Mellinger's Blog

December 3, 2012

The Cry of Advent

Filed under: Uncategorized — mellingerla @ 1:49 am

Today is the first day of Advent–in fact, the “New Year’s Day” of the Christian year. I can’t guarantee that I’ll suddenly turn into a daily blogger, but anyway…

Taking a long walk the other day, I found myself singing “This Is My Father’s World.” I’d been reminded of this favorite hymn during the sermon preached at my home congregation last Sunday. The preacher reminded us that we are ministers of reconciliation, and we so often think of that as reconciling people to one another and to God—yet the world, the creation itself, is also to be reconciled, and we also have a part to play in that reconciliation. As I walked in the fading light, I realized again that I see pain nearly everywhere I turn. Indeed, as the hymn states, “the wrong seems oft so strong.” Chaos in political systems… worldwide economic downturn… armed conflicts in Middle East and Asia… a fragmented Church… unprecedented natural disasters. The whole earth seems to be writhing in pain and thrashing about in panic, like a woman laboring to give birth. It has been so dark for so long…

As if that weren’t enough, many people I love are struggling, ailing, dying. Men and women cannot find work… marriages and families are disintegrating, and children blame themselves… friends and students suffer with injury and illness, pain and sorrow, destruction and death. And I struggle, too. Tears flow as I lift the burdens of the world, the church, and my friends before the throne of grace—and as I lift my own burdens as well. My best friend died nearly seven years ago, and I still miss her fiercely, especially at Advent. I’m working hard, yet seeing little real progress. My own church, my own family, struggle too.

“How long, O Lord?” This is the cry of Advent: the cry of the creation, awaiting its restoration; the cry of the church, awaiting the glorious return of the Messiah; the cry of the young mother in labor, awaiting the birth of her child. The Psalmist’s cry, and my own.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus. 

March 16, 2012

Engaging Our Kids in God’s Mission

I had the opportunity to meet with more than a hundred other pastors and credentialed leaders of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference for breakfast this morning, and we talked about the following questions:

  1. Are the youth in your congregation inspired by cross-cultural missions? What draws/attracts them? What puts them off or reduces their interest?
  2. How could EMM be more attractive to young people, while holding true to our passion for discipleship?
  3. How can EMM and your congregation collaborate to motivate and inspire our youth and young adults?
At my table, we discussed the fact that “cross-cultural missions” does not need to mean “going to another country” when the youth in our congregations are often attending school with youth of other cultures who are right here in the US. But if the adults in our congregations don’t reach out cross-culturally to those in our neighborhoods and workplaces, then we can’t expect our youth to do so either. Rather, they need us to model what cross-cultural relationships look like, and to invite them to partner with us in befriending newcomers and visitors to the US. Even youth who are not on the best terms with their parents look up to other adults in their lives, but what are we as adults modeling for them?
My church’s pastor for youth and families, Mike Metzler, noted that students are drawn by the risk of cross-cultural relationships–and I immediately thought that many adults are not drawn to risk of any kind. Yet the biblical witness clearly demonstrates that following Jesus is a risky business from the start. “Leave your [job] and follow Me,” “hate your father and mother for My sake,” “sell all that you have and give to the poor”… Many of Jesus’ commands were just as risky in his culture as they are today.Are we brave enough–has God given us the faith we need?–to step out of the boat and take a risk in order that the world may know?
We talked briefly about “moralistic therapeutic deism,” a term that describes what many of today’s youth seem to believe: that God wants you to be ‘good’ (moralistic), that God will come and help people who need it (therapeutic), but that God is pretty far away from the events of this world and only shows up when people really need him, and maybe not even then (deism). Our speaker, Nelson Okanya from Eastern Mennonite Missions, called this a ‘watered-down gospel,’ and it surely is that. But the sickening secret is not that this is what our youth believe; it is that it is what too many parents and other adults believe.
I pray that God will “motivate and inspire”–and empower!–those of us who parent and mentor and train youth and young adults to take risks in His name. I once had a pastor who used the term “sanctified recklessness” to describe those kinds of actions. May such sanctified recklessness characterize our lives as followers of the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

July 7, 2010

Trying again . . .

Filed under: Uncategorized — mellingerla @ 8:58 pm

Since I have been unable to give you links that actually work, I thought I’d better give you further information about how to locate the two resources:

1. The first is an article by Kent Berghuis called “A Biblical Perspective on Fasting.” It’s in Bibliotheca Sacra 158, no 629 (Jan-Mar 2001): 86-103. To locate it, go to the ETS home page, then click on Rostad Library, ATLA/ATLAS Database, then input the username and password located in your Student Handbook to access the database. Search for AU “Berghuis, Kent” and you’ll locate the article. Simply pasting the URL I provided into your browser won’t work. (I apologize for my technological ineptness!)

2. The second and third resources are on the Campus Crusade for Christ website (www.ccci.org). Click on “Training & Growth”, then “Prayer,Quiet Times, Devotionals” to locate both of the resources.

I hope that helps–

–LM

Welcome to GS500!

Filed under: Uncategorized — mellingerla @ 8:36 pm

This is a “sample” blog entry for an online course that I will be teaching in January 2011, posted as an assignment in an online course I’m taking this summer.

Hello, everyone–

As we make our way through this four-week online class, I will occasionally post items of interest for our work together. You are all welcome to do the same by sending us an e-mail inviting us to visit your own blogs, or by posting your own items of interest as replies on this page. Either way, I hope we’ll have some stimulating conversation along the way!

Here at the beginning of our course, I’ve posted an article about Christian fasting which you may find to be of interest for the paper you will be writing. You need not read every word of the article; rather, scan the article to gain an understanding of some of the biblical rationales for fasting. Find it here: http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=4&hid=9&sid=22423ae9-a070-4c94-836d-624278870976%40sessionmgr.

