Ponder Anew – May 5
Good morning everyone,
I have a subscription to the magazine, The Christian Century. The publication was started 133 years ago in Chicago, and it still has its offices there. I have been a subscriber for about 30 years. They have recently hired a new editor, Peter Marty, a Lutheran pastor. His dad, Martin, was a previous editor of the magazine.
In a recent editorial, Peter Marty invited me to think of whether I am a tourist or a traveler in my walk with Jesus. He writes that a traveler is one who invites grand adventure with an openness to all doubts and questions, that happen on a journey with uncertain paths. A tourist likes a pre-packaged arrangement that involves little risk.
I participate in tourist trips with a tour company. We arrange excursions where we try to eliminate risk and danger, so that people have a good time. We hope people have a great adventure in nice hotels and an air-conditioned coach bus.
But in my experience with Jesus, do I expect a tourist trip with everything arranged in my faith and life. Are the unplanned things of life and faith, seen as departures, or part of the adventure?
As a congregation are we travelers or tourists? Travelers are active members of the journey, while tourists are more passive. Are we willing to continue to have deep faith so that we are willing to experience the unknowns of this world? We need to confront the doubts and uncertainties of each of our futures, as a way of being more adventurous in our faith.
Most of the biblical characters lived exciting and scary lives. Look at Moses, Noah, Mary, mother of Jesus, Paul, Lydia and all the disciples. They were not passive in their journeys of faith and of life.
Are you/we travelers or tourists?
Ponder Anew – April 29
So, how is your Bible reading going? In the Old Testament, we have traveled a long way. We began with creation in Genesis 1 and are now into the kings and leaders in the history books. In the New Testament, we are only into the third gospel, written by Luke.
As you have been reading, what has made you angry or sad, or even happy? Is there anything that has made you laugh? I find some of the parables funny. If you have read the Old Testament, are there stories that you have seen that you wonder why they are in there?
The Bible is a complex book of history, parable, poetry, genealogy and stories. What have you enjoy most about the reading? Have you understood the full story of God just a little better?
What has God been telling you through your reading? Has it changed your life or changed the way you believe in God? Do you understand what Jesus is asking of us as a church as you read about him in the Gospels. The Gospel writers want us to believe in Jesus. Have you believed more now after reading Mark, Matthew and Luke about Jesus?
Keep reading. Keep believing. Keep challenging your own faith.
Shalom and strength for your journey of life and faith.
Ponder Anew – April 22
Good morning, and greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ ( this is from Paul ).
“Do not let your hearts be troubled ” Jesus in John 14.
Jesus knows the state of our hearts. They are troubled.
Three weeks ago we got an email from a former Laotian refugee, who worked for Shirley and I in the Thai refugee camp. He wrote to us to let us know that a family we knew had had a death. Chanthip Markhala had passed away. We knew her husband, Phao, very well. Phao always had a smile for us. They live in Kitchener.
Then we received another email this week that Phao’s son, Metta had passed away as well. The visitation will be this evening in Kitchener. Metta has suffered from rickets, and had various surgeries to try to straighten his legs. They were never successful. He was very bowlegged. When we saw him three weeks ago, he was in a wheelchair.
On Monday morning, I got a call from Jennifer Bisch, Nadine Shantz’s daughter. She immediately said that her mom was fine, but her grandmother had passed away, and would I do her funeral. So, I have a small graveside service to do tomorrow afternoon. A small intimate gathering for the family; a very different service than the one we had for 500 people to remember Earl Wideman just a few weeks ago.
All of us experience death and loss. Death is part of life, part of the human condition. We are all in various stages of grief at all times of our life. Grief never ends. But, we honour our loved ones, we cry, we reflect on what they have meant in our lives, and we also go on in our own journeys. We continue to make a difference in the world and the lives of the people that we love, in response to our grief.
Shalom and strength for your own journey of grief and love,
Ponder Anew – April 15
Good morning everyone, including God,
( it is fine if you want to listen in as well )
It now almost three Sundays past the Resurrection, or Easter.
It is one week past communion and footwashing.
What do you want us to do now?
Keep giving money and receiving the money to bring about the Kingdom.
Keep teaching, learning, serving and speaking the truth in love.
Keep planting corn and tulips and tomatoes.
Keep on proclaiming peace and working for peace in our world.
Keep being the people of God, everywhere and at every time of the day.
Keep accepting the grace of you and from each other.
Do not judge anyone because you do not know their story (Anne Lamott).
Please Lord, do not hold it against us, when we sin and fail each other.
Please do not hold it against us when we are greedy.
Please do not hold it against any of us, when we think that we know it all.
Please Lord…… please….
What do you want to pray to the God of Heaven and Earth today…..?
Shalom and strength for our journeys into the future.
Ponder Anew – April 8
” Do not conform to the pattern of this world…” Romans 12:2 —- the Apostle Paul
We live in a secular society. In Canada, we have been moving in this direction since after WW II. I grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and I do not remember many of my classmates going to church. I attended a secular university, Trent in Peterborough, and very few students went to church on a Sunday.
We would like it to be different. We might like to have more religious language in politics or on T.V. or through the Internet. But, we are at a place in the history of the church in society. More and more people, know less and less about the Christian faith. This has nothing to do with immigration of people of other faiths.
