Category Archives: First thoughts

Wisdom, Weakness, and Foolishness

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s book The Lord of The Rings, there is a moment where the wisest and most powerful leaders argue amongst one another about what to do with the One Ring, the one object that could destroy the entire world.  As they argue, a hobbit (generally considered to be a people who are tiny, powerless, foolish, and insignificant) named Frodo steps forward willing to put his own life at risk to solve this dilemma.

This Sunday, at The First Mennonite Church, we’re taking a look at the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the churches in Corinth, and how he describes the wisdom of God as something that uses the weak and the foolish in order to shame the strong and the wise.  Join us Sunday to find out more!

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Everything He Does Is Wonderful

In Mark 7:31-37, Jesus puts his fingers into a man’s ears, spits onto his own fingers, and places his fingers on the man’s tongue in order to heal him.  Despite the fact that the man is healed, it’s still the spit that gets me everytime!

So, why spit?!?

Well it’s not as if spit had some sort of different quality or understanding in Jesus’ time.   Certainly in the larger Near Eastern culture of the 1stcentury, there was a Greek belief that spit could ward off evil spirits, appease the gods, or heal diseases.

Tacitus, the Roman historian, records an incident where an Egyptian citizen was cured of his blindness by the spit of the Roman emperor Vespasian.

But in the religious culture of Jesus’ own place and time, spit was still seen as something dirty and offensive.  In fact, Josephus, the Jewish historian suggests that for the Essene community in Qumran, if you spat in front of another person, it deserved a month’s worth of punishment.

So how would a first century audience receive this story from Mark, if it was read publicly?  Well, scholars seem to suggest they might not have had a great reaction.  Perhaps it would be a gasp of shock?  Perhaps it would be an exclamation of “Eww” like we would today?

But what is Jesus getting at by doing this?  Join us this Sunday to find out more!

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Mennonite Bicentennial Monument Re-dedication Ceremony

If you were unable to join us for the re-dedication ceremony for our Mennonite Bicentennial Monument on July 5th of this year, you can still hear what was shared on that day.

Attached here is the complete ceremony of what was read outside of the monument on the day we re-dedicated this wonderful visual depiction of the history of the Mennonite Church in Canada.

Mennonite Bicentennial Monument Rededication Ceremony

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Dedication of the Rebuilt Bicentennial Monument

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Bicentennial Monument at The First Mennonite Church, Vineland, Ontario, Canada.

We recently gathered in front of the church to dedicate the rebuilt bicentennial monument.  Many people from Vineland United Mennonite church joined us in fellowship as we honoured the history of Mennonites in the area.

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How’s Your Spiritual Diet?

What we take into ourselves, what we breathe, what we eat, what we interact with, impacts us physically and mentally.

If you were with us for my last Sunday before my vacation, you might have heard me share the old Indigenous understanding about the relationship between the bear and the salmon.   The bear eats the salmon.  As the bear dies, his body becomes one with the earth and the nutrients from his remains go on to impact the birth of more salmon.  Salmon are born and they continue to feed the bears; who then go on to biologically contribute to the birth of more salmon; and on and on it goes.

We are intimately connected with what we eat and what we ingest.

The same could be held true for our spiritual lives; and this is what Jesus actually talks about in the 6th chapter of John’s Gospel.  Join us this Sunday to find out more!

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When the Good News becomes Bad News

Monkey and Fish got caught in a flood.  As the waters rose higher and higher,

Monkey found a tree and climbed to safety.  As he got above water level, he

looked down and saw his friend Fish still in the water.  So, out of concern for his

friend, he reached down, rescued Fish, and held him tight to his chest as he

climbed higher in the tree.  This, of course was the end of friend Fish, since he

cannot live outside of water.

This Indigenous story summarizes well the harm that the delivery of the good news or Gospel of Jesus did to Indigenous people when it came to Canada.  European Christians may have had good intentions to help the First Nations of Canada, but they actually brought both spiritual and physical death.  In the name of civilization, mission, evangelism and progress, the Gospel message of Jesus was confused with Western values and Indigenous people were forced to assimilate to Western culture in order to become followers of Jesus.  Through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we’ve learned a lot about the harm that this did to Indigenous people in Canada.

Join us this Sunday as we take a look at the book of Galatians and ask the question, how did Christians ever get to the point where they believed that Indigenous people had to become European in order to be Christ-followers when Paul himself admonishes people who enforce cultural practices like circumcision upon Gentiles or non-Jews in order to become Christ-followers?  How might the book of Galatians speak to the colonization of the Gospel in Canada?

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What do we do with difficult Psalms?

Often when we read the Psalms on a Sunday morning, or on any other church occasion, we tend to monopolize the voice of the speaker in the Psalms to be our own.

We tend to assume that if I am speaking these words, then they represent my position. This is something that I would say.

But how does this now work when we read a Psalm that calls on God to destroy our enemies in vengeance?

Some of the Psalms include violent and inappropriate imagery that we ourselves would not like to say.

And often, our lectionaries will skip over these Psalms on purpose because we just don’t know what to do with them.

If I read this Psalm out loud, am I not condoning and agreeing with what it says? And so we tend to run away from these sorts of Psalms and we don’t engage with them.  But do we necessarily have to run away from these Psalms?  Or is there a different way for us to listen and engage with these ancient writings?  Join us this Sunday to find out more!

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