HMC E-Newsletter April 7, 2011

I have “Nothing” to say (and I’m going to say it again and again)
By Marty Troyer

Nothing. In a world that wants results, and for a small church like ours where growth is so easily noticeable, that word “nothing” stands out to me in bold vibrant color. But I think “nothing” is one of the most important things for us to talk about. Why? Because Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).” We will never fill a new sanctuary until our hearts and homes are first filled with prayers of faith and trust. Without living in God, we can not and will not mature, grow, bear fruit, overcome sin, or be faithful healthy Christians. We need God, we need the life-giving presence of Christ for the work we are called to.

And what is the work that we are called to? We are called to follow Jesus, to love God with all our heart and to love everyone we meet. Jesus is not only the one who calls us, but also the one who defines what that call looks like. Two bold and very public statements that Houston Mennonite Church makes are worth repeating. We are “being transformed by God to transform the world” and we are “For world Peace.” It is to this gospel of Jesus Christ that Paul was referring when he proclaimed “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16)!” Carl Anderson in his book A Civilization of Love: What Every Catholic Can do to Transform Culture  says, “The responsibility of Christians in our own time remains as it was in Paul’s time – to radically transform culture, not by imposing values from above, but through a subtler yet more powerful process – living a vocation of love in the day-to-day reality of our lives (pg 5).”

I for one commit to you today to not wait until we have our shinny new sanctuary before I begin to live love as the day to day reality of my life. We have something worth sharing to the people in our community, let’s not be ashamed about it. People we know need Jesus, neighbors we chat with over the fence need deeper community, co-workers we strive side-by-side with are hungering for a better way to live: all of which is part of the faith we celebrate every Sunday in worship! A new building, a pastor, a team of experts: these are not going to get us to grow or do the work that we as empowered followers of Jesus are called to do.

But nor will we bear fruit, or let our light shine, or regularly invite others to worship, unless first and foremost we are connected to the vine. Otherwise we will accomplish nothing. What a powerful word, this “nothing” that Jesus promises us! And for many churches and Christians, nothing is exactly what we’re getting. One author says churches are getting the exact results they are designed to get. Our structures, conversations, worship, goals are all designed not for growth, change, or transformation of community’s, but upholding the status quo.

I for one am committed to something more than nothing. I invite you to commit with me to more than nothing. I invite you to abide in Jesus Christ. I invite you to pray for our church’s growth and future. Set aside 15 minutes each of these next 2 weeks to pray specifically for our April 17th BBQ. And commit to creating a prayer list of people and groups you know who need what the gospel offers: Jesus, joy, peace, community, and good living.

Today we commit, or tomorrow we know what the results will be: nothing.

Embracing the Picnic Vision
2nd Annual HMC Community-Wide BBQ!!!: April 17


 after church, and we still need lots of help! Here’s how you can help:
·         Invite your friends. 
·         Prayerfully prep for our outreach event. We invite lots of neighbors and friends, it gives us a good chance to share our faith and selves with others.
·         Plan to attend and enjoy yourself.
·         Bring side dished and desserts to supplement hotdogs and hamburgers. 
·         Sign up to help out by being a greeter, help Stewardship Team set up, work in the children's activity area, be a jolly clown, or have a special skill you are willing to share, contact Marty or Judy Hoffhien.
·         Bring any yard games (croquet, corn-hole, horse shoes, volleyball, etc…) you might have.
·         Print off the attached flyer and distribute to neighbors, community bulletin boards, etc… 
·         Email your friends and coworkers the E-vite that will be in a second email to you today. 

Connecting More Fully at HMC:        
 ►Work Party at Church: Saturday April 9, 9AM
 Raking leaves, installing irrigation, beautifying the property, etc… It’s actually quite fun, come one and all!
►Lent: Becoming Human: Called and Shaped by Jesus is our Lenten theme. Christianity 101 says that Jesus is 100% human and 100% divine. We’ll look at how Jesus’ humanity effects our own life of faith. Services for Maundy Thursday (April 21), Good Friday (April 22), Easter and Easter Sunrise (April 24) are being planned.
 ► HMC Facebook Page? What do you think about HMC having a Facebook page? Would you “friend” it? Would you pass it on to other Houstonians? Would a FB page give HMC good exposure to what all we’re doing? Are you interested in being our Houston Mennonite Church Facebook administrator? If your answer to any of these is ‘yes” please let Marty know! (a reply email or fb message would do just fine).
►June 4: Men’s Breakfast.

