The love of Christ is radical. Sometimes I under-estimate how distinctive the changes are for those who choose to follow Jesus. Indeed, the early Christians had a solid grasp of what constituted real faith. In a time when our world is deeply divided, we have a chance to show a different way.
Consider the following quote from Justin Martyr:
"We who formerly treasured money and possessions more than anything else now hand over everything we have to a treasury for all and share it with everyone who needs it. We who formerly hated and murdered one another and did not even share our hearth with those of a different tribe because of their customs, now, after Christ’s appearance, live together and share the same table. Now we pray for our enemies and try to win those who hate us unjustly so that they too may live in accordance with Christ’s wonderful teachings, that they too may enter into the expectation, that they too may receive the same good things that we will receive from God, the ruler of the universe."
I've always been a little wary of limiting something like thanksgiving to a specific weekend of the year. The Scriptures are clear again and again that we are to be thankful always.
In that light, let's keep it going with this thought from Henri Nouwen.
"Gratitude is not a simple emotion or an obvious attitude. It is a difficult discipline to constantly reclaim my whole past as the concrete way in which God has led me to this moment and is sending me into the future. It is hard precisely because it challenges me to face the painful moments – experiences of rejection and abandonment, feelings of loss and failure – and gradually to discover in them the pruning hands of God purifying my heart for deeper love, stronger hope, and broader faith."
God loves you!
Here's an excerpt from Frances J. Roberts' "Come Away My Beloved", and perhaps it will encourage you if you're facing a challenge or worry. She writes in first person from God's perspective.
"You are never alone, for I am at your right hand. Never despair, for I am watching over and caring for you. Be not anxious. What seems to you to be at present a difficult situation is all part of My planning, and I am working out the details of circumstances so that I may bless you and reveal Myself to you in a new way.
As I have opened your eyes to see, so shall I open your ears to hear...and you will know Me as your dearest Friend and as your truest Comforter.
No darkness will hide the shining of My face, for I shall be to you as a bright star in the night sky. Never let your faith waver. reach out your hand, and you shall touch the hem of My garment."
At New Year's a number of us gathered for fellowship and as the New Year dawned we were enjoying people's reflections of the past year/decade and how God has led them, through both good times and real trials.
Today this quote from Henri Nouwen reminded me of those thoughts. As we think about our lives, if we keep the Cross at the center of our vision, the perspective Jesus offers is ALWAYS pointed to hope.
"Jesus calls us to recognize that gladness and sadness are never separate, that joy and sorrow really belong together, and that mourning and dancing are part of the same movement. That is why Jesus calls us to be grateful for every moment that we have lived, and to claim our unique journey as God’s way to mold our hearts to greater conformity with God’s own. The cross is the main symbol of our faith, and it invites us to find hope where we see pain, and to reaffirm the resurrection where we see death. The call to be grateful is a call to trust that every moment of our life can be claimed as the way of the cross that leads us to new life."
- Henri Nouwen.
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.
I was chatting with a friend recently who has faced adversity, and we were reminded of the wonderful truth of James 1:2-4, that testing develops endurance and strong faith. As my trust in Jesus grows, whether I feel stronger or not, I truly am. Relying on His strength is the spiritual sweet spot that adversity invites us to. His grace is sufficient.
"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." (James 1:2-4 NLT)
Pastor Ward Parkinson