Pastor Marv Thiessen (PDF) by liaoqinmei


									                                                                          Pastor Marv Thiessen
                                                                 Calgary First Mennonite Church
                                                                                 August 5, 2007


I. Introduction

        Paul has told us a vacation story of where bad weather drove them to abort their
camping trip and return home. That’s a story that many of us can likely relate to. We
have made plans for camping trips that looked good on paper and then have set out as
planned, only to have lousy weather or some other unseen circumstance cause us to
decide to go back home where things were more secure and certain.
        I remember an occasion like that. We had taken a few days off, had borrowed
our pastor’s tent trailer and had set up camp at Falcon Lake in Manitoba, anticipating a
few sunny days on the beach and in the lake. The second day we were there, I took
Craig and Kristin for a round of miniature golf at a place within walking distance of the
campground. As we played, we noticed ominous looking clouds building in the west.
We finished our round but didn’t make it back to the trailer before the skies opened up.
We ran to a shelter close to where our trailer was set up. Lorraine noticed us there and
joined us. Our one year-old Brent was sleeping in the trailer. While we stood in the
shelter, rain and light hail pounded down seemingly without end. Eventually we were
able to make it to the trailer. We found that Brent had slept through all the commotion
and that everything was sopping wet. We decided we were finished with that camping
trip and we would return home. While the family waited in the car, I packed up the trailer
in the diminishing rain and we returned home.
        In any story like that, we admit that we simply got tired of the wearying factors in
our vacation. We didn’t want to endure it any longer. And, if your story ended like
Paul’s or mine, your weariness got the better of you and you ended that particular
experience. You might have said to yourself, “These boots were made for walking, but
not this much.” Sometimes life is like that. Sometimes life lived in the Christian church
feels like that. When we feel so weary that we don’t want to continue, how should we
think? Where do we draw the inspiration to go on?

II. Weariness for Christians

       Why do Christians get weary of participating in the church? I told you about
someone I know a few Sundays ago who discontinued attendance at his church
because he characterized his experience as one in which he got burned. I don’t know
the specific details but we can observe that events at his church caused him to decide
that he wasn’t willing to endure what happened to him there. Let’s talk about reasons
for why Christians in the church get weary of the church. I’ve drawn inspiration for this
segment from an article by Tim Stafford, entitled, “The Church’s Walking Wounded,”
(Christianity Today, March 2003, pp. 64-69) in which Stafford identifies five reasons for
why Christians in the church become weary.
       Some Christians are weary of the church because they are abused people. In
some way, they have been abused in the church. This is often something done by
pastors or other leaders in the church and the abuse may come in a variety of forms. In
some cases, leaders in churches have abused people in the church sexually. In some

cases, the abuse is an abuse of authority in which conformity to the ideals of the
leadership is demanded. In some cases, people are abused because church leaders
have lacked integrity with church funds. It’s not hard to understand why people like this
say they’re weary with the church. Some drop out and some continue with pain.
        Some Christians are weary of the church because they are neglected people.
Pastor Eugene Peterson says, “People come to church expecting to have their lives
taken seriously, God taken seriously, and they’re . . . not taken seriously as souls.”
(Stafford, p. 67) He continues to criticize pastors who use their position for the purpose
of building their own success while neglecting the needs of people. When the church
fails to address the needs of the people who come in meaningful ways, people feel
neglected and may become weary.
        Some Christians are weary because they are lonely in the church. Stafford writes
that “modern society is full of people looking for love.” The church promises to be a
place where love can be found, where people will care for each other and where
pastoral staff will care for needs. Inevitably, some people who come to church remain
disconnected from others and end up feeling lonely even though they participate in a
church community with many other Christians. That may cause them to feel weary with
the church.
        Some Christians are weary because they are guilt-laden people. In some cases,
the Christian church plays a part in causing people to feel guilty. We believe it’s
important to live by the standards God has given in the Bible. We take seriously the
demands of following Jesus. There will always be times when people in the church fail
to live up to those standards. What do they hear when that occurs? Do they hear
condemnation of their struggles by the way the Christian life is preached or do they hear
hope to renew their commitment? Mennonites have often been people who taught and
expected a fairly demanding Christian life. I suspect we have sometimes caused people
to feel weary due to guilt. As a pastor, I recognize this struggle. I want to preach
Christian living but I also want people to know that perfection isn’t required to live in
God’s grace. I suspect I may sometimes sound more demanding than gracious and that
my approach could cause some to feel guilty. While guilt can be a good thing and a
stimulus to doing good, it can also be a debilitating and hindering thing. When it is the
latter, some people get very weary.
        Finally, some Christians are weary in the church because they are too involved.
The church asks for people to serve in its programs. This is necessary and it is a right
response to God’s love for us. There are times, however, when some people in the
church take on more than they can deal with and they struggle with burn-out.
Eventually, they tire of life in the church because it’s so hard for them.

