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Smells like the Holy Spirit

5.13. 2019 Posted By: Mennonite Church USA 471 Times read

The closing worship service for MennoCon19, the Mennonite Church USA convention to be held in July, will be based on Jesus’ sending words to his disciples in John 20. Traditionally, the sending message at the end of our national conventions is a charge to answer the call to live into the great commission and witness to the world. The goal is always to transform convention hype into a meaningful and lasting change in our home communities. But thinking about the last few years, I wonder if we’ve been successful. It seems to me the convention hype has fizzled. Our denomination is not growing. People don’t recognize Christ when they see us in our home community. One could argue that we are a dying, divided, fractured group of believers. We are no better off than the disciples were after the crucifixion. “It was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews,” John 20:19 says. Is that where we are in MC USA, fearful followers locked in a holy huddle?

Are we trapped into thinking the so-called “contamination” of the world — someone’s identity, or bureaucratic relationships — are greater than our God?

Like the first disciples, have we come to know Jesus as our savior, only to think it is impossible for God to overcome our issues? Our tribulations? Death? Maybe like in Scripture we need a few brave women to tell the good news.

As I think about the upcoming convention, I can’t help but think about the band Nirvana. They may not be the most theologically astute group as you think about worshiping as Anabaptists, but they do have a song I think articulates who we should be as a church. The song is, “Come As You Are.” The lyrics go like this:

Come as you are, as you were
As I want you to be
As a friend, as a friend
As a known enemy

Take your time, hurry up
The choice is yours, don’t be late
Take a rest as a friend
As an old

Memoria, memoria
Memoria, memoria

Come doused in mud, soaked in bleach
As I want you to be
As a trend, as a friend
As an old

Memoria, memoria
Memoria, memoria

And I swear that I don’t have a gun
No I don’t have a gun
No I don’t have a gun

The church, this church, must move beyond its fear that sin, that identity, that our struggles or anything else we imagine is greater than the love of God and the power found in both the life and resurrection of Christ.

The church, this church, must send a clear message that we welcome people to come as they are to the foot of the cross. It is not in our power to transform or fix anyone. God is greater than you, and God is greater than me. MC USA needs to welcome the dirty, the clean, the rich, the poor, the immoral, the pious, the drug addict and the teetotaler.

Twenty-six years ago, this church welcomed me just as I was, a soldier, immature, unbaptized and ready to fight. And through the movement of God in me, I became a peace activist and the leader of the peace church. So, tell me, what is too hard for God? What is possible when we allow people to come as they are and we let the Holy Spirit work through us?

To read the full version of this article on MC USA’s Menno Snapshots blog, click here.

Glen Guyton is executive director of Mennonite Church USA and will be giving the closing message at MennoCon19.

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