Interpretation

Leviticus 3:16b “All fat is the Lord’s.”

Hi Friends!
It is time for the 2nd preach-off between Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and Goshen College. The first one was in 2006 (organized by some YARs) and it was very successful.

For the preach-off, folks will give three-minute sermons on scriptures they’ve received 24 hours prior. People can vote with their donations, and a panel judges will give humorous feedback.

The donations benefit up and coming young adult leaders from the Global South by giving them a full scholarship to attend the Global Youth Summit (July 10-12 in Asunción, Paraguay).

In addition to the fun of preach-off, we realize that the lives of many people in Northern Indiana have been enriched by connections with the global church. So this event will be interspersed with short testimonies from people in the area, celebrating these ties as we raise funds to support the next generation of Anabaptist leaders from around the globe.

So, YARs…we’re collecting crazy passages. If you know of one, please write the reference as a comment. Your help is appreciated…and if you’re in Northern Indiana at 6pm on Dec. 6 you are warmly invited to materialize and participate!

“We Must Look at the Context”

I want to start by saying that I understand that a number of you have an extensive Christian education. By this I mean you have some background in Christian philosophy and theology. I, however, do not. I am mostly self-educated on these matters, bringing my experience and my studies to bear on the issues I’m about to discuss.

So, if this is something you have heard before or there is some technical term for what I am describing, then just bear with me.

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In the Shadow of Classist Ethnocentrism: Prophetic Voices Against “The Status Quo”

This is taking a new thread of thought from somasoul’s comments in the “Christarchy!” post Lora wrote (thanks Lora)
I find often on this blog a tendency to attack what is seen as the “Christian” status quo, readily identified as the following:

1) Rich

2) Sheltered

3) Spiteful of “sinners”

I will, of course, say “Amen”, “Amen” and “Amen”, provided the caveat that this refers mostly to North American suburban Christians – and, in the global scheme of Christendom, this is a small portion of the body of Christ.

I mention this because I sometimes wonder when we take on a prophetic voice to critique Christians for the above errors, if not this critique itself issues forth from a privileged and ethnocentric perspective. (more…)

A never moving frame grounded in tradition and held up by suspenders

This morning Jonathan posted this comment over on the Young (White) Anabaptists Radicals post:

If you have any concern for new believers please read this…

http://www.mennodiscuss.com/viewtopic.php?t=5151&start=0

It didn’t quite fit with the existing discussion there, so I thought I’d move it to a new post for further comments. If you click on the link, you’ll find yourself at MennoDiscuss, a lively forum for Mennonite conversations.

Mennonite Discussion logo (more…)

Biblical Message for the Day

Feeding the Hungry

I serve as a full-time volunteer with an agency that coordinates homeless services. I thought a reflection on poverty would be apt, particularly given that we don’t have a “poverty” category yet on this blog.
Nehemiah 5 (NIrV)

1 Some men and their wives cried out against their Jewish brothers and sisters. 2 Some of them were saying, “We and our sons and daughters have increased our numbers. Now there are many of us. We have to get some grain so we can eat and stay alive.”

3 Others were saying, “We’re being forced to sell our fields, vineyards and homes. We have to do it to buy grain. There isn’t enough food for everyone.”

4 Still others were saying, “We’ve had to borrow money. We needed it to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. 5 We belong to the same family lines as the rest of our people. Our sons and daughters are as good as theirs. But we’ve had to sell them off as slaves. Some of our daughters have already been made slaves. But we can’t do anything about it. That’s because our fields and vineyards now belong to others.” (more…)

Mystics

“Ironic, but one of the most intimate acts
of our body is
death.

So beautiful appeared my death—knowing who then I would kiss,
I died a thousand times before I died.

‘Die before you die,’ said the Prophet
Muhammad.

Have wings that feared ever
touched the Sun?

