A young boy was at his grandma’s house. He was telling her all the troubles he was having at home and at school. As Grandma listened, she was preparing a cake she knew her grandson would really like. When her grandson finished, Grandma asked, “Would you like a little snack?”
“Sure, Grandma,” he replied.
“How about a couple cups of flour? I’ll even add some baking soda,” Grandma said.
“Grandma that’s yucky!”
“Would you like some raw eggs? I’ll even mix in some oil,” Grandma said.
“That’s gross,” exclaimed her grandson.
Grandma said, “You’re right. By themselves these things don’t seem very good at all, but when I take these things and carefully mix them together in the right way something amazing happens. They become the delicious cake you love to eat!”
Grandma then went on to say, “I want you to understand something very important. You are going through some undesirable things at home and school, things that don’t seem good at all. I too have things in my life that I don’t like. But God takes these difficult things and uses them to create something good. We just need to learn to trust Him”
After sharing this story, Brian Myers, the speaker at Celebrate 2017, went on to say, “Our groanings are God’s recipe for glory” and he quoted Romans 8:17: “Since we are his children, we will possess the blessings he keeps for his people, and we will also possess with Christ what God has kept for him; for if we share Christ’s suffering, we will also share his glory.”
The common theme in all three of Myers’ messages was hope. In a world where the foundations of faith are crumbling and where suffering abounds, our faith is securely anchored on the triumphant resurrected the Lord of hope.
“Our faith is anchored,” Myers said, “on the Word of the Lord and on the Lord of the Word.”
A total of 239 individuals from 12 states and one Canadian province gathered Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, 2017, at the Renaissance Stapleton Hotel in Denver, Colorado, for Celebrate 2017 hosted by MB Foundation. The theme was “Anchoring Our Faith.”
This gathering provided an exceptional opportunity for the renewal of body, soul and spirit for all who attended. Some even described it as “a youth conference for seniors.” Key sponsors for the event included Tabor College and the Southern District Conference. Twenty-five volunteers were instrumental to the success of the gathering.
Celebrate 2017 was an invitation to heartfelt worship. Worship is an expression of the joy and gratitude of those who belong to God through faith in Jesus Christ. “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.” (From Psalm 96)
David Martens from Tabor College led participants in songs which declared the glory of who God is and the greatness of his mighty acts. In the climactic act of worship, Phil Glanzer of Sioux Falls, SD, invited participants to come to the Lord’s Table to celebrate the salvation offered by God through the gift of his Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Psalm 92 offers a hope filled picture of what happens when people remain rooted (anchored) in the Lord: “They will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green…” Is this promise true when the journey is hard and suffering is very real?
Ron and Fran Penner of Soquel, California, shared their long and difficult journey related to Fran’s battle with Parkinson’s. Their story was a reminder that our groanings are a recipe for God’s glory to be on display. Only by the divine inspiration of the Spirit, their story linked to our speaker’s story as his mother, Ruth Myers, also had Parkinson’s. He relayed much of her journey as part of his presentation following the Penners’.
Celebrate 2017 was an invitation to learn and grow. Four workshops offered encouragement and insight into how an anchored faith impacts our attitudes, our relationships, our marriages and our generosity during the final quarter of our life on earth. Workshops were provided by Winnie Bartel, Shafter, California; Larry Nikkel, Wichita, Kansas; Terry and Debra Brensinger, Fresno, California, and Dave Sherman, Littleton, Colorado.
Celebrate 2017 was an invitation to meaningful fellowship. Fellowship is an expression of the joy and gratitude of those who belong in the family of faith. The Apostle Paul makes it clear in Romans that people of faith live both in a connected relationship with God and with others. “Each member belongs to all the others,” Paul writes in Romans 12:5.
For the majority of attendees, this event was a joyful family reunion, an opportunity to reconnect with friends from the past. For people newer to the Mennonite Brethren family and for all present, this gathering provided excellent opportunities to forge new friendships.
Finally, Celebrate 2017 was an invitation to joy. It is probably safe to assume that nearly everyone present is taking one or more prescribed medications. One of the medications prescribed by the Great Physician is joy. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.”
There were a number of things that contributed to the joy of this gathering: the delicious food and the excellent service, the beautiful harmony and humor of The Ball Brothers quartet and the amazing humor of ventriloquist Greg Claassen, a member of the Koerner Heights MB Church in Newton, Kansas.
When participants in Celebrate 2017 arrived it was evident that the hotel was winding up a renovation. When we left the hotel it was also evident that God had showed up to continue his great renovation project of fashioning us into the likeness of Jesus. On behalf of all who attended we say, “Thank you Lord and thank you to MB Foundation for hosting this event!”
Paul Klassen is a retired pastor living in Hillsboro, Kansas, together with his wife, Gladys. Since retiring, Klassen has provided chaplaincy services to federal law enforcement personnel, creates wood inlay decorative crosses and boxes and serves as a member of the Southern District Faith and Life Commission.