A pilgrim people on the margins

Women Walking Together in Faith

May 7, 2014 | Viewpoints | Volume 18 Issue 10
Melody Neufeld-Rocheleau | Mennonite Women Canada

Five loaves and two fish. The story of the feeding of the five thousand illustrates how Jesus uses the small amounts we bring to him. In this story, a crowd has been with Jesus all day. As sunset approaches. the disciples tell Jesus to send these people away, but he tells them to feed the crowd first. They have no idea how to do this, so Jesus takes the pitiful bit of food that the disciples give him, adds his gracious blessing and it becomes all that is necessary to accomplish his will.

This is our normal situation too. Confronted with some large and unexpected challenge, we may have no idea how to respond creatively on our own. But Jesus, who is all about love, nurturing and protecting life, invites us to join him in faithfulness, and gives us his blessing again and again.

That was the experience at Breath of Life Mennonite Church, a house church in Saskatoon (2006-13), where I had the privilege of being in leadership. During our seven-year journey together, this small group of pilgrim people brought their five loaves and two fishes to Jesus. And he blessed our meagre fare repeatedly.

Our beginnings were not those of a church plant. We came together to seek Jesus as a centre for healing and hope, trusting that Jesus was calling us to open ourselves to people on the margins. For six months, we had the vital assistance of Steven Farsaci, an experienced pastor. We became intentional in our worship, used the lectionary for Bible readings, developed a covenant together, named the gods we experience every day, and began the process of becoming a part of Mennonite Church Saskatchewan.

During this time, individual gifts were uncovered: speaking, worship leading, hospitality, spontaneity, humor, creativity, coordination and encouragement. Together, we became witnesses of God’s truth, freedom, love and vitality to each other. We became better listeners to the call of Jesus to share the light of his truth, the warmth of his love and the strength of his vitality with those we encountered in our daily lives.

Were these things particular to us as a house church? Of course, the answer is no. It matters not to Jesus what the church body is called or the numbers that participate. What matters is the faithfulness of the members.

For me, the “difference” in being involved in a house church had to do with the sense of pilgrimage and mission we shared in this smaller, more intimate and intentional group.

According to an essay by Martin Robinson in Explorations in a Christian Theology of Pilgrimage, pilgrimage and mission are closely and crucially related, and are vitally important for the church in this post-Christendom period. Also, the imagination of the church is best engaged when pilgrimage, or journey, lies near its centre.

Being on this journey together as the body of Christ involves “breathing in” God’s transforming love. It involves movement and discovery, paying attention, being open to surprises, flexibility, not taking oneself too seriously, letting go and keeping your eyes on the goal.

“Breathing out,” our mission is to share God’s love in the world joyfully, no longer in step with the surrounding society, travelling lightly with limited baggage. This is not without risk for those who are faithful. Yet we eagerly go to the margins of society to listen, learn, share and receive Jesus’ love and life. It is this calling that causes followers of Jesus to have no real home and results in being permanently on a journey.

Today, we’re invited to envelop the notion of becoming a pilgrim people, open to the creative, sustaining work of the Holy Spirit already working in the margins. Let’s do that with gusto! Then watch as Jesus blesses and multiplies our loaves and fishes! l

Melody Neufeld-Rocheleau is employed as a client care coordinator with the Saskatchewan Health Region and is working towards a Graduate Certificate of Christian Ministry through Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg.

--Posted May 7, 2014

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