God’s success is our problem. But it’s a good problem. From these thoughts of Tom Yoder Neufeld came a catch phrase of MennoCon19: “The church is a mess. Thanks be to God!”
“Igniting the imagination of the church.” That’s the theme of Mennonite Church Canada’s Gathering 2019, to be held from June 28 to July 1 in Abbotsford, B.C. Powerful words, those! What might they mean for us as congregations comprising five regional churches and the nationwide church?
Kenyan children perform a poem, with song and dance at Renewal 2027 at Kisumu, Kenya. The Mennonite World Conference event focused on the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. (Photo by Len Rempel)
At Renewal 2027 at Kisumu, Kenya, Oscar Suárez addresses the assembly in Spanish, with the help of translator Riki Neufeld. (Photo by Len Rempel)
Members of the global Anabaptist family gathered for songs, testimonies and biblical reflection as they celebrated the Holy Spirit at Mennonite World Conference’s Renewal 2027. (Photo by Len Rempel)
As a local band played “You are the most high God,” international guests from the global Anabaptist family swayed and sang at this year’s Renewal 2027, “The Holy Spirit transforming us.” They met at Nyamasaria Primary School’s auditorium in Kisumu, Kenya, and headquarters of Kenya Mennonite Church (KMC).
“Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (Revelation 3:22).
These words of John from the Island of Patmos are as relevant for us today as they were to the seven churches in the province of Asia who were struggling to adapt to the ever-changing realities of living under the rule of Roman emperors.
We sat in a large circle in the lounge, some sitting straight with legs crossed, others stretched out on the carpeted floor. One by one we passed the "talking piece" and we invited to say a few words about the experience of the last few weeks.
He poured the bowl full of water, then held it out, balanced on his palm, fingers angled down and away from the thick bronze base. Slowly, he moved the wooden mallet around the edge. Expecting the resonance of the singing bowl, I was shocked to see sparkles of water emerge from the rim. As he continued, water suddenly splashed up, bursting into the space above the bowl, and drenching his face and front. Laughing, he pointed out the obvious: with water in the bowl, the energy of resonance became visible.
The heart of the Christian life is aligning ourselves with God’s love. We squander love and then turn to the Spirit to fill us with it again. Even harder than that, especially as we try to make sense of our church’s current struggles, is what to do when we come to the sinking feeling that our problem might be that we understand God’s love in different and contrary ways.