February 23: Romans: Homeland Security
In response to the September 11 attacks, President George W. Bush announced the establishment of the Office of Homeland Security to coordinate “homeland security” efforts. The image and language of “homeland” (or “fatherland” or “motherland”) is a well used one, often used to tap into the heartfelt need for home – a place to belong, be secure, fit in, and prosper – language used to unite people, justify struggle and justify injustice. It was the language of the Roman Empire (Pax Romana) and Israel (the Promised Land). Homeland is not just a place but an ideal with hope and promise that demands loyalty and sacrifice.
What if we read Romans as a letter about competing “homelands”: Roman, Judean, and the Kingdom of God (Jesus)? Because the concept of “homeland” so universally touches us all I think it gives fresh insight into Paul’s message about the Gospel. I’ll do my best to share it with you this Sunday.
February 16: Rudy Wiens: Jesus’ Learning Circle: Baptism, Temptation, and Kingdom Strategy
I started thinking about the story of Satan’s three temptations, and then realized that what we did last week with learning circles applies to Jesus’ Kairos event at his baptism, when he was proclaimed the Son of God. According to Matthew 4, in response he went to the desert to fast and, we can suppose, pray for direction. He came out of that experience having explored and rejected Satan’s alternatives, the three temptations. I present the passage in Isaiah 9 as what is to be expected of the Messiah, and I suggest that therein lay his strategy for establishing his new kingdom, one without oppression that started with healing the sick. Besides the contribution by Edgardo to my preparations, I received some help from the novelist Dostoyevsky and the BBC. – Rudy
January 26: Romans: The Slaves’ Gospel
In this letter to the early Roman church Paul describes the “good news” of Jesus Christ. Can we understand what this news was to his first readers and how it was good news to them? Can we use our imaginations then to hear that news as if hearing it for the first time this week and hear it as good news for some people today? It seems to me that a key to that exercise is imagining with good research how a slave in Roman and a oppressed Judean working in Roman would have lived and heard Paul’s letter. I think it was no coincidence that Paul introduced himself in this letter as “a slave of Jesus Christ”.
January 19: Edgardo: Covenant Sunday
January 12: Randell Neudorf – Holy Indifference (“Your Will Be Done”)
This Sunday our speaker is Randy Neudorf, pastor of The Commons, a little Mennonite church plant in downtown Hamilton. The Commons is, like us, in a season of discernment so his topic Holy Indifference (“Your Will Be Done”) and reflections will, I think, be a blessing to us. Scriptures: Luke 11: 1-4 and Matthew 6: 7-13
Link to recording: Randell Neudorf at MMF
December 15: Sensing God Epilogue – God bursts our reality bubble
I was watching The Agenda, on TVO a few weeks ago and was struck by the examples the guest gave of the ‘blind spots’ we humans have to the reality around us. Our very human centered point of view really limits our perception of reality. I think it limits our faith too and our ability to ‘sense’ God. So, I’ve decided on an epilogue to our fall series on ‘Sensing God’ to talk about the failure of our senses and the Christmas miracle that God entered into our limited perception as one we could see, hear, smell, touch (and taste?). May we see more clearly this Advent.
November 24: John Hildebrand: Politically Incorrect
Don Cherry is the latest Canadian to be charged, tried, declared guilty, and “executed” for political incorrectness … all outside of any impartial legal process or court. This week at MMF, John takes a look at political correctness including from a perspective of Biblical correctness.
November 17: Touched by God
This Sunday is the conclusion of my series on experiencing God with our five senses. The imagery of touch in the Bible symbolizes holiness and purity but also physical and spiritual healing and love. Just like in our culture today, touching people is complicated. But have we resorted today to avoiding the issues by avoiding touching? What have we lost of our humanity by avoiding contact? Are we missing the touch of God?
October 13: Taste and See That The Lord is Good
Many of us will be celebrating this Thanksgiving weekend with good food. And so I very intentionally planned my series on ‘Experiencing God Through Our Natural Senses’ so that the sense of taste would be our topic this week. Psalm 34:8 says “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” So, I invite you, in the midst of your turkey, stuffing, potatoes, pies and whatever else, to save room for God. Come on, just try a little bit. You might like it!
September 30: Hearing God
Listen up! “Whoever has ears to hear let them hear” that this Sunday we will be discussing what it is that we are hearing, what God hears, and how we can better hear God.
September 15: Seeing God
This Sunday I will begin our series on experiencing God through our five senses by looking at the sense of sight. Scripture is full of references to sight, seeing, visions, and light so I have to narrow it down a bit. My goal is to discuss what we “see”, what God “sees”, and how we see God. After all, ‘seeing is believing isn’t it?
September 8: Helen – Living Water
Helen Griebeling will be speaking on the theme of “Living Water”, and afterwards will be showing some slides of their trip to Israel/Palestine with CMU last spring. For those who like to prepare or follow up, there is an attachment of websites Helen used and recommends.
June 30: The Liberation of Discipleship
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote the Christian classic “The Cost of Discipleship” in 1937 as the Nazi’s rose to power. He lived out those words and it cost him his life. In our gospel reading this week (Luke 9:51-62) Jesus ‘vets’ three would be disciples confronting them with what they need to let go of to follow him. When I read this story with Galatians 5 though, I see Jesus not adding a burden but offering “freedom”. Following Jesus is liberating. He challenges our empty promises, our priorities, and our attachments that stand in the way of the better life of taking on his mission.
