a positive term to replace negative labels such as “idiot” or “moron”. But now we hear people say “That’s retarded” as a put-down; new terms were needed. People with special needs, people with intellectual disabilities, people who are developmentally delayed. There are all sorts of terms.
Terms are important, but more important are actions. How do we include all kinds of people in our church community? How loving can we be?
Bethesda is a local organization run by the Mennonite Brethren Church that specializes in supporting families that face challenges, whether because they have a member with autism or developmental disabilities. Our service this Sunday will be about hope, and our speaker is Mike Gilmore, the chaplain at Bethesda; he will be bringing a number of guests to our church.
I wonder how my life might have been different if Becky was born into my family, or if I was Becky? God’s love would be the same for me, would the community’s love be the same?
I’ve been trying to get rid of the dandelions in my lawn. Emphasis on the word “trying”. I don’t want to use herbicide, so my approach has been to try to cut the dandelions out of the lawn while they are still flowers. It’s a good idea, but every day it seems I go outside and find a big white fluff ball, happily shedding seeds all over my lawn. Or worse yet, an empty stalk, all the seeds successfully delivered to their future home, which will be revealed later this summer, or next spring. Seeds scattered and sown!
“Seeds scattered and sown” was the theme of our Mennonite Church Eastern Canada gathering. It was our 25th anniversary, and so we had a really big cake!
The gathering was a time to reflect on what God has been planting in our communities. We talked about our church, and how surprising things have happened. We have so many congregations in our conference that are started by new Canadians; Mennonites worship in over a dozen languages just in MCEC on any given morning.
What exciting things might God be planting in the next 25 years in our churches? in our congregation? God’s seeds might not look like something we are expecting. Wild and unpredictable as dandelions, God’s crop may surprise us.
This week’s prayer: Open our eyes to what you are planting, God!
Can you guess what that is lying in the parking lot outside our front doors? It’s our old furnace! We have a new shiny furnace purring away as I type this.
Every week we come to church and enjoy a worship service, but this would not be possible without the faithful work of our trustees who make sure there is a building here that we can come to. I am not sure who was on the committee that originally built this church in the 1950s, but I am sure there are seniors in our church who remember. They chose that furnace and it has served us well all these years.
In the meantime we’ve had all sorts of different trustees coming and going, doing maintenance and repairs, or co-ordinating having them done. Faithful behind the scenes work that we all rely on. Maybe this is a good time to thank a trustee for their work on our behalf…this year our trustees are Mike Culp, Peter Neufeld and Tim Lepp.
When was the last time you said thank you to someone for the work they do in helping to keep our church running…someone who did a children’s story, who brought flowers for the altar table, who taught a Sunday school class, who played the piano, who led music, who counted money, who welcomed a stranger, who… The list goes on!
This Sunday we are continuing our series on Ephesians, and this verse fits in well to what I’ve just been saying, “…Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord….”
This week’s prayer: Thank you God for each part of our church body, and the work that we all do to create a worshiping community.
What do you say about yourself when you meet someone for the first time? What are the important facts that describe who you are? We tend to be pretty concrete in what we say…we talk about where we live, where we work, what our family situation is. It’s much less common to meet someone and start describing your qualities, “I’m a loyal, hard-working person”, unless of course you are in a job interview.
How do we introduce our congregation? If you know someone who you’d like to invite to church, what do say about us? Or if there’s a newcomer to church, how would you describe us?
That’s the dilemma we face on our website. We have an “About us” tab. In our statistics page on the blog, I can see that since we put our website up, that tab has been clicked 923 times. Take a minute to go there today, and ask yourself whether you think it describes us well. Some of the newcomers to our church came because they found us on-line. Recently we’ve added a new little video to this tab that describes who Mennonites are. Do you think it’s a good representation?
If you have other suggestions for the website, please let myself or Nathan Scott our webmaster know. First impressions are important!
This week’s prayer: God, help us to be a welcoming church, in our words and in our actions.