Pastor’s Blog

Located in the town of Vineland, Ontario, we are a small, friendly,  inter-generational church in the Anabaptist tradition that worships God and together seeks to follow Jesus’ example.   We have a long history—we were the first Mennonite church in Canada.  On this site you can learn about the people and the work of our church, find directions to our facility, and learn about our history.  You are welcome to join us!

Worship Service at 11:00 Sunday mornings (10:30 a.m. 1st Sunday in July through Labour Day)  Sunday School for all ages begins at 10:00, except in summer.  Hope to see you there!

Pot-luck lunch usually on the first Sunday of the month (except in July/Aug)

3557 Rittenhouse Rd, Vineland (see directions page for details)
 

We look forward to meeting you!

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Ramsay Whitefish – To be or not to be

Ramsey Whitefish lived on the streets of Toronto and was a friend of many through the dramatic arts program at Sanctuary, a church in the downtown area. On May 18th, he was found murdered not very far from the church’s actual location.

From what little I’ve heard about Ramsay, he was a gentle and good man who had lived through many of the realities that First Nations people now experience in North America.  In this video, Ramsay re-imagines Hamlet’s famous soliloquy in Act 3 Scene 1 to reflect his own experience living as an aboriginal person on the streets of Toronto.  May you enjoy this raw, poetic insight into the creativity of a young man who was loved by many in the downtown community.

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MCEC Annual Gathering 2016

At the end of April, delegates and representatives from Mennonite churches across Ontario and all of the eastern Canadian provinces gathered in Leamington, ON, and spent time hanging out, singing and celebrating together, and touching base on family business.

There were messages from long-established Mennonite churches on what is new in their neck of the woods, and there was time to hear from churches who are newer to the MCEC family.  There was also a lot of time spent being challenged to dream for new things, and being challenged to ask the question, “What does God have in store for us next?”

If you were unable to be at this gathering, or if you were unable to catch the livestream online during the event, check out this page for links to videos that cover many different aspects of the weekend together: https://mcec.ca/annual-church-gathering-highlights

Definitely check out the videos from Stuart Murray and Alex Ellish on Finding God in my Neighbourhood!

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Doctrine of Discovery

This upcoming Sunday at The First Mennonite Church, we’re going to take some time to discuss an unfortunate example where Christians lost their connection to the example of Jesus and created a system of legal, cultural, and political thought called the Doctrine of Discovery.  This idea lead to many of the injustices that Indigenous people in North America have faced.

It turns out our brothers and sisters in the Mennonite Church USA created a documentary last year that specifically investigates and breaks down the Doctrine of Discovery.  Have an extra 45 minutes this week?  Then check out this documentary put together by several Mennonites and First Nations people in the States appropriately titled Doctrine of Discovery – in the name of Christ.

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8th Fire – Aboriginal 101

If you missed Tom Neufeld’s sermon last Sunday to kick off our new series, Wrongs to Rights, you missed a great introduction as to why we feel this is an important conversation for our church. Check it out on our Sermons page.

Otherwise, here’s a link to a CBC program hosted by musician, public speaker, and broadcaster Wab Kinew, called 8th Fire, that gives a great introduction to many of the stories and history behind our country’s history concerning Indigenous populations.  Check it out!

You can see a quick intro video to the program here:

 

Link to the CBC program itself is right here:

http://www.cbc.ca/8thfire/2012/01/wab-kinews-walk-through-history.html

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Wrongs to Rights

This Sunday, we kick off a month-long exploration into a discussion that affects all of us.  For the next few weeks, we’re going to look into one of the moments in history when church was not at its best.  And we need to hear this truth.

The recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, published in 2015, details just how much churches participated in the systemic cultural genocide of First Nations people across the country of Canada.  And this doesn’t include just particular denominations or particular churches.  It largely includes all of us who were doing church in Canada over the last 200-300 years.

But we believe there is hope.  Hope both for our First Nations brothers and sisters and for the church.  The TRC is a step forward in hope.  Now, the next step is for us to listen, learn,and discern how we will respond to the evidence of history.

This Sunday, Tom Neufeld will share with us on some of the history behind the church’s colonialism and exploitation of First Nations peoples, and he will share this within the context of stories within the Bible itself where people of faith decided that it was okay to harm and exclude a particular race or group of people.

To get the conversation started, here’s a video from Mennonite Church Canada connected to the TRC sessions that took place in Montreal in 2013.  We think this will be of great value for you to check out before we begin on Sunday

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Why does God make it so hard to reach heaven?

Continuing on our list of questions from our Googling for God series, this is one of the questions that we received online.

I think this raises one particular question for me.

What is your assumption about getting to heaven? In other words, what exactly are you under the impression that it takes to get to heaven?

