A month ago twelve of us from Columbus Mennonite attended the ­­­Mennonite Church USA Convention in Phoenix.

I’ll give a taste of the Phoenix experience by sharing six different slices from the week.  I guess you could think of this as Phoenix pizza, or a Phoenix pie, sliced six ways, hopefully containing some kind of nutritional value for the mind and soul.

Each slice is introduced with a verse of Scripture.

So the first slice is just to get a sense of the atmosphere of the gathering.  The scene.

1. The scene – Hebrews 10:24-25

“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as we are in the habit of doing.”

These national conventions happen every two years and are a combination of business, continuing education, fellowship, worship, and fun.  For those of us who have attended a number of them as well as various Mennonite institutions, it pretty much amounts to a sea of half familiar faces, making one at least a partial believer in the idea of previous lives.  Someone comes up and greets you, and you do a quick search through your memory...

Text: Ecclesiastes

I am holding in my hand an Illinois Lottery All Jackpot Report slip from a couple years ago.  On the back of it is handwritten ECC Chap 4:9-11.  This ticket was a gift to me, and I’ve kept it as a way of remembering the experience that went along with it.

The handwriting belongs to someone that I knew only as Troy, and he gave me this slip of paper at the gas station where I had taken him to fill up his gas can.  I had been driving from Kansas back to Ohio after spending some time with Abbie’s family and Abbie and the girls had stayed back for an extra week.  I was in the middle of Illinois and saw a guy on the side of the interstate beside his car, holding up a gas can.  It’s not real often that I’m driving by myself, without having to be at the destination at any particular time, so I decided to stop.  Troy got in the car, cursed at himself for running out of gas and asked for a ride to the nearest gas station.  After I asked him his name he asked me what...

Main Text: Luke 10:38-42

Whenever I hear this story of Martha and Mary hosting Jesus in their home, I always have this gut reaction of wanting to defend Martha.  Having a guest takes work, hosting is not a passive activity, and yet Martha’s attention to these practical details gets trumped by Mary’s sitting and listening to Jesus.  Jesus points out that Mary has chosen the better part, and Martha is left pulling the roast out of the oven wondering where she went wrong.  So I feel like Martha deserves some props that.

Part of my motivation here no doubt comes out of my own experience.  Growing up I always wondered how it was that most of us got to read in the living room while Mom was getting Sunday dinner around.  I liked to read and wasn’t overly enthusiastic about being in the kitchen, but I had a great appreciation for the work Mom was doing, which I openly expressed by eating large quantities of food at every meal.  If it would have been left to me, we all probably would have sat around reading until we were unbearably hungry and then eventually scrounged for some peanut butter...

Text: Luke 9:51-62

As I get my bearings here, we’re sticking with the lectionary as a faithful guide to keep us in the flow of the wider church.  There is a strong theme of discipleship in today’s gospel reading.

I want to start by reading a poem, one that some of you may very well be familiar with.  It’s a poem by Julia Kasdorf, and it’s called Green Market, New York.  By way of brief introduction, Julia Kasdorf could be called the matriarch of Mennonite poetry, and this poem is the first poem that appeared in her first book of poetry, which was titled Sleeping Preacher, published in 1992.  The fact that the matriarch of Mennonite poetry is still mid-career and published her first book just a little over 20 years ago already tells us something about Mennonites’ wary historic relationship to the arts.  She has said that the poem’s location at the beginning makes it serve as something of a thesis for that book, which might also make it something of a poetic thesis for the contemporary North American Mennonite experience.

Here it is:

Green Market, NY

The first day of false spring, I hit the street,

Text: 1 Kings 19:1-13

Good morning.  Our family has been anticipating this day for quite some time now and it’s very good to be with you.  I have to tell just one story from the April candidating weekend.  I appreciated all the opportunities to meet with different ones of you personally along with Commissions and Council and had a positive feeling about things as the Sunday service was coming to a close.  We knew we wanted to come here, but had to wait to make sure that the feeling was mutual.  Knowing there was going to be a vote that evening, Stella B. wrote on one of the unused name tags, and gave it to me as our family was walking out into the lobby after the service.  It said, “Me for pastor,” and she instructed me to stick it to my shirt.  With Stella as our campaign manager, I was pretty sure at that point things were going to work out well.

The prophethood of all believers.

You are most likely familiar with the idea of the priesthood of all believers, that marvelous humanizing notion that came out of the 16th century Protestant Reformation.  The priesthood of...