Loreena Thiessen: Giving Thanks for History

Do you know that history can make you more thankful?

In 1620, almost 400 years ago, a group of 120 Pilgrims sailed from England across the ocean. They came looking for a new place to settle, a safe place where they could worship God and live in peace. They landed in America. They came for the same reasons people still come today.

Only 45 years earlier Martin Frobisher, another Englishman, also set out across the ocean. He was looking for a new passage to India for trade. Instead he found Labrador, the most eastern coast of Canada. It was a rough voyage and very cold. When he was finally able to land he made a feast to thank God for safety and for the abundance of food to share.

After the Pilgrims settled they needed a new leader. The people chose their new leader by voting, each person making a choice. The one with the most votes became the new leader. The people also solved other problems by voting. This is called a democracy.

And they wrote a set of rules called the constitution. The constitution is a set of rules the government must follow. These laws guide the government’s decisions and protect its people.

Today you benefit from both of these events. Since then many thousands of immigrants have come to Canada and the United States from many different countries. They are teachers and doctors, and your friends and neighbours. Some of them may be your family.

Canada, too, has a constitution. Canada’s constitution gives you the right to speak your language, get an education, visit the doctor, and choose your friends. You can also choose your Prime Minister by voting once you are an adult.

A hundred years ago if you got sick you had to pay to see a doctor. A stay in the hospital would cost even more. Not everyone could pay. People used many home remedies. For example, dry mustard was mixed to form a paste and would be placed on your chest if you had a cough. Epsom salts were put on cuts to clean them. Onion halves and garlic were placed on window sills to absorb viruses and bacteria.

Many people did not get well. A man called Tommy Douglas wanted to change that. He believed that every Canadian deserved the right to have good health care if he had money or not. He saw sick people suffer because they could not see a doctor. He wanted to help them.

To help them he joined the government. He made speeches to tell everyone his plan. In 1966 his plan came true. Today you and each Canadian can see a doctor if you are sick.

When early settlers first arrived in Canada there were no roads. People travelled by boat or over trails on horseback. Canada’s first cars were imported in 1898 from the United States. In 1904 the Ford Motor Company was the first factory to build Canadian cars. The factory was in Toronto.

Mr. Henry Ford tested his cars by first trying them out on the rooftop of his factory. He wanted them to be safe for every Canadian family. But roads were bad, full of deep holes, and, cars often had to drive through creeks to get to the other side. A long trip across Canada could take many months.

In 1949 the government first approved the TransCanada Highway. Construction began in 1950 and, although it was officially open by 1962, it was only completed in 1971. Did you know the TransCanada Highway is the longest highway in the world? It is 7,714 kilometers long from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific.

loreena-thiessen
Loreena Thiessen

Today this highway lets you travel from the east coast, across the prairies, and through the Rocky Mountains in about a week. Stopping along the way to enjoy all the beautiful places would take much longer.

Think about all the things you enjoy. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift comes from God.” What are you thankful for?

Activity: Make a leaf garland.

Need: coloured craft paper, hole-punch, scissors, pencil or felt pen, string, straight twig.

Do: Draw, or trace, leaf shapes (you can use real leaves to trace around) on different colours of paper. Cut them out. Write one thing you are thankful for on each leaf. Punch a hole at the end of each leaf. Pull a short piece of string through each hole and hang the leaves on the twig. Display the twig on a shelf or in a window.

 

 

 

Kevin Wiebe: The Reformation and Unity

by Kevin Wiebe

While we can celebrate half a millennium of existence as Anabaptists, it is sobering to think that we are also commemorating what we would now call a church split. We Anabaptists typically look fondly on the courage of the Reformers, but how should our understanding of Christian unity influence our perspective of the Reformation?

I was talking recently with another EMC pastor about the nature of unity. At first we talked about the damage that is done in churches when people sew seeds of discord and disunity. One comment made was that, “Disunity is always evil!” After those words were spoken, we began to question: Is disunity always evil?

As we continued to discuss this, the first example that came to mind was Babel, where God, in fact, caused a fracture in the unity of the people, spoiling their plans. It seemed to us that God’s ways involve uniting good and fracturing the power of evil. On the other hand, the path of darkness unifies evil and fractures the good.

We often talk about unity as an end unto itself, yet it seems that unity is only good insofar as the object of that unity is good. To be united in rebellion against God surely is not good, as happened at Babel. To be united in corruption, greed, and a hunger for power surely isn’t good, as was happening in the Church leading up to the Reformation.

So what is it that should unite us as Christians? All those around the world who are disciples of Jesus, regardless of denominational affiliation, live in this strange reality: while we may do our best to distance ourselves from certain types of other believers, we are still somehow united with them as part of the Body of Christ. Thus the most profound thing that unites us is not a “thing” at all, but rather a “who.” It is Jesus that unites us, the head over his body.