June 23: Rudy Wiens “Wheat, Weeds, and Consequences”
This Sunday Rudy’s sermon is called, Wheat, Weeds, and Consequences. “Sometimes we are troubled by the atrocities we hear about from our news media, and we wonder how a God about whom we sing “God Is Love” can tolerate such evil among humans. Jesus addressed this problem most pointedly in what we call the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. We’ll look at the parable and Jesus’ interpretation of it as a declaration of God’s patience. But the parable clearly speaks of dire consequences, too. That only raises the question of whether a loving God should forgive everyone. Christianity has always answered No. We’ll see how a religious sage of the twentieth century tried to explain why a God who is essentially Love must eventually deal with the tares, the weeds, and we’ll discuss how He may do so. I hope you’ll find it helpful.”
June 16: We And The Trinity Make Four
In the church calendar this Sunday is Trinity Sunday. I’m glad the calendar reminds us to reflect on this annually. Glad like I’m glad to pay taxes and visit the dentist. I’ll do my best not to let this become an irrelevant theoretical topic. Because, I actually do believe that the relationship of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is very important to our relationship with God and with each other. Our God is love – self-giving relationship. And we are invited into that love relationship.
May 19: Fred Redekop, MCC “Heaven is Coming Down”
Fred was a pastor in the Mennonite Church for 30 years. He is currently the Church and Community Associate for Mennonite Central Committee. His title for the message this Sunday is “Heaven is coming down” and his texts are John 13:31-35 and Revelation 21:1-6.
May 12: A Deeper Look at the 23rd Psalm
A friend gave us a picture when Daniel was born of Jesus tenderly holding a lamb. We hung it above his bed. The words “The Lord is my Shepherd…” portray a beautiful comforting image for us of God caring for us and nurturing us, like a mother. So, for this Sunday (Mother’s Day), I would like to explore that familiar psalm. I hope that the depth of imagery and meaning might inspire us anew so that we might come to love it and God in a deeper way.
April 28: Carol Penner “The Constant Gardner”
This Sunday our speaker is Carol Penner. Her title is “The Constant Gardener”. “Mary mistakes Jesus for a gardener; ironically, earlier in the same gospel, God is called a gardener. The metaphor of God as a gardener is rich for us as Christians; what can we learn about the Christian life from our experiences of gardening?” Carol was a pastor at Welcome Inn in Hamilton, First Mennonite in Vineland, and Lendrum MB church in Edmonton. Recently Carol has been teaching practical theology at Conrad Grebel for the past three years.
April 21: Easter “The Return of the Messiah
Jesus’ resurrection is good news, unless your the one who killed him. You know the familiar movie plot where the bad guy (or good guy) finishes off the good guy (or bad guy) and thinks they are gone for good but NO! They return from the dead to get their revenge. (I was thinking of Star Wars’ ‘Return of the Jedi’ when I came up with this title). When the Son of God returns from the dead we should be expecting bad things for the human race who killed him. But Jesus surprises us, showing the true nature of God. (My thanks to Richard Beck for this perspective.)
April 14: “It’s All Going According to Plan”
As I was reading the familiar Palm Sunday passage Luke 19:28-40 today I realized that there is part of the story I like to skip over because it bugs me. Jesus lays out this detailed plan for two of his disciples to “borrow” a colt. It’s like he’s scoped out the place in advance or has a crystal ball because it all goes according to plan. And then Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem with shouts of Hosanna overshadows this little heist and we forget about it. It’s time to pay attention to this little story this Sunday. As the Psalmist says in Ps 118:23 “This is the Lord’s doing…”
March 31: “Eat This Book”
“Eat This Book” is the title of a book by Eugene Peterson. The title is a quote from Revelation 10:8-10 where John is told by an angel to eat the scroll. Ezekiel and Jeremiah also “eat” scripture and Peterson uses this powerful analogy to describe how Christians also must internalize the revelation of the personal God as to feed our souls. As we complete our study this Sunday of “Reading the Bible With Jesus” I find Jesus’ example in Mark 12 contains examples and contrasts of how Jesus “ate” scripture compared to other religious people. I won’t have time to deal with the whole chapter but I invite you to read it through yourself.
March 24: Norm Dyck, MCEC “Reluctant Obedience”
Our speaker this Sunday is Norm Dyck, Mission Engagement Minister for MCEC. Norm is also one of the leaders for Relearning Community but he will not be talking about RC explicitly on Sunday. He will be speaking from the story about Jesus telling Peter and the others to go fishing after they had just fished all night! The story is found in Luke 5:1-11. Norm has three questions from this story: Authority – who should the community believe? Identity – how does the community understand itself in light of the authority of Jesus? Mission – to what is the community called in its context?
January 24: “Worshiping In Spirit and In Truth”
As we observe in our worship this Sunday the end of 37 years meeting at Erindale Secondary School, I am reminded of the story in John 4 of Jesus discussing with the Samaritan woman where the right place to worship is. Is it the temple in Jerusalem or Mount Gerizim? Is it a school foyer or a church fellowship hall? Jesus answers us all with a profound answer: The place of true worship is in spirit and in truth. Where is that? What will it cost? Can we bring our piano and hymnbooks? Will I like it?
In the sermon I mention a TV commercial. Here’s a link to it:Scotiabank: “That Excited Feeling” (BTW, I noticed watching it on YouTube that the man does point out the food in her teeth at the beginning. Huh! I never noticed that on TV.)
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.
“Fear Not” – The Good News Of Peace Is A Welcome Message
This Sunday I will be completing my series on “Personal Peace” by putting forth the theory that the ‘news’ that God is working for shalom (peace) in our world is a message that would be welcome by many in our post-Christian society. The words of many modern Christmas songs on the radio, reinforce my opinion on this.
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”