I was born when all I once
feared—I could
love.”
-Rabia (Sufi mystic)

Mystics have saved my spirituality these last 4 months. Their wild, pithy, and beautiful poetry has inspired me beyond measure to continue to re-center and reconnect with the divine. I am just learning about mystics. Does any YAR out there have more information about them, besides what I can Google? Has anyone being loved by the Beloved? (more…)

1st Year Reflections from a 1st Year Mennonite – Gonna be a long one folks

A friend of mine invited me to a Mennonite church with her to experience their message this past November of 2006. I looked into the history; I examined the theology. And it made sense to me. As a result, I had a Christian conversion.

And then I spent some time in the church, and found that faith can smolder even among Mennonites. Despite a great theological understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit, I rarely hear Mennonites talk about the Spirit in their lives. Though preaching pacifism, some Mennonite lives out passive-ism. And still others cling to an ethnic identity which, while certainly important to heritage, is also exclusionary for those folks who don’t share that history.

I found this blog and thought perhaps it could be a helpful spiritual outlet for me. And, indeed, it has been.

But even us folks I think warrant a bit of constructive criticism, which I do submit comes from within my limited worldview, so take it with a grain of salt. YAR ain’t perfect. I may love this space, but I don’t unflaggingly support it. In the upcoming year, I would suggest the following to be considered by us folks: (more…)

Biblical Authority in the Global South

I am currently reading The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South by Philip Jenkins. It is a fascinating book and if you have a chance to read it, I would highly encourage it. You can also hear Philip Jenkins give a little bit of an overview of the book from his address at the Berkeley Theological Union.

I would like to share a few quotes for discussion. From the end of the the chapter “Power in the Book” which surveys contemporary African and Asian perspectives on the Bible and its striking conservatism in relation to Euro-American “scholarly” understanding of biblical interpretation, Jenkins writes:

By what standards, for instance, do churches decide whether particular biblical verses or passages carry special weight, or might be less authoritative than others? Except for the hardest of the hardcore fundamentalists, American Christians rarely believe that each and every verse of scripture carries the same degree of inspiration, and hence the same value. Instead, many assume an implicit hierarchy of texts, based on what is commonly viewed as the best scholarly opinion. So, for example, the assumption that St. Paul did not really write the Pastoral Epistles attributed to him – the letters to Timothy and Titus – means that these can be treated as less serious, less authoritative, than the apostle’s undoubted words in Romans or the Corinthian correspondence. To claim that “Paul didn’t really write this” consigns the Pastorals to a semi-apocryphal status. At one synod of the Church of England, a clerical presenter made the remarkable argument that since no scriptural texts prohibited the ordination of women, modern conservatives should not “set up artificial and inept lines that no one can defend”. Apparently, in such a view, the explicit prohibition on women’s leadership or teaching authority found in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 no longer ecen counts as part of the New Testament. Opinions can differ about the authority that such a passage should command, but for many believers, it literally has been read out of scripture. (Jenkins, 40)

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Caution: Mennonite Church USA Institutional Politics Ahead

One of the items discussed by delegates at the Mennonite Church USA churchwide assembly this month in San Jose was an resolution proposed by a group called Menno Neighbors. It is an informal group that meets once a year and they have a pretty active listserve. The resolution was changed to a statement for discussion by the resolutions committee of the executive board so there would not be a vote, just discussion. I was one of delegates that signed in support of this statement (didn’t get on the printed copy because I signed to too late).

The resolution is a call for conferences to stop disciplining congregations for differences in interpretation of the Confession of Faith from a Mennonite Perspective and was written largely in reference to a number of congregations that have been disciplined or expelled from their conferences for being publicly welcoming and affirming of LGBT members (most recently Hyattsville Mennonite in Maryland).

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Practical question for a radical: Yea or nay on pentagrams?

I recently received a pentagram necklace as a well-intended gift from someone who thought it was a Star of David. We both had a good laugh when I told her my first association with it was a pagan/Wiccan/Satanist symbol.

