Back in July, I wrote a post titled, "Temporarily Anabaptist." I had begun serving as the short-term interim pastor at Boulder Mennonite Church in Colorado.
And right at the very beginning, I received a gift in the form of an epiphany about reconciliation as what motivates my own faith in Jesus and the desire to share it with others.
As my brief sojourn with the Mennonites came to a close on Oct. 15 and I prepare to move to St. Paul, MN to begin a new pastorate, I want to reflect on the gifts I'll take with me.
The first gift is JESUS. I now have a renewed appreciation for Jesus as a nonviolent reconciler, whose example and teachings have radicalized my faith as a lived reality in the age of Trump. Yes, you might reply, "All you have to do is preach from the Bible faithfully, and you'll be radical these days."
But I've gotten a renewed appreciation for the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7), which Mennonites and Anabaptists claim in the same way as others claim John 3:16. The Sermon in the Mount is the source of the lived ethic that so distinguishes Anabaptists--almost more so than so-called believer baptism.
I talk more about Jesus than I ever have before, and have been looking deeply at the model of his life for how we are to live ours.
Second is MARTYRDOM and Persecution. I learned of the massacre of Russian Mennonites because Newton, Kansas' Mennonite lineage is largely Russian immigrants, and the massacre drove their immigration to Newton and to the plains of Canada.
Anabaptist history is filled with persecutions in Europe and the landscape is littered with martyrs killed for their faith. This is part of Mennonites' "cloud of witnesses," inspiring people who lived their faith courageously and died for it. And there are modern-day pacifists who put their lives on the line in places like Central America and the Middle East with organizations like Christian Peacemaker Teams.
This legacy makes me want to reacquaint myself with Congregationalist, Reformed, and United Church of Christ martyrs, witnesses, and people of courage.
Third is SERVICE. Voluntary Service (MVS) is woven in the fabric of many Mennonites' lives in the Boulder church and others I've encountered in the Mountain States. So is service abroad and a world consciousness. Children of members are currently serving in places like Botswana, and one BMC member I met this summer continues her studies of the Coptic Christian community in Syria amid the strife there. Partly it's Boulder and the university community, but BMC has a world consciousness reflected in their prayers each week, the testimonies people share, and the service they do.
Finally and again, RECONCILIATION. Reconciliation with God, with one another, and among nations all begins and ends with truthtelling. And as Jesus says in John's gospel, "The truth shall set you free." There can be no reconciliation without the truth, whether it's in admitting how I have wronged someone and asking their forgiveness so we can have a relationship, or telling the truth of genocide or systemic racism on a cultural level.
As I head to Falcon Heights, MN, where Philando Castile was shot last summer in one of the many officer-involved shootings of a black man in the US, reconciliation is going to be central to our ministry there.
I have been transformed by my Anabaptist experience, and shaped by these gifts that endure and inspire me.