III. Help for the weary

       How do we respond to all that? We certainly recognize that it’s not good to feel
abused, neglected, lonely, guilt-laden, or burned out. I think the Scriptures we read
today suggest at least three appropriate responses to these issues.
       One is that when we feel we just don’t want to go on, the Bible calls us to endure.
The writer of Hebrews says in 12:1 that we should throw off the things that hinder us and
run the race marked out for us with endurance. At the end of the passage we read, he
writes, “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.” Given the earlier call
to endurance, this may also be a call to become stronger and keep on going. That

appeals to me as an individual. I’m probably inclined to say to weary people that they
should suck it up and keep on going. That’s not particularly sensitive and caring but
there is truth in the idea. We are called to be people who persist and endure as we fix
our eyes on Jesus. As the writer of Hebrews says, we haven’t yet endured nearly what
he did so we should keep going. The apostle Paul, writing to the Galatians, wrote, “Let
us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we
do not give up.” (Gal. 6:9) One response to weariness is to simply say, “Get over it and
keep on going with the help of God.”
         Some will find such a response encouraging. Others will hear it and despair.
They don’t see how they can keep going when the abuse, the neglect, the loneliness,
the guilt or the burned out feelings continue. They may need a different sort of
encouragement. The writer of Hebrews puts life’s hard times in a light that may be
helpful. He says we should endure hardship as discipline. “God is treating you as
sons,” he writes. We have likely understood this passage sometimes to mean that God
punishes us for our wrongdoing so we should endure that. I think, however, that the
passage is written to people who are trying to live the Christian life and are finding it a
difficult struggle as they say no to sinful desires they experience. They are likely also
weary because they experience hardship because of their choice to live as followers of
Jesus. The hardships spoken of are likely not punishment for wrongdoing. They are the
kinds of hardships that come to all people. I believe the writer means to say that God
uses the hardships that we experience to teach and train us. The discipline spoken of
here is more a teaching than a punishment. God is using the circumstances of our lives
to change us. As we experience hardship, God directs us to respond to it in such a way
that we grow and mature as his people. That’s an encouragement to us when we go
through wearying times.
         The third response drawn from our Scriptures this morning is that we in the
church should take seriously the idea that people in our church are weary. They are
hurting from abuse and neglect in the church. They feel guilty or lonely or burned out.
They need the care of the church. Paul writes in Galatians that we should carry each
other’s burdens. (6:2) In its context, that instruction seems to be related to restoring
people in the church who sin. It does however remind us that we are responsible for
each other in the church. In 6:10, Paul writes, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us
do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” The
church is a place where the weary find comfort and rest, where they find people doing
good for them. It seems to me that the writer of the section in Hebrews means
something similar when he writes in 12:12, 13, “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms
and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled,
but rather healed.” This seems to be an instruction to the church to work to restore the
feeble and weak people in the church so that they find healing.
         All three of these responses are designed to help us in the church deal with the
fact that people are weary and in pain. They direct us to endure the weariness and go
on. They encourage us to see the weariness in such a way that we understand its
benefits for our growth. And they tell us we need to take others’ weariness seriously
and respond to it in a way to bring healing.


         We’ve considered stories of people aborting camping trips because they got tired
of dealing with bad weather. We’ve compared that to the experience of people who get
weary with the church. This is not what God intends. Jesus said his yoke is easy and
his burden is light. (Matt. 11:30) Although it may be demanding to follow Jesus and to
live in the church at times, at the core, God wants us to experience goodness and joy as
we follow Jesus and serve in the church.
         When we think of people getting weary, we should remember also all the times
people get weary but go on anyway because they know they must or that the reward is
worth it. Sometimes we do that when we are on vacation. I remember a night at a
Christian music festival where I was camping with a group of teens from our church.
Shortly after I went to bed, a vicious thunderstorm rolled in. My nylon pup tent got soggy
and heavy and the ropes and pegs started pulling out of the ground. I went out in the
heavy rain to attempt to secure the tent. It didn’t do much good. Eventually, the tent
basically collapsed. I put as many of my belongings as possible on top of my air
mattress and joined many of the others from our group in our vehicles where we
attempted to get some sleep. But we didn’t give up. There were several more days of
concerts to attend. Fortunately, the next morning, the sun shone brightly and thousands
of campers dried their tents and sleeping bags on cars and fences. The reward we were
anticipating in the following days encouraged us to continue in a less than desirable
situation. As exemplified in that camping experience, we can approach our wearying
times in the church with the vision of rewarding times ahead and with the knowledge that
God intends all this for our good.
         Finally, we’ve recognized that when people are weary in the church, the rest of us
have a job to do. We are called to bring healing to that weariness. Hopefully, as a
result of one or all of those responses, the people who say, “These boots were made for
walking…but not this much!” will be able to find the strength to lace up the boots again
and keep on walking.


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