Pathways Week One: Belovedness and Confession

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:

                • Follow Jesus

                • Witness to God’s peace

                • Experience transformation

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.

Session Summary

We begin our journey forward by affirming a fundamental truth: God loves us. Confessing the truth of our own belovedness allows us to honestly confess ways we fail to experience and extend God’s love.

Session Objectives

  • To collectively affirm our belovedness as God’s creation, allowing the Holy Spirit to root and ground us in love
  • To begin to examine ways in which our experiences do not align with God’s desires for us (sin/brokenness)

Opening Prayer

Leader: For this reason we bow our knees before our Maker,

All: from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.

L: We pray that, according to the riches of God’s glory,

A: God may grant that we may be strengthened in our inner beings with power through the Spirit,

L: and that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith,

A: as we are being rooted and grounded in love.

L: We pray that we may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints,

A: what is the breadth and length and height and depth,

L: and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,

A: so that we may be filled with all the fullness of God.

L: Now to the One who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine,

A: to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.

If your group is comfortable singing together, sing either “The Love of God” (#44 in “Sing the Journey”) or simply a verse of “Jesus Loves Me.”

Encounter

As you prepare to encounter God through Scripture, invite participants to take an index card and write down words or phrases that stand out as they hear the following passages.

Invite individuals from your group to read aloud the following Scriptures. Follow each Scripture reading with a brief moment of silent reflection.

    • Psalm 24:1
    • Genesis 1:31
    • Romans 3:23
    • John 3:16-17
    • Ephesians 3:18-19 (echoing the opening prayer)

Ask your group to call out a few words or phrases that struck them from the readings. Write these words or phrases on the board.

If time permits, ask your group to identify other Scripture passages that speak to God’s love for creation and humanity. Write these Scripture references on the board.

Discern 

Read aloud the introduction from “Renewed Commitments”:

“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. We confess that sin fragments our wholeness and strains our relationships with God, each other and the world. Confronted with the misuses of power in our lives, communities and institutions, we seek to tell the truth and repent. The Holy Spirit beckons us toward the restoration of all things in Christ. God continually calls us beloved.”

Invite table groups to engage with the following questions:

Why is God’s love an appropriate starting point for renewing our shared commitments as disciples? What other starting points might we consider for this conversation?

Scripture speaks of God’s love as “surpassing knowledge.” How can we know something that surpasses knowledge?

Do we feel any tension between “affirming our belovedness” and “not thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought” (Romans 12)? How do we live faithfully within that tension?

Embody

Invite participants to pass around the mirror at their table, taking time to look at their own reflection and affirm God’s love for them. They could state their name and say, “I am loved by God.”

Invite participants to write a word, phrase, or sentence on a sticky note that reminds them of how God loves them. This could be a Scripture verse, popular quote or something a loved one has told them. Have them attach these notes to their table’s mirror.

Invite participants to reflect together on the following questions:

    • How has the Mennonite church been known by our love for one another?
    • How has the Mennonite church not been known for its love for one another? What do we need to confess?
    • Would those outside our group “know that we are Jesus’ disciples by our love for one another” (John13:35)? Why or why not?
    • How might our congregation (or conference, agency or constituency group) better affirm God’s love for us? For all creation?

Invite each table group to share two or three highlights from their conversation with the large group.

Send

As table groups conclude their conversation, invite them to consider the following:

    • Throughout the coming week, be attentive to moments when you experience God’s love.
    • Throughout the coming week, be attentive to barriers that hinder your experience of God’s love.
    • Keep a running list this week, and come prepared to share a few thoughts next time your group gathers.

Read aloud this quote from Menno Simons: “Lord of hosts! When I swim in the merciful waters of your grace I find that I can neither plumb nor measure the depths.”

Offer a prayer of blessing for your group. Pray in your own words, or offer this prayer: “Most gracious and merciful God, may we find ourselves filled to the full with the knowledge of your love this week. In the name of Christ, Amen.”

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Find out more about Journey forward and download the entire Pathways study guide here.

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