Sunday, January 22, 2012

Same Problem, Different Day - Historical Mennonites

I'm posting an excerpt from "Readings From Mennonite Writings, New & Old" by J. Craig Haas.
  I find it kind of interesting that this was considered an OLD problem in 1827??

Johannes Rissler, 1827

When a church has simply presumptuous piety, which is always paired with Pharisaical pride, it is likewise in its nature to fear the pure gospel and therefore resist and oppose it, especially when foreign (i.e., non-Mennonite) evangelists unite with it.  The evidence for this is clear from the present back to Christ.
It is therefore also clear that the reasons given were only a pretext and that it was really not the men but the gospel that was feared. One is full of mistrust, as if the Holy Scripture had not given us plain standards for proving the spirits.
And even though he may not protest against all good proposals, neither does he promote them; and even if one merely passes his mistrust on to his neighbor he is nonetheless causing harm. Another feels his pride is injured because he is supposed to listen to outside counselors and this is sufficient reason for turning his back to them. A third party is so out of sorts that he closes his heart and ears to the truth and actually works against things that are good: he is in a serious danger that the truth can become for him an "aroma of death" (2 Corinthians 2:16)
In short,  I must confess that in my eyes our church, in its CRITICISM OF IT'S OUTSIDE BRETHREN, has revealed itself as weakest of all.
Risser-1827 3, 4, translated by Eli H. Bender


How is it that over 150 years ago, some Mennonites (or fill in your denomination of choice) were concerned about division between THE BODY OF CHRIST??? Because it's always been there and always will be. I despise hearing people comment on other denominations as if they, (being the members, the body of Christ) are somehow disenfranchised from us, those who think they know better? I cringe every time I hear an anti-Catholic remark, or something about the Episcopals and how liberal they all are. The energy it takes to spout off about human frailty, verses keeping our mouths shut is enormous, I admit. I know the temptation of getting a *dig* in, because I'm human. But every single day we are becoming more mature spiritually. When do we become accountable? When do we take responsibility for our negative, hurtful, behavior that does nothing to edify (build) the body of Christ, and has great impact on destroying it?

Another issue is a growing trend of *un-churching*, and casting religion aside to do our own thing. That's great if doing your own thing happens to be exactly what the Bible says to do. More often than not, it's somehow tied to loving our neighbor as ourself. The bible doesn't specify WHO our neighbor is, or which neighbor to love. It's blanketed. It's everyone. It's the church down the street that you can't stand, and the neighbor who won't shut up about their fellowship and how great it is. It's the crabby old lady at the grocery store, it's the drunk on the street. And yes, it's the other denominations besides your own. If you want to throw religion aside, read your bible first... here, let me help:  *wink*

Romans 13:8-10     

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Matthew 22:36-40     

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

 This is a very modern problem with a very historical pattern. We want to pick and choose and noone wants to be told what to do... by anyone. We can of course excercise common sense when it comes to who and what we are listening to. Can I get an amen? You see, the enemy comes with every intention of tearing the church apart, and his best stradegy is from within the core... the people... the brothers and sisters who serve the same God under different peripheral pretenses, yet still have the same focus: Jesus, our redeemer. He wants to destroy us by getting at the very heart of the body. Satan doesn't play nice or even play fair. We need to stand united with those who truly serve Christ.

Yet, we as humans, (myself included) have this inclination to legitimize everything we do. We will point the finger at another denomination, or person, or group, and not see our own short comings. (thus the plank in our eye!) We are ONE body. ONE. The denominational label will not exhist in heaven. It is only here on earth to define little peripheral details. Chew on that for a while or let me know if I'm out of line? But I believe there is both redeemed  and decieved people in every denomination. Of course some of the teaching is historically irrelivant. Of course some of the practices need re-thinking. But ya know being Mennonite (or Catholic, or Methodist, or Penticostal) doesn't make you a Christian anymore than standing in a garage makes you a car!!!

Knowing JESUS intimately, knowing his sacrifice, knowing your unworthiness without his blood shed for your sin... and refusing His gift of eternal life when we truly repent of our sin... that's what makes you a redeemed follower of Christ.

Romans 10:9-11 If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with your heart you believe and are put right with God, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

 The bible says to not forsake the assembling of ourselves as a body... so be cautious that as your sorting through the man-made stuff you don't forget to commune with each other. That's what feeds our souls and keeps us strong in The Lord. That's what gives us opportunity to see others needs and reach out. That's when the body of Christ comes together and operates as one.

 Hebrews 10:25     
"Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."

   The Bible says there WILL be wolves in sheep's clothing. And we can expect it. But it won't be in the form of everyone EXCEPT the church your in. Mennonite or otherwise. So go forward and be kind and love thy neighbor, whoever they are, even those who you'd rather not... go ahead- love and accept them, even if their way isn't your way. 

  Serve God with all your heart, and with all the humility you can muster to as many as you can fit inside that God-Shaped heart He gave you.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Headcovering- Same God, Different Cultures

What do you see in the first photo? I see a woman with a mission to give women a purpose...
 Her name is Juanita Wesley and she is preserving her Mother's memory by wearing hats not only as a biblical headcovering, but she collects hats because her mother (and her culture) teach her that this is part of the different roles we play each day. She's created a ministry called "Women of Many Hats"and this ministry is designed to serve others. They serve the needy, and serve each other as women. I've included a link to the story. The video is great. But- would you agree or disagree that this honors God? Why?

Secondly, we have a woman in a third world country. The women all wear very colorful towels as headcoverings. The idea of vividness makes some people cringe. But to the people who's culture have taught them to serve, they are loving signs of obediance to a very vibrant God. Are they wrong? Are they too loud? Too proud?