So what do we make of the Reformation? There are several observations I think are important. First, there were problems in the Church leading up to the Reformation that Christians did and should stand against. Corruption, greed, and false teaching are not things for Christians to be united in. Second, the Reformers did sincerely try to reform the existing Church, as they were also aware of the importance of unity.

Third, while the Reformation did do a great deal of good, it also led to countless other church splits, many of them not worth the disunity and scandal that they caused. And fourth, while there is most definitely a kind of unity that was broken by the Reformation, that brokenness does not negate the mysterious way that we are still bound together with other believers through Jesus.

kevin_wiebe
Kevin Wiebe

As we reflect on the Reformation, whether we commemorate it as the death of an era for the Church or celebrate it as the birth of new streams of faith, it is helpful for all believers to remember that we are ultimately united not through a statement or philosophy, but through the very person of Jesus. We are part of the same body. May we learn to better act like it!

Kevin Wiebe is the pastor of the New Life Christian Fellowship (Stevenson, Ont.), a member of the BCM, and assistant editor of Theodidaktos.

Jocelyn R. Plett: Waiting for God

By Jocelyn R. Plett

“Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the LORD, “To those who carry out plans that are not mine. …without consulting me.” …This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”

…Yet the LORD longs [waits] to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!” (Isaiah 30:1-2, 15, 18).

One of the biggest cultural differences between life in Madagascar and Manitoba is the degree to which I feel in control. Despite eleven years in Madagascar we still felt we were at the mercy of the unexpected, the actions of the unjust, and the whims of a culture we did not understand.

There’s nothing like being out of control to push me into pleading the Psalms aloud or coming to the realization that I must submit to the sovereign power of the Almighty God if I mean to survive in a foreign land!

For me, desperation has been a great catalyst for intimacy with God. I’ve learned multiple times that God is truly all I need, and He can surely save His children out of their trouble if I submit to His perfect plan and timing.

In Manitoba, however, there’s such a lovely sense that I can make my own success. Hard work appears to pay off huge dividends. There are fewer situations that show the truth of things: that I am not in control of how life plays out. With the most honourable intentions I can manage my time, money, and energy into “good” things and miss the great things God has in store because I forget to consult with Him on what He wants for me, thinking I already know.

His plans are rarely the same as my own. I don’t tend towards as wild and risky endeavours as He does, because I’m banking on my own strength to accomplish them. If I allow the LORD to set Himself up for glory it will be a “heart in my throat” sort of ride, unable to see where I’ll come out until it’s over and all I can do is say, “Wow! God, You are amazing!”

jrplett
Jocelyn R. Plett

It’s been a wild ride listening to what God would have of us this year. I would not have imagined coming off the “official” mission field was where God would lead, yet our calling to Manitoba has been as clear as the one to go abroad. It has been an exercise of submission, to be sure! A great deal of anxious wondering, I confess, and subsequent stern self-admonitions to wait patiently for the better plan God has in store.

“Learn to worship God as the God who does wonders, who wishes to prove to you that He can do something super-natural and divine”’ (Andrew Murray, The Believer’s Secret of Waiting on God).

LWF commemorates the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

By Lutheran World Federation

WINDHOEK, Namibia—Lutherans from around the world and ecumenical guests gathered on May 14 at the Sam Nujoma stadium, in Windhoek, Namibia, for the global commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Delegates and participants from the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Twelfth Assembly attended the commemoration with thousands of Lutherans from Namibia and neighbouring countries.

“What we need now is not the justification of the wrongs of the past, but that God in his grace blot out all our iniquity and create in our world pure hearts of love, justice, and peace,” said Namibian bishop emeritus Zephania Kameeta in his sermon. He offered a message of hope and liberation, giving substance to the Assembly theme Liberated by God’s Grace.

The commemoration event is a highpoint of the Twelfth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation, which took place in the Namibian capital Windhoek from May 10-16. The Church is called to be “reformed and reformers, renewed and renewing, liberated and liberating.”

 

Bill Rambo: A Look at John Knox and Menno Simons Today

The Protestant (Radical) Reformation Through 2017

 by Bill Rambo

I was baptised as an infant. Don’t be too shocked, please. I was rebaptized as an adult.

But my early life was informed by my parents’ commitment to the Presbyterian Church. It sent them as missionaries to the Congo, later called Zaire, for many of my formative years.

I have missionaries on both sides of my family, going back four generations on Dad’s side and five on Mom’s. My wife Sharon Hildebrand and I met serving in Christian missions in Africa, she with MCC and I with the southern Presbyterians.

