This Sunday, September 30, at 5:30 p.m., we are hosting our annual Soup & Pie Fundraiser for Canadian Foodgrains Bank. Gordon Janzen, the Canadian Foodgrains Manitoba rep, will be the speaker, and the Glencross Quartet will be providing the music. The supper—delicious cabbage borscht and a variety of homemade pies—is by donation, with cheques payable to “Canadian Foodgrains Bank.”
Invite your neighbours and come on out for a wonderful meal in support of a great cause. This event is open to any and all!
Grace and peace to you through our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Peace,” I say. “Peace through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
But do we really believe it? Peace in every way—peace within us, peace between us, peace among us—this full and lasting peace through our Lord Jesus Christ? Do we really believe this?
Our church’s vision and mission statement says that we do!
“We are followers of Jesus Christ,” our mission statement declares, “committed to the way of peace in our lives.”
And that’s not the only place “peace” comes into our vision and mission. “We seek to express the reconciling…love of God,” we say, to be “a nurturing community of peace.”
We are on a journey with Jesus toward this goal, to an ever “greater peace.”
If you’re counting, that’s four separate references to “peace” or “reconciliation” in our vision of who we want to be, our mission of what we want to do. In other words, peace is a big deal to us!
Of course, that reflects our desire to be a distinctly Mennonite church, situated among the historic “peace churches.” Churches in the Anabaptist stream have nearly always been noted for their distinctive “peace theology”—committed to nonretaliation and nonviolence, objecting to war on the basis of conscience, constructively working toward reconciliation and a more just society.
But many Mennonite churches have abandoned a distinctive peace position. They’ve either dropped it from their self-description or they’ve quietly let it gather dust on their theological shelf.
How about us? Are we still “followers of Jesus Christ, committed to the way of peace”?
For many Mennonites, like many other Christians, this is a purely pragmatic question.
Nonviolence is impractical, many of us think. Of course we should avoid violence in our everyday life. But in the big bad world of violent criminals and violent terrorists and violent despots? Nonviolence just doesn’t work, we might think. We tell ourselves that sometimes violent people can only be dealt with through violence.
And nonretaliation? Maybe that’s fine for when that jerk cuts in front of me on the highway, but as a way for society to deal with violent crime? No way! A harsh jail sentence is what’s needed, we might think, sometimes even capital punishment. “A life for a life” is simple justice, we say to ourselves, and it’s a pretty good deterrent to boot.
In other words, many Christians say, “Yes, Jesus came to bring peace: peace with God and peace with each other. But while we can have peace with God now, which gives us peace in our hearts, and while we should strive for peace with each other, we need Jesus to come back before that ‘no more violence, no more war’ thing can become reality.”
But for Mennonites historically, and for many of us still today, this is not about pragmatics. It’s not about whether nonviolence is “practical,” or whether nonretaliation “works”—it’s about obedience to the teaching of Jesus, faithfully following the way of Jesus.
But here’s my even stronger claim: Jesus’ way of peace does actually work, if we will only give it a chance. Jesus has given us everything we need for peace now, peace in every way. Either we just don’t realize it, or we don’t really believe it.
Following a living person, of course, suggests walking a particular path, walking in a particular way. As I said before, that’s actually how the first Christians thought of themselves—they called themselves “The Way,” meaning, “Those who follow the Way of Jesus, the Way which is Jesus.”
And what is this “way of Jesus”? It is, in its essence, the way of love.
Jesus’ way of love is receiving God’s devoted, compassionate, merciful love for us as the free gift that it is: God is passionately committed to our flourishing, and the flourishing of all creation.
Jesus’ way of love, then, is responding to God’s love with a devoted love for God, heart, soul, mind, and strength: committed to seeking God, to knowing God, to trusting in God, to living out God’s will in this, God’s world, among all God’s children, all created in God’s image.
Which means Jesus’ way of love is a compassionate love of neighbour, anyone we meet along the journey, as much as we love ourselves: committed to the well-being of others just as much as we are committed to our own well-being.
Which means Jesus’ way of love is also a merciful love of both stranger and enemy: committed to welcoming anyone who is not from among us or who is different from us, and forgiving, even blessing, anyone who sins against us, who seeks to oppose us or even to harm us.
This is simply the teaching of Jesus in the Gospels. It’s also the way of life Jesus lived—right to the cross.
This way of love is, to use Jesus’ words, “the narrow way that leads to life”—real life for ourselves and for all people. This way of love gives comfort to the troubled and strength to the weary. It gives hope the hopeless and purpose to the wandering. This way of love, lived out fully, will even bring about true justice and lasting peace in our world.
I like the way our church vision statement describes this way of life, Jesus’ way of love: we “seek to express the reconciling and transforming love of God, through Jesus Christ, being guided by the Holy Spirit.”
God’s love is “reconciling.” It always seeks to tear down walls, not build them, to build bridges, not divide, to heal the ruptures between us and the wounds we inflict on each other.
