So I am here in the Philippines for 2.75 weeks doing Mennonite work. It is technically part of my MVS assignment because I am doing MWC AMIGOS work, which is part of what I do back in Elkhart. It is also technically vacation. I was asked to preach on Sunday at one of the local Mennonite churches. What an honor! What a scare! What will I say?
I can’t say that I’m not prepared, because I did just take Foundations of Worship and Preaching at AMBS last semester. I learned a whole lot about sermons, worship spaces, songs, liturgy, and rituals. So I am excited about the opportunity, and hopeful for Sunday. The topic is faithfulness in witnessing.
I was struggling with what to talk about, since I don’t necessarily use the sam type of theological terminology as folks here let alone the fact that we don’t speak the same first language. So I know I don’t want to wade too far into the theological and risk massive misunderstandings which can create stumbling blocks for others…
This is the place of course where the Holy Spirit intercedes. In this case, it was through gchat with Jason. He told me that MVS has got 4 apps from people wanting to come in to the Elkhart unit. That is sweet, and it is also an answer to prayer. It is also the fruit of the Christian labor, our faithfulness in witnessing throughout the generations at PSMC as well as very intensely in the last number of years. I think I will tell the story of the development of the MVS house.
It’s Friday afternoon (which means Thurs-Fri midnight in Elkhart) and I have a day and a half…but who knows what will happen tomorrow. Why not figure out the main points of the sermon now? Here, on the blog. Below is going to be my first draft. Don’t hold me to structural verbatim…it will probably change, as I weave in some of the Philippine story and organizational stuff: MCC.
Introduction: Thanks to many, comments about Lacao Grace Christian School nutrition month parade, 5am prayer sessions, and a story about the ants (faithful, unified, and every minute, every day…they are more, greater in number!). God bless the ants.
Bible verses- a bit of an exegesis of whatever is the primary text
In the United States we struggle to be faithful. The temptations of the church there are similar to those here…(list) and somewhat different (list)
Mennonite Voluntary Service in Elkhart- Faithfulness in Witnessing
-John Funk coming to Elkhart and planting a church in the city.
-Mennonite Voluntary Service begins in Elkhart in 1944
-Peak numbers for a while (faithfulness in witnessing to peace and service in the midst of the war)
-Declines after the Vietnam War (but people do not believe all is lost, they keep praying, looking for opportunities to witness)
-Prairie Street continues to pray for more ways to be involved in the neighborhood (It does some of this through healing arts, the child development center, community parties…but longs to do more, to be more of a direct witness)
-2004 City council decision to tear down Roosevelt school that is near the church
-Neighborhood effort (many churches and community organizations involved). Youth live at Jubilee House
-The church hears the call to continue to draw more young people back to the neighborhood…they pray for two years, and raise funds are raised to do the renovation.
-The house next to the church is renovated and young people moved in starting in 2007. There is a strong group, but the future is uncertain as August 2008 rolls around.
-Signs of faithful witness: One youth commits to another year in the neighborhood
-And just this week, on Friday, I learned that four more applications are in to the MVS office for consideration for Elkhart!!!! Hallelujah! Young people’s lives are changed through this program and the chance to live in this community, and in intentional community. We will remain faithful in witnessing, inviting people to come and join the movement.
Transition: The work of Mennonite Voluntary Service is one sub-organization in the network of many Mennonite organizations and outreach efforts.
MCC- This is an organization that is having a meeting because it wants to be faithful in its witness. We see that the old structures have carried us as far as they can. In this day and age, in order to remain faithful, you must have structures that are responsive to the needs of the people and can minister to them. Jesus model had 12 disciples in the inner circle. Yet there were many more who supported those 12, amen? MCC has had 12 or so boards, and there are many who support them, amen? But now the time has come when the structure must change, just as the structure of the disciples changed after Jesus ascended to heaven and the Good News began to spread in all directions. 2000 years later, the workers, volunteers and board members of MCC are disciples who are coming together to hear from other disciples and workers. We know the harvest is plentiful, amen? The workers are few! Therefore, we must get organized, so we can go go go! (As Papa Ocio says).
Mennonite World Conference will meet here later this week. An organization that gathers us together so that we may help strengthen one another in faithful witnessing. We are stronger when we know the stories of our brothers and sisters in faith: the MWC executive committee will come and share their stories with you this upcoming week. I don’t know if Danisa is coming, but we must remember the situation in Zimbabwe. For the conditions are very bad. Here rice is expensive, there, this is no rice. Here, voting is disappointing. There, people are being beat up for voting for the opposition, or beat up for not voting. There is fear everywhere. We must remain faithful in witness right now. We must tell truth of how God will satisfy all our needs, and our primary allegiance is to Jesus. We pray for the Zimbabweans ability to remain faithful. Our Brethern in Christ church there is leading the relief effort, with donations coming in from other Christians around the world. This is a time when many people may want to turn away from God. When everything seems hopeless. We think, I am in the USA, or I am in the Philippines. What can I do? Will my prayers help? There are times when we all want to turn away. But this is the exact moment for us to turn to God, not away.
Jesus’ example is a reminder. We can always turn to the Bible to find stories of faithfulness, and verses to help us along the way. (Name verses, and have people stand up and read them). But there are stories that are closer to home. There are many stories in this congregation. And the hard economic times that are coming will produce more stories of faithfulness from thsi congregation and from the global family of faith!! My great grandfather was tarred and feathered for refusing to buy war bonds in the United States during the era of WW1. He was killed! If I ever feel the temptation to be unfaithful, I just remember this story, and my strength is renewed. For we know that those who wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength. They shall mount up on wings as eagles.
MCC and MWC and the Integrated Mennonite Churches here all agree…we need a church that is willing to mount up on those eagles wings. We have waited on the Lord and the Lord God has been faithful. May it be so, in generations to come. We pray it will be so.
Will you pray with me? Let us stand for prayer.
Loving, Heavenly, Beautiful God…we praise your name above all… (the Holy Spirit will guide me from here :) )
Thanks for reading my sermon musings. I hope it inspires people to remain faithful.