I was at Church Today

by Elaine Maust
Part of “7 Core Convictions Mennonites Share”
January 16, 2005

It was Thursday and my parents were in town for a few days. This was a special occasion for me. I wanted to introduce them to my life here in Meridian. But how could I show them Jubilee on a Saturday?

Oh, we could drive by and I could point out our impressive building just off of Eighth Street. But if any of you have ever been in this building when no one else is, you know it is a very different experience than we have on Sunday morning.

What could I do? Duane and I could get out and walk around and I could show them the Commons Room where we laughed and cried on Wednesday night as we talked about Pine Lake Camp and prayed together. I could show them the small group room where Melody works with those bright-eyed children in Community of Hope’s Small Group. I could walk them into the gym and tell them how great today’s potluck would be. We could sit in the sanctuary and I could try to explain that when we are together, at least sometimes, the Spirit is unmistakable. Maybe all of that would help, but would it introduce them to the church if you all aren’t here?

This morning we are looking at another of the core convictions of the Mennonite Church. The Mennonite World Conference, which is composed of over 1,000,000 believers of Anabaptist heritage, has summarized for our consideration the seven core convictions that Mennonites share. You’ll find copies of this leaflet on the table here. Please take one with you today. For the next several Sundays we will explore these core convictions.

Last Sunday Edea Baldwin preached about Jesus. Today our theme is the church.

So what is church? Think about it. I believe that Jubilee is not the building on the corner of 9th Street and 28th Ave. I know that is true, because if we did not come to this building every Sunday, if it burned down and we met in the banquet room of Holiday Inn, we would continue to be Jubilee. Those of us who were part of Jubilee when we were wandering know this first hand. First we met in an old house on Hooper Street, then we moved to Highland Methodist and met upstairs and later on Sunday afternoons at Saint Paul’s Episcopal. And all that time we were still Jubilee.

So, if the building is not the church, then what is church? Let’s take a look at what the Bible says about the church.

Body of Christ
Romans 12:3-7
I Cor. 12:4-7, 12-13, 27
My friend, Thelma Nisley, reminded me this week that when the first church was forming, the earliest believers had never seen a church before. How could the apostles describe it? The writers used metaphors to describe this marvelous new institution. Metaphors like, “the body of Christ”.

Maybe the church is like one of those huge parade floats with all the people inside. Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s a huge long canvas and it is powered by the people running along inside as it snakes down the street. A giant caterpillar and all you can see of the people is the feet. None of those people individually is that caterpillar, but all of them together are. They are each individually part of the whole body.

That’s how it is in the church. Jodi is not the church. I’m not. Bob Coblentz isn’t. Neither is Jessica Chisolm. But together we are Jubilee. We are the body of Christ. Each doing our part for the good of the whole.

Do you know what your gift of the Spirit is? How do you use that for God? For the good of the rest of Jubilee?

Visible Manifestation of Christ
Ephesians 3:21
We together are the body of Christ in the world. So since we are the body of Christ it is important that we represent Jesus well. People form their impressions of God and the church off of us. That’s kind of scary, isn’t it? We are not perfect.

When I was a teenager a popular quote circulated among Christians. “If you were arrested for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you.”? Together we are the hands, feet and voice of Jesus in the world.

We have an important role! “Now you are the body of Christ”, the Bible declares. But let’s remember the church is not primarily for and about us. “To him be glory in the church”. (Eph. 3:21). The Church belongs to Jesus, the way a bride belongs to a groom, the Bible says.

New Community of Disciples
Mark 3:14
Acts 2
Acts 4:1-13
At Bible Study on Wednesday nights we’ve been learning about Jesus from the book of Mark. Jesus called the disciples to do four things in Mark 3:14. Let’s turn to that and see what he called them to do.

1) to be with him – to spend time with God. Have you talked to him lately?

