By Hannah Heinzekehr
A few weeks ago, I gathered with 25 people from across the country to begin planning for worship services at convention in Kansas City in 2015. It may seem early, but planning for this event began almost as soon as the last note sounded at the last worship service in Phoenix.
If you made it to Phoenix, and stopped by our staff office, you may have noticed that – 95% of the time, even in the midst of lots of stress and busyness – our team could be found joking and laughing with one another and just generally enjoying our time at convention. But this definitely does not imply that we don’t take our jobs seriously.
Fall 2013 included many prayers for the leading of the Spirit as we’ve started to lay the groundwork for Kansas City 2015. And if you’ve followed our news releases, you know a lot of work has already been done. We have a theme for our time together: On the Way. And we’ve got scripture for the week: Luke 24.
All of these pieces were put into place through prayer, discernment, talking together and wrestling with how and where God is calling Mennonite Church USA. By the time we traveled to Kansas City to meet with this worship planning committee, we were ready to start putting some flesh on these bones.
Sarah Bixler, a former youth pastor and current student at Princeton Theological Seminary, opened our time together by reading all of Luke 24. She invited us to close our eyes and to sink deep into the story. To choose a character who stuck out to us and that we could identify with.
As Sarah read, I was struck again and again by the ways that people encountered Jesus in surprising ways in the midst of seemingly mundane activities: while walking on a road, while gathering with friends, when visiting a grave, or when breaking bread together. And in each of these encounters, there is a fundamental shift. An encounter with Jesus leaves people different than they were before. They walk away from these meetings with their “hearts burning.”
If you follow this story beyond Luke 24 (into the book of Acts), you can learn more about the types of fruit that these meetings bear and about the disciplines that the church community begins to take on. But as Sarah read this passage, I was struck again and again by how fitting this particular passage will be for our gathering together in Kansas City.
There is a lot going on in Mennonite Church USA. We are on a journey, and –like many trips – we are not necessarily sure what lies ahead for us. But we can trust that we don’t walk alone. We can trust that Jesus and the Spirit are in our midst, ready to meet us and change us in ways that go beyond anything that we could ever imagine. And we can trust that we are part of a whole church of disciples, walking this road together and processing our experiences.
The beauty of convention is this opportunity to gather together as fellow believers and disciples. To testify to those “Road to Emmaus” moments where our eyes have been opened to something new. To pray together about what has been and what comes next. And to leave with our hearts rekindled – or stoked – and burning once again.