September 8: “God’s Global Perspective”
This fall we are reflecting on the global community for the first few weeks and then talking about personal peace. I decided to consider God’s perspective of the global community (aka “the world or the nations”) compared to dominant message we get from our usual information sources. Are you getting a healthy diet of information?
(The sermon recorder and regular speaker (same guy) were on sabbatical from May to August.)
Apr 29:“Incarnating” Jesus—practices that let us be Jesus to the World
This Sunday we are concluding our series on Spiritual Practices (I like that term better than Disciplines). Remember our theme verse?
Romans 12:1-2 (CEV) “Dear friends, God is good. So I beg you to offer your bodies to him as a living sacrifice, pure and pleasing. That’s the most sensible way to serve God. Don’t be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him.”
God wants us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices that can act – changed so that we can do ‘everything that is good’. In other words, we need the mind of Christ so that we can be Christ to the world.
As I looked at Calhoun’s list of spiritual practices in this section such as Care of the Earth, Compassion, Forgiveness, Humility, Justice, Truth Telling, I thought “I might be preaching to the choir on this one”. Mennonites, and you folks in particular are well practiced in these things already. But why do you do it? Have you ever thought of these actions as “spiritual practices” that are changing you into the person God intends, healing your spirit, shaping you into the glory of Jesus? This Sunday I plan on talking a bit about how “actions” can shape us and how the right spirit makes a difference in how we do good.
Only the first 17 min of this message recorded. Sorry for the cliff hanger!
Apr 22: “Hearing” from God—practices that form the mind of Christ in us
I get the feeling that a lot of Christians have personally given up on “Hearing” from God. I suspect that part of the reason is that they might have grown up in a church where people claimed to have heard from God tell them something but they personally never experienced what these people claimed. The title of our topic this week fascinates me though because it changes the conversation. Calhoun, in her title to this group of spiritual practices is redefining “hearing God” to ‘having the mind of Christ in us’. Not emails or phone calls or an answer from heaven but ‘the mind of Christ’ is her description of “hearing God”. I think that perspective changes the question from “What does God say?” to “what is God’s heart and mind about this?”. And it changes how we listen – from decoding a specific message to knowing the person of God. The Word of God, was after all, ‘made flesh’. And I think in 1 Corinthians 2 Paul supports this.
Apr 8: Sharing Your Life in a Culture Designed for Privacy
You’ve likely heard the phrase “herding cats”. It refers to the difficulty in organizing a group of independently minded people. I have never owned a cat but by reputation and observation cats are not “team players”. They don’t submit to authority and rarely seem to care for each other. I think organizing community in our present post-modern culture is like “herding cats” especially church. People are wary of authority and imposed doctrine and eager to dismantle boundaries that once excluded people who were different. The result of these progressive intentions is often a fragile, loosely bonded community – a herd of cats.
But that’s not all a bad thing. I would label early Anabaptists “cats”. They were independent thinkers who decided that faith and baptism should be a personal adult decision and thus joining the Christian community was a voluntary commitment. My thesis this week is that those Anabaptists were part of a tradition of Christian ‘cats’ who sought to form Biblically based (Jesus modeled) community that was neither a tyranny nor an anarchy – a third way. AND that spiritual formation is about us practicing and learning to live in that kind of new community – the Kingdom of God.
Scriptures for your consideration: John 20:19-23 and Romans 12
recording not available – technical issues, sorry.
Apr 1: Communicating With God in Ordinary Activities
Katherine shared with us how she experiences prayer in her dancing. Then she lead us in an activity of praying while we each played with clay.
Mar 25: “Relinquishment”: Letting Go
I will never be a great flute player. I let go of that dream long ago. One of the reasons is that I have a problem with my grip. I call it the “grip of death” – I hold the flute too tightly, especially if I’m nervous or playing a difficult passage of music. I don’t often realize I’m doing it till I stop playing and find my hands aching! A tight grip means I don’t have the freedom of movement in my fingers to quickly move over the keys and so any fast notes are impossible.
I suspect I have the “grip of death” on quite a few things in my life. Anxiety and a desire to control cause me to hold on tight. What joy do we lose in life when we grasp it so tightly?
I hope you can join us for “Palm Sunday” as we remember Jesus’ journey to his ultimate relinquishment – his life for us. “Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Scripture: Philippians 2:5-11, Luke 19:28-42, Matthew 16:21-27
Here is the TED talk I played at the end of the message:
Mar 18: Alicia Buhler
Mar 4: “Drawing the Circle Wider”
This Sunday Nathania Rodman will be speaking to how lightness and darkness meet in relationship to Art Therapy and Spirituality. Art Therapy and Spirituality work harmoniously together. Through acknowledging our fears, and self-emptying wisdom, healing and transformation can occur. Through relaxing into our deepest self and find a way of expressing and self-emptying this is where we can find what we desire, is what God desires and through this we can draw the circle wider.
