Friday, 28 October 2016

Institutional Renovation

Sometimes, even in the best of houses, renovations have to happen. The wallpaper that was so stylish in 1973, is an offense to the eyes in 2016! The bathroom has mold in the walls, the 5000 gallon flush toilet is a dinosaur and should be helped to extinction, and the kitchen desperately needs brightening. Once the renovation is done, it is amazing how much better everything functions.

Sometimes our institutions need renovation too.

On Sunday, October 30, pastor Tim will be preaching the 2nd in a 3 part series of messages that reflect on decisions made at the Mennonite Church Canada 2016 assembly. His theme is based on the
Future Directions Task Force recommendation that was passed by delegates: See below.

"That Mennonite Church Canada approve in principle the directions proposed by the Future Directions Task Force Final Report, and collaborate with the five Area Churches (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Eastern Canada) in developing a more integrated nation-wide church body along the lines envisioned to better resource all levels of our church in responding to God’s call to live out and share the peace of Jesus Christ with local through global neighbours."

Mennonite Church Canada, faced with shrinking budgets, changing cultural expectations, and a continued desire to be a strong and united church body, is undergoing restructuring.  

Jeremiah 31:31-34, Matt. 22:34-40, and 1 Peter 2: 1-10 all give some helpful "thought background" to focus our restructuring thoughts, to move us away from the anxiety of change into a hopeful building phase.

Jeremiah speaks of a "new covenant written on your hearts." Instead of a legalistic structure focused on authoritative leaders, the new way will be within each person. Leadership here changes from top-down to something different. Responsibility is spread through all the people. It is a new system that still focuses on the same core, God, but it will function in a new way.

Things change again in the New Testament with Jesus' ways of challenging the system. The Matthew piece is an example. It again focuses on the core of faith, put pushes for action based on it. Jesus repeats the greatest commandment that everyone agrees on; "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." Then Jesus goes on to make it practical, by saying the second commandment-to love your neighbour as yourself. 

In 1rst Peter, the individual "living stones" are piled together to make each other stronger, keeping Christ as the cornerstone.

There is an intriguing interplay of individuality and togetherness in the passages, an interplay that seems to always need some tweaking, some reinvention according to the challenges the people are facing.

As we move into an "MC Canada renovation", I pray that we will allow for individuals, unite in strength, and keep God at the core of all that we do.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Oct. 23 at FMC. Grey Areas of Grace

Sunday morning our worship service was based off of the "Being a Faithful Church" resolution passed at our national assembly this past July. I preached a message entitled; "Grey Areas of Grace: Unity in Our Differences" which was a combination of Bible Study based on Romans 14 and 15 and stories to help challenge our thinking about being a united church in spite of conflicting views on contemporary issues.

I did a lot of reading in preparation for Sunday. Here is a list of the resources I found most helpful. (If you only have time for one, skip down to the bottom of the list and read through Josiah Neufeld's article in the Walrus!)

I am also willing to share copies of my sermon if requested.The recording is available from our church office. For an electronic or print copy, please contact me either through comments on this site, or by email at: <>

"Being a Faithful Church" (BFC) was a 9 year process focused on building our communal ability to discern and make decisions together as a Mennonite church. It encouraged congregational participation throughout, using scholarship, Bible Study, feeback from churches, historical and contemporary case studies, and more. The motion presented in Saskatoon was formed out of the context of this 9 year process. To see the complete BFC document go to:

A 2014 article by Glenn Brubacher and David Augsburger asking the question; "Does Romans 14-15:7 contain helpful instructions to address the current divisive subject of covenanted same sex relations?"  is a helpful piece. This article provides guidance for constructive listening and practice.

A Letter to my Congregation, by Ken Wilson, I would call a "must read" book as congregations struggle with the idea of inclusion, no matter where you or your church finds itself on the issue. Wilson is an evangelical pastor. Faced with real people of real faith who struggle with their sexuality, Wilson responds with love, and questions himself. Through thorough Bible study and a humble love for God, the church, and individuals, his journey through the question of inclusion is compassionate and inspiring. He's also a good writer, which makes this book a pleasure to read! (Our church has several copies. If you can't find one, ask me for my office copy.)

The Canadian Mennonite Magazine did some excellent reporting at Assembly 2016 where the BFC motion was passed. Go to the July 25, 2016 issue for coverage of the Assembly.

Finally, I loved this article in the Walrus. "Mennonite Pride; Lessons in lgbtq Rights from a Surprising Source." by Josiah Neufeld. Neufeld grew up in the Mennonite Church, but as an adult, left it and Christianity behind. As an observer at Assembly 2016, however, he found himself impressed by the way the church is working at its issues. I found that his outside the church view was incredibly inspiring. From the inside, we might only see the frustration, the slowness, and the pain. Neufeld also sees hope and an example for the world. His article is very well written and a great read!

Thursday, 6 October 2016

A Border Crossing, Multicultural Effort

Now the United States of America was commander of the free world. She was a great country, in her own sight and in the sight of others, highly regarded, because through her the Lord had given victory. She was a valiant warrior, but she had leprosy.

This paraphrase of the story of Naaman, brings the ancient tale into a vivid contemporary focus. Yes, the re-telling is American, but it resonates with my Canadian soul. Author Adriene Thorne boldly points a finger at her great country's sickness, a sickness that will destroy it if it isn't treated.

Click the link below to read Thorne's article.

I am particularly struck by how hard it is for the mighty Naaman to "lower" himself. He is only healed when he listens to advice from a little slave girl, when he travels to the land of his enemies for help, when he leaves his anger behind at the advice of servants, and when he does the ridiculous "7 dips" in the muddy Jordan.

Naaman has to acknowledge and rely on the wisdom of foreigners. He has to learn that money, success, and social status do not make him better than others. Healing only happens when all the different people actually respect each other in lived-out ways.

It's useful to follow up the Old Testament reading of Naaman's story by reading right to the end of 2 Kings chapter 5. Just in case any of us starts feeling this is only a cautionary tale for the rich and powerful, we get an epilogue story of the greed of a lowly servant. None of us, no matter our station in life, is exempt from the lessons here. The finger is pointing at us and naming the sicknesses we all share. Are we all going to try to share in the healing?

Lectionary passages for Oct 9, 2016 are: 2 Kings 5: 1-3, 7-15, Psalm 111, 2 Tim. 2:8-15, Luke 17:11-19