For today, we will look at chapters one and two of the Book of Job. In these two chapters we are introduced to an exceptional human being. He is one of the richest people in the land. But he is also tremendously righteous. He was considered blameless by God. It does not get better than that! As an illustration of his righteousness, we are told that he even regularly made sacrificial offerings even for those sins that his children may have unknowingly committed. So Job is presented to us as a man who has all the possible bases of his life covered....
In an average year, the United States of America is a buzzing beehive of activity. On average Americans drive 3.5 trillion miles a year, take more than 16 million flights, spend $330 billion on big meetings, almost a $ 1 trillion on sports, make 45.5 billion trips to restaurants and over 20 million visits just to Magic Kingdom in Disney world. That is a lot of activity, burning a lot of fuel and it costs about $22 trillion in total to make all that happen. If that does not make your head spin, I don’t know what does. But here is the deal. When there is so much happening, so much activity, so much running from this task to that, it is super hard for us to hear anything but the noise of our own activity. But there are also times in history when God wants to be heard, especially when He wants to do something big and He needs His people to listen. So He decides to shut the whole world down. Yes you heard that right. God can shut the whole world down when He wants to get our attention. Ps 65:7 says this, “You quieted the raging oceans with their pounding waves and silenced the shouting of the nations”. God has certainly quieted us. Here are some observations about this shutting down that God has effected.
Today, we are going to scale up from the level of the individual disciple and talk about the church as a whole. And the topic we are going to deal with is the proper relationship between the church and the state laid out in Article 23. To do that properly we are going to look first at the definition of a state. I will define state as the “governing authority of a territorial nation”. Couple things to note there. The state is a sovereign nation defined by a geographic area. So there is a ruling authority within a given territory. So a place with a ruling authority is a “state”. Let’s look for a second at the definition of “church”. Church is a “community of Jesus disciples who are called out of this world, to give their higher allegiance to the exaltation and mission of Jesus Christ”. These are my words just to get us oriented. Let’s look at how Article 23 defines “church”.
Over the last few years the Mennonite church has established a tradition of going first in the Lenten Worship series. And one of the things that happen when you are positioned in a certain place in sequence is that the Lectionary scripture for that place is usually similar. At the start of Lent we are usually talking about the start of Jesus’ earthly ministry, particularly his temptations in the wilderness. The fact that one of the very first things that Jesus had to deal with at the start of his ministry were certain temptations is something that we need to ponder in our own spiritual preparation this Lenten season.
Today we are going to deal with the Article 22 that addresses the things that Mennonites are most well known for, peace, justice and non-resistance and I am going to hit upon all three today. First I want to address is this idea of making peace. The Old Testament word for peace (shalom) includes healing, reconciliation, and well-being. You see, shalom is more than the absence of war. It starts with making peace with oneself. This includes your looks, your talents, your circumstances and even your past. When people are not at peace within themselves, they tend to take it out on others. They want to make fun of others or put others down to feel better about themselves. In that process relationships are broken, and trust is lost. When relationships are broken a certain wellbeing is lost as well. But the Bible is very clear that at the root of all broken relationships is the broken relationship between human beings and God. Peace is so important to God but we have to remember that violence has an incredible power. The power to spread to anyone it touches. That is why in the New Testament we are warned to “not resist evil”. I want to touch upon what it means. To not resist evil means to not engage violence with violence.
Today we are going to move to another Article, Article 21 that is titled Christian stewardship. Now in the New Testament the focus on stewardship is “stewardship of the Gospel”. Yes the church is entrusted with the stewardship of the Gospel but it is only going to be able to fulfill its external mission if it gets its internal workings right. And that is where much of the trouble lies. So today, I am going to focus on what Article 21 describes as stewardship but I will only focus on the internal workings of the household of God.
Today we are going to talk about Article 18 which addresses another dimension of discipleship, Christian Spirituality. If you look up the definition of Spirituality you will get something like this “the quality of being concerned with religion or the human spirit”. As you can see, this term spirituality is actually an extremely general and broad term that means very little. Christian spirituality on the other hand means something very specific and is spelt out well in Article 18. Article 18 opens with these words, “We believe that to be a disciple of Jesus is to know life in the Spirit”. Spirit is the capital S Spirit which means the Holy Spirit. In other words, it is saying, we believe that to be a disciple of Jesus is to know life in the Holy Spirit”. Now, to summarize Article 18’s take on “life in the Spirit”, in one sentence, I would say, “to know life in the Spirit of God is to have an extraordinary relationship with the Savior of the world”. While we have focused the meaning of the word “spirituality” considerably by this point, we are still speaking in broad terms here. To get us even more focused, I will address just two aspects of a disciple’s relationship with their Savior that Article 18 brings to our attention.
Today we are going to dwell a little deeper into what it means for individuals within the church to give the outside world a glimpse of what it is like to be under the reign of Christ. This is the focus of Article 171. Now article 17 states that “conformity to Christ includes non-conformity to the world”. This statement implies that you cannot have dual citizenship between Christ’s kingdom and the kingdom of this world which is ruled in fact by Satan. Take your pick, it is one or the other. There is no fence-sitting either. So what does it look like when you choose to be in Christ’s kingdom? Today I will present to you three sets of choices addressed in Article 17 involved in choosing Christ over the world.
The Mennonite church depends only on the power of the Holy Spirit. It receives into its membership those who have voluntarily received the saving power of Christ. The Mennonite church also encourages regular attendance to reaffirm one’s identity in Christ, to express one’s highest loyalty to Christ and to seek the will of Christ for one’s life. Today I am going to be talking about Article 10, and this time I mean it Article 10 refers to the mission of the church and that is what we are going to focus on.
Today I am going to start a sermon series on the Confessions of the Mennonite Church. We live in a time when many people don’t want to be associated with a denomination. Sometimes it is because the presence of different denominations look like unnecessary divisions created in the larger faith community. The Mennonite Church through its unique faith history, being birthed out of extreme persecution has picked up on certain aspects of the kingdom of God particularly well. This is what I want to present to you in this sermon series on the Mennonite Confession of faith.