This intertwines my history with the experiences of reformers John Knox and Menno Simons, and it raises questions for me and others today.

Priests and Reformers

Knox (c.1505-1572) was a founder of the Reformation in Scotland as it broke from the Roman Catholic tradition in 1560. Simons (1496-1561) was, of course, a key leader of the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition in which the EMC has a place. He began as a priest in Friesland in what is now the Netherlands.

Both priests found that political and cultural circumstances, as well as inner convictions, pushed them to consider the Scriptures more highly than the traditions and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Both were influenced by the Reformation activities of Martin Luther in Germany and John Calvin in Switzerland.

Simons was converted and broke with the more mainstream reformers, especially on the issues of believers’ baptism and participation in civil government. Knox came from Great Britain where Protestant forces, especially Henry VIII’s Church of England, contended with Roman Catholics in government; this showed the political influence of the French and the Spanish in England’s royal family.

A Guard and Galley Prisoner

John Knox was influenced by his association with Scottish reformers Patrick Hamilton and George Wishart, both of whom were martyred for their Protestant teaching in the first half of the 16th century. Knox was actually an armed bodyguard for Wishart, and was taken prisoner after the French put down an armed uprising. This attack was at the request of Mary of Guise, the Catholic mother of Mary Queen of Scots, and the Roman Catholic regent of Scotland.

Knox was forced to row galleys for the French for almost two years. Later exiled to England, Knox became a priest within the Church of England and was one of six chaplains for the young King Edward VI. In the early 1550s, Knox was offered various posts to keep him under the thumb of Edward’s in-fighting regents. In 1554 he left Great Britain for the continent.

Idolators and Rulers

For the next five years Knox developed his doctrines of Protestantism, focusing on “idolaters”—meaning Roman Catholics—and women as secular rulers. He published “The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women” largely against Mary of Guise in Scotland and English Queen Mary I, the daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon. Hundreds of reformers were executed under “Bloody Mary” during her reign from 1553-1558.

Knox consulted both John Calvin and Heinrich Bullinger in Switzerland about civil government. He served as a minister to English exiles in Frankfurt and Geneva, before returning to Scotland in 1559. (Menno Simons had read the works of Bullinger and Luther in developing his stance against infant baptism.)

From 1560 to his death, Knox was a renowned preacher in Scotland as the country continued to develop its commitment to Protestantism and against Catholicism. Knox was part of the impetus toward Scottish emphasis on preaching, reading and singing in “the Kirk” (the Church) based on the Word of God.

Heresies

Even before he returned to Scotland, Knox had written letters to the Scottish churches warning about idolatrous Catholicism and what he called heresies. He included Arminianism, which emphasizes that people are free to choose either to follow Jesus or to reject him.

To Knox, this said that people control their eternal destiny and are justified by works rather than faith. In turn, Simons and other Anabaptists saw the doctrine of predestination as leading to moral laxness for individuals and for the church.

Knox’s longest work, more than 170,000 words, was “An Answer to a Great Number of Blasphemous Cavilations Written by an Anabaptist, and Adultery to God’s Eternal Predestination.”

To be fair, Richard Kyle points out that Anabaptist was a “generic label for all kinds of nonconformity, virtually synonymous with fanaticism or heresy.” Knox may not have referred to the strain of Anabaptism that would eventually respect Menno Simons’ teachings, although he touches on several Anabaptist distinctives.

An Anabaptist?

For instance, Knox had a run-in with an “Anabaptist” while a chaplain for King Edward VI. The man presented Knox with a book that he claimed to be written by God and asked his opinion. After reading that the Devil, not God, had created the world and the wicked creatures in it, Knox said, “Ye deserve death as a blasphemous person and denier of God, if you prefer any word to that which the Holy Ghost has uttered in his plain Scriptures.”

The Anabaptist took the book and left. Knox regretted that he had not kept the book and reported the Anabaptist. This failure could have created serious problems for Knox. Yet even years later, Knox would not mention his name, which could have led to the Anabaptist’s death.

Obviously, this “Anabaptist” was not in the sola scriptura tradition of Simons, Luther, and others.

Baptism

However, most major reformers and Roman Catholics saw it as dangerous heresy to reject the sacrament of infant baptism. Anabaptists, according to Knox, saw baptism as non-sacramental, a testimony of faith, not itself a part of the process of salvation. Knox and most reformers agreed that baptism did not confer salvation, but Knox asserted that it was not necessary to be rebaptized.

Five Centuries Later

Where does all this controversy leave us five centuries later? Debate continues about predestination versus free will, though with perhaps more charity. Likewise, Christ’s Church has developed more loving attitudes, rather than executing those with whom we don’t agree. We may still have a way to go to conform to the Sermon on the Mount in the areas of anger and the desire to call each other various kinds of fools (Matt. 5:21-22).

