Grace and Truth: A word from pastors
I don’t like endings. I’m sad when I come to the end of a good book, wishing there was more to read. I look forward to seeing friends and family who live far from me. But when the time comes to say goodbye, I struggle with tears. Every move we’ve ever made—even when I’ve looked forward to a new location—has been difficult because of the need to say goodbye.
So here I am at another ending. It has been a privilege to write regularly in The Mennonite. I was surprised to have been asked to contribute to this column, and I remember struggling over whether or not to accept the offer. Friends prayed and counseled with me. When one said, “Donna, use your voice for the church,” I finally accepted and began to write.
Writing is hard work. Trying to discern what to write has been challenging. And often, after sending my contribution in, I have wished to recall it, believing what I’d written to be too simplistic, too mundane.
Yet many of you have found ways to tell me that something I had written was meaningful for you. Some of you have even told me that you’ve filed a few of the articles away to revisit at another time because of the way they touched your lives. For this I am extremely grateful. Your kind words of affirmation kept me doing the hard work of writing.
I hope you are stopping to think right now just how important words of affirmation are to any person who is offering the little they have to Jesus—like the boy with five small barley loaves and two fish. Hmm, I wonder if anyone thanked that little boy for offering his lunch to Jesus. I would guess Jesus did. And then Jesus took that boy’s small offering and did something amazing with it, feeding more than 5,000 people, with leftovers to feed more.
It always amazes me when I realize that God’s Spirit has taken some small thing I’ve said or written and used it in the life of another. But I shouldn’t be so amazed. That’s how God works. God gifts us for the purpose of building up the Body of Christ.
When we willingly offer the gifts God has given us, the church benefits, and God is glorified. So I claim the gift of writing as a God-given gift, and I hope you are claiming and using your God-given gifts as well.
But the time has come for me to stop writing articles for this column. Allegheny Mennonite Conference has called me to be their full-time conference minister, and this column was created for the purpose of hearing from pastors of congregations. I no longer pastor a congregation.
Jesus wasn’t talking about writing when he said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains just a single seed; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).
He was talking about endings (his earthly life) and beginnings (a new reality of life). His words invite us to consider endings and beginnings in new ways.
Natalie Sleeth picks up similar themes in her poetic song, “In the bulb there is a flower.” Each bulb contains a flower, each apple seed an entire tree, cocoons contain butterflies and winters hold the promise of spring. Each ending also holds a beginning, but all these things are for God to know and for us to discover.
The old needs to give way to the new. The end of my contributions to this page means that someone new will now be able to voice what God is laying on his or her heart for the benefit of the readers of The Mennonite. I pray that God will fill my replacement with eloquent words that deepen and broaden our understandings of and relationship with God and the church. I pray that this person will delight in God’s giftings and joyfully enter the commitment and hard work of regularly writing for this column. I pray that both the new writer and the readers will be blessed, the Body of Christ will be strengthened and God will be glorified as this person joins the other gifted writers who regularly contribute their thoughts to this page.
It has indeed been a privilege to write for you. Thanks for reading.
Donna Mast is conference minister for Allegheny Mennonite Conference.
Editor’s note: Cyneatha Milsaps, pastor at Community Mennonite Church in Markham, Ill., will replace Mast in writing for this column. Cyneatha’s first piece will appear in our May issue.