Last weekend I was one of four Columbus Mennonite delegates to the Central District Conference annual gathering, hosted by Madison Mennonite Church in Wisconsin. Yep, Wisconsin. And we didn’t have near as far to drive as folks coming from Harrisonburg, Virginia or Pittsburgh, PA. Atlanta and Sarasota, Florida folks flew. There is some business that happens at these gatherings, but the main focus is fellowship, worship, and story-telling about what is happening in our congregations. The two year theme for our Conference is “Transformed Through Text and Table.”
On Thursday evening Matt Morin of Milwaukee Mennonite preached on Mark 10:17-31, the story of the rich young ruler. He highlighted Jesus’ first line to this young man: “No one is good but God alone.” We spend a lot of time and effort in discussion and argument vying for the good of our own side, but Jesus isn’t even willing to call himself good in this case: “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” It can be freeing to be able to let go of our need to be good and right.
Ron Adams of Madison Mennonite preached Friday evening on Luke 19:1-10, the story of Zacchaeus. Ron spoke of how when Jesus came to town, something remarkable always happened, and in this case what was remarkable was that Jesus invited himself over for supper with a person who had oppressed just about everyone else in town. Jesus’ gesture changes Zacchaeus, causes him to reorder his economic and relational priorities and, one can hope, changes the whole town.
On Saturday Lisa Pierce and Helen O’Brien of St. Paul Mennonite preached on Mark 7:24-30, the story of the Syrophoenician woman who begged Jesus to heal her daughter. Lisa and Helen suggested that this was a situation in which Jesus learned and opened himself to a wider understanding of his own mission. After initially refusing to heal the daughter of this foreign woman and even referring to her with an ethnic slur, calling her a dog, the woman comes back by saying that even the dogs get to eat the scraps that fall from the table. A very human Jesus models what it might mean to be transformed by a foreigner, and stay open to love.
On Saturday we passed two resolutions, both unanimously. The first was “A Call to Greater Inter-Racial and Cross-Cultural Engagement” that calls on CDC congregations to “take intentional steps to connect with and develop relationships with a church of a predominantly different cultural and/or racial composition.” The other was called “A Resolution on Unity in a Time of Disagreement” and calls on the wider church to have relationships of accountability that are “relational rather than punitive.”
The highlight of the gathering, as always, is the laughter and lightness of spirit that is present with this group. As I told a CMC person earlier this week: The rest of the church is in upheaval, but when CDC gets together we just have a good time. No one is good but God alone. Having a good time must be a Divine gift.