Journey Forward is Mennonite Church USA’s churchwide renewal process of engaging in Scripture, storytelling and sharing how God is at work in the lives of people and congregations across MC USA. Its purpose is for us to renew our local and denominationwide identity and affirm our core beliefs as we live out the mission to which God calls us as the church. It is a process, not a conclusion. The process invites you to connect how you’re living God’s call to broader church mission and draws our attention to how the Living Word is moving in our midst.
The Renewed Commitments concisely name core values orienting MC USA toward a faithful future.
God invites us to experience and bear witness to the belovedness of all creation. We yearn to know and share in the mystery of God’s unending love. But we live in a broken world. The Holy Spirit beckons us toward the restoration of all things in Christ, and on this journey together, we commit to:
Witness to God’s peace
The Pathways study guide is a resource for individuals and groups across MC USA to use in exploring how they might live out these values in their particular contexts. In preparation for MennoCon19, we invite you to use this study guide and consider how these commitments are at work in your life and community.
This session will emphasize ways in which the Holy Spirit’s power transforms and engages us, and how we respond as we live and worship together. The leader will guide the group in examining scriptural passages related to the renewed commitment to experience transformation individually and collectively within our various communities.
Introduce yourself as the leader of this session for engaging MC USA’s congregations, conferences, agencies and constituency groups in the renewed commitment to experience transformation. Each participant should have a copy of “Renewed Commitments” or it can be projected onto a screen for all to see. Welcome everyone and thank them for their willingness to participate in this process. Read the theme description:
“The Holy Spirit dwells in and among us, transforming us to reflect God’s love.Through worship the Spirit gathers the body of Christ, where our diversity reveals God’s beauty. The Spirit empowers our communities to embody the grace, joy and peace of the gospel.”
Share that the subtheme to be explored in this session of the study guide is “Living and Worshipping Together.”
Begin with an opening prayer:
“God of love, we thank you for gathering us together on this day and in this place. We are especially grateful to be gathered into Christ’s Body with many members but one Lord. We invite the Holy Spirit to dwell in and among us today. Breathe upon us, granting us inspiration and insight. Ignite us to act upon what is revealed as we are transformed in your presence. Amen.”
Invite the group to stand and sing the hymn “Spirit of the living God” (#349 in “Hymnal: A Worship Book”):
After being baptized by John, Jesus emerged from the water and a dove appeared as a symbol of the transforming presence of the Holy Spirit. (Details of this encounter may be found in Matthew 3:1-17, Mark 1:1-11, Luke 3:1-22 and John 1:1-34.) Read Mark 1:9-13 aloud. Convey the context of the story by discussing the circumstances leading up to Jesus’ baptism and what happened immediately thereafter.
What was the role of John the Baptist, and what did he encourage onlookers to do?
What announcement did God make, as shared in Mark 1:11?
In what way(s) did the Holy Spirit transform Jesus?
After his baptism, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, tested and finally, to triumph. How might we experience the Spirit’s transformation in times of temptation and testing?
Optional: Share a brief personal story of a time when you needed the Holy Spirit to enable and empower you to endure temptation or testing.
Who Is the Holy Spirit? The transliteration of the Spirit of God in the Old Testament is ruwach in Hebrew which has been interpreted as wind, breath, mind and spirit. Its New Testament equivalent is transliterated as the Greek word pneuma (breath, wind) to represent the Holy Spirit as the third person of the triune God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Son. Provide time for participants to read through Article 3 of the “Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective” (http://mennoniteusa.
org/confession-of-faith/holy-spirit/), either silently or out loud.
Who is the Holy Spirit as described according to the “Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective?”
How does this description inform and align with our renewed commitment to experience transformation as we live and worship together?
What does the Holy Spirit do? Refer to John 14:16-17, Acts 1:8 and any Scriptures that come to mind from the group. Article 3 of the Confession of Faith may be referenced here as well.
How do we receive and respond to the Holy Spirit? Romans 10:9-10, Luke 11:9-13 and Acts 2:37-39 may be helpful in guiding discussion in reference to this question. Ask for volunteers to share their responses.
If time permits, discuss the main ideas found in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Ephesians 3:10, Psalm 133:1, Revelation 7:9 and Matthew 6:10, embracing this renewed commitment theme of experiencing transformation in and among us.
Revisit the “Renewed Commitment” theme as follows:
“Experience transformation — The Holy Spirit dwells in and among us, transforming us to reflect God’s love. Through worship the Spirit gathers the body of Christ, where our diversity reveals God’s beauty. The Spirit empowers our communities to embody the grace, joy and peace of the gospel.”
Distribute three index cards to each participant. Write the three questions below on the board or project them onto the screen. Ask participants to write down their responses to these questions, each on a separate index card.
God’s Spirit meets us at our point of need to convict, comfort and counsel us, revealing who we are as well as what we need to know and do as disciples of Jesus. Question 1: “Who has the Holy Spirit been to you?”
Reflect upon an instance when you needed the Holy Spirit’s wisdom or strength. Question 2: “What difference did the Spirit’s presence make in your life?”
The manifold wisdom of God is seen in the beauty and diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, and the unique gifts that we offer to one another. This is one of the ways God’s Spirit works within and among us. Question 3: “Think of an encounter with someone of a different racial-ethnic group, gender or religion. How did the Holy Spirit challenge and/or inspire you through this encounter?”
Ask for volunteers to share their responses to questions 1, 2 and 3. Write individual responses in brief phrases on the whiteboard or flip chart. What common themes emerge among the group? Discuss how these common themes reflect ways in which the Spirit speaks to and works among us despite our differences.
The Holy Spirit transforms us so that we can reflect God’s love as we share the gospel with those around us. Using the “Renewed Commitments” theme, collaborate in table groups to discern a plan of action to experience the Spirit’s transformation individually and collectively. Divide participants into three groups and assign each group to a table. (Feel free to adapt as necessary to accommodate varying group sizes.) Each table will respond to one of the questions below. Each question can be written on the whiteboard/flip chart or projected onto a screen. (Optional: A copy of each question can be given to a facilitator chosen at each table to provoke thought, discussion and a commitment to action.) Each table also needs to choose a recorder. Allow 15 minutes for interactive table discussions and nine minutes (approximately three minutes per person) for table facilitators to share their recorded responses.
Question 1: What spiritual disciplines can we practice to yield to the Spirit in our personal and collective worship?
Question 2: How can we engage with people from a different racial-ethnic group, gender or belief to receive, show and share in God’s love?
Question 3: How can we embody the grace, joy and peace of the gospel and share it with others in relevant ways?
The Holy Spirit is working within and among us to accomplish what we cannot on our own. It is the Spirit that transforms and compels us to love with compassion and conviction. Nelson Mandela profoundly stated that “our human compassion binds the one to the other — not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” Although there are differences among us that too often divide us, there is hope for the future as we embrace transformation in our daily living and worship. Beauty can be found in all of humanity when we focus on what binds us together as members of Christ’s body.
Sing the hymn “All creatures of our God and King” (#48 in “Hymnal: A Worship Book”)
“Thank you, God, for sending Jesus. Thank you, Jesus, that you came. Holy Spirit, won’t you tell us more about that lovely name? Fill us with your all consuming presence. Bind us with the unbreakable cord of your love. Transform and empower us by the Spirit as we receive your grace, joy and peace and share it with others. Help us to relate and respond to those who may not look, think or believe as we do, for therein lies the mystery, beauty and diversity of all who are created in your image and likeness. It is in Christ’s name that we pray and say, Amen.”