A pastoral letter regarding Ukraine
Beloved sisters and brothers in Ukraine: Today, war has come to your homeland.
We grieve the danger, death and destruction that this plague brings.
We stand in solidarity with you as persons of shared faith and hope.
In our prayers we lift you to the sovereign God, who says, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you . . . when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned” (Isaiah 43:1-2).
Sisters and brothers, you are in the fire, and our hearts ache.
We call on Mennonites around the world, and all who confess Christ as Lord, to join in praying for the peace of Ukraine. We grieve violence and we reject efforts by any nation to dominate another. We pray for leaders of Ukraine, Russia and allied nations as they respond to, or participate in, this crisis.
For the love of God and the sanctity of life, we ask that all combatants stop the bloodshed and seek the welfare of all people in Ukraine, Europe and Russia.
We stand in solidarity with you as you cooperate with other denominations and local governments to provide food, shelter and medications to those in need.
Brother Roman Rakhuba, leader of Associated Mennonite Brethren Churches in Ukraine, we hear your call for spiritual and financial support. We applaud the vision and courage of God’s people in Ukraine, and will look for ways we can help sustain you and your ministry.
As stated in the “Shared Convictions” of Mennonite World Conference (MWC), we believe that the “Spirit of Jesus empowers us to trust God in all areas of life, so we become peacemakers who renounce violence, love our enemies, seek justice and share our possessions with those in need.”
“For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child has been born to us . . . and he is named . . . Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:5-6).
Living God, may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as in heaven! Amen.
—J. Nelson Kraybill, Elkhart, Ind.
The writer is MWC’s president. Originally posted by MWC on Feb. 24.
Putin needs to learn to ride a donkey
Coincidental to the news of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia last month, I had been looking at the difference between miracles, luck and chance. Miracles traditionally are supernatural wonders orchestrated by God; winning the jackpot at a casino, not so much.
In the process of recalling miracles, I reread all about Balaam, the mean false prophet whose donkey, after enduring considerable torture, is finally given the ability to speak and in pain cries out: “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” Are you listening, President Putin?
Dina and I both have Ukrainian/Russian roots, and I have travelled the length of lovely Ukraine from Kyiv to Odessa and, while I am no expert in Ukrainian/Russian affairs, a cursory statistical look at their economic and military profiles suggests that this is a classical “big brother” beating up on “little brother” situation.
Russia is the largest country in the world and Ukraine is the size of Texas. Russia is relatively wealthy, while Ukraine is poor. And yet their cultures and history are similar, and logically their relationship should be similar to that of Canada and the United States. I ask, “Where is that ‘talking donkey’ when you most need him?”
The other donkey story that Putin should read is more familiar to most of us and is centred on the first Palm Sunday celebration, when Jesus very specifically chose a donkey for his historic ride into Jerusalem. The donkey symbolized humility and peace, and allowed Jesus to be interpreted triumphantly, but not as an earthly king.
I know that Putin likes his horses, but he really should learn to ride a donkey.
—Peter Dueck, Vancouver
The writer attends Peace Church on 52nd in Vancouver.
Feature on trans Christians applauded
Re: “God didn’t create you wrong,” Feb. 21, page 4.
Thank you to those interviewed for sharing your stories and thoughts about faith.
The Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective served an important purpose. It provided theological unity as denominations merged, and we forged a shared identity. But now we are using it to answer questions it wasn’t designed to answer.
What was once a sharp tool of theological precision has become a blunt object used for exclusion, and it is causing harm. When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
When is it time to address our corporate theology and make space for LGBTQ+ identities in our community?
—Timothy Wenger (online comment)
Thank you to Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe for writing on this important topic, and to those who generously shared their stories.
There is so much to learn, and the examples given here are really helpful and informative as we begin to access the harm done and the ways we can love and learn from our LGBTQ+ neighbours and family members.
—Carol Penner (online comment)
For folks looking for resources for congregational singing, the Hymn Society has created a collection of hymns called Songs for the Holy Other.
A free copy is available online at https://bit.ly/35vgThL. My personal favourite queer hymn is “For All the Children,” but there are lots of great ones!
—Anna Nekola (online comment)
Fight climate change by shipping liquid natural gas overseas
I was very disheartened when I first read the 7 Calls to Climate Action from the link that was provided in a recent issue of Canadian Mennonite but was reassured after reading the much-more-reasonable “call to action” put out by the executive ministers of Mennonite Church Canada
It actually encourages us to take some personal responsibility and reduce our own consumption habits, instead of blaming everything on the fossil-fuel industry. Like it or not, we will be reliant on fossil fuels for decades to come. Almost everything you touch or walk on today is derived from, or has used, fossil fuels as a component—from your cell phone to your home’s flooring or the road you drive on.
One of the difficulties of the big push to renewables as the absolute answer to our climate change woes is the poor performance of wind and solar power.
I work at a facility with high-power consumption and, as such, we monitor power production and pricing in Alberta 24/7. Anyone can go to the Alberta Electric System Operators website (https://www.aeso.ca) and follow the live updates for themselves.
You may be shocked at the poor performance of wind power and how the price can spike hundreds of dollars per megawatt in a matter of minutes when wind power production drops. Every megawatt of renewable power has to be backed up by natural-gas-turbine-power production, which can be started at a moment’s notice to avoid power brown-outs across the province.
It is ironic that the best thing that Canada can do to fight global climate change is to ship more of our clean natural gas through pipelines to the liquid-natural-gas facilities to be shipped to Asia and India, reducing the amount of coal-burning power plants overseas.
—Brian Hildebrandt, Carstairs, Alta.
The writer is a member of Bergthal Mennonite Church in Didsbury, Alta.
Worshipping in sprit and in truth
Throughout his life, Jesus encouraged people to approach each other non-judgmentally and learn to worship in spirit and in truth. At the same time, it is noteworthy how difficult it was, and is, for the people of Jesus to practise forgiving with integrity.
One day, Jesus travelled with his disciples to Samaria, where they stopped to rest. While the disciples left for the city, a woman came and drew a bucket of water from the well. Jesus asked her for a drink.
She was surprised, because Jews and Samaritans did not normally share. Jesus said that, had she known who he was, she would have asked him, and he would have offered her a drink. She said, “I can see you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place for worship is Jerusalem.”
Jesus recognized how corrosive was the rivalry between the two places. He said to the woman: “You will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. A time has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.”
The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah, who is called Christ, when he comes, will proclaim all things to us.”
Jesus said, “I am the one who is speaking to you.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water.”
Worshipping in spirit and in truth indicates that devotees don’t have to go to a special place to worship. People can worship God at anytime and anywhere. Because the Holy Spirit is with us, we are in God’s presence. This was epic news for the Samaritan woman. She learned that she was part of God’s forgiveness and of the global redemptive story, as are we.
—John Klassen, Vancouver
The writer is an emeritus professor at Trinity Western University in Langley B.C.