Opinion

The presence of Christ

‘Let us receive the blessing of the presence of Christ yet again.’ (Image by MikesPhotos/Pixabay)

Although our world is facing the challenge of COVID-19, I am so glad for the parts of life that remain unchanged. Every day brings press conferences with appalling numbers of the losses we endure, talk of restrictions and life that seems like it’s in a state of flux. Yet, peanut butter, Netflix, and, of course, the Revised Common Lectionary remain. 

Canadian Foodgrains Bank meeting

Photo: Robb Nickel / Mennonite Heritage Archives / MCC collection

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank had its beginnings in 1975 as the Mennonite Central Committee Food Bank. In November 1982, representatives of 10 Christian denominations met to discuss plans for an inter-church foodgrains bank. Among those at the meeting, pictured left to right facing the camera, were Frank H. Epp, J.M. Klassen and C. Wilbert Loewen.

Holy curious living

Life for Eric Harder ‘was a mystery to savour rather than a load to carry,’ Ed Olfert writes. (Photo illustration by Betty Avery)

In late January, Eric Harder died at age 74. He was my friend.

I became acquainted with Eric 25 years ago, when I moved to Prince Albert to begin my ministry work. Both he and Velma were strong presences in the church. They offered leadership and encouragement in all the ways that a new pastor desperately needs.

What I learned from Ramadan

A decorative lantern crafted specifically for Ramadan in Egypt. (Image by Ahmed Sabry/Pixabay)

We were in the midst of the Christian season of Lent as I wrote this. Shortly after Lent ended and Easter came, Muslims began the season of Ramadan. The month-long period of daily fasting launched on April 23. The couple of years I have observed the season of Ramadan have been of stunning benefit for my Christian faith.

‘You listened to my cry’

‘I’m reading the story of Jonah, one of your servants who also left you behind, or tried to… I think I can share in his prayer.’ (Image by Jeff Jacobs/Pixabay)

Dear God:

I’m really not sure what to pray or how to feel these days. I’ve become a strange blend of anxious and relaxed, concerned and content, grateful and restless, ambitious and listless.

CO foresters

Photo: David T. Wall Collection / Mennonite Heritage Archives

Conscientious objectors (COs) played an important role on the Canadian volunteer scene during the Second World War. Among the assignments was work in the forests around Banff, Alta., clearing trees. Surprisingly, much of the parks system in Canada was established by these people, some of whom were less than willing to be there or do the work.

Work-play-rest

‘...at the end of the story Pooh says, “Whew, it feels good to rest. Doing nothing is much more fun after a busy day of helping.” I think we all know this feeling.’ (Image by Innviertlerin/Pixabay)

As our life has quite abruptly and drastically shifted, along with everyone’s around the globe, I have been reflecting on our daily rhythm and working at reorganizing our schedule into a work-play-rest rhythm. 

Salt for the earth

Luis Hernandez, leader of the Brethren in Christ Church in Cuba, and his wife cook huge pots of food in their home kitchen and share it with hungry people around them. (Photo courtesy of Arli Klassen)

These weeks of physical distancing, including Easter, have forced us to think more about what it means to be the church. We appreciate the phrase “the church has left the building!” We identify with Jesus’s disciples on Easter, huddled behind locked doors, filled with fear and despair. I have begun thinking about the church in these days using two more images from Jesus.

The power of paradox

‘These paradoxes turn out to be keys that unlock doors...’ (Image by Felix Wolf/Pixabay)

Christianity is rooted in paradox. A paradox is when two or more incompatible truths are held together to reveal a deeper hidden truth. An example of a paradox in Christianity is that the Kingdom of God is both already here and still coming in the future. Other examples include:

Mennonite resistance

(Photo: Richard Sutton, Kitchener-Waterloo Record/ Mennonite Archives of Ontario)

Tourists attempt to photograph boys outside of the Elmira Old Order Mennonite Meetinghouse, circa 1970. The boys are using a hand mirror to thwart their efforts. The photo appeared in the local newspaper with the caption “Mennonite Resistance.” After the Second World War, urban Canadians embraced rural tourism.

How broad is salvation?

'God has never been revealed to me by finding answers, but rather through the gentle holding of possibilities.' (Image by Raheel Shakeel/Pixabay)

Someone told me recently that they had been asked to share their faith journey in a Sunday morning church service. The invitation, however, came with an addendum: “Don’t talk about universalism.”

At the end of that conversation, I reached for my phone dictionary for a definition. “Universalism” is “a theological doctrine that all human beings will eventually be saved.”

The public good in a time of pandemic

'Societal and governmental responses here and around the world show that people and institutions can change quickly.' (Image by Miroslava Chrienova/Pixabay)

The COVID-19 pandemic feels surreal. Streets of our cities are nearly empty, even at rush hour. Kids are home, schools have gone online, and some workers log in from home after many years of regular commutes to an office. And huge numbers of workers have been laid off. 

Mennonite encounters with contemplative prayer

'...dwell with the Spirit of God in silence, just receiving, being open.' (Image by zefe/Pixabay)

Doug Klassen, who now serves as Mennonite Church Canada’s executive minister, confessed to a fellow pastor that he couldn’t pray for more than 10 minutes. “I came to a place where I kept running into myself when I was praying,” Klassen recalls of his early days as a youth pastor.

Old photo

Photo: Mennonite Genealogy Inc. Photo Collection

Photography in generations past was a very deliberate, expensive and intense hobby. Special equipment, such as chemicals, film, lighting and the camera itself, was needed. Photographers often had to develop their own photos, which meant they had to have a dark room.

Thrift shopper, peacebuilder

'I can’t even count how many times our local thrift store has provided exactly what I was looking for.' (Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/mccthrift)

I was walking to church for an event a few weeks back and stopped by our local Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) thrift store for my usual weekly peek and to say hello to the dear ladies who faithfully volunteer their time.

Being the church in risky times

Arli Klassen and Keith Regehr with their children in Maseru circa 1993. (Photo courtesy of Arli Klassen)

As relatively privileged people living in Canada, there aren’t too many times that we think about whether this action or that action might result in our death. Living in these pandemic times, though, reminds me of our years living in southern Africa near the end of official apartheid. We thought often then of whether doing this or that might result in death.

Fear not

(Image by Jasmin Sessler/Pixabay)

I watched in disbelief as people feverishly filled their carts with toilet paper and bolted before someone could steal their treasure. In less than a minute, the toilet paper was gone and the mob dispersed. Except for one lady standing in front of a stack of six packages of toilet paper, protecting it from the envious eyes of those around her.

‘Greater love has no one . . .’

The Rose Cottage, located in the historic ‘plague village’ of Eyam, England, where 250 of the village’s 350 residents died of the Black Plague between 1665 and 1666. (Photo by Michael Beckwith / bit.ly/cclicence2-0)

“Greater love has no one than to lay their life down for their friends,” said Jesus.

That’s an amazing thing for anyone to do. But what about a whole village laying down its life for people it doesn’t even know?

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