Feb 25: “Openness to a God You Can’t Control”
Apparently there are foxes that frequent my back yard. I haven’t seen them but the neighbours say they have. I look out the window sometimes hoping to see a fox or some other elusive wildlife but it turns out the foxes are not on my schedule and as of yet refuse to display themselves on my request. I have the same experience of God. Do you?
Part of spiritual formation is putting ourselves in a space where we are more available and open to experience God. God can’t be made to show up anymore than I can tell the foxes to come by my window at 12 noon tomorrow. Instead, as scripture says we “seek God where he may be found.” Ironically that is just about everywhere and anytime except our busy heads. This Sunday we will explore some ways to be more open to the presence of God.
Feb 18: “Attached”
This Sunday our speaker is Carol Reist, Executive Director of The Dam. In her work with youth at The Dam, Carol has been exploring Attachment Theory – understanding who our youth connect with emotionally and is their primary relationship that influences their development. Carol will be extending her observations of youth attachment theory to our spiritual development. Who is our security? Who influences our development?
Feb 11: Worship – Who/What Do You Love?
As we cheer for Canada in the winter Olympics, declare our love on Valentine’s Day, sacrifice on Ash Wednesday (Lent), and enjoy Family Day all this next week I think the question “Who/What do I love?” is timely. Worship is usually associated with religion but even secularist and atheists worship. Worship is the focus on what we love and adore. The simple truth is that everybody looks to something or someone to give their lives meaning. Worship reveals the somethings or someones we value most.
I think you will find this Sunday’s service a little different than usual. We will be doing some soul searching about what we value. Then we will be each considering how we value God by noticing what name(s) for God best describes our own relationship to God right now. Then we will be looking for a song or scripture or prayer or story or action – some way of expressing that name and worshiping God through it.
Feb 4: Doing Church in the Age of Trump
Henry Pauls gives us his “State of the Union” address this week with a provocative (and non-partisan) reflection on how we can respond to the current political climate.
Jan 7: Designed for Worship and Growth – Introducing Spiritual Disciplines/Practice
A new year often prompts us to reflect on the past and hope for positive change in our lives. Hope springs anew as we buy an exercise machine, plan to quit some habit, resolve to live better in some way this year, or get suckered into buying a membership at the gym. Perhaps there are deeper yearnings too, ones we have almost given up on – longings for our world, our community, our church, our relationships, and a longing for God.
In Romans 12:1-2 Paul writes: “Dear friends, God is good. So I beg you to offer your bodies to him as a living sacrifice, pure and pleasing. That’s the most sensible way to serve God. Don’t be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him.”
The idea of serving God by ‘offering our bodies’ and being changed makes me think of a gym membership. Do you think God might be inviting you to join His gym and start a new routine this year?
Week 1. Designed to Worship—exploring the purpose of spiritual disciplines
Week 2. “Worship”: Valuing the Right Stuff—practices that address the most important thing in life
Week 3. “Openness” to a God You Can’t Control—practices that let the light in
Week 4. “Relinquishment”: Letting Go in a World Dedicated to Accumulation—practices that lead to authenticity and surrender
Week 5. “Sharing” Your Life in a Culture Designed for Privacy—practices that lead us to interdependence and community
Week 6. “Hearing” from God—practices that form the mind of Christ in us
Week 7. “Incarnating” Jesus—practices that let us be Jesus to the world
Week 8 (sorry, won’t have time for this). “Praying” My life—practices that lead me to pray without ceasing
This Sunday, I will be introducing what spiritual disciplines are and why spiritual formation is essential to being Christian. In advance, I invite you to read through Adele Ahlberg Calhoun’s list of 88 spiritual disciplines and the desires they address. You can find the list in her book “Spiritual Disciplines Handbook”
Dec 3 Advent 1 – Hope: Lead us not into temptation …
Temptation and evil are not topics we discuss much at MMF I think. But, Advent is the recollection of darkness of our world and the expectation and hope for one who will save us from our sinning, the evil we perpetuate, the systems of evil that infiltrate the world, and the evil that seeks to control us, break us, and destroy us. This Sunday we will be talking and singing and praying about our hope that God is a trustworthy guide to whom we plead “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
“She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—‘God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.” – Angel to Joseph, Matthew 1:21 (MSG)
Matthew 1:18-24 (Birth of Jesus)
Nov 12 Peace Sunday: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive…”
I think it’s wonderfully appropriate that this part of our study of the Lord’s Prayer should fall on Peace Sunday. Forgiveness is, after all, the basis of our peace and reconciliation with God and in the world. A year ago our theme was forgiveness so this Sunday I won’t spend a lot of time on the issues we discussed last year. Instead I want to consider the interplay that Jesus emphasizes in this prayer between God’s forgiveness and us forgiving others. It can’t be ignored. Also, I’m interested in how the Lord’s Prayer as a whole can be a guide for us to pray for those who hurt us. E.g. What does it mean to say “Our Father…” with Joe (who offends me) on my mind? Finally, some homework for you: I invite you to consider what kind of different offenses the words “trespasses”, “debts”, and “sins” make you think of. E.g. who invaded your space this week? Who owes you? Who doesn’t live up to your standards?