 Highlights of Celebration of Discipline #11 – Submission
By Linda

This is the eleventh article in a series summarizing several spiritual disciplines discussed in Richard Foster’s classic book on spiritual growth, Celebration of Discipline.  These articles were written for the purpose of encouraging us, teaching us, and reminding us of important aspects of our faith during Lent.

Some synonyms of submission are:  obedience, compliance, surrender, deference, and” giving in”.  Foster calls this historically the most abused discipline.  “Nothing can put people into bondage like religion, and nothing in religion has done more to manipulate and destroy people than a deficient teaching on submission” (page 96).  He reminds readers that the purpose of the disciplines is freedom.

The Discipline of submission is needed in today’s society because our culture is obsessed with demanding things go our way.  Submission will help us to let go of this obsession and to allow us to give in to other people.  Foster asserts that most things in life aren’t that important that we need to insist on getting what we want. 

The “touchstone” of Biblical teachings on submission is Mark 8:34: “(Jesus said), ‘If anyone would come after me, let them deny thy self and take up their cross and follow me’.”  Unfortunately, when we think about ‘denial of self’, we imagine loss of identity or self-contempt.  Jesus, however, simply meant that we need to understand that we do not have to have things our own way.

Our happiness should not be dependent on getting what we want.  We should have no opinion of ourselves and have a high opinion of others.  We need to hold others’ interests above our self-interest.  Consider some aspects of Jesus’ radical ‘upside-down’ kingdom:   leadership through servanthood; power through submission. In the letters of Paul, he gave people who were “subordinates” (for example, Philemon), the power to make decisions, to have things go their way.

Another message of the Epistles is that we are called to live in submission because Jesus did.  However, Foster warns that when submission becomes destructive, it must be limited.  The Bible says to submit to authorities, but when the authorities fail, we must obey God rather than people. 

Foster concludes the chapter listing to what / whom we should prioritize our submission:

  1. God
  2. Scripture
  3. Family
  4. Neighbors and other people we meet. 
  5. The believing community / Body of Christ / Church
  6. The broken and despised
  7. The world / international community / environment

Foster indicates that the next chapter on service will be closely tied with this one.

Communion Update
From the Worship Team

For six weeks in January and February we at Houston Mennonite Church practiced communion (The Lord’s Supper) every week in our worship service. We did this as an experiment in faithfulness to Jesus Christ, and as a trial in our own spiritual formation. We as a Worship Team intentionally set out to discover to what level our worship practices are forming us to live the life of Jesus in our world. The question we posed was, “What frequency of communion best expresses our faith and forms us to be disciples of Jesus Christ?”

Through 38 responses to an online survey which included broad questions about our worship, we heard overwhelmingly positive feedback about our practice of communion in general. Houston Mennonite genuinely embraces communion as a celebration of our relationship to Jesus Christ, as a practice which Orients us to God and God’s call on our life, and which enables us to respond to God and God’s call. 86% of us said Communion is “Always” or “Often” meaningful to us. 84% said “Communion centers me on Christ in worship and in life.” 78% checked Communion as one of the “most meaningful” ways we respond to God. One responder said, “I really like an extended communion time with the opportunity to spend time in prayer or singing.” And another “Love, love, love it!” Still another person said, “I think the act and tradition of communion are particularly helpful in directing me to look inward at myself, my life, my actions.” Several commented on how meaningful the small groups gathered around 3-4 tables was.

But we as a team weren’t just interested in the congregation’s fondness for communion, we also have the practical question of knowing how often we should celebrate. When asked “As an Anabaptist congregation that views Jesus as the center of our life, I feel Houston Mennonite is called to celebrate communion:” 76% (or 28 people) of us said “monthly” compared to “24% (9) who answered “weekly.” At least 1 person indicated they would prefer less often, such as quarterly, though the survey did not allow for alternative answers. Several indicated the sentiment that “I find other parts of the service more meaningful than Communion” or that “I enjoyed the change in the FORM but do not enjoy doing communion every week.”