Many of the people who have left the church, say that they want to remain spiritual but not religious. They do not want to be tied to any church or program, but they are aware of their spiritual needs. They still want their own spiritual needs met by a higher being or are aware of their need to be in silence and meditation.
As people of Floradale Mennonite, we have experienced the love of God through the life/death/resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. How do we engage in conversation and life with others, who do not share this understanding, or even have the stories or language of our faith. It is like we are speaking German and Spanish to each other.
This is the challenge of going forward here at Floradale. I do not think we can go back to the the 1960’s. We live in a secular society. How does our faith journey intersect with the world that we live in? How do we relate to those who do not share our story of faith? How do we invite them to belong to Floradale?
” We have different gifts, according to the grace given to all of us. ” Romans 12:6
Shalom and strength for the journey of life and faith,
Ponder Anew – March 31
On April 10, we are hosting the play, “This will lead to Dancing” put on by Theater of the Beat. This drama group is made up of Mennonite young adults who are committed to the church. They have written and performed about four different plays.
“This will lead to Dancing” is about the church’s interaction and response to the many questions around same-sex relationships. Even though I have not seen it, I am assuming it will make me laugh, but also challenge some of my views on the subject. I invite you to attend the play, and come with an open mind. We want to be a more welcoming church to any visitors. How will this play affirm, or challenge, our direction in welcoming the world to our church?
Mennonite Church Canada has had a six year discussion on the issue. This says to me that it is an important and difficult issue to talk about. Floradale has not really engaged the subject. Church Council has agreed to host the play, to engage ourselves on the subject of same-sex relationships. Mennonite Church Canada is bringing a recommendation to its annual sessions. I am going to go as a delegate from Floradale, so I need your input to prepare for the discussion. The play is our first attempt here at Floradale to enter the conversation. It is not the end of the discussion for me, or for the church.
Shalom and strength for the journey of faith and live,
Ponder Anew – March 24
Good morning everyone,
We are now in the middle of Holy Week. As we move toward Easter, what part of the Passion story of Jesus do you reflect on? Do you go to the dinner, where Jesus says many things, offers his friends a meal, and where he washes the feet of his disciples. If you had a seat at the dinner table, where would you be seated, and what sort of question would you have asked Jesus?
Or your thoughts might go to the events after the dinner is over, and Jesus is arrested, put on trial and finally, is put on a cross to die? Jesus is tortured, spit on, and made fun of during that night before he is raised on the cross. As you think of what Jesus went through for the world, is it important for your faith that Jesus’ suffering is remembered during Holy Week?
In the end, Jesus dies on the cross. In our worship space, we have an empty cross. Is this important for you, to move to the resurrection and not have Jesus on the cross? Jesus’ life is all about love. Where do you experience the love of God in the whole story from dinner to the empty tomb?
As we move to our Good Friday and Easter Sunday services, may you find yourself in the story in new ways. With the passing of Earl Wideman, the story might change for us, as it does every time someone we love passes away. Our faith changes when death arrives to us, just as Jesus’ death changes everything in our faith.
Pray for us all, as we re-live the events that are essential to our faith.
Shalom and strength for our faith and life.
Ponder Anew – March 18
Good morning everyone,
We invite everyone to come to our Good Friday service.
The choir will sing.
We will take the bread…. and the cup… to remember the last meal that Jesus had with his disciples.
We will wash each others feet or each others hands or take a stone to remember our dedication to service in the name of Jesus Christ.
We will remember that Christ died.
Come as a member of the Floradale community. Please come if you are sad and broken. Please come if you are angry or depressed. Please come if you healthy and happy. Please come if you are hopeful and compassionate . Please come to experience God as we worship together.
In our Mennonite tradition, we have emphasized that we must be in good relationship with each other. This is a good thing, but, this time come to the table to remind yourself that God loves you no matter what. Come and taste the bread and sip the juice, and feel the enormous and unlimited grace of God.
Dear God, Holy and Divine One,
We invite you as the loving God,
to our service on Friday.
We expect you to show up,
to be there to protect us.
We will sing, pray and speak,
to let you know that we love you and worship you.
Shalom and strength for the journey of life and faith.
Ponder Anew – March 11
Good morning everyone,
In Luke 14:16 it says, “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests…”
Recently, Shirley and I had the brunch buffet at Pebbles Restaurant in Varney. Shirley’s Aunt and Uncle live just west of Durham, and so we decided to take in some good Mennonite food. Pebbles is owned by some conservative Mennonite people. On that day all the staff was Mennonite. I could tell because of the dress and the accent of the servers.
So, who came to eat that day?
There was an Amish family, the parents and their two boys. The boys did not remove their hats. A couple came in, and the woman had oxygen. There were also some older people as well as some large younger families. Next to us, was a family of five. The parents spoke some eastern European language, maybe Russian. The younger children spoke only English.
When they left, two Sikh men sat down. They were chicken farmers. I believe they had met each other only recently. The one man told the other gentleman about Jewish writing and theology. He went back about 500 years. Two Sikh men talking Jewish theology surrounded by Mennonite people and good Mennonite food, that is probably not good for you.
For me, this is a slight vision for the kingdom of God. It is world wide communion in a small rural Mennonite restaurant in Varney. People from various places eating and living in harmony. Where do you see the kingdom of God in your world? Where have you seen examples in your own life?
Shalom and strength for your journey of life and faith.