Category: Call to Worship

Why I Am An Anabaptist Christian

Call to Worship from February 23, 2020

Written by Faith Bell

Today is Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference Sunday. In light of that, I was reading through the booklet What is An Anabaptist Christian? I have skimmed through this before, but this week was the first time I read it through. I encourage you, if you have not read it before or if it has been a while since you have read it, to pick up a copy. (You can go through the pdf version here.) It gives the history of the wider Christian church and also goes into detail on the Anabaptist perspective that I will briefly touch on today.

I listened to a podcast episode this week on scapegoating. It is easy to point a finger at what others are doing wrong in an effort to define and elevate our own selves. The modern example we often refer to is the Nazis scapegoating Jews for the economic issues present in Austria and Germany. But the podcast brought the idea a bit closer to home. When I have trouble sleeping, I blame the temperature in my apartment or I look to melatonin as a solution. I look for anything outside of myself that is the problem and the solution. The harder thing would be to ask myself what are the thoughts racing through my mind that keep me alert and awake? Where do these thoughts come from? And what will I do differently so that the deeper things can be addressed?

It is easy, it is comforting, to find the problems everywhere but myself, to understand myself by what I am in opposition to or what I struggle with.

It is easy, it is comforting, to define ourselves by what we are not.

It is more challenging to define ourselves by what we are. That invites honesty and complexity. So I want to give start worship today with an acknowledgement of who we are.

The What is An Anabaptist Christian? booklet starts with this statement: 

“Christians with an Anabaptist perspective on faith and life have existed from the very beginning of the Christian era. Even today, in nearly every group of churches and perhaps in nearly every congregation, there are people who have understandings of the Christian faith similar to those held in the Anabaptist tradition. Anabaptist is a way of being Christian. Just as there are Anglican, Baptist and Lutheran Christians, so there are Anabaptist Christians.”

We are in the body of Christ as one expression within that body. And within our way of being there are three core values:

  1. Jesus is the center of our faith.
  2. Community is the center of our life.
  3. Reconciliation is the center of our work.

What I like about being an Anabaptist Christian is that we are willing to hold creative tension. We read scripture privately, but we also incorporate community in the interpretation because our own blindspots may have us miss the richer message. We look to the Bible for truth, but we interpret through the spirit of Jesus as the guiding light. We stand for peace to reconcile ourselves to God and others to show that there is a different way. This may mean questioning those in power or even laying our life down for the sake of peace, as Jesus did. 

So here we are, Fairhaven. A community varied in gender, color, age, class, and ability. A church among the Indiana-Michigan conference that is filled with other churches of varied people, languages, and backgrounds. In turn, this conference is part of a national and global Mennonite church within the larger body of Christ. We have different perspectives. We have different personal needs. And yet though we differ, we work together, like a family, like a body. We do this not because it is easy. Not because it isn’t complex. We do it because Jesus, who is the center of our faith, did life among all kinds of people as he demonstrated reconciliation. And Jesus calls us to follow.

So in that spirit of a body dancing unified in our diversity, we are going to read this morning’s call to worship.

Leader: We are the body of Christ!
Baptized in one Spirit, we are members of one body.
All: Many and varied in gender, color, age, class, and ability,
we are members of Christ’s beautiful body.
Leader: None of us can say to another, “I have no need of you.”
All: For only together can we find wholeness.
Leader: None of us can say to another, “I will not care for you.”
All: For we are connected like muscle and bone.
If one suffers, we all suffer. If one rejoices, we all rejoice!
Leader: Thanks be to God who, in Christ, has made us one.
All: Let us worship God!

Jesus Came for the Sick

Call to Worship from July 28, 2019

Written by Christine Bailey

Yesterday I woke up, and as I sometimes do on a Saturday, I started scrolling through Facebook. I soon came across a Christian advertisement showing a beautiful young Christian couple in a beautiful home sharing about their shared goals of becoming more Godly and family oriented. Oh, jealousy. I shouldn’t have even watched the whole thing. This picture I saw, this idea, it didn’t take long to assess and deduce my life doesn’t even match half of what this picture communicates to me…and of course my continued observation only served to prove my point. For me it was like the Christian version of browsing fashion magazines and allowing the allure of cultural ideals, social media and movies set unrealistic expectations of beauty and body until our actual intended intrinsic individual beauty is all but rendered invisible to our very own eyes. A toxic combination of twisted hope and lies that steal the realization of the beauty that we already possess.

This picture of this beautiful got-it-together Christian family. Close enough to what I think my life should look like or maybe more honestly what I wished it looked like, to make me say #lifegoals. And at the same time far enough away from my reality to taunt me.  And if that’s what my life should look like, even halfway look like – I have utterly failed. 

I walked past a pile of laundry on the floor, past the half wilted plants I had forgotten to water, past the dirty dishes left from yesterday or maybe even the days before – each a reminder of my failings that reflected other larger failings. A reminder of what I’m not and what I am. Wondering if somehow I had abandoned God’s plan along the way, or did God abandon me? I had officially spiraled into a funk. Do I think the intention of the Facebook post was to set some unrealistic standard? – not at all, but it’s certainly what I perceived at that moment. The ideas played in my head, altering the original intent of the post to be uplifting into jealousy, envy and disappointment.  That image – it was my kryptonite.

It’s Swiss Days in Berne this weekend. I had walked uptown and to meet my parents and young nephew and niece. We got some fair food and sat ourselves down under band tent. A folksy/yodeling band was playing. Because that’s Swissy. Soon after we sat down, the band leader introduced the next song. He said, “I wrote this next song when my wife and I were going through a rough time in our marriage as people often do.” I couldn’t understand the lyrics to the song, which was probably best, because it may have ruined the moment for me. But that vulnerable comment – that life hasn’t always been perfect – was the perfect antidote to my funk. It reminded me that Jesus said, I have come for the sick, not the healthy. It was Jesus who also said, the Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

The actual verse in Mark 2:15-17 reads:

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law, who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

Sinners, the sick, the poor, the prisoners, the blind, the oppressed, the lost, the downcast, the imperfect…me…these are who Jesus came for.

Between my seasonal allergies and realizing that God was choosing to meet with me during my miserable little pity party about a life unattained, under the band tent, at the town festival, during a song that was probably very unchristian, I had to get out a tissue to wipe my eyes. I wondered if my mom thought there was something wrong, but she didn’t say anything. I was realizing at that moment, that Jesus was actually waiting for me at intersection of imperfect and broken and not on the corner of beautiful home and perfect life. And God brought me back to my reality and not my false expectations of what my life should look like….or what I want my life to look like. And later reminded of the beautiful family I do have. My 4 year nephew that wanted to hang out with me. My 1 and ½ year old niece whom my sister-in-law told me yesterday afternoon looks at my picture every day and says my name. What a beautiful life I do have – that I was completely blind to just an hour or so ago. 

So, as I let go and continue to let go of what I wish my life looked like and see that Jesus is waiting for me in my messy reality and not in the place I think or wish I was, but where I actually am right now, I’m glad I saw that Facebook video that start all of this. It’s a moment, a memento in time – that I know, that God waits for me at the intersection of his grace and my weird and messy reality, and not in my expectations of my reality. 

Like he said – he came for the mess. He hangs out with mess. The Pharisees wondered why he would hang out with the sinners…just like earlier that morning I wondered why God would want to meet with me because I was such a disaster. I realized later, that I had completely lost my mind and forgotten who God really is – the God who we see in the Bible makes a big big deal about meeting people in their reality, in their mess, in their trouble – trouble they may have created or trouble inflicted by some else – not in the place of our unrealistic expectations or or where we think we should be. 

And after all, only God is good.