Pathways Week Two: Sin, Truth-Telling and Repentance

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

Even as we affirm God’s love for us, we recognize the brokenness of our world — and of ourselves. The wholeness God desires for creation has been fractured by sin, both personal and systemic. Christ’s beloved church is not immune from sin. Our desire to seek peace and pursue it requires an ongoing, honest reckoning with sin.

Session Objectives

  • To grapple together with our understanding of sin
  • To name specific sins, both personal and systemic, that impact our lives, our churches and our communities
  • To celebrate the forgiveness of sins promised by God through Christ

Gather

Invite participants to share some of their experiences by answering the following questions:

    • Were there moments when you experienced God’s love? When?
    • When did you encounter barriers that hindered your experience of God’s
      love?

Invite participants to read together the Lord’s Prayer, using the phrases “sins” and “those who sin against us.”

The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory,
forever and ever.
Amen

Sing together “Come, thou fount” (#521 in Hymnal: A Worship Book).

Encounter

As you transition from “Gathering” to “Encountering,” invite someone to write the third verse of “Come, thou fount” on the whiteboard:

“Oh, to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let that grace now, like a fetter, bind my wand’ring heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”

Read from Article 7 of the “Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective” (1995):

“Sin is turning away from God and making gods of creation and of ourselves. We sin by making individual and group choices to do unrighteousness and injustice. We sin by omitting to do good and neglecting to give God the glory due our Creator and Redeemer. In sinning, we become unfaithful to the covenant with God and with God’s people, destroy right relationships, use power selfishly, do violence, and become separated from God. As a result, we are not able to worship God rightly.”

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

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

    • Luke 18:9-14
    • Luke 18:15-17

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

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:

  • Which character in Jesus’ Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector do you
    identify with more? Why?
  • Which character seems more emblematic of the Mennonite church? Why?
  • Jesus offers a stern warning to those who would hinder little children from coming to him. When might our church (either our local congregation or the Mennonite church as a whole) have hindered people seeking Jesus?
  • How does the definition of sin in the “Confession of Faith” align with your own working definition? How does it differ?

As time permits, invite table groups to share with the larger group.

Embody

After participants have spent time reflecting on Scripture, invite them to shift their focus to your local congregation, conference, agency or constituent group.

Invite participants to reflect together on the following questions:

  • How has our congregation, conference, agency or constituent group responded to personal sin? (Some examples may include shunning or excommunication, public confession, pastoral counseling, turning a blind eye, etc.)
  • How has our congregation, conference, agency or constituent group responded to systemic sin? (Some examples may include peace activism/protest in response to violence or war, participation in Black Lives Matter, antiracism work, a food pantry to respond to economic injustice, environmental stewardship/creation care, etc.)

Send

As you conclude the “Embody” exercise, invite your group to consider the following:

  • Throughout the coming week, be attentive to moments when sin (personal or systemic) strains your relationships with God, each other and the world.
  • Throughout the coming week, be attentive to moments you feel prone to wander from God.
  • Throughout the coming week, be attentive to moments God’s goodness binds your wandering heart back to Christ. Write your own prayer of confession in the coming week that addresses personal and systemic sin.
  • Keep a running list this week, and come prepared to share a few thoughts next time your group gathers.

Conclude with the following prayer :

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed,
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our
whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly
repent, for the sake of your son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may
delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Amen.

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

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