As part of Mennonite Church Canada and Being a Faithful Church, this year we’ve been talking about how we interpret Scripture, particularly the “paths” of good biblical interpretation like paying attention to context and the “ditches” like prooftexting that we need to avoid. Here’s a short video on reading the Old Testament by Iain Provan of Regent College:
The Emmanuel Mennonite Youth had a wonderful time preparing and serving during the worship service on Sunday April 14th. It was a joy to experiment and explore what a multi-voiced sermon time could look like for our community. It is the hope of the youth group that you left the service feeling as if you participated with them significantly in worship, conversation and wonderment over the Matthew 25:31-46 text.
As we navigated the questions together, we asked the question “If you could add to this story (Matthew 25:31-46), what would you add?” The answers we received were astounding and encouraging. I would like to use this space as a place in which to share how we as a community would add to this classic text. Thank you to those who handed in their sheets to the ushers.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me….”
- Matthew 25:35,36
when I felt no one cared you gave me a place to belong.
when my home was shabby and falling apart you helped me improve and make it cheerful.
I was young and you listened to me.
I was old and you honoured me.
I needed money for school and you sent some for me.
I needed a phone call when I was sick and you called me.
when I was hooked on drugs, cigarettes, and liquor you sent volunteers to visit, comfort, and show love.
when I told you I was gay, you welcomed me.
I was bullied and you stepped in.
I was depressed and you encouraged me.
I was invisible and you saw me.
I was untouchable and you embraced me.
When I was mocked, you stood up for me.
What would you add?
For my April 7 sermon, I asked “why are we here as a church?” More pointedly, in what ways do we bear witness to Jesus?
I shared two primary ways that I see our congregation bearing witness to Jesus:
1. Worship – this is one of the primary ways we have of being church together, worship is part of what it means to follow Jesus, it helps to define who we are.
2. Empowering people to use their God-given gifts both within and beyond the church.
Then I asked the congregation–what would you add as a third thing to this list? Or would your list of three things look entirely different?
Here are the answers I’ve received so far, mainly by email:
- hospitality – “This is the friendliest church I’ve ever been to.”
- service – “So many people are in service vocations or have been in voluntary service, and we have a higher proportion than most churches of people serving in different ways in the church and in the community.”
- search for community, or a sense of belonging
- to encourage one another
- to nurture and encourage the development of committed disciples, responding in friendship to those in spiritual and material distress in our community
- to love and be loved
- to help build His Kingdom through His church
- and one question: could we perhaps sing one less song each Sunday and read more Scripture, and be known as a church that reads Scripture?
More answers are welcome in person, by email, or be brave and please leave a comment below.
This question was part of my Easter Sunday sermon, and I talked about Believing, Behaving, and Belonging as some of the reasons that people give for being part of the church.
One member responded, “I fall in all three categories! After 17 years in Abbotsford, I can truly say that Emmanuel is my home. It’s where I am loved and accepted, where I am encouraged and have opportunity to use my gifts and explore my questions. It’s where I laugh, cry, grieve, celebrate, learn, love. I belong here.” (Read the rest of her response in our April newsletter)
Then this last Sunday, in the church foyer someone else said to me, “I was thinking about your sermon, and you forgot one category. I need to be here. I need to anchor my week.” Another added, “I need to be here–the church is such an encouragement and helps me to pray, and to know what to pray about in the coming week.”
It doesn’t quite alliterate like Believing, Behaving, Belonging, but I love this addition. In an age where the emphasis is more on the individual and being independent, it’s quite a statement to say, “We need the church. We need God.” Thanks for that testimony.
by CYNDY BRANDT (posted on her personal blog on Good Friday)
Last night we had a Maundy Thursday service, also called Tenebrae service. As the words were read telling us of Jesus’ final hours, I was convicted of my guilt. I would have left Jesus, too, as his disciples did. We had communion as individuals, each going up and serving ourselves to reflect the “alone-ness” Jesus must have felt. It was hard to do. As we left the dark sanctuary in silence, I wanted to stay silent on the way home and into the evening.
This morning our church had a Good Friday service. It was not dark as the sun was streaming in the windows. We sang and listened to more of the story of Jesus last hours. But what got me weeping was a monologue from Mary’s perspective. Mary, despite the special mother/son bond all mothers have with their children, had to give him up to share with the public, not only for a very public ministry, but also a very public death. What pain for a mother!
And then, we as a church were once again confronted by our guilt of betrayal, this time in a monologue written by and delivered by my son Adriel. I found it very moving and was once again in tears.
Our congregation is now part of this bi-national organization that is affiliated with both Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA. To find out more about this faith-based network of people engaged in caring for creation, see the MCCN website. Below is our church profile as it’s listed as part of the network:
Our Mennonite Creation Care Network liaison is:
Our Creation care committee is called:
Emmanuel Green Team
Current members are:
Mike Currie, Brigitte Daniels, Anna Goertzen-Loeppky, Paul Jenkinson, Bernie Martens, Stan Olson, Debbie Rempel, April Yamasaki (pastor). Some others who share our vision will be involved on a less formal basis.