God’s love is “transforming.” It accepts us where we’re at, but it never leaves us the same. It changes us, making us more and more like Jesus in his way of love.
And so, devoted to God, following Jesus, moved by his Spirit, we strive to bring this reconciling and transforming love of God to the world.
All this sounds wonderful—and it is! As I said—as Jesus says—this is the only way to real life, to true justice and lasting peace. It is God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven, the way God’s kingdom comes on earth down from heaven.
But following Jesus in this way of love is not easy. Jesus was killed for it, remember! We’re not following @Comfy_Jesus on Twitter—we’re following the Suffering Servant and Crucified Christ.
For some, Jesus’ way of love wasn’t holy enough. Jesus was soft on Sabbath, they said. He was too cozy with “sinners,” they said. He didn’t keep the strictest requirements of the Law the way they thought he should.
For others, Jesus’ way of love was too political. Free healing for the sick! Good news for the poor! Sharp rebukes for the rich! And all this talk of “God’s kingdom near at hand”—right under the noses of the ruling Romans!
Things haven’t changed all that much. Jesus’ way of love is just as counter-cultural as ever. The Really Religious and the Privileged Powerful have never liked it. They have always been willing to condemn and crucify anyone who comes in the name of the Lord, loving in the way of Jesus.
Which is why Jesus calls on those who would be his followers to count the cost.
“You want to be my follower?” Jesus says. “Here’s what it means: you need to deny yourself and take up your cross every day. You need to lose your life if you want to find it.” That’s our passage today, Luke 9:23-24.
“You want to be my follower?” Jesus says. “Just so you know: I don’t have any possessions to my name, no place even to lay my head.” That’s just a few verses later in the same chapter, Luke 9:57-58.
“You want to be my follower?” Jesus says. “Then be prepared for some animosity: your own family might even turn against you.” That’s Matthew 10:34-39.
Sometimes I hear people say that Jesus would never have been crucified simply for teaching the way of love and living a life of love. I can’t help but think that these people have never really known the radical love of God revealed in Jesus.
The gospel comforts the disturbed, but it also disturbs the comfortable. Before we can receive the healing love of the Great Physician, we need first to recognize that we ourselves are among the sick. Like Nicodemus—as a Pharisee and leader of the Jews, he was the epitome of both the Really Religious and the Privileged Powerful—like Nicodemus, we need to be born again.
Here, then, is our mission, should we choose to accept it: to live out the reconciling and transforming love of God, through Jesus Christ, being guided by the Holy Spirit, and so to become a nurturing community of peace, witness, and service to one another and the world.
In other words, to be true followers of Jesus Christ.
I love road trips—whether it’s a short trip like the one our family took to Gimli recently, or a longer one like the epic road trip we took last summer to Montreal.
I love that feeling when the van is packed, the family’s all in, and we head out on the open road. We’ve got a destination in mind, a place we want to get to by the end of the day, that ultimate destination a few days down the road.
But a road trip isn’t just about the destination. It’s also about the journey, the things we’ll see and experience along the way—both the much-anticipated and the surprising. When you start off on a road trip, the whole world seems laid out before you, inviting you to adventure.
Of course, that’s the beginning of the road trip. Everyone’s eager. Everyone’s well-rested and well-fed. Everyone’s got their space and no one else’s stuff is encroaching on it. But by lunchtime on the first day reality sets in: we’ve got 20 more hours of this. Groans and complaints, major and minor, start filling the cramped space among us.
And, of course, the road trip never goes as planned. Even assuming you safely arrive at your chosen destinations along the way and the big one at the end, you’re still guaranteed to have had some unforeseen bumps along the road. Like locking your keys in the van at a remote provincial park and waiting hours for the tow truck to come—while a thunderstorm bears down on you as you huddle together in your bathing suits. Yep.
Still, on a family road trip we stick together, we problem solve together, and in spite of all the expected difficulties and unanticipated problems along the way, the end result is a journey to remember, an experience that has changed us for the better.
There’s a reason why we often picture life as a journey. The idea of moving toward a destination, facing difficult challenges and overcoming unforeseen obstacles, sharing both sorrows and joys along the way, being shaped profoundly by the whole experience—it’s a compelling metaphor for our lives.
It’s also a compelling metaphor for our life together as a church—which is why some years ago Morden Mennonite Church decided to use that metaphor to describe our mission as a church: “We are on a journey with Jesus toward greater peace, greater witness, and greater service.”
We are on a journey with Jesus. We are “moving toward a destination”—greater peace, greater witness, and greater service. And together we are “facing difficult challenges and overcoming unforeseen obstacles, sharing both sorrows and joys along the way, being shaped profoundly by the whole experience.” This is the journey of faith, our journey as a church together.
It’s a phrase we hear often at Morden Mennonite Church, a way of describing who we are and what we’re about. It is, in fact, a phrase plucked from our mission statement as a church, summed up as “We are on a journey with Jesus toward greater peace, greater witness, and greater service.”
