God is at work in human history even if his ways are confusing—this is one lesson of Advent.
The prophet Isaiah said that God, who had made a covenant with Israel, was at work even though the nation had sinned and would enter exile. He who had created the heavens and earth, and gave breath to people, would bring forth his Servant: “My servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations” (Isaiah 42:1-5). Continue reading Advent: A Promise of Light and Freedom →
Last Spring I had the opportunity to be a table host for our church’s Alpha program. If you haven’t had the chance to watch the new (2016) Alpha videos, take the opportunity to go through them on YouTube. They are great resources for a Faith-Booster-Shot, even for those of us who have been followers of Christ for decades.
During the six-week program I was thrilled to discover that both a young man at my table and a friend of mine declared their commitment to follow Christ during the Alpha program. How exciting to be a part of that!
Personally, one of the influential table discussions was on the topic “How and Why Can I Have Faith?” Question 1 on my leader’s paper read: “Thinking of your friends, family or anything else—Who or what do you have faith in?”
Stumped by this question, the six people sitting at my table didn’t think they had faith in anything or anyone. Golly! This was a revelation to me. As the group continued to deliberate the idea, I began to list the things I had faith in as a new returnee to Canada:
When my boys walk to school I have faith that it will be open, teachers will be present and able to teach, and abuse isn’t tolerated.
If I’m in an accident, the medical system will take care of me to the best of their ability. An ambulance will come with functioning equipment and personnel properly trained to treat me. Competent doctors and nurses will be at the hospital with medication and equipment that is available and functioning. I’ll be treated no matter my financial situation.
Laws and authorities work to uphold a society based on rules that make sense and build community rather than tear it apart.
There is incredible relief that accompanies the release of sole responsibly for the health and well-being of myself and my children. I can experience this because I have faith in Canadian systems. I’ve lived for years outside Canada without faith in the systems that should be able to care for people effectively. It was always with the underlying fear that should I or my children be in an accident, we couldn’t trust what would happen to us. That sort of unrelenting unease is exhausting!
I marvel at the simple luxury of faith in human systems, fallible systems. Humans can fail. They function within worldviews that change over the course of time, that are built on limited and ever-changing understanding of the universe.
Even so, I know the emotional and mental freedom of being able to trust these things. The bigger revelation is that human systems are nothing in comparison to the faith and trust I can have in the One who created the universe and my body and who governs the authorities of the earth!
He tells me I can trust Him. This Word does not change as humankind gains increased knowledge of the universe, nor as our worldviews shift over time.
Editor’s Note With Permission: It will disappoint readers, but after serving since September 2012, Jocelyn has decided, while saddened, to step back for health reasons from serving as a columnist. She has “really enjoyed the opportunity for a writing outlet and for the many, many words of affirmation I have received from readers. I do think, however, that pruning back this work may help other areas to flourish.” She is learning to “embrace my limits” (Jeanne Flemming). Thank you, Jocelyn, for serving us, and may the Lord bless you.
The EMC’s Statement of Faith sometimes lacks a position. That’s good. This lack is a position itself, one of freedom.
For instance, the EMC’s current statement (1996) says, “We believe in the personal, visible, bodily return of Jesus Christ.” It goes into other matters related to the Second Coming, but doesn’t mention a secret rapture prior to the Great Tribulation or a thousand year reign of Christ on earth.
The EMC is clear on the Lord’s return, but it has no official position on pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, a-mill or pre-mill. Pastors and members have personal views and they can present them. Members can listen, study, and affirm what best matches Scripture.
Where the EMC Statement of Faith gives freedom, though, pastors and Sunday School teachers are unwise to require or expect members to adopt a particular position. Pastors and members have personal positions; the conference has a joint position. These are not to be confused.
On a national level, the EMC is intentional in giving a position of freedom on some secondary matters to uphold unity and community. On a local level, providing options can be a wise pastoral response to individuals pondering various matters.
The danger in mentioning freedom is that this editorial might be misread as approving options in areas beyond the Statement of Faith—for instance, on some current matters of social ethics. This would be a misreading of this editorial’s intention.
Pastors and ministers are to be approved for service both by a local church and through our national boards and bodies. We are accountable locally and nationally. Being accountable, we do well to respect our conference’s confession both in its boundaries and freedom.
A publication of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference