Pathways Week Three: Restoration and Commitment

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

The Anabaptist story is filled with examples of costly commitment. As part of Mennonite Church USA, we seek to follow in our spiritual ancestors’ footsteps, choosing faithful discipleship even at great cost.

Session Objectives

To be challenged and inspired by Biblical stories of commitment

To share contemporary stories of costly discipleship

To celebrate God’s power to restore and equip us in the journey of faithfulness

Gather

Invite participants to answer the following questions:

  • When did you recognize sin (personal or systemic) straining their relationships with God, each other and the world?
  • When did you feel prone to wander from God?
  • When did God’s goodness bind your wandering heart back to Christ?

Write this quote from Menno Simons on the board and read it aloud:

“True evangelical faith is of such a nature it cannot lie dormant, but spreads itself out in all kinds of righteousness and fruits of love…”

Invite your table groups to read, one by one, the 17 hallmarks Menno Simons identified:

The 17 commitments of “true evangelical faith” Menno Simons identified:
1. it dies to flesh and blood
2. it destroys all lusts and forbidden desires
3. it seeks, serves and fears God in its inmost soul
4. it clothes the naked
5. it feeds the hungry
6. it comforts the sorrowful
7. it shelters the destitute
8. it aids and consoles the sad
9. it does good to those who do it harm
10. it serves those that harm it
11. it prays for those who persecute it
12. it teaches, admonishes and judges us with the Word of the Lord
13. it seeks those who are lost
14. it binds up what is wounded
15. it heals the sick
16. it saves what is sound
17. it becomes all things to all people

After all 17 have been named, read aloud the end of the quote: “The persecution, suffering and anguish that come to it for the sake of the Lord’s truth have become a glorious joy and comfort to it.”

Sing together “You are salt for the earth” (#226 in Hymnal: A Worship Book).

Encounter

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

Invite an individual to read Luke 18:18-30 aloud. Follow the reading with a brief moment of silent reflection.

Ask participants to call out a few words or phrases that struck them from the readings.

Write these words or phrases on the board.

Discern

Invite table groups to engage with the following questions:

  • Which character in this Biblical story do you most identify with? The ruler? The disciples? Jesus? An unnamed character in the crowd? Why?
  • What does it mean that those who have sacrificed to follow Jesus will “receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life”?
  • In Mark’s telling of this story, Jesus looked at the ruler and loved him. How do we affirm Christ’s love for us even when we lack some aspects of faithfulness?
  • What might Jesus be inviting us to leave behind so that we may follow him more faithfully? Or, what word of encouragement might Jesus offer us if we have left much to follow him?

Embody

After participants have spent time reflecting on Scripture, invite them to shift their focus to your local congregation, conference, agency or constituency group. Read this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a [person] must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a [person their] life, and it is grace because it gives a [person] the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘ye were bought at a price,’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

Invite participants to reflect together on the following questions:

  • What stories of “costly grace” or “costly discipleship” do we carry from our history?
  • What contemporary examples of “costly grace” or “costly discipleship” can we identify?

Introduce the three renewed commitments of the Journey Forward process:

  • Follow Jesus
  • Witness to God’s Peace
  • Experience Transformation

While the coming sessions will explore each of these in detail, invite participants to briefly consider how these commitments might be costly. Write them on the board.

How might sharing these commitments as an entire church inspire us to greater faithfulness?

Send

Throughout the coming week, be attentive to opportunities for your faith to “spread itself out in all kinds of righteousness and fruits of love.”

Conclude by praying together the closing peace prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

________________________________________________________________

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

Your financial support of MC USA helps us equip leaders and tell stories of Anabaptist faith in action across the church. Donate to MC USA here.