Monthly Archives: September 2013

Remember your baptism

Phloem and Xylem: Remember your baptism

September 25, 2013

This weekend is the church retreat at Camp Luz.  Along with the fun and recreation, we’ll be celebrating two baptisms.  Tennison G and Andrew N will be baptized during the Sunday morning worship service, accompanied respectively by their sponsors Austin K and Andy K K.

One of my distinct memories of my own baptism was in the moments after I had come out of the pond where I was baptized and one of the adults of our small fellowship told me that this and the day I would be married were two of the most important days of my life.  It was a new thought, and since then those two major life commitments have been linked in my mind.  It is a decision entered into with thought and care; there are vows one makes, surrounded by loving community who pledge to accompany and support; and one really has no idea what one is getting oneself into.  One knows just enough to say ‘Yes,’ and from there the meaning of that Yes takes on substance and depth as life happens.

For everyone else, who will witness and celebrate the baptisms on Sunday, there is another parallel.  Like weddings, baptisms are an occasion for us to remember our own vows and to renew our commitments to living them out.  “Remember your baptism” is a phrase that some Christian traditions repeat often, and that will be something each person present will be invited to do – to remember your baptism, to renew its meaning, and live into our baptismal identity.

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Daily words

I’m not one to flood my inbox with email subscriptions, but there are two daily meditations that regularly feed my soul.  One is from Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest who is a prolific writer and speaker.  He writes out of a Christian framework, but draws frequently from other wisdom traditions on themes of overcoming dualistic thinking, union with God and our true self, and combining contemplation and action in the life of faith.  I know that a number of you already receive his daily emails.  If you don’t and have interest, HERE is where to sign up.

The other daily meditation I regularly read is called Inward/Outward and is a project of Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC (Sign up page). It gives a quote taken from a mix of mostly contemporary, but also some ancient, spiritual writers.  Today’s is from Letty Russell, from her book Church in the Round, and speaks to one of the meanings of Communion.  Incidentally, it’s been a bit of a Communion drought at CMC, but we will be participating in World Communion Sunday on October 6th.   

“Often persons are excluded from the tables of life, both through denial of shared food and resources and through denial of shared naming and decision making for their community, nation or world. At God’s final banquet, all will be invited and able to feast together. Like the eucharist and like the church that gathers at Christ’s table, the round table is a sign of the coming unity of humanity. It achieves its power as a metaphor only as the already of welcome, sharing, talk and partnership opposes the not yet of our divided and dominated world.”

Young to old in five minutes

OK, so here’s a fresh internet meme to pass along, posted today on HuffPost.  It’s a five minute time-lapse video simulation of a young girl aging into an old woman, showing just her face.  It’s pretty remarkable.
A few thoughts after watching it:
+ the face has its own beauty in all stages of life
+ there’s also something hauntingly sad and fragile here
+ accepting and embracing mortality is part of the spiritual life
+ this is a lovely image of what the church declares every Ash Wednesday, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.”
+ on this anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and our recognition of the wars and other victims who have followed, we remember that the unfolding of a full life is not something everyone has the privilege of experiencing.
Live long and prosper.

John Howard Yoder and sexual violence

In the last couple months there have been some significant and substantive conversations going on regarding the most prominent Mennonite theologian of the last half century – John Howard Yoder.  There are strong calls being made for the church and its institutions to more publicly come to terms with the fact that Yoder habitually sexually harassed women.  The first essay I saw addressing this was written on July 17 by Barbara Graber, “What’s to be done about John Howard Yoder?”  It’s powerful, and goes into more detail than I will here.

The blog it appears on, “Our Stories Untold,” is dedicated to being “a safe and open space to discuss sexualized violence within Christianity (and specifically, the Mennonite Church). Blog entries are a mix of personal experience, reflection, discussion, sex positivity, theology, and current events in our world dealing with sexual abuse, all aimed at opening up dialogue about this important topic” (from the blog’s self-description).  Also highly recommended.

Yoder, who died of a heart attack at the age of 70 in 1997, was a prolific writer and brilliant thinker.  His writings have continued to influence the global church and can be credited with the significant rise in interest in Anabaptism and Christian pacifism.  Personally, reading his The Politics of Jesus back in college was a transformative experience.  Current AMBS President Sara Wenger Shenk has recently noted that he was a larger-than-life figure who put our values on the world stage.

And therein lies a major part of the problem.  He has been such a popular thinker and powerful person that we have not done a good job of coming to terms with the massive disconnect between his public work and his private actions.

The church did address these issues as they were happening.  This is detailed in pages 44-46 of the most recent issue of The Mennonite.  To be specific, allegations included “improper hugging, use of sexual innuendo or over sexual language, sexual harassment, kissing or attempts to kiss women, and forcible sexual behavior.  Sexual intercourse was not among the allegations” (p. 46) He was asked to leave AMBS, where he taught, in 1984 after refusing to change his behavior and in 1992 submitted to an accountability process through Indiana-Michigan conference which suspended his ministerial credentials and mandated him to go through psychological counseling.

One of the major concerns being raised at this time is that the complexity of his legacy has been reduced to that of a great thinker and writer, covering over or just ignoring the pain he caused many women.  It is hopeful to see (mostly) women raising their voices, telling their stories, and leading us into a better place.  Sara Wenger Shenk has also commented that AMBS is now “committed to a new transparency in the truthtelling that must happen.”  May this conversation and process have rippling effects of healing and hope throughout the church for all victims of abuse and all of the ways that we still fail to honor these stories.