Sunday Wrap Up 2/12/2017
Singing at church is increasingly meaningful to me. It's a compelling reason not to be late because the service is usually opened with singing and I hate to miss any of it. We've begun using Hymns of the Church, known informally as the Purple Martin songbook (the compiler is John Martin and the cover is purple), and last year I found myself often wishing I could read over the words again at home and ponder them.
So I did what I've done before--bought my own Christmas present to save Hiromi the trouble. I bought a songbook for myself. I have used that songbook regularly during my private devotions ever since. Since I own the book, I'm marking it up freely, according to the code I've developed as the need arose.
One of the first things I did was to check the Scripture Index to see if any of the songs were linked to the Sunday School lesson for the week. If so, I read those songs and, if they were familiar, I sang them inside my head. Those songs were marked like this: H-1-1-17-SS. That means I "sang" it at home on January 1, 2017, and it corresponded to the Sunday School lesson. Inside-the-head singing is a kindness to Hiromi who is usually still asleep while I'm doing this.
If a song is marked with a C instead of an H, it means it's a song we sang in church. If the date is followed by an asterisk, it means that it was a "new-song-of-the-month" at church. Sometimes I add other notes. For example, recently Menno's daughter-in-law selected a song in honor of Menno, who died within the past year or two, so I added the note "Sung in honor of Menno Nisly" after the date.
I usually read and reflect on the scripture verse listed with each song. Often I follow up by reading the longer passage where it occurs.
I have to write down the song numbers during church if I'm to remember what they were. That's a slight inconvenience. I just had an idea!!!! What if those numbers could be added to the announcement sheet? Maybe others would find it easier to worship through those same songs at home if this little detail was taken care of for them.
Last week our church hosted the Shepherd's Institute. It was a week-long training session for pastors primarily. The main presenters were Linford Berry, Chester Weaver, and Milo Zehr. Only the evening sessions were open to the public. Every evening featured a session on worship by Linford Berry and another on the story of the Dutch Mennonites by Chester Weaver. These sessions were very worthwhile. They can be accessed at centeramishmennonite.org.
I can't give a very satisfactory summary of the content, but I recognized in one part of what Linford Berry spoke of--that what happens in our church and what happens at home for me is that we are speaking to ourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. This is an important part of worship.
Chester Weaver's story revealed details of one of the two great blots on Anabaptist/Mennonite history--the Mennonites of Germany who became good Nazis when Hitler came to power (the other one is Muenster). Weaver very studiously avoided making comparisons to anything happening in America now, but I find the parallels stark enough to be terrifying. Those German Mennonites of Dutch ancestry had completely lost identity with the signature Anabaptist gift to the world: the separation of church and state. The life in Christ at the center of living faith had also been lost, and nationalism took its place.
Fifty years after the fact, even those Mennonite Nazis realized their terrible mistake and apologized. Seeking forgiveness is a good thing, but it would have been better to seek "permission" from God fifty years earlier. Thinking about that even a tiny bit might have revealed how completely at odds Hitler's agenda was with the Spirit of Christ, and might have led Dutch/German Mennonites to step off the political/government train that carried many others to death. The Mennonites were not only complicit in it; some of them helped kill "undesirables" directly by volunteering for the SS--the elite forces involved in the killing machine.
I'm thinking a lot about social studies right now. Our curriculum committee is formulating a philosophy statement as the first step in making good curriculum choices for our school. We've gotten only so far as an incomplete rough draft. Even that has called for a lot of background reading and pondering historical documents.
From many angles, I've had a chance to think about what it means to be faithful to Christ while living in a world where government, geography, economics, history, anthropology, sociology, and psychology are facets of the reality we must deal with.
Many influences enter into my thinking about how to parse and synthesize the truths that must be taken into account in developing a coherent, cohesive belief and statement--the example of my dad's pilgrim and stranger identity, his firm belief that being a witness is incumbent on Christians, papers written by students, Francis Schaeffer's influence on how Christians think about these things, the Schleitheim Confession, the insights of a Christian Facebook friend who lives abroad, thoughtful columnists who write about our times, the book Pilgrims and Politics, John Howard Yoder's writings, Anabaptist history, interactions with people who are politically involved, and memories of things learned in college classes. Doing it all under the Lordship of Christ is my goal.
Conversation with Chester Weaver revealed that he is a first cousin to a young man whose life intersected with mine for a time a number of decades ago. His comment that "he never recovered" sent me scurrying later to search for evidence that I was not really as guilty as that statement might have suggested that I am--although I don't think he meant to assign blame. He did, in fact, acknowledge that major cultural differences were present, Hiromi and I laughed later about the incongruity of my having cited cultural differences in that situation and then "ending up married to a former Buddhist from Japan."
Hiromi and I had all five grandsons here for the evening last night. We loved it. Ryker, who is about 2 1/2 months old slept nearly all evening. The rest ate heartily and played happily. They're really fun little people--every one of them. Several days ago Ryker underwent a procedure where multiple "ties" inside his mouth were "untied." He had lip, cheek, and tongue ties--multiples of each--which were severed by laser. I find it painful to think about. I never heard of such things until recently, and now I seem to be hearing about them a lot. If the condition is more common than earlier, I wonder why.
In our mailbox at church today were valentines from the far-away granddaughters, along with a letter from their mother. The mail was hand carried by Nelson and Hannah, who returned from BD recently. That extended the grandchild fix from last night into today.
I learned today that my brother Ronald is to be the speaker for the weekend pre-ordination meetings that will take place later this spring, ahead of a scheduled deacon ordination.
I can't believe it. My sister from the KC area was here for almost a week and I never saw her. Long days at school and evenings at the Shepherd's Institute took up all my time. Carol came with her daughter's family when her son-in-law came to install some epoxy floor covering for a job my brother Lowell was also helping with.
Many times during the Shepherd's Institute I thought of how much my dad would have enjoyed it. I've missed him many other times, often when I was sure he could have supplied some missing information or perspective, or when I wasn't sure what to make of something I was hearing. He was good at bringing balance to discussions, and his knowledge of history was often instructive. What he's experiencing now is surely better, but it's not yet better for me.