This was a sermon preached by me at Pasadena Mennnonite Church on April 19, 2009 for Mennonite Education Sunday based on Acts 15: 22-35.
I was reminded this week of the scene in City Slickers between Jack Palance and Billy Crystal. In the scene, Jack Palance, the old, peaceful cowboy is riding with Billy Crystal, the high strung "city slicker" in a mid-life crisis. Jack Palance explains as they ride that "there's nothin' like bringin' in the herd at the end of a ride." Billy Crystal says, "See, that's great. Your life makes sense to you." Jack Palance chuckles wryly and Billy Crystal says, "What's so funny?" Jack Palance says, "You city folk spend 50 weeks of the year getting knots in your rope and then you expect 2 weeks out here to untie them. Do you know what the secret of life is?" "No, what?" "This" (raise finger) "Your finger?" "No, one thing" "What's the one thing?" "That's what you need to figure out."
As we look at the scripture for this morning, we notice a historical precursor to Jack Palance's speech. The Jerusalem Council has just met to discuss and reach consensus on what cultural rules all these new Christians need to follow. What was the "one thing" that they needed? These were new Christians that God had decided to call, not the original Jewish Christians. These were the outsiders, the Gentiles, US. As the council meets they decide to simplify the rules. Even though they couldn't get to "one thing" they did take the 160 Jewish laws and distill them down to 4 things.
Thinking about our life together as a congregation, I'm pretty sure many of us could say the "one thing" in our lives is Jesus Christ as a redeemer and model for our lives. I am grateful that this is true. It is the reason we celebrate Easter and live the way we do. How we focus on that "one thing" is something we need to discern for ourselves through the input of the community. But as a community today, I'd like us to look further. If our "one thing" is Christ, what distinctives make us followers of Christ? What do we have to offer to the world as Christian Anabaptists at this time in history?
We have been asked and have asked ourselves many questions as we've worked to launch this school. But one of the main ones is: "Why a Mennonite School in
I'd like us to look at "Three things" together in an attempt to answer that question: 1) the treasure of our Anabaptist & PMC traditions, 2) our call to be the
First, let's look at the great treasure of our Anabaptist and PMC histories. Over 10 years ago, I was at a PMC retreat. As I remember it, were doing visioning and, in one exercise, we had to go to the value that was the REASON we were at PMC. It had become clear to me that the Anabaptist values that were present at PMC were Kingdom Values. They were a treasure that I had finally found in my spiritual quest. As I went to the card that read something like, "The fact that PMC is Mennonite/Anabaptist," I realized that the other 4 people, standing with me in this minority position were all what we refer to as "ethnically Mennonite." You also need to realize that, at that time, there were only 4 "ethnic Mennonites" at the church!! I believe more of us now would identify with being Mennonite either because we attend this Mennonite church or because the values that have been preached, taught, and lived together are values that we consider a treasure. There are many things that have drawn us to PMC, some of which have been brought up on the list serve this week. Others include: the community, times of prayer and sharing, a place to heal, the vertical and horizontal relationships that are formed, and, I'm sure, many others. PMC is unique in the Mennonite world in the
This leads us to our "second thing"-- our call to be the
The "third thing" is looking at how we keep the value of the treasure without having the treasure itself become an idol for our community. As we interact with the world, what things are we willing to let go of? What idols is God calling us to let go of? As I mentioned earlier, the world is looking for what we have to offer. Historically, the
Our "one thing" should be loyalty to Christ and his Kingdom. As we launch the
So, why open a
As Randy and I attended the Education Leaders Gathering in
As we come along together on this journey of educating our children and the children of