Tag Archives: faithfulness

Actions speak louder than words

Jesus tells the story of the two sons, who are both asked by their dad to work in the vineyard.  One says, “Sure”, but he never shows up.  The other says, “No way” but then he changes his mind and gets to work in the grapes.    Jesus asks the Pharisees, “Which one did the will of his father?”

This is an interesting parable for those of us who live in grape country.  When work needs to be done in the vineyard, it needs to be done.  If it’s spring, the new vines need to be planted.   It can’t be done next month, the vines won’t grow so well.  If it’s pruning time, it can’t wait.  And of course, if it’s harvest time, the grapes need to be picked.  If you wait a month, the birds or the ground will get the fruit.

We are talking here about the family farm.  Unlike the other vineyard stories which talk about hired workers, we are looking at owners here.  It’s their farm, they have a vested interest in caring for it.  The first son says the right thing, but doesn’t care enough to follow through.  The other son refuses to go, but then, thinking of his responsibility, he does do the right thing.

We are part of God’s family; we say we are a Christian, many of us have have publicly promised to be a Christian, and we have good intentions to be a Christian.  But when God’s work needs to be done, do we show up?

We all know people who aren’t Christians, but they are living and acting in a way that is so compassionate and caring, it amazes us.  Who is doing the will of God?

This week’s prayer: Lord, forgive us for the times we have said and not done.  Help us to live up to the baptismal vows we’ve spoken…

Comments Off on Actions speak louder than words

Filed under First thoughts

Heroes of faith

There are a lot of big names in the history of the Anabaptist movement.  There’s Menno Simons, who had the whole denomination of Mennonites named after him.  There’s Conrad Grebel, who has a college named after him.  There’s….wait, what other names are there?  Maybe we don’t know as many people from the early Anabaptist movement as we think!

This week I’m going to be starting a series that will go on and off through the summer where I give an autobiographical sketch about an early Anabaptist.  What made them tick?  What was important to them, and how did their faith in God change their life?

This week I’m tackling Conrad Grebel.  Having gone to a college named after him, you would think I would know more about him than I do.  I was really surprised by what I found.  What surprised me, you ask?  Come to church on Sunday and find out!

This week’s prayer:  Thank you God for our foremothers and forefathers in faith, who studied scripture carefully and shaped the church.  Help  us to be faithful too!

Comments Off on Heroes of faith

Filed under First thoughts

Finding a groove

I’m back!  After a month’s sabbatical, which included a three week trip to Israel, I have returned to the church, taking up the responsibilities and tasks which are part of my job.  There’s a feeling of relief…after so many new things, and so much upheaval, to return to home, to familiar patterns, to the tasks of daily living at home and church.

You might refer to it as finding a groove, the well-worn pattern of daily life.  The thing is, there are lots of grooves, and choosing the right one can be tricky.

Life is busy!  For me, it’s easy to get swept up in the cycle of emails and responses, the meeting of people and the arranging of meetings, the preaching of sermons and the preparing for sermons.  It’s all God’s work, right?  But where is the time to stop and just be with God in this round of busy-ness?  What kind of groove do I want to be in?

Finding a quiet moment just to be with God is essential, but easily missed.  To not be doing for God or others, but just to be present.  For me, today, it has meant giving God some first minutes of the day.  I clicked on this link  http://www.pray-as-you-go.org/mp3/PAYG_120607.mp3.  Twelve minutes to sit quietly with my eyes closed; a sip of scripture, some meditative music to sink into my soul, a connection to the God who has given me today.

It’s a small thing, but something that seems like living water, living water in a dry land.   What kind of groove are you in?

This week’s prayer:  My soul longs for you, I will find my rest in you.  Give me wisdom to find a groove that not only works for me, but allows me to be close to you.  

See the ruts from the chariot wheels  in this old Roman road?  Which groove would you choose?  I took this picture in the old town of Sepphoris, which is a 90 minute walk from Galilee.  Jesus may have worked with his father Joseph in this town…maybe he walked on this road!

Comments Off on Finding a groove

Filed under First thoughts

Empty pockets

I remember my first financial crisis. I was 14 years old. I went downtown to go shopping and I left my purse at the bus stop. There was $23 in my purse. That was a lot of money. I had worked as a babysitter for several evenings, and I had meant to go to the bank, but hadn’t gotten around to it. I still remember the sick, hollow feeling I had in the pit of my stomach from that financial loss.

I know that my parents faced financial troubles, although they mostly tried to hide it from us. My dad was unemployed for over a year. And then later, my mom had a business that had to close. All I knew was that I couldn’t go on a class trip I wanted to go on, and one year we didn’t get many presents for Christmas. Looking back now, I wonder how they coped with that sick, hollow feeling in their stomach.

Since then, I’ve been able to put things in perspective. While we may have had hard times, we were never hungry. There was a social safety net, as well as a family safety net, that kept our family from reaching rock bottom. Many people in the world live without nets.

