HMC E-Newsletter March 10, 2011


Remember to “Spring Forward” your clocks before bed Saturday.

Lent: Becoming Human: Called and Shaped by Jesus.

Christianity 101 says that Jesus is 100% human and 100% divine. Why then focus all our Christian energy exclusively on the divinity (through worship, creeds, etc…)? A great example is the huge jump from cradle to grave in the Apostle’s creed when talking about Jesus. Or what about all the Christian worship songs based on Philippians 2 that totally skip right over verse 5, “let the same mind be in your that was in Christ Jesus”? If Jesus humanity is fact, why don’t we talk about it like its important?

This Lent, we’ll look at how Jesus’ humanity affects our own life of faith. What does it mean to be human? And how is Jesus (rather than Adam, or psychology, etc…) our best clue to answering that question? Lent is the season of the church year in which we focus particular attention on foundational questions of our existence. This Lent season we invite you to ask: What does it mean for us to be the created and recreated images of God? How may we become authentically human? Lent is a season to release that pressure, to repent of (turn from) all that would distort and reduce our humanity. It is a season of fasting in which we choose to abstain from whatever good thing may be holding our lives too tightly in its grip. Likewise, in this season we pay special attention to the Christian disciplines of prayer, solitude, Bible Study, simplicity, and service.
We invite you to follow Jesus more closely this Lenten season!

Lenten Schedule
Sunday March 13: Lent 1, Shaped by Testing Text: Matthew 4:1-11, Psalm 32
Sunday March 20: Lent 2, Shaped by New Birth  Text: John 3:1-17, Psalm 121
Sunday March 27: Lent 3, Shaped through Thirst Text: John 4:5-42, Romans 5:1-11, Psalm 95
Sunday April 3: Lent 4, Called to Light Text: John 9:1-41, Ephesians 5:8-14, Psalm 23
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

What is Lent? “Christian observance of Lent began late in the third century, as the time to prepare candidates for baptism at Easter. In imitation of Jesus, who spent forty days in the wilderness before beginning his ministry, Christians devote the forty days of Lent to disciplines of prayer and fasting, and in caring for those in need (Take our Moments and Our Days: Special Seasons, pg 274).”

 Ways of Celebrating Lent
There are as many ways to celebrate Lent as there are people who want to get closer to Jesus. Find some practices that are meaningful for you. You might want to consider adopting one or more practices for the entire Lenten season.

  • Corporate worship: join us or another congregation for weekly worship. We meet Sunday mornings at 10:45AM, and everyone is welcome to join us!
  • Drop Something: Christians have for centuries and still do practice fasting (see Linda’s article below). Fasting is cutting out a normal part of your daily life for the sake of spiritual growth and learning. Consider fasting for several meals each week, or a particular type of food (such as chocolate, or meat). Or, consider fasting from a non-food item such as the Internet, or TV, or gasoline, or anything that is blocking you from wholeness.
  • Pick something up: Instead of cutting back on something, think about something you could add to your normal schedule for the sake of spiritual growth and learning. Consider scripture reading, solitude, prayer, walking more, exorcize, writing personal notes, journaling, simplicity, etc…
  • Special Projects: I know people who have found it meaningful to undertake a special project for Lent as a way of sharing Christ’s love. Perhaps this would be a good time to put your hobby to use for others (many at HMC do this regularly!), or to save your pennies for Mennonite Central Committee, or take on a needed project around the church or neighborhood.

My prayer is that whatever you decide to do, or don’t do, will draw you closer to Jesus as a committed follower of his way of life. May you know that being in Jesus universe is the safest place for you to be! It’s the only way the world makes sense.     

 Highlights of Celebration of Discipline #7 – Fasting


To prepare us for the time of Lent, this article is number seven in a series summarizing several spiritual disciplines discussed in Richard Foster’s classic book on spiritual growth, Celebration of Discipline.

Right from the start, I admit that I am uncomfortable writing about fasting. I think fasting would be harder for me than all of the other disciplines combined.  I guess this is where I need the most discipline, and maybe it’s what I’m being challenged to do.

Foster begins the chapter admitting that fasting seems outdated.  Yet, he points out that since so much scripture is devoted to it, how can we disregard it?  Fasting got a bad reputation from the severe practice of it in the Middle Ages.  It now seems obsolete in Western culture where if we eat less than 3 meals a day we are “starving”.  In reality, we can’t live without water, but humans can go without food for 40 days (that’s how many days Jesus was in the wilderness).

The definition of fasting in the biblical sense is abstaining from food for spiritual purposes.  In contrast, in our current culture, fasting is done for power or vanity.  The Bible also mentions partial fasts (Daniel 10:3) and absolute fasts (of both food and water, three days maximum, Esther 4:16) in addition to regular fasts. 

In most fasting was private, between the individual and God.  One exception is the Day of Atonement, which is a public group fast.  There is no Biblical law about fasting, so we are free to fast at any time. 

Is fasting a commandment?  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about fasting alongside giving and praying as if they were all part of Christian life.  He also says: “when (not if) you fast…”, although He does not say you must fast.  Overall, there is as much or more scriptural evidence for fasting as there is for giving.  So why is its importance disputed?  Foster contends that in today’s affluent society, fasting is a larger sacrifice than giving.

Jesus’ first statement about fasting was regarding motive; fasting should be done for God’s purposes, not our own.  Fasting will show us what truly controls us.

Foster then outlines the mechanics of fasting, since most people are ignorant of them nowadays.  On our first attempt at fasting, we should start with juice only for 24 hours.  On subsequent fasts, drink water only for 24 hours.  Foster then explains details of longer fasts.  He reminds us that the spiritual changes we experience will be more important than the physical changes. 

