There are a lot of big names in the history of the Anabaptist movement. There’s Menno Simons, who had the whole denomination of Mennonites named after him. There’s Conrad Grebel, who has a college named after him. There’s….wait, what other names are there? Maybe we don’t know as many people from the early Anabaptist movement as we think!
This week I’m going to be starting a series that will go on and off through the summer where I give an autobiographical sketch about an early Anabaptist. What made them tick? What was important to them, and how did their faith in God change their life?
This week I’m tackling Conrad Grebel. Having gone to a college named after him, you would think I would know more about him than I do. I was really surprised by what I found. What surprised me, you ask? Come to church on Sunday and find out!
This week’s prayer: Thank you God for our foremothers and forefathers in faith, who studied scripture carefully and shaped the church. Help us to be faithful too!
A tattoo is a big decision. It’s going to be around for a long time. When you choose a tattoo, you hope that you will appreciate it for the rest of your life. Maybe that’s why people tattoo things on their bodies…they want to make sure they remember something forever.
At the school for ministers this week, Irma Fast Dueck was talking about the concept of Gelassenheit. This is a german word that early Anabaptists used, which can be translated as yieldedness. She said she was talking about this concept to one of her students at Canadian Mennonite University, and she suddenly realized that he had the word “Gelassenheit” tattooed in big letters on his forearm. She said, “It makes you think…what can I say about Gelassenheit to someone who takes it so seriously they have it tattooed on their body!”
Imagine waking up every day and rubbing your eyes and being reminded that “yieldedness” to God is the path that you are choosing. Yieldedness morning, noon and night. Yieldedness as a young person, a middle aged person, as a senior. This Sunday we’ll be exploring what it means to “Yield” by reading James chapter 4.
This week’s prayer: I might as well have “Me first” tattooed on my arm, because that is the way I so often think. Help me to live with you first, Lord. Amen.
This summer I was in the middle of Jordan pond in my kayak, thinking how far I had to paddle to get to the dock. I’d been kayaking for two hours and my arms were pretty tired. The shore seemed to be moving by very slowly. So I decided just to close my eyes and paddle for 100 strokes. Stroke, stroke, stroke. Finally, I opened my eyes expecting to see the dock much closer, but instead I found I had veered 90 degrees to the left…apparently my right hand stroke is stronger than my left hand stroke! So I had farther to go than ever.
I know that too often I have lived my life with my eyes closed. I forget which way I’m headed, or why I’m living in the first place. For me, reading the Bible in the morning and the evening is a way to open my eyes, to set the course, to think about where I’m going and where I’ve been. Sometimes it’s hard to find the time to do that, but it is always worthwhile. It saves time and grief, it keeps me on an even keel.
Right now I am using the Anabaptist Prayer Book “Take Our Moments and Our Days” which lays out daily biblical readings and prayers. Talk to me about it, I will leave a copy on the table in the library for you to look at. Some of you use the “Rejoice” daily devotional booklet, if you ask I can make sure you get a copy. Another great option that I have found very helpful is the Jesuit resource called http://www.prayasyougo.org. These daily ten minute prayers can be downloaded on your mp3 player, or listened to on-line. Scripturally focussed, each day has a different musical style which gives you some time to pray and think about your response to the passage. Or you can just open up your Bible, (maybe dust it off if you have to!), and read. Open your eyes!
Today’s prayer: Thank you for giving direction. Give me the humbleness and discipline I need to open my eyes and accept direction. Amen.
I think you’ve all heard that phrase, “Cross my heart.” Maybe, like me, you said it when you were a kid. When someone wanted to be sure that I was telling the truth, they would ask, “Cross your heart?” and I would respond, “Cross my heart and hope to die!” What’s that all about?
It’s a kid’s version of something that was probably once a lot more solemn, a type of oath that someone would say to call God as a witness to the truth. Crossing your heart was a religious gesture. “Hope to die,” would be another way of saying, “May God strike me dead if I am not telling the truth.”
This Sunday I’m going to be preaching about oaths and swearing, and how that connects to the Anabaptist tradition. How can we tell whether people are telling the truth? It’s one of the most basic questions in life, and it’s something people have struggled with for thousands of years. Calling on God as a witness is one of the ways we have emphasized truth-telling. I still remember Scarlett O’Hara’s impassioned words from the movie Gone with the Wind, “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again!” (If you haven’t seen the movie that statement is absolutely ridiculous, but of course in the movie it all makes sense!)
In our courtrooms there is still the tradition of calling on God to witness to truth-telling, which is ironic considering lots of people don’t believe in God, and so it makes swearing on a Bible meaningless.
We’ll be looking at Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount where he says, “Don’t swear…let your yes be yes and your no be no.” Be truthful people all the time, not just when pushed to make an oath. God’s servants should have truthful speech (2 Corinthians 6:7). But our culture teaches us it’s OK to be “economical with the truth,” or to “stretch the truth”. How important is truth-telling in your life?
This week’s prayer: Lord, help us to understand the gospel truth. We want to worship you in spirit and in truth!