HMC E-Newsletter April 26 2012
Why Don’t Christians Behave Differently???
By Marty Troyer
Statistics consistently show that US Christians behave the same as the general population. And yet my friend Lutherant rightly says that “true Christians display the works of Christ in their lives. No one who lives contentedly in a selfish life centered on their own needs and desires should think that they have faith (James 2:17).”
What gives? Why such strange Christian fruit?
Three weeks ago Lutherant and I simultaneously blogged about a video called “Three Lies of the Modern Church” where we tried, from our own faith persuasion, to wrestle with this issue. If you haven’t already, read Lutherant’s and my takes on these 3 lies:
- The Gospel Goes forth by Political Power.
- The Gospel of The Sinners Prayer
- Prosperity and Power Prove the Message
I love Lutherant, otherwise known as The Rev Charles St-Onge, a pastor friend from Memorial Drive Lutheran Church. He has a passion for Christ and people, is brilliant and an excellent blogger. He also at one point tells me flat out he thinks I’m wrong. You have to love that Christian brothers can disagree today in a healthy way without disengaging from relationship, or worse. In our faith tradition we highly value a document called Agreeing and Disagreeing in Love, that, without previous discussion, I experience coming from Lutherant.
His posts and reflections on these 3 lies were encouraging and corrective for me to flesh out my own thoughts. They also helped me to see one reason Christians don’t behave differently is lack of spiritual empowerment for Christian living. How am I going to live the life I feel called to live? And “Christian Living,” as I think about it, is tightly connected to these three lies. Paul talks in Romans 6 about Christ’s work, our living, and baptism. Saying in essence that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ, and so we should “consider ourselves dead to sin and able to live for the glory of God through Christ Jesus.” It’s this stunning work of grace that allows us to live as Christ.
Elsewhere in Philippians 2:12, Paul encourages us to “work out our own salvation,” which might sound hollow, as if it were missing the grace of regeneration, right? But Paul goes on to say why we should work. It’s not because we can pull ourselves up by the bootstraps. No! It’s because, “God is at work in you, enabling you to will and to work for his good pleasure (Phil 2:13).”
Anabaptists agree that salvation is a gift of grace and cannot be earned. But we read in the New Testament that God’s gift of faith brings with it responsibility. Human beings need to do their part in response to God’s gift of faith. Menno Simons, namesake of our faith family, said, “The regenerating Word must first be heard and believed with a sincere heart before regeneration, the putting on of Christ, and the impulsion of the Holy Ghost can follow.”
Balthasar Hubmaier (another key 1st generation leader) was interrogated in a Lutheran court (oh the irony!) and responded:
Q: How many kinds of faith are there?
A: Two kinds, namely a dead one and a living one.
Q: What is a dead faith?
A: One that is unfruitful and without the works of love, James 2.
Q: What is a living faith?
A: One that produces the fruits of the Spirit and works through love, Galatians 5.
But a second reason we Christians don’t behave differently is our theology. When we come to know the gospel of God we are overwhelmed by “the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding,” and which spills out into every area of our lives. But if our theology places limits on the Gospel’s access to every area of our lives, of course we’re going to live like everyone else.
Yes, I believe deeply that God’s gospel is for all of life. No compartments, no distinctions. Faith matters at home, work, and play. That core belief distinguishes me from the health and wealth gospel addressed in the previous post. Our economic lives are to reflect a life of generosity and simplicity, understanding that there is no separation between faith and finances. 100% of our resources (not just 10% or less) belongs to God.
And this core belief distinguishes me from Lutherant on the other hand, who makes a clear distinction between The Kingdom of this World and The Kingdom of God, and allows for different behavior in each context. Perhaps I’m missing something key here, but it appears to me that a compartmentalizing life in this way suggests Christians shouldn’t be living differently than the rest of the world. Instead, I believe our political lives are to reflect the politics and kingdom of Jesus, understanding there is no separation between faith and politics. We are to be “the peculiar people” in all areas of life.
Lutherant, thanks for a great learning dialogue! Here are my Three Truths More Christians Need to Learn from Lutherant:
- God’s love is totally free, totally necessary, and overwhelmingly marvelous.
- God’s love will empower you to live a new, refreshing, and healthy life.
- God’s love opens doors of dialogue with people you disagree with, and gives you the humility to love them just the same.
Peace to you Charles. And to all our readers!
Connecting More Fully at HMC:
► Ten Thousand Villages Sunday is this sunday April 29 (Note date change). Volunteer, shop, support fair trade!