About our committee or its members:
The Green Team was formed at the end of 2012 to begin working on ways to raise and build on awareness of the importance of creation care within our congregation, and to work toward reducing the environmental footprint of our building.
We are addressing care of creation in the following ways::
In congregational life: Groups and committees consider environmental impacts
In daily living: Members are challenged to adopt earth stewardship practices at home.
We have made a start by promoting and facilitating recycling and composting throughout the church building. We are providing battery recycling for the congregation, and electronics recycling will come. We are working on plans for a community garden on the church property.
A creation care column appears in the monthly church newsletter with practical tips encouraging responsible stewardship of creation. Several books relating to creation care have been placed in the church library and we will add more from time to time.
Special events or services related to creation care:
We will again celebrate Good Seed Sunday (Earth Day) on April 22, 2013. The whole service will have the theme of creation care, using extensive helpful resources provided by A Rocha, a Christian organization working at creation care in 19 countries, including Canada and the United States. See goodseedsunday.com
The Apostles’ Creed says, “I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate . . . . ” Notice how the creed goes straight from Jesus’ birth to his suffering? In between there’s only a comma, but as David Augsburger pointed out at our recent Mennonite Church BC LEAD session, “It’s only a comma, but Ooooooooooooooooooooooooh what a comma,” as Walter Brueggemann has said.
In light of this, David’s home church, Peace Mennonite Fellowship in Claremont, California, has adapted the Apostles’ Creed to include Jesus’ life and ministry. Thank you, David, for sharing your liturgy with us.
The Apostles Creed with the Anabaptist Comma*
Disciples: I believe in God ,
The Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ,
God’s only Son,
our Lord, who was
Conceived by the Holy Spirit,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
One disciple: [Welcomed by shepherds,
Greeted by Magi,
Pursued by Herod,
Sheltered in Egypt,
Taught by Joseph,
Baptized by John,
Tempted by Satan,
Followed by disciples,
Heard by multitudes,
Understood by simple,
Despised by clergy,
Praised by lepers,
Hosted by outcasts,
Seen by the blind,
Touched by the ill,
Obeyed by psychotics,
Rejected by siblings,
Rebuked by Martha,
Embraced by Mary,
Anointed by a prostitute,
Cheered by crowds,
Loved by John,
Hated by the Powers,
Abandoned by all,
Grieved in Gethsemane
Betrayed by disciple,
Denied by Peter,
Arrested by Herod,]
Disciples: Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, died, and was buried;
On the third day he rose again;
He ascended into heaven,
He is seated on the right hand of the Father,
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
The holy catholic church,
The communion of saints,
The forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body,
And the life everlasting.
*The Anabaptist Comma includes the essential recognition that we are saved by Jesus’ life as well as by his death. This is “only a comma, but Ooooooooooooooooooooooooh what a comma,” as Walter Brueggemann has said. This creed is from the liturgy of Peace Mennonite Fellowship, Claremont, CA.
by AMANDA McCRIMMON (from her personal blog)
Going to church with two young kids, without my husband who is working every other Sunday, is A LOT of work. Sometimes I wonder why I do it.
I spend one hour in Sunday School, trying to balance the needs of two kids. Mostly running after my two-year old, trying to keep him semi-quiet and entertained. Luckily, I attend a Sunday School that welcomes my child in all his glory. It’s laid back enough that Joel can run around, talk, and play with his toys while I run him in and out to the bathroom three times. I can comfortably feed Micah and let Joel “be himself” all while trying to follow the conversation. I must admit that although I may not say a single word the entire hour, I enjoy listening to adult conversation. It makes it worth it to go and deal with the kids, just to hear other adults talk.
Then, we have the hour of church. This is where things get interesting. I don’t think I’ve heard an entire sermon in over two years. I’ve heard tidbits, but am often spending most of the time keeping Joel quiet and entertained. I am the distraction queen, which is exhausting.
So why do I stress myself out every week and attend church? I often ask myself, “Wouldn’t it just be easier to stay home?” After all, it’s not like I get to hear the message. I spend two hours each week on my “day of rest” doing anything but resting. I spend two hours distracting two tired children. I deal with tears, tantrums, and testing all in front of a crowd of people. I feel like I’m being watched every week. Like my parenting is being paraded in front of everyone.
So why do I go to Church?
It’s for the 12. Or the 20. Or the 30.
It’s for those 12 people who help me every Sunday. It’s for the 20 reassuring smiles I receive. It’s for the 30 people I interact with during those two hours.
It’s for the four self-proclaimed “incompete men” who watched Micah for me today during Sunday School while I trudged Joel to the bathroom for the third time.
It’s for those in Sunday school who play ball and interact with my toddler all while holding an intelligent conversation.
It’s for the ones who point me in the direction where Joel has run off, saving me the extra time it would take me to find him.
