Monthly Archives: September 2015

Revelation in October

Last summer we selected twelve scriptures that guide our understanding of the Bible and the life of faith.  The scriptures were the basis of our summer worship series and continue to be colorfully displayed in the church foyer and on our website.  But since the Bible isn’t all love and peace, we also named “difficult passages” which seem to either confuse or contradict our dearest values.  Last October we had four weeks to focus on two of those themes: the subjugation of women, and violence.

One of the difficult passages frequently mentioned that we didn’t address was Revelation.  Yes, the entire book of Revelation.  But do not fear…this October will be a continuation of the difficult passages series, with the whole month dedicated to Revelation.  Like the previous series, each service will include a brief reflection/response after the sermon from a congregational member.

This Sunday we’ll worship up at Camp Luz, so the next time we’re in our own building the apocalypse will be upon us.  Should give you plenty of time to do a homework assignment: read the book!  For parents, depending on the temperament of your child, Revelation may or may not make for good bedtime reading.

Below is a summary of the weekly themes, along with who will be giving the responses.


Week 1, October 4 | Seeing and hearing

Introducing Revelation as an apocalypse, a revealing, a certain way of seeing and hearing.  Noting the many times John mentions “I heard,” “I looked,” “I  saw.”  He sees things one usually does not see when simply looking at the appearance of things.  Noting how often John references Hebrew Scriptures, as if looking through the eyes of Daniel, the Psalmist, Isaiah, and ultimately, Christ.  Who/what we let in our consciousness affects how we see….  This is also World Communion Sunday, which we’ll observe.

Respondent: Becca L will speak about Revelation through the eyes and ears of an artist.


Week 2, October 11 | The Lamb and the Beast

We’ll draw on these two motifs of Revelation, the Lamb and the Beast, to highlight the political/economic theology of Revelation and the place of nonviolence.  We’ll also wrestle with some with the violent imagery.  Believe it or not, contemporary Anabaptists have found in Revelation a strong message of nonviolent redemption, challenging us to give our ultimate allegiance to the Lamb and not the Beast.

Respondent: John M will speak about his experience serving in state government and how his faith informs this.

Week 3 October 18 | The tree of life

The tree of life appears at the beginning of Genesis (and thus the beginning of the Bible) and the end of Revelation (and thus the end of the Bible).  The tree of life will also look large visually over our worship space in October.  If this tree is the biblical bookends, surrounding the contents with a big literary hug, what does that say about the big picture message and trajectory?  Revelation says: “and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”  Revelation ends somewhat unresolved, with the offer for healing, and there still being those “outside the gates” who haven’t yet come in.  We’ll wrestle with notions of heaven and hell.  We’ll also have a healing service, offering anointing with oil.  Especially welcome are those seeking healing from fear-based religion.

Respondent: Dave D will speak about what his studies of the insect world have taught him about the tree of life and healing.

Week 4, October 25 | Apocalyptic

John K will be a guest preacher.  He is a New Testament professor at MTSO and has studied extensively with the Dead Sea Scrolls and Jewish apocalyptic literature around the time of Revelation.  He’ll use Revelation 21 as a launching point for unpacking what the language of apocalypse might have to say to us today.

Respondent: Ryan S will speak about how his own academic studies of the Bible have influenced his living faith.

This is going to be fun!

A teaching congregation

Last week I attended a pastor peer meeting in the Bluffton area.  It was the first time Renee Kanagy, the new pastor of Cincinnati Mennonite Fellowship, where I pastored before Columbus, was a part of this group.  Over the course of conversation Renee mentioned that she lived in Columbus from age three to six, attending Neil Avenue Mennonite Church (the former name of Columbus Mennonite Church).  I’m also aware of two other pastor friends who attended this congregation at some point in their young lives – Karl Shelly, one of the pastors of Assembly Mennonite in Goshen, Indiana; and Marty Troyer, pastor of Houston Mennonite Church.  In other words, this congregation has helped form pastors currently leading congregations in Cincinnati, Houston, and Goshen.  I’m sure there are others.

This academic year I’m glad we can welcome another potential future pastor.  Chris Pedersen is a second year student at MTSO (Methodist Theological School in Ohio) and will be interning about ten hours a week with us from now until May.

Chris P

Like a number of you, he encountered Anabaptist faith at Bluffton University and found a spiritual home.  Among other things, Chris will be co-teaching our middlers Sunday school class, and serving as one of the worship leaders during Advent.  He’ll be preaching in the spring and will occasionally write a blog or Lamplighter article.  He could also be accompanying me or Mark on hospital visits.  I’ll introduce Chris this Sunday and give him a chance to introduce himself.

Congregations that have regular interns are often referred to as teaching congregations.  Whether or not this is an annual thing for us, it’s a valuable identity for us to take on.  We are a learning community, a community of inquiry, and we are formed by the worship, study, fellowship, and service that we do together.  It has been observed that congregations are one of the few truly intergenerational organizations in our age-segregated society.  The young energize, challenge, teach, and give joy to the old.  The old shepherd, delight in, teach, and mentor the young.  And those in the middle get the best of both worlds.   We can be intentional about calling out gifts in one another and providing space for people to experiment and grow in leadership.

Listening for a theme

Last Thursday we had an abbreviated September Church Council business meeting in order to use our time doing something else.  Our goal was to listen to what the Spirit has been doing among us and discern if there may be an area to which our congregation might be called to give extra attention in the coming year.  Present were the leaders of Commissions – Worship, Mission, Community Life, Christian Education, Facilities, + Shepherding Team, as well as church staff.

PX 9,3,15 Whiteboard Ideas

The white board pictured above is an artifact of our collective minds, which you may or may not find legible or intelligible.

We began by naming the tasks that each Commission does along with some things that each one has prioritized in the past year.  After this we spoke to these two questions:

What do you see as something significant that has happened in our congregation in the past year?

What do you see as something significant that has happened in our neighborhood/city/country/world in the past year that affects (or should affect) CMC?

This naming of our context and listening to one another’s perspectives was an important step before considering a final question:

In light of the above, is there a project or theme or focus area toward which the Spirit may be calling us to collaborate in the future?

What emerged was a consensus that the Black Lives Matter movement and the racial realities of our country demand our attention.  (This was before Sunday’s sermon which mentioned Black Lives Matter).  There was a strong sense in the room that we, a predominantly anglo/white congregation, have much to learn about and from the struggles and spiritual resources of persons of color.  We have much to learn about our own unconscious privileges and attitudes.  We acknowledged that there is a wealth of possibilities for how this might serve as a theme for 2016 which informs how we do church together – and that some of it could be ‘necessarily uncomfortable,’ as one person put it.

In the short time we had left each Commission leader brainstormed one possible way they could incorporate this into their work.  Christian Education mentioned having classes exploring race.  Worship mentioned having various services exploring the theme and some guest speakers.  A number of ideas involved a partnership with an African American congregation in Columbus.  Community Life mentioned partnering for a social event (Anyone up for a coffeehouse with folk, four part harmony, gospel, and hip hop?).    Mission mentioned a joint service project.  Shepherding Team mentioned existing small groups being a place for conversation within and between congregations.

We intend to keep this conversation alive and find concrete ways this can take shape throughout 2016.