MENNO PATRIOTIC WORSHIP SERVICE: ‘STAND AS BRIGHT AS STARS’
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
On the occasion he is asked by a visitor to his office at the Salem Reformed Church on the south side of Menno the best way to get to Scotland — a 15-minute drive to the southwest — Rev. Michael Hecht says there are three ways to do so in order to avoid gravel.
One way is to continue south for three miles to Maxwell Road, go through the colony and pick up Highway 25.
Another way, the pastor said, is to go down to the Stone Church, continue across the river and take the oil road into Scotland.
Or, he said, you can go back to Highway 18 and connect with Highway 25 that way.
“That’s how you can get there — three ways,” Hecht told the several hundred gathered at the Menno City Park for the Patriotic Worship Service Sunday morning, July 2 held annually in conjunction with the community’s extended Independence Day celebration. “And I’ve said many times and I’ll say it today: If there were three ways to heaven, I’d be thrilled to tell you. But there is one way, and that is through Jesus Christ.
“He said it. I didn’t.”
If ever there is a time to be reminded of that truth, Hecht said it was during a time when the nation prepares to celebrate its 247th birthday.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “In three years, we’ll be at 250, God-willing — if Jesus doesn’t return by then. He sure could; it could be any day.”
Hecht’s message, delivered on a warm but comfortable-in-the-shade Sunday morning, was part of an outdoor worship service rooted in scripture and song with a strong American flair. The bulletin cover featured the Statue of Liberty and the country’s flag with the words “Righteousness Exalteth a Nation,” taken from Proverbs 14:34.
The service opened with prelude music and the national anthem by Tom Ulmer and Dale Weiss; a welcome was offered by Rev. Morgan Hendershott of the Grace Lutheran Church; scripture and the Apostle’s Creed was read by Rev. Ryan VanderWees of Peace Christian Reformed; Rev. Arlyn Coalter of the Olivet United Methodist Church read a passage from Philippians and led the congregation through an enthusiastic singing of God Bless the USA; and the men, women and children gathered in the park also sang “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “God Bless America” to close the 60-minute service.
But it was Hecht’s sermon, “Holding Forth the Word of Life,” that anchored the morning.
He spoke of the sacrifices made to ensure the freedom enjoyed by Americans.
“From the Revolutionary War to today, statistics tell us it’s been over 1 million men and women who have given their lives for our freedoms,” Hecht said, noting that veterans and active military personnel were in attendance Sunday morning. “God bless all of you.”
He shared a story of Stella Nusz, a Menno resident who recently passed away at the age of 102, whose husband, Sam, was a veteran of World War 2.
“One of the summers she worked at a factory … inspecting the rivets being made for the planes, the tanks,” he said. “And one day her supervisor came by and said, ‘Stella, how come your bucket has the most rejected rivets of anybody?’ And she said, ‘I have a husband serving over there and I want our men to come home safe.’”
It was Jesus Christ, Hecht continued, who gave the “supreme sacrifice.”
“Why has God blessed our nation so much?” the pastor asked. “I believe it is because we are a nation found on God’s word — the living and enduring word of God. It doesn’t take much to read the writings of our Founding Fathers and you see scriptures and the Bible mentioned again and again. Go to the monuments in Washington, D.C., and you see scripture engraved on them over and over again.”
Yet more and more, he said, there are those who seem to want to dispute that reality.
Hecht read a weekly email he receives from a ministry called the American Renewal Project.
“At this moment it’s safe to say that modern America will have to rediscover the chart and compass used by the founders to establish freedom and liberty, with its concentration and emphasis on that — on God’s word. That is, if the nation is to make it through,” the email read. “Throughout the 17th, 18th and much of the 19th century, Christian believers, were manning the spiritual, intellectual, educational, economic, vocational, and cultural levers of power. Although never a perfect nation, the union of church and state caused few if any issues.
“Unfortunately, that has changed.”
Hecht reminded those gathered on Sunday that Paul told the church of Rome not to conform to the patterns of this world but to be transformed, and noted that in Philippians the world was told “to continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you.”
And, quoting Paul again, Hecht said “be confident of this — ‘that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’ Either until the day you draw your last breath and you go to heaven, or until that day he comes for his church, and that day is sooner than ever.
God’s people are bright lights, he continued, and “we need the Holy Spirit to shine through our lives brighter than ever before.
“That is especially true today, as the return of Christ is closer than it has ever been.
“If you think it’s not, then you better think again and start looking at the prophecies of God’s word,” Hecht said. “Every generation has got to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We’ve lost a lot of ground in this nation. That’s why we have to stand as bright stars in the universe … that we can shine in the midst of a crooked and depraved generation.
“We need to be a different kind of End Times people as we live for him in this nation,” he said. “We stand for righteousness and truth. We stand for the life of unborn — you know I stand strong on that — and stand as God designed us: male and female.
“Destruction is certain for those who argue with their creator,” Hecht said, quoting a New Living translation of Isaiah. “Does a clay pot ever argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it? Does the pot exclaim to its maker, ‘How clumsy can you be?’ The answer is no. God created us as we are.
“So we speak the truth in love,” he continued. “Some would say, ‘Oh Pastor Mike, that’s on the verge of hate.’ No, I’m saying it because I love God. Because I love our nation. Because I love each one of you. That’s what God wants us to do.
“I hope you pray every day for our nation, for God to pour out his spirit upon us and bring revival, because it’s hearts that have to be changed by the power of the living God.”
Hecht shared a couple of quotes from former leaders of this nation.
From Calvin Coolidge, who was in office 100 years ago: “As president, the foundation of our society and government rests so much on the teaching of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if they, in these teachings, would cease to be practically universal in our country.”
From Ronald Regan, the 40th president: “I believe with all my heart that standing up for America means standing for the God who has so blessed our land. We need God’s help to guide our nation through stormy seas, but we can’t expect him to protect America in a crisis if we leave him over on the shelf in our day-to-day living.”
And he concluded with a passage found in John 14:6:
“I am the way, the truth and life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”