Lenten prayer sheet reflects Lululemon spirituality
A friend recently sent me the new “Lenten Guided Prayer Experience,” issued by the Mennonite Spiritual Directors of Eastern Canada. It is a curious document, symptomatic of what regularly circulates in the pages of Canadian Mennonite and passes for theology in many congregations. I mean here a sort of benevolent deism that traffics in congenial scriptural soundbites, social-justice propaganda and Lululemon spirituality, all the while hacking away at the roots of faith that nourished the Mennonite body throughout its long history of dislocation and diaspora.
One could linger, I suppose, over the directors’ fanciful metamorphosis of God’s covenantal rainbow into an LGBTQ pride banner; the presumptuous invitation to the faithful “to pray from God’s heart,” as though we could readily arrogate to ourselves such transcendence; or even the steady refusal to designate God with a male pronoun, despite Christ’s conviction that his Father was, well, his Father—and ours too! And if Christ’s authority is not sufficiently compelling for some, then one might at least expect the authors of this prayer guide to uphold the “Shared Convictions” of the Mennonite World Conference, the first of which proclaims that “God is known to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
What this prayer guide reveals is that the Mennonite church at a crossroads. Its member congregations want it both ways: a foundation of shared beliefs ostensibly rooted in the Bible and the freedom to ignore those beliefs whenever they happen to clash with prevailing cultural ideologies.
Mennonites want to be of the world and of the kingdom, and the consequences are everywhere apparent: a waning sense of mission, widespread spiritual enervation and dwindling followers. The scriptural diagnosis for this condition is “lukewarmth” (Revelation 3:16), which is fine if you’re taking a bath. But in this case the body is going under headfirst.
—Markus Poetzsch, Waterloo, Ont
Mission partnerships ‘strengthen the worldwide church’
Re: “Creating a mission partnership web,” Jan. 15, page 20.
Thanks to Donna Schulz for her excellent article about continuing ministry and connections between the Chinese church and Mennonites in Canada. At a time of significant structural changes at Mennonite Church Canada, this article is a good reminder that building partnerships between Christians from different countries and cultures is still an important way to strengthen the worldwide church, including us in Canada.
I appreciated reading about the good work of Witness workers Jeanette Hanson and George and Tobia Veith serving through Mennonite Partners in China, as well as hearing about other Chinese church partners like Pastor Yin Hongtao.
I hope MC Canada congregations will continue to support these partnerships and even consider responding to the invitation of Chinese church leaders to send Canadian young people as interns in their Chinese churches.
—Gordon Janzen, Winnipeg
A message from nature
A young teacher was thinking and trying to concentrate. What topic or lesson was he going to present to his students in Sunday school? Then he noticed a flock of geese were flying back and forth. He also observed they were flying in a V formation, following a leader. Then the leader would back away and another would take its place. Also, the odd bird would leave the formation and then join it again.
Then he said to himself, “I think I have my topic and lesson.”
His message is fellowship, close relationship and good leadership. Is it possible to accept a hidden message from the wildlife around us? Maybe the animal rights movement has a message with a certain hidden truth. At least a person should listen to what they are telling us.
In creation there always is a mystery and there are a number of people who are still trying to solve this mystery.
—Jacob Unger, Boissevain, Man.
Another point of view on the future of the Middle East
Re: “Two writers weigh in on the future of Israel and the Middle East,” Jan. 29, page 8.
Richard Penner’s letter is quite unclear in more than one area. I would, of course, agree that the fact of Israel becoming a state and the Arab countries’ objection to this are at the core of the troubles there. But is this what he means, or is he blaming all the troubles on the Arabs? Later, he says Israel should give full and equal rights to all people living there. Does he include the Palestinians? If I can put my most generous interpretation on the letter, then I would largely agree with him.
The letter by Andrew Sawatzky is clear. By looking at the Old Testament only, and by presumably being influenced by modern Christian-right political views, he comes out in full support of Israel, with no reference to the plight of the Palestinians, and certainly not to the teachings of Jesus. I would suggest that he read up on the Israeli state’s treatment of the Palestinians over the last several decades, then slowly reread the Sermon on the Mount, and see if he remains as convinced that God was speaking directly to him about supporting Israel.
—Edward J. Wiebe, Edmonton