One other resource for you to explore is the information on fasting found on the Campus Crusade for Christ website. Try beginning your explorations here: http://www.ccci.org/training-and-growth/devotional-life/personal-guide-to-fasting/index.htm. Or, you could try this shorter treatment: http://www.ccci.org/training-and-growth/devotional-life/7-steps-to-fasting/index.htm. Then do a bit of looking around on your own for online resources about Christian fasting that you think might be useful for all of us–and for those with whom you minister.

Enjoy!
–LM

February 25, 2010

Labyrinths

Filed under: Uncategorized — mellingerla @ 3:16 am

Today I found myself in another city, in a church I’d never set foot in before. I’d gone looking online for a noontime Eucharist, and instead noticed that a church right around the corner from my hotel had its labyrinth set up from 10 till 3. I’ve read about labyrinths; I’ve thought about them a good bit; I’ve never prayed in one, though.

So I went around the corner. I’m sure God was chuckling a bit at the “labyrinth” I needed to traverse just to get into the building–this door’s locked, that door’s locked, the open door is labeled “Office,” and the poor man behind the bullet-proof glass must have thought I was out of my mind when he directed me to “the front door” and I looked at him blankly. I’d entered the property through an open gate…but upon walking back out, I suddenly saw the front door. Doors, actually–probably 20 feet tall. I’d just approached from the wrong direction.

This is a very old city church, and apparently not a wealthy parish–water stains on the ceilings, heavily worn floors with floorboards that creak when you walk on them. The space probably seats 300 people, although there were perhaps six or seven others in the pews. It was cold outside, so they were inside. One man was reading the newspaper.

The labyrinth was canvas, the pattern painted in bright blue on once-white cloth, rather dingy from use, laid between the communion rail and the altar. I took off my coat, sat down in the front pew, and spent a long time wrestling with myself. No one else was praying. Certainly no one was anywhere near the front of the church, or walking the labyrinth. One man was snoring in the corner. But I wondered what they’d think of me if I just took off my shoes and walked up and began to walk the path. (How silly is that? Several of them didn’t even realize I was there!)

But I overcame my reluctance, only by grace, and stepped onto the canvas.

I wish I could say I had an incredible experience of God’s love, or guidance, or conviction. I did not. The labyrinth might have been about 10 feet in diameter, which is to say small. There was only room on the path for one foot at a time; sometimes, going around the tight corners, I wondered whether I’d be able to keep my balance. I had to look down and concentrate on my steps. Walk slowly…more slowly. The organist was practicing… well, no, says the music teacher in me, not practicing, just playing while stopping at the wrong notes. The music was beautiful, but rather more like a strobe light than a beacon. Harmony, dissonance, silence. Harmony, dissonance, silence.

I walked for perhaps ten minutes before reaching the center, and faced the altar. Nothing fancy or ornate at eye level; behind the altar, though, very old, very high, very ornate stained glass that I could barely see because it was cloudy outside and at least 25 feet away from me even standing near the altar. Jesus, a couple of times, lots of cherubs…but I couldn’t really understand the scenes portrayed. So I stood in the center and waited. The newspaper rustled. Someone behind me belched, and excused himself to anyone listening. Eventually, I stretched out my arms and hands in a posture of surrender, and offered myself once again to the one who gave His life in place of mine. The organist turned out the lights, flipped stops and switches, and brushed past me as she left.

So I lowered my arms, turned, and began the slow and slightly wobbly journey back out. Retracing my steps, I noticed the way the path becomes tighter and tighter as it approaches the center, then suddenly provides a space for five or six steady steps as it moves into the next quadrant. In and out, back and forth…a lot like life. Sometimes simple, straightforward steps; sometimes twists and turns and careful placement of the feet and worries about falling. Yes: a lot like life.

So now I’ve (finally!) prayed my way into and out of a labyrinth. And I’ll do it again. I’ve wanted to experience God in an outdoor labyrinth–there are several within driving distance of my house–and I probably will at some point. I’ve also wanted to participate in this practice with a group of others who are also prayerfully seeking God, and will probably do that too sometime. But for now, I’m glad I took the time, and found the place, and persevered through the labyrinth to get to the labyrinth, and prayed while others sat there in God’s presence–whether they knew it or not.

February 18, 2010

Chosen to carry…

Filed under: Uncategorized — mellingerla @ 8:51 pm

I was reading a friend’s blog just now, his meditation on us as broken and leaky vessels holding the precious treasure of the gospel. But he used the phrase “chosen to carry,” and it caught me.

Yes…we are chosen to carry. We carry messages, and The Message; we carry truth, and The Truth; we carry light, and The Light; we carry The Way while walking in it.

Jesus IS The Message, The Way, The Truth, The Life. And in some clearly irrational divine brainstorm, the Triune One decided that those created would be chosen to carry…

First, the Holy of Holies. Men carried the Ark, covered with skins and fabric…filled with fear.

Then, the very Presence that inhabited that holy place. We who believe and receive now carry the Holy within us…filled with wonder.

In the end, we are not merely to carry…but to become. To be conformed to the image of the One-in-Three…filled with love.

Together.

To die, as a grain of wheat…that God may live with us, and in us, and through us.

Welcome to Lent.

February 16, 2010

Entering the blogosphere

Filed under: Uncategorized — mellingerla @ 3:46 pm

Well, for being the kind of person who likes to read the manual before setting up the gadget…here goes nothing! Or, perhaps, something…

If my mentor and friend can have a blog, then so can I.🙂

Blog at WordPress.com.

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