January 6: “I Wish You a Curious New Year”
What motivated learned, wealthy, powerful men from the “east” to take a long and uncertain journey to a foreign country to find a baby? They followed a star. The star caught their attention, it stood out, and they were curious (to put it mildly) to find out where it would lead them. This Sunday, I would like to propose that such a spirit of curiosity can be a gift and a blessed approach to life and God.
December 9: Learners of the Peace of Christ
I will be continuing our series on Personal Peace this Sunday by talking about what the New Testament teaches about finding the unique peace of Christ in our lives. Dorothy Day (founder of the Catholic Worker movement) attributes these words to St. Francis of Assisi “We do not know what we have not practiced.” If we desire God’s Shalom, we must ‘show up for it’.
You may want to join me in reflecting on these passages in advance:
Luke 1: 57-79 [birth of John and Zachariah’s prophesy] “Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.”
Philippians 4:4-9 “Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
December 2: Living in Fear
Our guest speaker this Sunday is Amanda Zehr. Amanda was a pastor at Listowel Mennonite for 5 years, and now works at a online high school called Virtual High School in Bayfield, Ontario about an hour north of London.
Amanda’s topic is very relevant to our theme of ‘Personal Peace’ as she reflects on how through the life of Mary, we find how to live in God, rather than living in fear.
November 27: Personal Peace – God’s Shalom
What does ‘peace’ mean? It can mean different things in different contexts and to different people. Is it avoiding conflict between nations? Is it a feeling of calm in our hearts? And how do we find peace? Again, people have different ways of pursuing peace. Luke, in chapter 19, records Jesus crying that Jerusalem has not recognized the way to peace? What is Jesus’ way to peace? This Sunday we explore the idea that God intends “shalom” an ancient concept of peace and that Jesus showed us the way to that peace.
November 11: “Global Christian Life Standards #5 – Non-Conform Freely”
This is our last Sunday on the theme of being Jesus followers in the global community. We conclude with the ‘life standard’ “Non-conform Freely”. Non-conformance seems to be part of Anabaptist/Mennonite DNA yet Longacre writes in her book “Living More with Less” that her generation quoted “be not conformed to this world” so much that their children wanted nothing more than freedom from non-conforming. It is a balancing act isn’t it – to be “in the world but not of it” as Jesus taught.
In 1 Peter 2, Peter affirms that “this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices.” But that is not all Peter has to say. He later says “Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.” Non-conform freely. Why? So that we may be priests – ambassadors of God – sharing and exemplifying his healing grace.
Oops! We had some trouble with the record equipment these weeks. Sorry.
October 7: “Global Christian Life Standards #2 – Nurture People”
This Sunday our topic is “Nurturing People” as we continue discussing Life Standards for the Global Christian as identified by Doris Janzen Longacre in her book “Living More with Less”. Carol will be speaking about “the simplicity of nurture that we have become experts in complicating.”
September 30: “Global Christian Life Standards #1 – Do Justice”
In my message on September 9 I talked about Doris Janzen Longacre’s book “Living More with Less” and admitted that though I owned the 30th Anniversary Edition for some years I had not gotten past the first chapter. Well, I’m now up to chapter eight! And it seems to me that Longacre has a framework which might help us approach our theme of being Christ followers in the global community. She structures her book around what she calls Life Standards: Do Justice, Learn from the world community, Nurture people, Cherish the natural order, and Nonconform freely. These are not so much rules as principles that infuse our lives and are interrelated.
So, this Sunday I will start with “Do Justice”. This is not a book report though. My musings are inspired somewhat by Longacre but also I hope by scripture. Reflecting on Jesus’ claim that he is bringing God’s promised justice and favor, I was surprised by the anger his message triggers in his home town. Read Luke 4:16-30 and imagine hearing God’s prophet telling you _____ (insert your own wicked, undeserving people) will receive God’s help but you won’t. If we are going to “Do Justice” we better understand what form Jesus’ justice takes.
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”