Nov 5 “Give us this day our daily bread”
Today God gave me a ‘can of worms’ to chew on.
“Give us this day our daily bread”. Do you ever feel hypocritical praying that? I do. This is a prayer declaring our dependence on God for everyday needs. But that’s not my normal frame of mind (sorry to disappoint you). I started asking myself the question this week “What does it look like to live each day dependant on God?” And that opened a whole can of … well not really worms…more like hard questions, doubts, theories. I think we will need to work together on this and pray that God’s Spirit will be our teacher and guide (as we of course pray for every week). All I’ve got are wriggling questions that won’t stay put. Yuck! I want bread.
Another teaser for this Sunday is that I discovered nobody knows how to translate the word “daily” as it appears in the original Greek text of Matthew. The word is not used anywhere else in ancient Greek! But one scholar I read suggests a reading that puts a whole new spin on the prayer! Stay tuned.
Scripture to chew on: Isaiah 55, Philippians 4:4-13
May God nourish you today in mind, body, and spirit and may he reveal his presence to you at your table.
Oct 22 “Thy Will Be Done”
Ancient kings used to divine the will of the gods before they went into battle so that they may know in advance if they would win. Though I doubt any of you sought a fortune teller before a major purchase the question of what is God’s will still nags us as spiritual people.
You may correctly quote me Micah 6:8 “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” but is that all? Does God have any specific direction for my life? How do I find it? Will it hurt to submit to it?
There is another question we perhaps over look. Why would we be praying “Thy will be done” to the all-powerful, all knowing, creator? Why wouldn’t his will be done?
You can see why we left this topic for its own week. I hope you can join me as we discuss these questions.
Scripture for your consideration:
Matthew 26:36-46 (Garden of Gethsemane)
Ephesians 1:9-14 (“he has made known to us the mystery of his will”)
Oct 8 Thy Kingdom Come
The Lord’s Prayer is like a picture. The saying goes ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ – every phrase of the Lord’s Prayer that we often repeat without thinking is packed full of meaning and good news. Or maybe we can think of it as signs pointing to the way of following Jesus. So, I am overwhelmed. How can we talk about such huge topics like the Kingdom of God and the will of God in the few minutes we have this Sunday? In some ways we talk about it every Sunday. What we can do is talk about what it means to pray these requests. What are we asking for? Is this a prayer for the world? Is this a prayer for our communities, MMF, and our families? Is this a prayer for our personal lives? Yes. But maybe we wouldn’t be so quick to say these words if we knew the implications of what we are saying.
Scripture readings: Matthew 6:24-33 “seek first the Kingdom…” and Matthew 26:36-46 “not my will but yours”
Let us give thanks this weekend for the signs that this prayer is already being answered – where we see God’s Kingdom being lived out and where God’s will is being done on earth. And let us give thanks for the hope we have in the midst of all the suffering and turmoil and injustice of this world.
Sep 24 “Hallowed be thy name – the death of God”
“Around the Godde there forms a Shelle of prayers and Ceremonies and Buildings and Priestes and Authority, until at Last the Godde Dies. Ande this maye notte be noticed.”
– (from “Small Gods, by Terry Prattchet)
Have we killed God? Or at least ruined his reputation? What does it mean today to pray “Make thy name holy” in a society where the title “Christian” is loaded with dishonor. God has become loaded down with a lot of our history and institutions. Can his name every be honored again?
Find out this Sunday.
Scripture readings: Exodus 3:1-15, Ezekiel 36:22-26,
Sep 10 “Our Father who art in heaven”
This fall season I will be preaching on The Lord’s Prayer. This well-known prayer is often repeated but I think rarely understood. I personally have found an incredible depth of meaning in its words and found it has become my go-to prayer when I can’t find the words to say to God or need a framework for my praying. When I started researching this past week I was surprised at the amount of work written on the Lord’s Prayer. Several writers have found it transformed their lives as they deeply reflected and regularly prayed the prayer. One writer claimed it is a concise guide for a life of following Jesus. Another person said that they found “the prayer could be applied to every event and situation in life and the world.” Wow, what would happen if you prayed the Lord’s Prayer into the news about North Korea, or global warming or buying a car?
It might seem tedious to have 6 sermons on such a short passage but Arthur Boers took 12 sermons to cover it and says he could have done more. I often hear people say they wish they knew how to pray better and I sympathize. Perhaps our study will yield some growth for us in prayer and lead us to pray more. I invite you to go deep with this prayer this fall.
This Sunday I will begin with “Our Father who art in heaven”. I could preach several sermons on the first word but I’ll restrain myself. Would you meditate on this first line with me for the next few days in preparation for Sunday?
Blessings from ‘Our Father who art in heaven’,