First Kings 21 records the story of two men whose choices and characters stand in stark contrast to each other. The one man said, in essence, “What I have is not for sale.” The other is described as having “sold himself to work wickedness.” It is the story of Naboth and his vineyard, the sulking King and his plotting wife, and the faithful prophet Elijah. It happened a very long time ago. The whole event sounds remarkably contemporary.
Today, the believer is living in a world that is connected as never before. The World Wide Web, social media in the hands of the masses, and agenda driven news cycles have honed information flow to a fever pitch.
We take our Sunday school classes for granted, but before the Sunday school movement began in the mid to late 1800’s, it was unknown in the Mennonite Church. The movement was influenced by the wider “Great Awakening” experienced in the Protestant churches. The Sunday school injected new life into the general spiritual laxness that was prevalent in a lot of Mennonite churches.
“Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee” (Psa 67:3,5).
As a conservative people, we have been blessed with a rich heritage of a capella congregational singing. This has been a tremendous blessing in uniting our hearts in worship. Whether we are young or old, talented or untalented, church leaders or lay members, we can all blend together in this wonderful aspect of worship. However, to have this practice continue, we need to continually strengthen this aspect of our worship.
“That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ” (Col 2:2).
Our worship services traditionally start with a time of singing, followed by a devotional. This short time before Sunday school serves as an appetizer and whets our appetite to the things of God again. It is therefore important that the devotional leader spend time to prepare thoughts that will inspire us and cause us to hunger and thirst after righteousness.
How recently have we heard a sermon on the dangers of strong drink? How often do we study a Sunday school lesson on temperance? How many of us are even tempted to drink alcoholic beverages?
We can hardly imagine an era like the 1890’s when it was deemed necessary to include a temperance lesson in every Sunday school quarter. Since that time, several generations of American Mennonites have taught and practiced total abstinence. For most of us, that is all we know. We could say that our Mennonite churches have generally succeeded in winning the battle with drunkenness.
It is usually difficult for those coming behind us to relate to the issues that we have gone through with the same passion and zeal that we have for those issues. A few years ago our family visited one of the civil rights museums in Selma, Alabama. It was tremendously interesting to me, and I’m sure I wandered through the museum much longer than what the children thought was needed. It stirred a lot of memories, and as we traveled on, I told the children how it was in the sixties when I was a young boy in public school.
Revelation 3:8, “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.”