Now, I’m not one of those reactionist people who gets wild-eyed at the mere mention of such belief systems, and I’m not freaked out to see such symbols. I did a little bit of reading online and discovered some Christians in the Middle Ages used the pentagram to symbolize the five wounds of Christ, the five senses, and five aspects of good health. That’s certainly not how I think of pentagrams, nor probably most who would see it if I wore it.

If I choose not to wear this necklace, I want it to be for an actual, thought-out reason, not just “it’s evil.” It’s a nice necklace. I have no lack of jewelry, though, so I could give it away and never notice its absence. But I tend not to wear religious symbols of any kind unless there’s a specific reason I’m doing it. (Crucifixes are part of my RenFaire costume, for example.)

Thoughts? I realize this is a periferal issue to what we usually talk about on YAR. But, it could bring up how we view pagans, Wiccans and Satanists. That might be a good reason to wear it: it may prompt thoughtful discussion with people I meet. Or then again, it could just prompt eyerolls and disdainful comments.

The “Evil Pharisees” and Other Stereotypes and Caricatures

brother Volknotions.
Those brethren who are from the Dunkard line well know of what you are speaking: the back-hand of fellowship, shunning of venial sins, public confession of sin, all those old standard and standby hymns and everything else done in lower saxon dialect. Well might descriptions such as “hollow-out legalism”, “legalism of ‘humility'”, “oppressive legalism”, “paying lip-service” suit the Old Faith of our Anabaptist forefathers.

But I wonder if all those “evils” are causing a distorted view of first cent. Pharisees. Are you looking at the Pharisees through the “lens” of your ossified and institutionalized anabaptist experience. Be careful of following centuries of Christians projecting on the Pharisees and first cent. Judaism something that was never there. Let us be careful and not fall into the same mistakes the Church Fathers, the Roman Church and the Reformers did. That is, stereotyping and caricaturizing first cent. Judaism led on by those casuistrical Pharisees (blast them!) Let me attempt a “clarification of thought”.

I will deal with the ‘social justice’ prophets later. But at least for now, you are absolutely right, they were not in the least anti-Jewish or anti-semitic — they were, at times (and when they would get all hot and flustered), racist and anti-goeim: “Damn the Gentiles! God’s wrath will strike them down!” Ah yes, “social justice”. It all depends where your social justicing is standing. (Let us all remember that when we get all lathered up against the “bad guys”.

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Bible Reflection – 5/22/07

I have put together the following reflection and prayer on the beauty of diversity in our world (please don’t cringe, I know the term “diversity” gets misused often as “let’s point out all the different stereotypes of different ethnic groups!”). The following passage from Mark reminds us that there isn’t just one way (one denomination, dare i say, “one religion”?) of looking at everything in the world.

Mark 9:38-41

38″Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

39″Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.

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EXCERPT from “Chosen: biblical texts, group identity and peacemaking.”

Convo talk for Bethel College (Kansas) November 13, 2006 by Rich Meyer

[Rich sent this to me, and not having time to post it himself, I am posting it for him. Here's a few quotes to whet your appetite:]

Part of my concern here is with how we process the diversity of voices within the canon – this collection of books that we today call “The Bible,” (singular) as if it were one book. In Greek, Ta Biblia is plural, it means “the books.” What we call “the Old Testament” (singular, again) Jews call “the Law, the Prophets and the Writings.” Names are important, how we name things carries a lot of freight. We all know that the Bible is a collection, a library, and includes a number of voices, voices often engaged in debate. I think it would help our understanding if our vocabulary gave us that picture. Instead we’ve got it all wrapped up in a leather cover.

I think we have wanted to stop short of talking openly and honestly within the church about the implications of this diversity of voices, and what it means if we want to study with intent to get direction. Because that requires us to commit, to weigh in on the Bible’s internal debates. Failing this, we are stuck defending some really damaging racism and sexism, just because it is between leather covers. Rabbi Michael Lerner names it thus: he says that we have, in the Torah, the voice of God, and the voice of accumulated pain and hurt.

[The full lecture, after the jump.] (more…)