As part of our occasional Faith Journeys series, we share Henry Paetkau’s experience with readers. As Mennonite Church Eastern Canada’s area church minister, he originally presented this story as a monologue of a Sunday morning encounter with a neighbour at this spring’s annual church gathering:
Hey neighbour! Beautiful Sunday morning!
Yup, off to church. You’ve seen me in my gardening clothes, and these aren’t them!
Why do I get up Sunday morning to go to church? Good question.
I ask myself the same question from time to time. I could be flippant and say it’s my job or that it’s a habit, or that I meet some good people and my best friends are there, and that we have great potluck lunches!
That’s all true enough. But, you know, there’s more to it, a whole lot more that I don’t often actually think about. It goes to my core and it has to do with making some meaning out of life in this crazy world. Left the farm and went to college in 1970, thinking I had my life and myself kind of figured out. But then I discovered a big, bad world: the Vietnam War, protests, violence, social upheaval, injustice, poverty, homelessness, hunger. These didn’t fit my worldview or my understanding of a loving God. How was I to make sense of life? I was tempted to reject God.
But, you know, funny thing is, the only way I could make sense of life, and find meaning and purpose and hope, was to believe in a God who was bigger than this mess, the mess we were making of the world—a God who wanted a better world and a better life for me and for everyone.
I read and studied and prayed, and talked and debated through the night with college buddies, and discovered that the only way my life could have meaning, and I could live in hope and learn to love, create peace and find joy, was to believe in and learn to know the God revealed in the Bible: the God Jesus showed us, and the love Jesus showed, and the way Jesus lived in his crazy world and time, and the way he invited others to live. I learned to know this Jesus in a deep and personal way through a Spirit which is his presence here and now.
I know! Sounds crazy! But not as crazy as what’s going on in our world.
I can’t explain it, really, but this Jesus and the Spirit are as real to me as the air I breathe and the wind in my hair, what’s left of it! (You should have seen my long black mane in college; it made my mother shudder.)
Anyway, without God my life wouldn’t make sense and I couldn’t make sense of this world because there’s so much beauty, wonder, mystery and hope, love and joy, and peace to be found. And these I can’t explain or understand without a God who is all of that and more!
Anyway, enough sermonizing. Got to run. Hey, maybe you want to come along sometime?
Also in the Faith Journeys series: Making space for God