These and other of your comments were very helpful to us. Hearing your voices, our task is to discern the wisdom of the body out of such a survey. Does the majority rule? Do you weight people’s comments or their “votes” more highly? After good discernment and discussion, we as the Worship Team have come up with a proposal that incorporates the best of what we’ve heard with what we as a Team are learning and feeling called to pursue. Regarding our practice of communion, we believe there are three times we are being called to the communion table to shape us and express our faith. First, we are called to continue to practice communion on a monthly basis, celebrating the first Sunday of every month as we have for some time now. Second, we are called to at least once a year set aside a season of the church calendar to celebrate communion weekly, the most logical church season being Lent. Given that our 6 week “test drive” of weekly communion directly preceded Lent in 2011, we did not initiate weekly communion in Lent, but considered our “test drive” to be the first annual season of weekly communion. Third, we are called to celebrate communion on select special Sunday’s that fall outside of the weekly and annual cycles. Examples of Sunday’s that would be enhanced by celebrating communion include: Covenant Sunday, New Member Sunday, Baptism Sunday, Peace Sunday; or, if requested, when members celebrate their last Sunday with us.

We believe God’s call to come to the table in these three seasonal ways (monthly, annually, and occasionally) is faithful to what we have heard from you and our ongoing learning as a team. We as members of Houston Mennonite Church are passionate about our faith and about ministering to you through faithful, meaningful worship that ascribes worth to God and orients us to God, self, and our world. It is our hope that what we do in worship transforms you to transform the world. Stay tuned for more updates from the worship survey as we unpack God’s call on our congregation and on the worship team. To all of you who participated in the survey: THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!  You are greatly appreciated!

Lenten Schedule
Sunday April 10: Lent 5, Called to Life Text: John 11:1-45, Psalm 130, Romans 8:6-11
Sunday April 17: Palm Sunday, Called to Worship Text: Matthew 21:1-11, Philippians 2:5-11, Psalm 31:9-16
Thursday, April 21: Maundy Thursday meal at a local restaurant 6:30- 8PM For information, please contact the church at 713-464-8465 or
April 22, Good Friday, 7PM at HMC. Tennebrae Service of Lights
Sunday April 24: Easter Sunrise Community Worship, 6:30AM at Spring Valley Park, Cambell Rd, just North of I-10.
Sunday April 24: Easter Sunday!! Turn to Jesus, go with the Spirit Text: John 20:1-18, Colossians 3:1-4, Psalm 118

The Peace Pastor
Check out Pastor Marty’s blog on  He writes as The Peace Pastor (look for the familiar green peace dove). This week’s blog is called “A Stranger Hugged me.”

Christian Formation Options at HMC:
Join us each Sunday morning at 9:30AM!
►ADULTS: NT Bible Study.
►Preschool (age 2-4): With Adrienne Graybill.
►Intermediate Youth:  with Lynda Voran.
►Junior and Senior High: With Kristi Long and Alan Wilson.
** Children’s Church during worship in our children’s ministry room for kids 1-5. They hear a Bible story, sing, and play together.

Mennonite Disaster Trip goes well for Bethel Students who stopped in Houston

Check out this story about the Bethel students who worshipped with us March 20, and stayed in our church homes (or in our back yards!) the night before.

ORDER OF WORSHIP April 10, 2011

Welcome and Call to Worship
Opening Prayer
* Singing                                                                                                                                    
Holy Spirit, Come with Power  HWB #26
O breathe on me, O breath of God
SJ # 46
Confession and Confession Song You are all we have SJ #29   
Children’s Time          
Scripture Reading            Romans 8:6-11                                                                                             
Sermon Response
Scripture Reading           Ezekiel 37:1-14                                                                                            
Sharing, & Announcements                                                                                                                
* Song of Sending         Amazing Grace HWB #143                                                                            
* Sending Prayer/Commissioning

Thank you to the following for sharing your gifts! Worship Leader: Gerald Gehman; Speaker: Pastor Marty Troyer; Scripture Reader: Sylvia Klauser; Children’s Message: Susan Starkey ; Children’s Church: Wilson Family; Song Leader: Paul Siemens; Pianist: Margaret Gehman; Greeter: Than Vlachos.

Pastoral Care                                                    
Do you want a person to talk with about something in your life? Got a question or insight into faith or scripture you want to kick around? Have you been sitting on a great idea for the church? Need prayer? Want to get to know your pastor better? As your pastor, I’m available to meet with you at the office or at a time and spot that works better for you. Just let me know when and where! Monday’s through Thursdays, and weekends by appointment. Marty Troyer, church office (713)464-4865,, also available on Facebook.

Additional Information       
HMC E-Newsletter is compiled by Houston Mennonite Church pastor Marty Troyer.  
All are invited and encouraged to share articles, personal updates, stories, announcements, pictures, etc… to include in the weekly updates
Know of others
who would like to receive HMC E-Newsletter e-mails from Houston Mennonite?  Have them send name and e-mail to Marty at

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