Let's always try to be faithful in prayer, even if things are hard and your circumstances appear bleak. I read this recently from Eugene Peterson: "History is lubricated by tears. Prayer, maybe most prayer, is accompanied by tears. All these tears are gathered up and absorbed in the tears of Jesus (Luke 19:41)."
On this date in 1536 Menno Simons left the Roman Catholic church to join the Anabaptists. He eventually became a leader in their midst.
For me as an English Canadian with British roots, to carry the name Mennonite speaks nothing of ancestry or culture. It represents a Christian faith heritage of following Jesus with conviction, seeking to embody the Good News as children of light.
I wonder how many of our members have read any of Menno's writings.
Gratitude is something that can be elusive sometimes, so we need to simply make it a regular part of our prayer and daily mindset.
I found these words from Henri Nouwen to be encouraging:
"To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives – the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections – that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment.…Let us not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God."
Today let us rejoice in our redeeming God.
We live in a world that believes in self-actualization: that your life's goal is to discover the 'real you' on the inside and let that pure 'human spirit' shine for all to see.
The reality is that in sin we are broken and need saving and redeeming.
English journalist, Malcolm Muggeridge, stated that “the depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality, but at the same time most intellectually resisted fact.”
Only Jesus can take brokenness and make it whole, make it free, and make it beautiful.
We often hear how hard it can be to respond with forgiveness when wronged. Yet we are called to it nonetheless. What we don't hear about as often is the power that lies within this act of forgiveness. The triumph of Jesus over evil is shared with us as we forgive others as we have been forgiven by God.
The following was found written on a wrapping paper at Ravensbruck concentration camp in WW2:
"Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted upon us. Remember rather the fruits we brought, thanks to this suffering: our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown out of this. And when they come to judgment, let all the fruits we have borne be their forgiveness."
Here are some wise words from Charles Haddon Spurgeon. His words, originally spoken 150 years ago, are very applicable today.
“We wrestle not with flesh and blood. Christians are not at war with any people who walk the earth. We are at war with infidelity, but the infidel people we love and pray for; we are at war with heresy, but we have no enmity against heretics; we are opposed to, and cry war to the death with, everything that opposes God and his truth, but towards every human being we would still endeavor to carry out the holy maxim, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” The Christian soldier has no gun and no sword, for Christians do not fight with flesh and blood. It is with “spiritual wickedness in high places” that we fight, and with other principalities and powers than with those that sit on thrones and hold scepters in their hands."
The following quote is from Jean Vanier, a great Canadian Christian leader from times past who exemplified compassion and service in the name of Christ.
"Welcoming is not just something that happens as people cross the threshold. It is an attitude; it is the constant openness of the heart; it is saying to people every morning and at every moment, “come in”; it is giving them space; it is listening to them attentively. To welcome means listening a great deal to people and then discerning the truth with them."
Let us keep this spirit of welcome alive in us day to day.
As Christians we are called to love others genuinely, sincerely. This always involves a certain level of risk. Consider the following from C.S. Lewis, and show some love today:
"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one...Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell."
As we look forward to worshiping together this Good Friday, here are some thoughts about the Cross from Philip Yancey. We will be celebrating the Lord's Table together as part of our service.
"The image Jesus left with the world, the cross, the most common image in the Christian religion, is proof that God cares about our suffering and pain. He died of it. Today the image is coated with gold and worn around the necks of beautiful girls, a symbol of how far we can stray from the reality of history. But it stands, unique among all religions of the world. Many of them have gods. But only one has a God who cared enough to become a man and to die."
In this season of the cross, here are some words of deep truth from Evelyn Underhill:
"To look at the Crucifix and then to look at our own hearts; to test by the cross the quality of our love – if we do that honestly and unflinchingly we don’t need any other self-examination. The lash, the crown of thorns, the mockery, the stripping, the nails – It is no use to talk in a large vague way about the love of God; here is its point of insertion in the world."
Pastor Ward Parkinson