This fall we will be reflecting on this shared mission in our worship services – starting this Sunday. What does this “journey with Jesus” look like for us today? What might it look like for us in the future?
This Sunday is also the startup for our fall programs, including Sunday School for children and teens as well as Adult Sunday Study. Come walk with us and let’s share this journey with Jesus together!
9:00 Morning Prayers | 9:30 Sunday School/Adult Sunday Study | 10:15 Common Ground Coffee | 10:40 Worship Service
A sermon by Pastor Michael Pahl on July 1, 2018—Canada Day—called “From Sea to Sea.” It is a reflection on Zechariah 9:9-12 and Psalm 72:1-8, from which Canada’s motto derives. It is a revision of a sermon Michael first preached in 2014. For a written adaptation of the original sermon see here.
Here is a written excerpt from the conclusion:
Our hope for the future does not lie in any nation, even one so glorious and free as Canada. Should Canada fade from history, should the world map be radically re-drawn, God’s kingdom would remain. Jesus would still be Lord.
The kingdom of God cannot be identified with any nation. A nation can reflect kingdom values to a greater or lesser degree, but no nation is the kingdom of God.
God’s kingdom is bigger than any nation—it has no borders, in fact it breaks down borders of geography, race, and economics.
God’s kingdom is outside the power structures we create, our governments, our laws, our law enforcement, judicial system—because however good those things may be, they are inevitably abused and corrupted, always in danger of supporting systemic evil.
God’s kingdom is among us as people, not among us as a nation.
Our hope for the future also does not lie in any church organization, whether globally or nationally or regionally—or even us locally. Should Mennonite Church Canada be completely dissolved, should Morden Mennonite Church even cease to be, God’s kingdom would remain. Jesus would still be Lord.
The Church is not the kingdom of God. The Church is called to be a witness to God’s kingdom, a “signpost” of the kingdom, pointing people to what God desires for the world.
Local churches like Morden Mennonite are to be a kind of “outpost” of God’s kingdom on earth, nurturing the upside-down values of the kingdom, a test plot showing what the kingdom of God can be like.
But God’s kingdom is bigger than any local church, broader than any particular denomination—it encompasses the world.
Rather, our hope for the future lies with Jesus, the world’s true Lord and King. This means our hope for the future lies in the extent to which we follow the way of Jesus, the way of God’s kingdom.
Do we truly want to follow the way of Jesus, the way of God’s kingdom? Then let’s count the cost. Let’s ask ourselves some hard questions—as a nation, and as a church.
Who are the last and the least among us? The vulnerable, the marginalized? Who are the lost? The doubting, the confused, the most egregious sinners, the spiritually seeking?
To the extent that we first the last, feast the least, and find the lost, God’s kingdom is among us—as a nation, and as a church.
Who are the poor among us? The needy in our community, the homeless in our cities? Who are the sick? The elderly, the lonely, the dying, the mentally ill? Who are the outcasts? The refugees, the immigrants, our indigenous peoples, the convicted criminals, the shamed victims?
To the extent that we richly bless the poor, freely heal the sick, and center ourselves on the outcasts, God’s kingdom is among us—as a nation, and as a church.
Who are our enemies? Our theological enemies, our political enemies, those difficult family members or colleagues? Who are our neighbours? The people next door, the people down the street, the people in that other church, the people in that city next door?
To the extent that we love our enemies as neighbours, and love our neighbours as ourselves, denying ourselves for the sake of others, God’s kingdom is among us—as a nation, and as a church.
Notice: These things have nothing to do with how many people we have in our pews or how many programs we have in our church. They have nothing to do with how closely our society’s laws parallel our sexual ethics, or how well Canada’s economy is doing. These are not signs of the kingdom.
Rather, Jesus says the signs of the kingdom are these: “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them” (Matt 11:5). In other words, the last are first, the least are feasted, the lost are found, enemies and neighbours are loved alike.
To the extent that we do these things as a church and as a nation, God’s kingdom is among us—and Jesus, the world’s true King, reigns from sea to sea, A Mari Usque Ad Mare.
And as we do these things we can experience the joy of God’s kingdom, we can discover that flourishing life and joy and peace. We can break out the parties and lay out the banquets. We can turn the cup of cold water into a bottle of the finest wine in celebration.
Sunday School celebration, baptism, church picnic—it’s a full Sunday coming up at Morden Mennonite!
Note that there is no Sunday School this Sunday, June 10. We’re into our summer schedule now, which means Morning Prayers are at 9:45. Common Ground coffee time will continue at 10:15, and the Worship Service at 10:40. During this Sunday’s service we will celebrate the Sunday School year that has just wrapped up and we’ll celebrate a baptism together.
All are welcome to stay for the picnic right after the service. We’ll be at Rampton Park behind the church if the weather is nice, or in the Fellowship Hall if it’s not. If you’re planning to come, bring lawn chairs, dishes, and water bottles—we’ll supply the food and the fun!