Lastly, I've included what anyone outside an Anabaptist culture would consider a very modest prayer cap (or kapp).  It's created by *Sowers Of Hope* who offer a very wide variety of head coverings. They are beautiful, delicate and feminine, but they would not fly in a plain church. Why do you think that is? I can tell you why: Because it is embellished by an artisian who see's creativity as a way to honor God. But many in a plain culture would consider this *proud*.

Nothing is mentioned biblically about Christians dressing uniformly. Plain dress is subjective to the culture and times. Amish dress alone is radically different from one century to the next. Just look how many inches the skirt alone has risen since the 1900's? What is considered modest by one culture may border on obscene by another. Let's compare The Victorians who could not even show the the turn of an ankle to just 20 years later when hemlines started rising. Big shift in a few years! Now, modern day Anabaptists accept *tea-length* (as it is known in the south, or mid-to-low calf) as proper and modest. I'm not knocking plain dress- I'm supporting it if that's where The Holy Spirit has placed you. I'm always in favor of modest dress and the headcovering.What I'm suggesting is that we all support each other regardless and stop thinking our way is the only way to do the right thing. After all, God created diversity when He made the individual tribes? He intended for us all to be unique.

Matthew 7:3 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

From my perspective: As I look among the **family of God**, which WILL include other denominations, I see that one sister may wear a beret, a wide brimmed hat with feathers, or a simple newsboy cap, while another may wear a simple veil made from a scrap of fabric. It's all the same to God.

Covering for prayer was the first step in leading an actively obediant life for me as a Christian. It humbles me, it reminds me of spiritual order, and it blesses me to be able to do just one right thing for the right reason that pleases God. There is so much that I do not do right... I am thrilled that I am simply *able*. But I feel like ANY covering worn in obediance should be *enough*. Their reasons are thier own and not subject to my condemnation.

Romans 14:22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves.

I'm not trying to give anyone a hard time. I'm just looking at the world from the outside-in. I see a lot of comments and discussion on facebook, and so-called Christian discussion lists that are not edifying. People making judgement calls on other Christians who serve the same God, but from a different angle. Why would we condemn anyone of a different culture? Why not appreciate them? Probably because we have been raised, or trained to believe that our way is somehow the best way. Common sense should tell you to look at creation, look at the animals such as zebra's and giraffes....birds such as a cardinal, or a Macaw, and realize we serve the original artist! 

Going forward; when you see another woman from another culture, or simply another denomination who is doing what she's called to do, why not take a moment to thank God for His very colorful array? God made us all to be unique and individual. Why would we think we need to be identical and uniform? Let not the enemy divide us, allow the spirit to bind us.

Romans 2:1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.

That's the bible saying what I always tell my children: Don't point a finger, lest you have 3 more pointing back at you. Let's be careful that in Christ, we are not dissaproving of those who are not identical to us, but are faithfully serving as they know how. Let's instead say: "YOU GO SISTER!" for she is surely serving a living God from the unique place that He has placed her.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dog's 'N Babies

My little dog Minnie Lou is just smitten with Silas, my 4 month old grandson. She is wildly protective of him, and won't leave his side. Silas is sometimes interested in Minnie Lou, and sometimes not. He usually likes to pull her ears and smack at her. No matter what he does, she is still there, by his side. She seems unaffected by his tugging. She is not going anywhere because, as dog are by nature, she is fiercely loyal. What a friend Silas will have in that little white dog.

            I am blessed beyond measure to be able to sit with Silas and watch him do what babies do on any given Saturday afternoon. Sometimes he's just napping, and making funny faces, he occasionally fusses, only because he can't speak English yet, but mostly, he just sits in my lap and wonders about everything, including Minnie Lou who begs his attention. 

   I imagined being a Grandma since I was just a wee girl when I used to play house and instead of being a wife/mother, I'd often imagine I was a Grandma with glasses and an apron. Mission accomplished- I'm there! Well, this beats anything I could have conjured up playing house. It's wonderful and rewarding to see my grandson do just about anything from merely breathing to laughing out loud. 

Minnie is just waiting for Silas to come and play with her, and someday soon he will. But for now, he's just sitting pretty in my lap watching Minnie beg for treats, or chase a toy on the floor. She's patient. Maybe dogs just instinctively know that babies are babies until the time they are ripe enough to be toddlers and play? Minnie seems to know he's tiny and helpless and if someone rings the doorbell, all 8 lbs of her turn into a vile, ankle-biting machine, barking and jumping to make herself seem ferocious to protect little Silas. It's fairly comical to witness but it's the truth. She puts on quite a show all because she knows somehow, somewhere in here little doggy self that he is innocent, and belongs, and apparently, she believes it's her job. Far be it from me to interfere. But I know she's just waiting for the day Silas will play catch, or scratch her ears. It wouldn't surprise me if she wound up being mostly his dog and not mine. And I wouldn't mind a bit.

    This precious baby time is fleeting and it's natural, I suppose? I want Silas to walk and run and play chase little Minnie Lou. I want him to do things on his own, without any one's assistance. But I also want him to just stay tiny and need our laps for just a little while longer. 

  I guess, just like dogs who are loyal, God made parents who are anxious to see their child grow. He also made Grandma's who are reflective and appreciative, so that this time can be savored. It's a grand privilege to behold a growing child at any age, but babies are especially sweet because they are only babies for just a little while.

Silas, take your time.

Minnie Lou, you'll just have to wait a while.