As for baptism, it would be nice to think that the Church is more tolerant now than in the Reformation. However, in Zaire as a young adult I requested to be rebaptized and saw the anguish of a Presbyterian colleague from Scotland whose mission authorities forbade him to take part in the ceremony.

Knox and the major Reformers thought that Christians should take part in civil government. Simons and many other Anabaptists thought that separation from the world was required of followers of Christ.

Today, the nature of government in modern democracies seems to require that good people not be separate from the way government is done. “In the world, but not of the world” was easier to discern in the past when rulers came from distinct strata of society and Christian leaders too often confused secular power and religious authority.

Today, citizens of all classes may ascend to political power, and Christian integrity should be shown in the service of politics as well in as our call to be Christ’s witnesses and his hands and feet in the world.

A Command and a Warning

BRambo2016c
Bill Rambo

In spite of Reformation conflicts in the past, we should continue to progress into a more perfect expression of Christ’s commandment and warning: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

Bill Rambo (Saturday Night Church), BA, BS, is a high school teacher in Winnipeg. He grew up in The Democratic Republic of the Congo/Zaire and in the United States. After marrying Sharon, he has been rooted in Landmark, Man., for more than a quarter century. However, he still cheers for the Denver Broncos as well as the Bombers. He has served on the EMC Board of Church Ministries and currently serves on its Education Committee.

 

Good News: Being Practical, Moving Beyond Silence

by Wally Doerksen

STEINBACH, Man.—On July 16 the group met at Dan and Helen Reimer’s for a pool party. There was the usual conversation and food and then one of the divers drew blood as a result of a dive. All turned out well, except for a bit of a headache for the diver. Just a small reminder of how potential accidents are around us and how easily one takes health and so many other things in life for granted.

A few weeks earlier Curt Reimer and his son Simeon spent four days hiking the Mantario trail with his brother-in-law and two nephews. They were out there in God’s country enjoying the woods and the lakes and so on, but his comment after the hike was, “I’ll never do that again.” (Seemingly there were flying insects and foot blisters present as well.) Apparently his older son, who was not on the hike, says he is interested in hiking the trail as well. Decision time, Curt.

In late April, at a brunch at Wally and Ruth Doerksen’s, Mark Reimer reported on his time in Puerto Lopez. He was with a work team that went to repair houses after the earthquake there last year. Mark retired from a lengthy teaching career at the end of January and is looking to spend a greater amount of his time in Puerto Lopez in the future. There will be another work team going out next February, which will include bricklayer Rob Wiebe from Kleefeld EMC and others.

Wally and Ruth Doerksen spent some time with a fellow cancer survivor and his family. He also has multiple myeloma and was going through the same procedures as Wally; and so we tried to be an encouragement to him and his family.

Ruth worked with them on some housing issues they had in May and in general we tried to be the neighbours that it is so important to be. The family has since moved to London, Ont., where they have family and the girls will go to university.

Also at the end of April, Dan Friesen spoke in the Mitchell Community Church as part of a group called Sharing Our Stories of Recovery sponsored by Manitoba Schizophrenia Society and Mood Disorders. Dan has lived with bipolar disorder since a teenager and knows well the efforts required to daily maintain mental balance.

Medication, counseling, mentors, and speaking on behalf of the society have led him to a useful and productive life. He is now in the process of a career change as he is attending the University of Winnipeg to obtain his Bachelor of Education with the goal of becoming a teacher.

The group was involved with a young couple where mental health issues led to a variety of crises. Mental health affects 20 to 25 percent of our society and should be taken as seriously as any other health issue. For too long it has not been spoken about except in hushed tones and that makes it difficult for those with mental health issues to talk about their situation to others, which, in turn, likely causes more potential issues.

I have lived with depression for over twenty years, and for me it is not something that “goes away.” Medication and counseling have also helped me, but daily and weekly I try to make decisions that will have a positive reaction for not only me, but the people around me.

Understanding family and friends are also helpful. There are so many varieties of mental illness that one should be careful not to lump people into a broad category. How we relate here as neighbours is as vital a part of what we do as Christians as anything else.

Picture Butte: Baptisms and Transfers

By Helen Enns

PICTURE BUTTE, Alta.—Picture Butte MC rejoiced alongside these young folks who openly committed their lives to Jesus Christ on Sunday, May 28, 2017. Two transferred their memberships; the other six were baptized. Each one had their unique testimony. Pray that these young people will fearlessly be able to live out their faith as they continue in this walk in His grace. They are Pete Hiebert, Susy Fast, Christina Penner, Sarah Siemens, Lisa Penner, John Reimer, Willy Enns, and Lena Harder.