Foster suggests devoting usual meal times to meditation and prayer. Outwardly, we should continue our regular lives, but inwardly, we are worshiping and praying.  We shouldn’t call attention to the fact that we are fasting. 

Foster’s conclusion:  “(Fasting) is a means of God’s grace and blessing that should not be neglected any longer.”

Connecting More Fully at HMC:       ►Lent Begins Sunday: 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 Maunday Thursday (April 21), Good Friday (April 22), Easter and Easter Sunrise (April 24) are being planned. ►The Peace Club will meet this Saturday, March 12 from 3:00-5:00 at the Houston Mennonite Church, 1231 Wirt Rd. Be prepared to discuss your favorite female heroines for Women's History Month and we will finish the El Salvadoran lesson doing arts, crafts, mapwork and sampling puposas. The group will also make a vegetarian soup for the Food Not Bombs organization, which serves the homeless 4 nights a week downtown. Ages 5-16 are welcome to participate. Bring your friends and celebrate the lovely Spring weather, as we will also be playing some co-operative games outside.

►Ten Thousand Village Annual Rug Sale: Volunteers are needed to help unload rugs for the sale on March 23rd at 6pm.  Food will be provided.  Volunteers are also needed to work the sale on March 24th and pack everything back up on March 28th
►Woman’s Breakfast: Saturday April 2.
►Congregational Meeting: Sunday April 3, after church, including meal. Discussion regarding Future building plans, designs, campus development. The Campus Development Taskforce has some exciting questions to process with you, and design concepts to present.
2nd Annual HMC Community-Wide BBQ!!!: April 17th. Invite your friends. After worship Suday.
►June 4: Men’s Breakfast.

►Next weekend Pastor Marty will be speaking at Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp for their twice-yearly “Snow Camp.” He will be out of the office Wednesday March 16- March25. For pastoral care, please contact CLT.

Housing for College Students:
11 Students and 1 Advisor from Bethel College, North Newton Kansas, are volunteering their spring break to work with Mennonite Disaster Service in Diamond, Louisiana.

They will be coming to Houston Mennonite Saturday night, March 19 and will be in need of housing. They’ll attend worship Sunday March 20 before heading to their week of volunteering.If you can host 1,2,3,4 students in your home with beds, please contact CLT.  

Thank you…

  •  to our planters! Sylvia  and 10 or so people planted our community garden Saturday afternoon. Check it out, and consider how you might participate!
  • To everyone who completed your worship survey!!
    38 people gifted our church with an evaluation of Worship and Weekly Communion. Stay tuned for results and feedback from the Worship Team!
  • To our Death by Fire volunteers, especially Brad for pulling off a great event Sunday night!

The Peace Pastor: Living as Citizens on a hill

God answers prayers! I’m very excited about the opportunity God presented to spread the gospel of peace through the very public format of a Houston Chronicle blogs and articles. The wonders of technology have allowed the peace gospel to be proclaimed in new ways through Houston. See for yourself this week’s blog at: I write as The Peace Pastor (look for the familiar green peace dove). This week’s blog is called “Parenting for Peace,” which you can also find in Friday’s “Belief” section of the Chronicle.

I believe the blog will be at its best when it comes out of a community of supporters. I’m 100% open to dialogue about the blog, hear your ideas, listen to your feedback, get suggestions or topics from you.

In the future, I hope to form a small team of supporters who can lift the blog up in prayer, offer support, and help plan out topics for future articles. A healthy group would consist of some HMCers like you, several Houstonians who are committed Christians but not part of HMC, and some supporters from the wider Mennonite church. If this is something you might get excited about let me know.

Most importantly, I know that while I don’t speak for or on behalf of our church (and limit the connections), this blog is an opportunity for us all. It opens the possibility for dialogue for all of us (potentially whether we want it or not)! Living as citizens on a hill (living publicly for Christ and his kingdom) demands that we have a spirituality to support our life in mission. My devotions this week had me reading the familiar parable of the sower from Mark 4, which is really a parable about good and lasting spirituality versus spirituality that falls away. In it, Jesus says that the sower put some seed on “rocky soil.” These seeds in the rocky soil “have no root, and endure only for a little while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away (4:17).” Well, sometimes when you live as a Christian for all to see, trouble or persecution arises in the form of mean hate-filled comments, indifference, sarcasm, being ignored or abused. Jesus said after all, “the world will hate you because it first hated me.” When our missional lives experience a bit of trouble, will we shrink from the call or press on? Will our spirituality be like the seeds planted on good soil, which bore fruit 30, 60, 100 times its size?

I pray for each of you, for myself and my family, that our roots would go down deep into the soil of God’s love for us and for all the world, and that in living as citizens on a hill, we would accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine “I pray that God may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith as you are being rooted and grounded in love. May we have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:16-19)!”

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.

Open Table Anti-Poverty Initiative

At the April 7th at 7PM meeting of Memorial Assistance Ministries (MAM) they will host a speaker from Open Table, a new Houston area initiative to help alleviate poverty for low-income families through mentoring and relationship. Below is more information on Open Table.

The mission of Open Table is to transform poverty through innovation and empowerment — one lifeand one family at a time.

Open Table is a growing movement of faith communities seeking to re-focus from poverty maintenance to poverty transformation. The Open Table model is a catalyst for powerful collaboration between faith communities, transitional organizations, clinical psychology, government, local business and non-profit organizations and resources. Together, this unique collaboration builds encouraging and accountable partnerships with people in poverty so they may live into their human potential.

Open Table began its innovative program in 2005 when it developed a volunteer-led process to restore one Phoenix homeless man to wholeness. The process was a success, and interest in the “Table” model grew until Open Table became a 501(c)(3) organization in 2007. Open Table is a proven, effective, poverty transformation model that provides a restorative path to wholeness and self sufficiency.

           713 574-7543

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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