Monthly Archives: May 2014

Final 12 Scriptures

And the winners are…

Our 12 Scriptures have been finalized.  Thanks to all who submitted lists, and to the group that helped collect, group, tally, and discern (it’s not as easy as it may seem).  The list of the “Troubling 6” is still being worked on.

I’ve listed the 12 Scriptures below in the order in which we’ll focus on them this summer.  You’ll notice I’ve grouped them in five themes, although there are, of course, plenty of overlaps.  Here are some other observations:

+ There are three Hebrew Scriptures and nine from the New Testament

+ Each of the Gospels is represented, and Paul (surprisingly?) makes a strong showing.

+ There is one that is just one verse, and four that are whole chapters.

+ The underlined themes are my own imposition on the 12 Scriptures, but highlight some of the key values and theological emphases that this congregation has.

+ There is a nice balance between Divine grace and human responsibility.

+ The most often submitted passage, by far, was the Beatitudes of Matthew 5.   


The Beauty of Being

Genesis 1  God spoke, and it was good

John 1:1-5,14  The Word became flesh


The Primacy of Love

1 John 4:7-21  God is love. No fear in love.

Mark 12:28-34  Great Commandment/s. Love the Lord.  Love neighbor as self. 

1 Corinthians 13  We know in part.  Love never fails   


The Cry of Justice

Micah 6:8  Do justice.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly.

Luke 1:46-55  God has looked with favor on the lowliness of God’s servant.  


The Call of Discipleship

Romans 12  Be transformed.  Overcome evil with good.   

Philippians 2:1-11  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus

Matthew 5:1-17  Blessed are the…  


The Shelter of the Divine   

Psalm 121  I lift up my eyes…The Lord is your protector

Romans 8:35-39  Nothing can separate us from Christ’s love



Spiritual but not religious

For Sunday’s sermon I’ll be interviewing CMCer and MTSO seminary professor Linda Mercadante.  For the last five years she has been interviewing people who identify as “Spiritual but not Religious” and has recently published a book titled Belief Without Borders: Inside the Minds of the Spiritual but not Religious.  Linda begins the Introduction to the book by stating, “’Nones’ – those who do not claim any particular communal faith identity – are on the rise.”  She goes on to note that approximately 46 million, more than a fifth of Americans, have no religious affiliation, up from around 14 million in 1990.  Remarkably, there are now more “Nones” than mainline Protestants in the US.   

But Linda’s research is much more interesting than just detailing the decline of the American church.  The people she interviews are eager to share their beliefs, comfortable with spiritual language and practices, but aren’t ready or willing to identify with any one faith tradition.  They are, in their own admission, “Spiritual,” but not “Religious.”  Regular church goers and even clergy also claimed this title for themselves.  In the book Linda notes some generational differences in attitudes (Baby boomers were the most eager to talk about being Spiritual but not Religious); suggests five different types of Spiritual but not Religious (Dissenters, Casuals, Explorers, Seekers, and Immigrants); and details interviewees’ perspectives on four key theological themes (Transcendence, Human Nature, Community, and Afterlife).  By and large the Spiritual but not Religious reject religious exclusivism (our way is the only way), see religions as all having the same core ethical teachings, locate authority more internally than externally, and place a high value on personal experience.  Hey, maybe Spiritual but not Religious is an identity you’re quite comfortable with yourself, even if you have landed at Columbus Mennonite.  

So what’s going on here?  What exactly is “Spiritual” and how is this different from being “Religious?”  Are the Spiritual but not Religious a threat to the church? A prophetic witness to the church?  Is Spiritual but not Religious just the latest manifestation of American individualism or is there something deeper happening?  Are we undergoing a globalization of the spirit in which particular traditions fade into the background and things give way to a more open source spirituality?  Can you be spiritual and religious in the best sense of the terms, open to the wisdom of all traditions but grounded in a particular faith community? (I sure hope so).  WWMD – What Would Menno Do?  WWWD?  What Will We Do?  If you identify Spiritual but not Religious, what does this mean to you?

It should be a good conversation on Sunday.  I’m glad I’m the one who gets to ask the questions.  Linda has also agreed to stay around after the service (there is no regularly scheduled Sunday school) for a semi-formal Q&A with anyone who wants to ask questions of their own.


BREAD Rising

On Monday evening about 50 CMC folks gathered with about 3000 others from around the city for the annual BREAD Nehemiah Action at the Celeste Center at the Fairgrounds.  This was my first experience being a part of this gathering and so it was impressive to see this many folks turn out for a show of people power to address key justice issues in the county. 

Along with broad interfaith cooperation, one of things I most appreciate about BREAD is how we choose a single area of focus each year and a specific way of addressing that issue locally.  The three issues addressed at this gathering were public education, immigration, and mental health – the first two being follow ups from previous years.  These are all huge issues, and so for each one research committees have chosen to address one particular solution. 

For education, it was discovered that suspensions are a completely counter-productive way to deal with truancy.  On Monday Columbus City Schools Superintendent Dan Good agreed that the school district would not issue any suspensions for truancy during the 2014-15 school year – the first time such a commitment has ever been made. 

For immigration, BREAD is asking Franklin County to accept a form of Mexican identification for undocumented immigrants known as the Matricula Consular.  This has no bearing on immigration status, but provides a form of official identification for immigrants while helping law enforcement by reducing unnecessary hours given to detaining and processing those without papers.  No public officials were present on Monday to accept or reject this plan, although yesterday a group from BREAD met with Sheriff Zach Scott to further lobby for the Matricula Consular.

This year’s issue was mental health and the BREAD research committee discovered Magnolia Clubhouse in Cleveland that has had a remarkable impact on that community.  On Monday David Royer, CEO of the Alcohol, Drug, and Mental Health (ADAMH) of Franklin County agreed to send a team to visit Magnolia Clubhouse but would not commit yet to creating one in Columbus.

At Columbus Mennonite we talk often of “peace and justice” and BREAD is one of the key ways that people of faith engage in justice work in Central Ohio.  Justice work goes deeper than charity and service in that it seeks to get at the root problems and create the conditions that make charity less necessary.  Columbus Mennonite is always looking for people who wish to be BREAD leaders in our congregation.



Mother’s Day for Peace

This coming Sunday is Mother’s Day. In light of speaking of stillbirth this past Sunday, it feels especially important to recognize that such a day can be just as much about loss and unfulfilled longings as it is about joy.

Being a non-mother myself, one of the things I find most meaningful about the day is remembering the first failed attempt at making this a national holiday. Julia Ward Howe originally sought to establish an annual “Mother’s Day for Peace” which was directed at women around the world, regardless of their procreation status. After witnessing the horrors of the American Civil War, Howe believed that women had a vital role to play in promoting international peace. Her “Appeal to womanhood throughout the world” later became known as “Mother’s Day proclamation” and remains a powerful call to action. Part of the appeal is below, and the full text, which still fits on one page, can be viewed HERE. Thank you to all women who heed this call.

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means Whereby the great human family can live in peace, Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, But of God…

Julia Ward Howe, Boston, 1870