This Sunday we’re going to be thinking about where we find God in troubled financial times. Can we pray about money? Does God answer money prayers? Does Christianity offer an antidote to that sick feeling?

In preparation for Sunday, think about a time where you faced a financial crisis. What sorts of feelings did you have? Where did you go for help? Did you call on God? Why or why not?

This week’s prayer: You are our God when our pockets are full, and when we have empty pockets. Help us to be faithful in the full years, as well as the lean years. Amen.

Comments Off on Empty pockets

Filed under First thoughts

A faithful look at techno-garbage

I took a mantel clock I inherited from my mother to a repair shop because it wasn’t working. It turned out it just needed a good cleaning. The repairman told me my clock was built in the 1930’s in Germany. He said, “Now that it’s cleaned, it should be good for thirty years or so.” Note to self: “2040. Take clock to be cleaned.”

The very same day I picked up the clock, I had spent a frustrating hour in the telephone store trying to buy a new battery for my two-year old cellphone. It turns out they don’t make batteries for a phone “that outdated”, as the clerk informed me. She showed me the vastly superior new models I could purchase.

How do I make faithful friendly-to-the-earth choices, in a world where so many tools I use are bound to be obsolete a few months after I purchase I them? I have resisted buying the latest things that come along, and have mostly only upgraded when something has broken down completely. But still, when I think of all the TVs, computers, tape recorders, stereos, telephones and digital whatevers that I have thrown away in the last twenty years, it would fill a good sized closet. Can you count how many computers your family has owned?

This Sunday we’ll be thinking about how our high-tech choices affect our relationship with God’s good earth, our mother earth.

Today’s prayer: Creator God, help me make creative choices about the technologies I use.

Comments Off on A faithful look at techno-garbage

Filed under First thoughts

Enhance: Living for God in a high-tech world

Lent begins today. For centuries, Lent was the period when people prepared for baptism, which was held on Easter. Lent has become a time when people examine their life soberly, and turn to God.   At First Mennonite, we are also going to spend time reflecting.

Our world in some ways is in a time of rapid change. Over the past 50 years (my lifetime), we’ve seen a remarkable change in technology and its accessibility. As a kid I didn’t own one toy that used batteries or plugged in. Not one. I had a doll with a ring at the back of her neck, and I could pull it and a string would come out. I would let go, and she would say, “Mama, mama.”  But when I was eight, my sister received a small tape recorder as a gift from an uncle. It was a real novelty at the time. The electronic revolution had begun in the Penner home.

Tools are good. Throughout time tools have enhanced our life. But the discerning Christian needs to make choices, especially in this time when electronic tools have changed our lives. Which tools do we want to use? How much should we spend on them? How often should we use them? When should we not use them? I’m starting a five-part sermon series entitled “Enhance: Living for God in a high-tech world”.

I’d like you to look around your house this week. What technological items are in your house that you would not have found there fifty years ago? How are they enhancing your life? More importantly, the question I want you to ask yourself is, “Have they helped me be a more faithful Christian?”

p.s. In case you’re wondering, I still have the doll, but the tape recorder is long gone.

Today’s prayer: Open our eyes in this season of Lent, to see what draws us closer, and what draws us away from you. Give us courage to do something about it.

Comments Off on Enhance: Living for God in a high-tech world

Filed under First thoughts

Thoughts from far away

I’m sitting in the Calgary airport as I write this, waiting for my connection to Hamilton.  Although the Mennonite church conference was in Saskatoon, Westjet has lived up to its name by taking me west before we head east.

I’ve thought a lot about First Mennonite while I’m far away, so I feel I have something in common with Paul in this week’s text from I Thessalonians 3.  He was in Athens, but his mind was on the church in Thessalonika.  Unlike Paul, I have access to email!  When Paul wanted information, he had to send Timothy in person, and wait for months to hear some good news.

A bunch of times at conference, people I know have asked me, “How are things going at your church?”  I have been able to say how thankful I am for our congregation,  “People are getting along….we really care for each other.”

In one in-depth conversation, I shared how in the past five years God has answered two prayers in amazing ways.  When I began here five years ago, we didn’t have any children under  four years old, and many of our young adults were leaving our community.  “Bless our congregation with babies,” was my prayer (and the prayer of many others).  And we are rich in babies and toddlers now!

I also prayed that our mission efforts would have a personal component, and not consist just of giving money.  I knew that mission has the potential to transform us.  And God is doing amazing things…now after sponsoring a refugee family from Columbia, God has also brought four other Spanish speaking people into our church.  Now we are considering sponsoring another family from Columbia.  What direction will this take us?  God knows!

This week’s prayer:  Thank you God for the community of your disciples at First Mennonite in Vineland, help us abound in love for one another and for all.

Comments Off on Thoughts from far away

Filed under First thoughts