COVID-19 has forced most of us to embrace that most rousing of Anabaptist virtues: simplicity. Our lives have been simplified, stripped down to the essentials. We have gone out only when needed, we have bought only what we must, we have travelled only when there was no other choice.
Hopefully we learn lessons from this that outlive the pandemic. In a society driven by consumption, driven to the devastation of human lives and the destruction of the very earth itself by our greedy consumption, we can use all the simplicity we can muster.
Many of us have also experienced a greater spiritual simplicity. It turns out that a pandemic is a good time to reflect on what really matters, outwardly and inwardly, and collectively and individually. As Christians—as Mennonites—what is really most important?
Our Mennonite Church Manitoba Gathering 2021 theme provides one way we might express this spiritual simplicity: “Rooted in Christ, reaching out in love.” This theme grew out of our staff reflections on Colossians 2:6-7: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
“Rooted in Christ” is the core of our identity as Christians. This is the core of our identity as Mennonites, in our own distinctive way. We “have received Christ Jesus the Lord” from our forebears collectively. We “have received Christ Jesus the Lord” individually.
We look to Jesus as crucified Christ and resurrected Lord, as the One who lived, taught, blessed, healed, suffered, died and lived again a whole way of life, a way of love that we seek to follow.
We are rooted in Christ. There is no other foundation for us. There is no other centre for us. Jesus of Nazareth, our Messiah and our Lord, is the head of his body, the church, of which we are members. We are grounded in Jesus. We find our unity, community and identity in Jesus.
“Reaching out in love” is the core of our vision as Christians. This is the core of our vision as Mennonites, in our own distinctive way. We “continue to live our lives” in Jesus, as Paul puts it; or, more literally, we “continue to walk in Jesus,” to walk in Jesus’ way of love.
Jesus has laid a path before us that we follow. It is a path of solidarity with the suffering, the oppressed, the marginalized, the dispossessed. It is a path of costly love that gives up everything for ourselves in order to gain everything for all of us together. It is the path to the cross that Jesus walked himself. It is the path the resurrected Jesus continues to walk with us, by the Spirit.
In these waning days of enforced simplicity, may we seek the simplicity that matters most: centred on Jesus and on Jesus’ way of love.