I think if I knew the answer to this question, I could likely best answer you. But unfortunately, we don’t have the opportunity to go back-and-forth for clarity. So, I think I’ll make an assumption here that is fairly common when I converse people on this topic: we get to heaven by performing enough good deeds and avoiding enough bad deeds.

Christians have often believed this assumption. We have often said that we have to do the right things, avoid enough of the wrong things, wear the right clothes, hang out with the right people, avoid the wrong people, and do enough of these things in order to get to heaven.

In fact, this assumption is fairly common amongst many spiritual and religious views. For some of us, we believe we have to follow all of the right laws and not break any of those laws. For some of us, we must prove that we are a good person by performing enough good deeds or acts of kindness.  For others, if we perform enough spiritual rituals or acts, then God will accept us.

Most of these views predicate themselves on the action and the work of the believer. It’s up to the believer to get him or herself to heaven.

So long as our arrival in heaven depends on our personal efforts, it is going to feel hard. Will I ever be good enough? How do I know that I am good enough? What if I’m deceived into thinking I’m good enough? Will I ever be able to do everything that God demands of me?

In this situation, it IS hard to reach heaven!

Many faiths and religions run under the assumption that heaven is like a mountain. We’re all trying to be good enough to reach the top and avoid any bad things that may drag us down.

But here’s the thing that’s interesting in the Christian story: God comes down from the mountain and lifts humanity up to the top.

Christianity seems to suggest that when Jesus dies on the cross and is resurrected, he removes any and all need for us to perform ritual sacrifices, say and do the right things, and earn our way into heaven. Instead, it is all done for us.

Paul says this in Romans 3: 27-28: “Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal [another way of saying reaching heaven] is not based on our good deeds. It is based on our faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.”

When he’s asked by some of his followers what he expects them to do in order to be saved or reach heaven, Jesus says, “This is what God wants you to do: Believe in the one he has sent.”

I can understand why you may be under the assumption that you have to work to earn your way to heaven. That’s a pretty common assumption. But maybe you need to hear the Good News that God came down from the mountain and paid the price, so you don’t have to worry about earning enough to make your way to heaven.

Now, you simply have to trust and believe that God has done this for you; and see what life looks like when you live in that reality.

I think Jesus means it when he says in Matt. 11: 28-30: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.”

I hope that’s Good News to you today!

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Does God Change With Time?

I think you could actually break this down into two questions:

1. Does God change with time?

No, the Bible seems to say that God is eternal and unchanging. In Malachi 3:6, God says, “I am the Lord, and I do not change.” (NLT). Abraham and Moses both refer to God as the “eternal” god (Gen. 21:33, Deut. 33: 27), and Paul certainly picks up that theme in Romans 1:20 where he refers to God’s “eternal power.”

However, I think a good second question would be:

2. Does our relationship with God change over time?

In this case, emphatically yes! Paul says in Gal. 3: 24-25, “The law was our guardian and teacher to lead us until Christ came. So now, through faith in Christ, we are made right with God. But now that faith in Christ has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.” (NLT)

 A pretty scandalous statement for a Pharisee and expert in the Law of Moses to make!

Paul seems to suggest that the Torah or Law in the Old Testament (with all of its guidelines about what to eat, what to wear, how to relate with people, etc.) was given to the Jewish people (and incidentally to the world) for a time as a way to show us what is right and wrong; as a way to show us what God wants us to do.

But now Paul seems to say that we have changed. We have grown up, so to speak. For a time, the law was given to us to act like a guardian or a babysitter; telling us when to go to sleep, don’t eat too much candy, etc. But now, because we can place our faith in Christ, we no longer need the law as our guardian.

Paul seems to suggest that in Christ, we mature in our faith, and living out love as Jesus teaches will actually fulfill all of the requirements of the law. (Matt. 22: 34-40)

Love will now allow us to maturely live out the principles that were given to us in the law.

When we are 5 years old, we need to be told when to go to bed. We need to be told don’t eat too much chocolate or we’ll be sick. We need that sort of guidance at that age. However, try telling a 20-year old when to go to bed!

Hopefully by 20 years of age, we’ve learned why it’s healthy to get a lot of sleep, and we don’t need to be told when to go to bed.  In fact, if we try to live by the same rules at the age of 20 as we did when we were 5, it will actually be harmful to us and to others!

Now, if you are the parent of a child such as this, and you change how you relate to your child, does that mean you have necessarily changed? Certainly not! But your relationship with your child has changed because time has passed and they have grown.

This is what the Bible seems to suggest has happened in our own spirituality.

In the Bible, we have an Old Testament and a New Testament. We have an old way of relating to God and a new way of relating to God. We have an old way of living by religious rules and regulations, and a new way of living by the principle of love that Christ teaches.

But the eternal, unchanging God is the same parent behind both ways of relating.

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