Sunday, November 25, 2012

Notes from the Corner - Hospitality Series No. 9 - Go and Do Likewise

Hospitality is the work that God has for Warman Mennonite Church to do in this city. God’s Spirit has gifted many of us with a joy in making others feel welcome, a joy in adding one more place setting to the table or putting a few more burgers on the grill. We enjoy this gift when friends drop-in or family comes for dinner.

But the Spirit never gives gifts just for our enjoyment, they are also always for God’s joy, his pleasure in seeing God’s kingdom enacted on earth as it is heaven. Hospitality in the kingdom means widening the circle of whom we invite in or entertain. God welcomes us to his dinner table when we are strangers and enemies. Hospitality in the kingdom means sacrifice. God stretched far more than just his budget or comfort to invite us in; he stretched out his arms on a cross.

So go and do likewise: Invite someone who would be alone to join your family for Christmas dinner. Join a community group that will connect you with people outside your social circle. Pray for God to open your eyes to the needs of new neighbors in our growing community.

November 25 - Snippet from Memorial Sunday - A Reason to Grieve, A Reason to Hope"

This is what I want you to take with you in your heart when I’m done speaking this morning: The fact that Jesus is our king is both our reason to grieve the way things are and our one reason to hope that things will not always stay this way, to hope that they will be made right.

When Paul wrote to the home church in Thessaloniki, this was the truth he explained for them. As we heard in the passage read this morning, Paul was responding to the believers’ concern for people in their small congregation who had died or “fallen asleep” as Paul puts it. Those believers felt the same kind of grief, the same kind of loss we feel. In their tight-knit fellowship, they met constant reminders of those who were no longer with them: a mother or a son, a dear friend, perhaps a deacon or the kind older woman who prayed so diligently for the overtaxed young mothers. Whenever they gathered in one another’s homes, surely they saw the empty chair or space on the floor that sickness or accident or violence had left.

Paul had come to Thessaloniki in obedience to the command to go and make disciples of the crucified and risen Messiah. His message was one of resurrection. He preached that sickness and death were defeated when God came and gave his own life for ours. The believers took his message to heart, even in the face of persecution from Jewish and pagan neighbors. They would follow the King of Life.

But now, when death still broke in and terrorized them, abducting brothers or sister from their midst, what were they to make of it? Had the King of Life failed them? Was the resurrection a joke? Had Jesus changed anything?

Maybe we feel the same way. Maybe we should feel the same way. Our Savior lived and died to bring us life. It’s an outrage when death still afflicts us. It’s not right; it’s not what God wants for us. Something in our hearts or our heads should cry out, “God, this doesn’t make sense! Your Son came to bring us life, life abundantly. Why do we still get sick or get hurt or get old and die?”

(Check out the whole sermon after the jump . . .)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Notes from the Corner - Hospitality Series No. 8 - Mission and Mutual Aid

Mutual aid, probably the best-known expression of Mennonite hospitality, grew, in part, out of the Mt 10 strategy of 16th century Anabaptist missionaries. As they went from place to place, often persecuted, their life as “pilgrims and strangers” trained them to give and receive goods and care from one another. The story goes that the communal life of the Hutterites began in just this way: 200 believers driven from Nicholsburg in 1528 decided to give away all their possessions to care for one another.

In showing this extreme hospitality, believers were following the example given by Acts 4:32-35: “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions were their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.”

November 18 - Snippet from Sunday - The Heart of James

Friendship with the world is enmity with God (4.4). That is a bold statement. It’s the kind of statement that doesn’t leave much room for discussion. It casts everything as either black or white, good or bad. Either your God’s friend, or your the world’s friend.

This statement--“You can be God’s friend or the world’s, but not both”--is the heart of James’ letter. It’s the pulse that gives life to all his other instructions about what we do with our prejudice and our money and our tongues. If you surgically remove this pronouncement, James’ whole letter falls to the ground, lifeless.

And we might want to cut out this part of James’ letter. Frankly, it doesn’t sound friendly. Most of us want to get along with everybody, to be friends with everybody. Honestly, if one of our other friends gave us this kind of “It’s me or them” ultimatum, they might not be our friends for long. What gives God the right to inspire James to write this kind of demand? Why would God ask us to make this kind of choice?

(Check out the whole sermon after the jump. . .)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Notes from the Corner - Hospitality Series No. 7 - Anabaptists Missions

Source: Wikimedia Commons
In Mt 10:9-11, Jesus sends out his disciples as the first missionaries with these words: “Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at that person’s house until you leave.” He instructed them to follow in his footsteps, to depend on on hospitality just like the one who “has no place to lay his head” (Mt 8:20).

The first Anabaptists lived Jesus’ words: they depended on the welcome of strangers as they spread the good news. Driven at times by persecution and always by passion to obey their Great Commission, Anabaptist missionaries wandered all over 16th century Europe. Menno Simons lived on the run, going from town to town, wherever folks would welcome him. But Menno was one of a multitude of itinerant witnesses who traveled wherever the Spirit willed and hearts were open. We could tell the stories of Hans Hut, Pilgram Marpeck, Leonhard Schiemer, and Margaret Hottinger. For our ancestors, hospitality was a means for mission.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Notes from the Corner - Hospitality Series No. 6 - Jesus, Host and Stranger

The Supper at Emmaus, Rembrandt (1629)
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Listen to these words from Jesus: “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Lk 14:12-14).

Jesus shows us how to be hospitable. Jesus is the best host. He welcomes us to join him at God’s dinner table (Mt 26:29), and he’s pleased to sit next to those others would quickly show the door (read Lk 7:36-48). But Jesus teaches us hospitality most by coming as a guest and stranger (Jn 1:10-11; Mt 25:31-46). Remember the story of the stranger on the road to Emmaus; the disciples only recognized him as Jesus when they insisted he join them for dinner (Lk 24:28-3

November 4 - Snippet from (Family) Sunday - Real Friends vs. Selfish Friends

When I was even younger, I shared a bedroom with my little brother Andrew. He’s three years younger than me. Just the right age to want to play with all the things his big brother was playing with. I remember working very hard to clearly mark out which actions figures and Lego sets were mine. More than once my mom had to discipline me because I’d hit my brother for touching my stuff.

This defensive possessiveness--this instinct to mark and guard our territory from intruders--starts at a young age. I’ve heard that toddlers’ favorite words are “no” and “mine.” I wish it could say that this fear for our possessions is something we grow out of. I wish I could say that by the time I was thirteen or nineteen or twenty-nine I never again felt threatened by the specter of someone barging in and taking away my stuff. But selfishness is something we never completely grow out of, even if we do outgrow saying “mine” every other moment like two-year-olds.

James talks about this in his letter. In a letter he wrote to some of the first churches, James asks the gathered believers, What causes fight and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires your desires that are at war within your body? (4.1).

So often its our love for our precious things--whether they be tree forts or action figures or dollar bills or the minutes in our day--that causes us to feel angry and resentful towards other people. Like a dog with a bone, we’re happy to sit there gnawing on the things we love; but when someone comes along who might take our bone away from us, our hackles go up, we snarl and bite. Maybe it’s the government asking for a bigger chunk of our paycheck in taxes. Maybe it’s a committee or project expecting us to give up one more weeknight. Maybe it’s our sister or brother trying to grab our Halloween candy from trick-or-treating. Whoever’s approaching us, we crouch down and bare our teeth and let out a low growl.

(Check out the whole sermon after the jump. . .)
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