HMC E-Newsletter August 9, 2012
Connecting More Fully at HMC:
►Peace Camp Benefit Concert TONIGHT: We are planning a musical extravaganza this Thursday, August 9 at the Mennonite Church from 7-9 PM. The eclectic group, Free Radicals, will be playing in our worship center. Their style is genre-defying, but that evening they will focus on World Music such as ska, reggae, salsa, and jazz. The Free Radicals have performed many concerts, marches and fund-raisers for anti-authoritarian groups like food not bombs, peace festivals and charities. They have participated in demonstrations for immigrants’ rights and for a Houstton janitor’s union. A dinner of various ethnic food will be a part of the program. This is fun music for all ages, so come out and support the Peace Camp and the Houston Area Women’s Center!
** Several folks have stated clearly lately that we need to be more open and welcoming to the wider community. Events like this one and the nearly 6-12 other events we host here every year just like it suggest we are! How can we help to get you connected to these stunningly rich, ease-ful outreach and connection opportunities?
► HMC is happy to present a PARENT’S NIGHT OUT for the parents in our church. The Parent’s Night Out will be offered August 25th. Kids can be dropped off at the church annex any time starting at four and will need to be picked up by ten. If you are interested in taking part in the Parent’s Night Out, please let Kristi Long know. There may be some other goodies involved in addition to offering you a free a night =)
►”Like” The Texas Mennonite Relief Sale on your Facebook page and you’ll get all their updates! Then click “share” so that all your followers know about it too!
►Mennonite Central Committee Penny Power: Please start bringing your pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters to church for Penny Power. Proceeds this year go to relief and development work in Mexico through Mennonite Central Committee.
►Memorize the Books of the Bible: We encourage you to memorize the 66 books in the Bible. Grab your bookmark at the back!
►Congregational Meetings: Sunday September 2 and 23 to dialogue regarding Campus Development.
Forming Christ in Us: Resources for Christian Discipleship
- Vulnerability, http://wonderfully-flawed.blogspot.com/2012/08/vulnerability.html by FaithWalking friend and co-director Trish Taylor.
- On being a good neighbor, This hilarious video is a great use of 3 minutes of your time. You’ll chuckle, you’ll see yourself in your own relationship with your neighbor, and you’ll think twice about what it means to be authentically Christian in your neighborhood. http://ht.ly/cMtBA
Learning about Faith in the Public Sphere
By Pastor Marty Troyer
I’m so excited to share this dialogue with you! Author Tim Suttle – whose newest book Public Jesus just hit the shelves – was excited to join as we deepen our quest to understand Election Year 2012 better as faithful followers of Jesus. Here’s my review of his book, which I’m recommending you read. In Public Jesus, Tim marvelously reframes a faithful answer to whether or not Christians can base our ethics on Jesus. His answer: that we must live “cruciform” lives – lives shaped by the suffering love of Christ – pushes us to wrestle more deeply with the question of faith and politics. My questions for Tim are in black, his responses are in red.
Questions for dialogue
I’m very interested to know how a cruciform ethic plays itself out when electing the leader of the most militaristically powerful empire the world has ever seen. How does Public Jesus help me deconstruct core issues like militarism, imperialism, rampant capitalism, racism and anti-immigrant policies, health care, poverty-reduction, mass incarceration, etc… and help me choose a new Caesar? Who should the Christian vote for? Or do we vote at all?
My approach to voting is pretty basic. I vote for the candidate who beats their chest the least, seems humble and contrite, doesn’t smear the other guy, cares about the poor, the lost, the losers, the down and out and refuses to lie and deceive in order to gain power. Then I expect absolutely nothing to change once they are in office. Typically my expectations are just about right on. The reason I believe this is that the Christian conviction is that America is not the hope of the world. The kingdom does not come through state power, but through the power of Christ and little communities of faith who are committed to living as though Jesus is really the world’s true Lord. I don’t think voting is quite as cut and dried as we are choosing a new Caesar, (separation of powers curtails the power of the executive branch, so the Caesar analogy doesn’t quite hold). Plus, America is a true representative republic. I guess I’d say the key is that I vote to participate in a process, but I don’t put my hope in politicians or parties. I put my hope in Jesus.
You clearly differentiate the kingdom of this world from the kingdom of God; but we still need to address the ancient criticism of such an Anabaptist approach that this amounts to sectarianism. You state “While Jesus’s kingdom is not from this world, it most certainly extends to this world and is most certainly for this world” but it remains for us to discern what degree of engagement we can afford. I would have found his Vocation chapter even more helpful had he moved beyond his formalistic approach and asked if in today’s culture there are jobs Christians should, and perhaps should not, engage.
I think this actually comes in as a discussion question. The reason it’s there in the discussion part is that this is something that needs to be decided group by group, location by location.
I’m also unclear on what we have to say to the state, and on how we might say it. Are we able to say both yes and no to the state, or only no? I would assume that following Public Jesus demands aptitude in practices of protest such as nonviolent civil disobedience, but also practices of affirmation such as voting and advocacy.
I think for the most part, what we have to say to the state we say on behalf of the poor, hungry, homeless, incarcerated, and especially the alien – to be blunt – the Mexican immigrant. The best witness to the state is a community which has been transformed by Jesus. We bear witness to his lordship as we build little communities of justice and peace who care for those who are marginalized in our culture. There is no way to escape this as part of Jesus’s mandate to his followers in the Sermon on the Mount.