It’s for the ones who hold my baby for a few minutes so I can use the restroom.
It’s for the bench behind me who “oogle” over my children and comment every week on how much they have grown up.
It’s for the gentleman who tells me every week, “You’re a good mommy!” and shares stories of his grandchildren.
It’s for those who hold Micah during the service so my hands are free to distract Joel.
It’s for the girls who play with Joel after the service every Sunday, keeping him out of trouble, and busy enough that I can get my stuff together so we can go home.
It’s for those who are thrilled by the smiles they get from the boys.
It’s for those who don’t say anything to me about how distracting my kids are during Church and keep quiet about it.
It’s for those who have realized that Joel loves fans and turn them on every Sunday.
It’s for those who gently guide Joel back to the front during the children’s feature.
It’s for those who let him run around the sanctuary during the children’s feature.
It’s for those who take the time to say hello to my boys. To give them hugs and kisses. To give them high fives or a pound it.
It’s for those who have gone before me. Who know what it’s like to raise young children and give me that reassuring smile. That “I’ve been there” nod. That, “You can do it ” look.
It’s for those who give me the encouragement to continue. The understanding that it will get better. And the forgiveness when I make mistakes.
It’s for those who allow my children to be who God created them to be. Who are there during the good times and the bad. It’s for those who accept my children when they sit quietly during church and when they are loud and distracting.
It’s for the 12. Or the 20. Or the 200. It’s for each member of the church. For each of those I interact with and for those who interact with my kids. You guys are the reason I go to church. You are why I keep coming. You are why I deal with unruly children. Why I exhaust myself trying to keep my kids quiet for 2 hours. You are the reason I go to church. And why I LOVE it.
I came across a few new suggestions for Lent this year:
- giving up texting (which wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice for those who seldom or never text!)
- giving up salt and pepper (a much bigger sacrifice for most of us, I would think)
- doing an extra 20 push ups a day and offering them up as a prayer for people in need (but of course, don’t try this if your health doesn’t allow for it).
The purpose of such practices is not to punish ourselves, but to serve as reminders of Jesus’ suffering and to help us live in expectation of Easter.
For some, adding something for Lent can be just as effective, so this year I decided to add a daily walk to the mailroom in our townhouse complex. I try to walk regularly for exercise anyway, but the mailroom is so close I most often don’t stop there, and it can be a week or more before we pick up our mail, which means our mailbox is usually crammed full and snail mail is even more snail than it needs to be.
So my Lenten practice this year is partly practical, but it’s also more than that. The minute-and-a-half walk to the mailroom isn’t long–it takes me almost that amount of time to find my keys, get my coat, put on my shoes, and get out the door–but the simple act of interrupting whatever else I’m doing to make that walk is my reminder: Easter is coming! The neighbours I meet along the way and stop to chat with are precious to God. The new shoots of crocuses and the buds on the trees remind me there is new life in Christ. Easter is coming!
Are you giving up something for Lent, or adding a new practice? Please feel free to add a comment (just click on “comments” under the title of this blog post). Let’s encourage one another and help keep each other accountable.
*”Give it up for” – slang meaning “to applaud” “to clap” – a physical way of recognizing or welcoming someone or something
“Give it up for” – “to sacrifice one thing for something else”
So “giving it up for Lent” has a double meaning: to recognize Lent and also to abstain from something for Lent
Each year, the Seminary of Christ the King has an Ecumenical Week where guests are invited to meet with the “major seminarians” who are college students preparing for ordination as Catholic priests. Invited guests share the evening prayer, supper, and a time of discussion with them, and this year Gary and I were very pleased to be their guests.
We had both been to the Westminster Abbey before–for worship in the chapel which is such a work of art with its stained glass windows and sculptures; to walk the well-kept grounds and stand quietly at the lookout with its view of the Valley; but this was really our first introduction to the seminary. Three things were especially striking about our time together that I will continue to carry with me:
1. Respect – This was very evident by the way we were greeted by our hosts, how all of the students wore ties, how they bowed in the chapel, stood waiting for prayer before sitting down to eat, how the questions they asked were as polite as they were curious and intelligent. What does respect look like in our own context?
2. Spiritual Priority – For the discussion time, we met in the recreation room which I noticed had a foosball table, but no television. “It’s not that we can’t watch t.v.” I was told. “We watch movies when we have a party, but we just don’t have time for television.” As Father Joseph explained, their first priority is the spiritual life, followed by community, then studies. What priorities do we hold?
3. Apostolic Work – Each major seminarian does apostolic work in the community–working at the hospice perhaps, or with a local Catholic church, or doing some other kind of service. They are a community of young men studying and seeking God’s will together, sharing the grounds with a larger community of monks and priests, and also concerned for the wider community around them. How do we express community?
Thank you to Father Joseph Park and to all of the major seminarians. We appreciate your welcome and Christian hospitality. We pray for wisdom and joy as you seek God’s leading.