I’m told that white-water rafting requires four simple considerations.
They are simple but they are very important:
- Rest during the calm spots because there are always more rapids ahead.
- When a rock looms ahead, lean into it, not away from it.
- Whatever else you do, keep paddling.
- If you fall in the water, let everything go except your life jacket.
As a church in Canada, I believe that we are experiencing white-water times. These rules are helpful for the 21st century:
- Rest during calm spots: participate in true spiritual worship. Open yourself up to the transforming power of God. Invite the Holy Spirit to rejuvenate and restore your life so you are able to carry out the good work ahead.
- When a rock looms ahead, lean into it, not away from it. This is counter-intuitive. Danger ahead can paralyze one with fear. This rule reminds us that the water itself will steer us around the dangers. God is in the water. Jesus understood this rule well when he said, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” Trust God when fear threatens to overtake you. That is the meaning of faith!
- Whatever else you do, keep paddling. Paul would say, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you might discern what is the will of God.” Always be growing in your understanding of God’s will for you and for the people of God around you.
- If you fall in the water, let everything else go but your life jacket. For Paul, this becomes the basis for his entire ministry. His love of Jesus infuses every word he writes, even when his words seem harsh. In Acts we read from one of the great sermons that inspired the early church: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). And when nothing else is going right, we’ve got to cling fast to Jesus, for he is, indeed, the one who loves us.
Martin Luther King Jr. once commented, “We may all have come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” It’s a great quote.
So Mennonite Church Canada, look around you today. Look at the people in your boat. Encourage them. Pray for them. Have important conversations with them. Learn to trust them and listen to them. Remember the rules of rafting in white-knuckle waters. Rest and take care of yourself. Grow in your faith always. Don’t stop even when it is difficult. And trust Jesus.
Ken Warkentin is the executive director of Mennonite Church Manitoba.