Indeed, if Christians are called to live all of life in “cruciform” ways, is that also true for the type of government we attempt to craft?
I think just about any form of government can come under the lordship of Jesus. Not facism of course, but just about anything else will work if its telosis the kingdom of God. I once wrote an article for the Huffington Post in which I asked great theologians what the chief political concern of the bible is. Nearly unanimously they said something about justice and the idea that everyone should have what they need to live at peace. There are many ways to accomplish this and many forms of government can work. What matters is not so much the form of government, but that the government comes under the Lordship of Jesus – which is a difficult question. How does that work? I don’t really know. But I think a good place to start would be to make sure everyone in the country has enough to eat, a place to live, work to do, a family who loves them, and can live in peace without violence. Once we get those things straight, we can talk about the rest.
Can we call our government to more Christlike versions of Freedom, Justice and Peace?
I say yes, but again, much of what we will be doing is simply to make corruption, injustice, and so on, obvious by allowing it to be displayed upon our own bodies. As we stand in solidarity with those who are ground to dust by injustice, we will suffer as well. Our suffering is made holy because we do it in the name of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our suffering with those who suffer constitutes an important part of our Christian witness to the state. My caveat would be that we have to temper our expectations. We don’t do this so that the government will change. We do these things because this is what Jesus is like and this is who God is.
Is there any role for the government in such areas, or is everything from the state antithetical to the way of Jesus? What are we to do when Caesar’s kingdom and virtues are in direct challenge of God’s kingdom and its virtues?
I don’t have a complete answer to this question. On the first part of the question I would say that I think the government’s main role is to make sure that evil is constrained & that those who are committed to violence do not have the power to completely destroy the meek or the weak. Government’s role is not – strictly speaking – to make everything just. That is the purview of the church. We are to “proleptically actualize” the coming reign and rule of Jesus Christ in our common life together. We live like eternity – when sin, death, and decay are no more – has broken into time and is making all things new again. If the kingdom of God is breaking into the world, it is happening through Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and through the life of the church. Unless we are faithful to the way of Jesus in the way that we are living together as the people of God, then there is no hope of a faithful witness to the state. Unless we are committed, frankly, to living Matthew 5, 6, and 7 then we are nowhere – governments notwithstanding.
On the second question I would say that there is no replicating model for this. Faithfulness in bearing witness to the state is always contextual, local, and occasional. I cannot tell you how to do it in Houston, I can only tell you how we do it in my community in the hopes that you will be encouraged by the stories I tell. Faithfulness always grows out of a specific context which is usually non-transferable.
Finally, down here in Houston it’s easy to forget that we don’t live in a “Christian Nation” and never did. So I find of immense value the “major surgery” you invite us to. What value do you find in conversations about Post-Christendom and living from the margins? Do you think our Christian mission is to “reach” (or re-reach) our cities for Christ, or learn to live as the prophetic minority?
We have to be friends with the poor. We need to know their names and share what we have with them. We need to get to know the alien who is here w/out papers – know their names, where they live, their children and their story. We need to help them to have what they need so they can survive the heat, feed their families, and live without constant fear. I tend toward living prophetically, but I have no desire to remain a minority. I mean, I want to convince everyone. I’m fine with a Christian running the country. It’s just that I have to do this without coercion or violence (which is currently impossible; see political campaigns and national war). This means that if we are going to elect Jesus for president (figuratively), it will typically happen slowly, imperceptibly. It also means that I must simply pursue faithfulness no matter what the outcome of an election is. I think the job of the prophet is to speak loudly and clearly about the way things are and the fact that God is not okay with some of it. But the next words out of the prophet’s mouth have to be words of hope and resurrection.
Friends, what are your thoughts on our dialogue? How would you answer the questions above?
GOD’S STORY (YOU ARE HERE) August 5, 2012
Welcome words and theme intro
Call to Worship (From Psalm 119)
Opening Prayer SJ 137
Songs of Praise and Celebration
*Offering and Offertory
Response Song HWB 594 Lord, you sometimes speak
*Sharing & Prayer: What are your Experience with Scripture??
Commissioning: SJ #127
Song of Sending God of the Bible SJ #27
Worship Leader: Linda Washburn ; Speaker: Pastor Conrado Hinojosa; Children’s Message: Judy Hoffhien ; Children’s Church: ?; Song Leader: Mike Schmidt; Pianist: Margaret Gehman; Scripture Reader: Lynda Voran.
Christian Formation Options at HMC:
Join us each Sunday morning at 9:30AM!
►Adults: Immigration: See above.
►Junior High/High School Youth: Faith Exploration with Pastor Marty. In the annex.
** Children’s Church: During worship in our children’s ministry room for kids aged 1-5. They learn a Bible story, sing, and play together.
Pastoral Care: Do you want a person to talk with about something in your life? Got a question or insight into faith or scripture you want to kick around? Have you been sitting on a great idea for the church? Need prayer? Want to get to know your pastor better? As your pastor, I’m available to meet with you at the office or at a time and spot that works better for you. Just let me know when and where! Monday’s through Thursdays, and weekends by appointment. Marty Troyer, church office (713)464-4865, email@example.com, also available on Facebook.