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On Sharing a Stall with a Jackass

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  National Arboretum, Ottawa JACKASS: a donkey, especially male, or a a stupid, annoying, or detestable person. – Merriam Webster In my novel, Isaac Janssen, MDiv , you’ll find a chapter on the relationship between the follower of Christ and the “other,” particularly when conflicts arise. In this case, the conflict is over one of those mundane and ubiquitous landlord/renter disagreements. Ike is of the mind that as disciples, all Christians should exercise Paul’s “fruits of the spirit,” all should embrace the demanding generosity of the Sermon on the Mount, even with those who offend or harm, and that for a pastor, it must be doubly so. But man! It can be hard! Those of us who’ve long since been persuaded that Christ’s gospel is both broader and far more generous than childhood Sunday School led us to believe, should probably have shed any conviction that for every question, the right answer is written down; we just need to find it, read and believe it.                 If my

Stand Up! Pick up your Mat!

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  The old church at Fish Creek When a Winnipeg friend heard I was in hospital in Saskatoon, he messaged me to say he hoped I’d be out of “that cesspool of contamination” very soon. I admit, it was the stubborn pneumonia and imagined consequences that pretty much wiped the fear of COVID 19 off my radar screen as they loaded me into an ambulance in Rosthern, as I waited in a cold compartment for assessment in the Emergency section of St. Paul’s Hospital, as I was wheeled back and forth between CT scans, X-ray machines and finally transferred to the sixth floor. Clearly a case of forgetting about the wasp on the dresser as long as there’s a scorpion hanging around under your bed.                 Health care during a pandemic can reveal a lot about ourselves. How we react to the care that can be given by workers who are themselves traumatized by their vulnerability is a case in point. So I’m thirsty; I push my call button and wait five, then ten minutes for the duty nurse to respond. S

The Speech I Wish Joe Biden would Make

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  Every American has both a right and an obligation to ask, “If you are elected president, what will the White House be like, and how will it serve the values that have always lain beneath American greatness?” Every American has a right to weigh the White House of the last four years against the White Houses of former presidents: Barack Obama, George W. and George H. W. Bush, of Teddy Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter or George Washington. Every American has the right and the obligation to weigh the values of the administration against their personal values, the values they share with their neighbors and those of the founding fathers and mothers as echoed in our glorious constitution. There is massive weight in your vote; I’m sure you all agree. One of the peculiarities of political campaigning in today’s America is that we’ve allowed our campaign rhetoric to become divisive, angry and combative. In this atmosphere, the guidance we need for casting our ballot can get lost. You

Individual and Church – What about Creeds and Confessions?

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  Individual and Church – What about Creeds and Confessions?©  George G. Epp  Early Anabaptism in Switzerland wasn’t even slightly similar to a tent-meeting spiritual revival nor to a protest movement like Black Lives Matter. It was much more like the proverbial snowball rolling down a hill, gathering a bit here, a bit there until an identifiable mass was observable. The people we associate with this early, tentative movement—Conrad Grebel, Felix Manz, George Blaurock—survived only the initial few years of a fledgling development, leaving small pockets of adherents drawn mainly by the argument for adult baptism, for discipleship and—probably—by disaffection with municipal and church authoritarianism.   But there came a time when those drawn into the movement would be shown to disagree on one or more of the myriad questions that face a purpose-bound, developing community, Christians’ obligations to the state, for example. The over-arching sensibility was bound to become, “Which d

How do I Think I Think? Practical Reconciliation 7

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  2014 Grad Class How do I Think I Think? Practical Reconciliation 7   So far, I’ve talked about the basis of bias and its offspring--prejudice, discrimination and racism---  against the background of my Mennonite culture and faith. This would seem appropriate except for one factor: the binary worldview has very much been a part of denominational Christianity historically. Early Anabaptists stepped out of the established, national religious culture into what was seen by them to be a life lived faithfully under the direction of Jesus and the gospels, a stand that challenged the authority of the established church. Stepping over that line could mean exile, even death and all that was required by way of evidence would be news of one's participation in a re-baptism.   You were either an Anabaptist or you were an obedient adherent of the established church; in practice, there was nothing between. It was a decidedly dualistic, binary worldview. But looking back, we can see how thos

How do I Think I Think? Practical Reconciliation 6

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      How do I Think I Think? Practical Reconciliation 6   Lamborghini NI. A great vehicle for delivering potatoes to the food bank! I said this week’s post would be touchy , so I considered not touching it. Earlier I mentioned the issue of lifestyle and indicated that Rosthern’s town Logo is, “Where lifestyle counts.”  I think we generally assume that “She’s got style” means "she" may have something we run-of-the-mill people may not have, and so “lifestyle” easily becomes a word suggesting a class structure: those with it, and those without it. Dualistic, binary thinking.   Obviously, even the man who seldom showers, seldom changes his clothes, drinks too much and expresses himself in words of single syllables and invective also has a style of sorts. Our biases regarding class, although not as stark as India’s caste system, are very much attached to style, and style is very much contingent on opportunity and income, on education and rearing—and to our shame--ethnicit

How do I Think I Think? Practical Reconciliation 5

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How do I Think I Think? Practical Reconciliation 5   A review: 1.       Our worldview influences how we approach events, people, ideas: binary , unitary or spectrum , for example. 2.       The church’s role in reconciliation begins with reconciling to ourselves as individuals and as a congregation. 3.       A peaceable kingdom vision includes many skills and talents plus the courage to offer our careers and occupations as a gift to the coming of the kingdom. 4.       Because of the significance of our conversation with others, continuing education in becoming fluent readers, writers and conversationalists is essential. 5.       Recognizing that we carry unconscious biases and that discrimination can be the result, is important.  You may well have sensed that, so far, I’ve talked almost exclusively about self-awareness and self-improvement. Obviously, there's an inward-looking and and an outward-looking aspect to Kingdom-building participation.  I like the story of