2) to be sent out – to do what God asks. To act on behalf of Jesus. (Story of “I Saw Jesus”, Elmer Towns, My First Church) Elmer Towns, the well-known Baptist preacher, tells this story about Mr. Miller in his book, “Stories from my First Church”. Towns was a nineteen-year-old Bible student when he became the pastor of a little church in Savannah, Georgia. One day Mr. Miller came into his office and said, “Jesus talked to me last night… He wants my car.” …. (pg 108)

3) to proclaim the message – to speak the Good News in words

4) to have authority over demons – to bring healing by the power of the Spirit

The twelve disciples were a community. They ate and slept and worked and walked together. And the church is to be a community of disciples in the same way. Okay, so we don’t eat all our meals together and we don’t stay together 24/7. But we are connected. The Bible says we are like a house built of living stones on the foundation of Jesus. Can you picture us all mortared together? Evidence of this connection is the pain we feel when someone leaves. We are a community of disciples, sharing, caring, growing, working together.

The church described in the book of Acts was a wonderful example of a community of disciples. The community part? They were a frightening mix of races and classes. There were slaves and masters. Women and men. Folks who spoke many different languages. And they became the first church (Acts 2). A church that shared and took care of each other and prayed and preached.

I love this little story of Peter and John from Acts 4:4. One day Peter and John were preaching and the religious leaders were very much annoyed. So they put them in jail. But no matter 5,000 people became believer that day. The next day the rulers, elders, and scribes assembled for the trial and Peter was filled with the Spirit and preached to them. (v13) It is good for me to be part of a church like Jubilee. The only explanation for us, is that we have been with Jesus. A new community of disciples.

Voluntary Commitment through Baptism
A New Believers Class is forming at Jubilee. Along with the earliest Mennonites you saw depicted in the drama this morning, Jubilee believes in and practices believers baptism.

Cornelius – Acts 10:44-48 (tell the story of this exciting baptism)

Barbara Brown Taylor, “Once you are baptized, you belong to God and all that remains to be see is what you will do about it.”

Priesthood of Believers
I Peter 2:5, 9-10
This is the Church of Jesus Christ. We may be the pastor’s of the church, but Jubilee is not Duane and Elaine’s church. When the day comes that Duane and I are not the pastors, Jubilee will go on very well without us. This is “my church” in the sense that I belong to Jubilee. But it is not “my church” meaning Jubilee belongs to me.

All of us are priests. Any of you can pray for me as well as I can pray for you.

Pastor Ernie’s comments last Sunday about shared leadership. Jubilee has been doing that from the start and will continue. All of us will use the gifts the Spirit has given us for the common good.

The Kingdom of God
Ephesians 3:10-11
How did God intend to make his eternal purposes for the world known? Amazingly, through the church.

The Kingdom of God is talking about God’s reign. God is a king and the church belongs to him. We are the promise of what life with God will be like in the future.

We are a broken pot. Can you use us, Lord? Though we fail we continue to work together for God’s purposes. Though sometimes we misunderstand, we continue to listen for what God wants to say to us. Though sometimes we even embarrass ourselves with our pitiful efforts, by the Spirit we live according to the teaching of Scripture.

Jubilee is a church, but it is only one tiny part of the church. This is what I mean. Jubilee is a committed community of believers. It is part of Gulf States Conference. Part of Mennonite Church USA. We are one little part of Mennonites around the world. We Mennonites are one little part of the Church universal. Imagine that. All believers of all time who are the church the children of God.

Rev. 5:11-14

Like the sign out front says, this is only the “meeting place” of Jubilee Mennonite Church. Jubilee is the youth group meeting out at Pine Lake Camp. It is Community of Hope at 5:00 in the afternoon. It is Duane and Chris and John John getting together for lunch. Church is Dianna’s Sunday School class. It is a group of us working together on an MDS project. It is Sunday dinner at the Opel house and Small Group at the Floyds. Church is anywhere where we are, because the church is not a building, it is people.

So this week when my parents came, I brought them in and showed them your pictures.


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