►Prayer with your church family! Here’s an Easter Prayer Practice (with a scripture to memorize) on our church worship tab! Here: http://bit.ly/IBpUhb When you’ve memorized the text, let Marty know and we’ll have you recite it in worship!
►Looking for an outreach and networking opportunity with like-minded folks? Mark your calendars for the ANNUAL PEACE POTLUCK now! Emerson Unitarian Universalist, 900 Bering Drive, Houston, Texas, 77057. For years, HMC has seen ourselves as having one key “target audience” in Houston: the peace community. If that’s still something we value, this event is a safe, friendly, (essential, necessary but not sufficient) event for us all to attend.
►Backpacks and blankets needed for area homeless. Please drop them off at HMC. Will be distributed through our connections with Food not Bombs.
►Faith eXploration Baptism Class on Sunday!! A catechism class for those interested or exploring baptism and/or your faith in a deeper way continues Sunday. We’ll meet in the Annex youth room.
►SACK LUNCHES are available at church to be given to hungry folks. Grab a couple, carry them in your car to give out, and bless the hungry in a much better way than giving cash.
► Care Packages for Young Adults have been sent! Notes of appreciation have already come back! Thanks for supporting!
►Yes, Houston Mennonite Church is now on Facebook! Please Like us and spread the word that this page exists. Facebook.com/HoustonMennonite Pictures from Easter Sunday, links, friends, oh my! So much to see, so much to do.
►Unexpected News: Reading the Bible Through Third World Eyes discussion group Sunday’s at 9:30AM all welcome.
►Women’s Retreat: April 27-29 at the Blackwood Educational Land Institute near Waller, TX.
Building up the Body of Christ: Links to Form Faith.
“Once in scripture we are told that scripture is inspired by God. Twice we are told Jesus is the only way to God. I and many other Christians hold these as essential, central truths. Why then, when we are told, commanded, encouraged, directed, etc. to care for the poor, the marginalized and those in need over 560 times in scripture, do we find ways not to embrace that as a truth every bit as central to our faith as these? I can’t answer this question for everyone, but in my case it has been because uncsonsciously I was more interested in making my agenda God’s agenda instead of making God’s agenda my agenda. It’s time for me to repent. Maybe others will join me.” (Ed Wandling, area pastor)
- Letter to the Future Church: “I’m tired. I just don’t have the ability to keep up with the façade of “church” anymore.” That’s how Julie Clawson starts her Letter to a Future church. Julie Clawson is brilliant, anabaptist, and sharper than any two edged sword. Check out the rest of her letter for encouragement and hope for the journey! http://bit.ly/I9wVf9
- Follow the Money: Understanding how much we spend on the Military. Here is an updated, and stunning, presentation by Alan Stucky who was with us last Sunday. Based on MCC’s Fear Not-Seek Peace Campaign.” http://bit.ly/IjdxMo
- Racism by Another Name, on Marty’s Peace Pastor Blog from last week. A series of links on racism. Dismantling Racism is 1 of 7 core values of Mennonite Church USA. http://bit.ly/J5HLlL
Jesus is risen… now what?
Worship April 29, 2012
Does the resurrection matter for daily life? What does it mean that Jesus – executed now risen – is present with us today? Join us next Sunday as we enter the book of Acts for inspiration on walking in the resurrection! Paul says in Romans, “the same Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you! Consider yourselves dead to sin, able to live for the glory of God through Christ Jesus!” More than a historical fact, the resurrection of Christ empowers each of us to live the abundant life God intends.
Check out the Prayer Practice on our church worship tab! Here: http://bit.ly/IBpUhb
Words of welcome and introduction of worship theme
Call to Worship (based on Romans 6:1-11)
Opening Song Praise with joy the World’s Creator SJ #16
Scripture Reading Psalm 23
Song How can we be silent SJ #61
Sharing Time: What do you bring to Build up the Body of Christ, and how can we build you up?
Scripture Reading Acts 4:5-12
Song of Ministry We are people of God’s peace (HWB 407)
Commitment to Ministry 749 HWB
Connecting More Fully
Sending Text 1 John 3:16-24
*Sending Song When the church of Jesus (see insert)
Christian Formation Options at HMC:
Join us each Sunday morning at 9:30AM!
►Adults: Unexpected News: Read the Bible through Third World Eyes, by Robert McAffee Brown as our guide.
►Junior High/High School Youth: Faith Exploration with Pastor Marty. In the annex.
** Children’s Church: During worship in our children’s ministry room for kids aged 1-5. They learn a Bible story, sing, and play together.
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, email@example.com, also available on Facebook.