Recently I spent a weekend at a discipleship retreat with a team of seven others from my church. It was great fun! As we learned and prayed, our inspiration for making disciples grew. We dreamed and planned for how we might develop leaders in our congregation. Truthfully, while it was energizing, it also felt more than a little overwhelming.
In Donald B. Kraybill’s The Upside-Down Kingdom, Jesus is slightly irreverent. He critiques the rich, scorches nationalism, redefines Old Testament law, and undercuts the authority of religious leaders.
Kraybill points out that Jesus is into sharing, not hoarding. Service, not status. Community, not competition. Basins, not swords. Loyalty to God, not nation.
The bleeding woman touches Jesus’ cloak, in an image from the catacombs in Rome. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
I got into an interesting discussion with a friend from my church recently. In adult ed., we were talking about liberation theology and its view of sin. (You can read about liberation theology and sin here.)
It’s become clear to me from a lot of the conversations occurring within Canadian Mennonite, especially in the letters to the editor, that as Mennonites, we’re not of one mind when it comes to sin. Now sin, generally, isn’t a terribly popular topic of conversation, even among church-going types. It tends to remind us of guilt trips and church splits—not things to talk about in polite company!
More stories of the past at Kumomoto. Stories that complex-ify. Japan not as a cohesive, evil, military power all seeking destruction of neighbouring nations, but as a land of people in various societies with each their own different story of life and love and suffering, dominance and loss.
Every now and then a familiar story comes to new meaning. A recent re-reading of the story of Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52 pushes me into an area of discomfort that challenges my identity and my understanding of our identity as a faith community. It makes me question our responses to Jesus' unexpected ways of transforming people. It causes me to wonder how good my vision is after all.
Today during a field trip with the Intensive English Program at Eastern Mennonite University, the staff had some miscommunication. The resulting disorganization didn't cause any major problems, but was a bit frustrating and confusing for both students and staff. At our staff meeting when we got back, we discussed what went well and what we could have done differently to improve. We thought of past trips and how we could use ideas from there, how we could create times to meet and communicate before departure, and what unique situations had happened today that may or may not happen again.
Sometimes it's not the big things that shake me as much as the little things. The daily worries of house, car, money, food, clothes, family and community relationships. These are the things that Jesus specifically says not to worry about and yet I do.
After a refreshing and relaxing Christmas holiday in Canada, my spouse and I have returned to Harrisonburg, VA to continue our studies at Eastern Mennonite University. While going north in December does not really align with my climate preferences, the draw of family and friends during the Christmas season is strong.
Reflecting on international students and culture the other day, a colleague commented on how a group of students who had been struggling in classes refused to blame anyone for their failing grades, took responsibility, and made no excuses. He was surprised because U.S. students usually go on and on with excuses, blaming roommates, teachers, the school, society, but not accepting their own part in not meeting the expectations for the class.