Sunday, July 15, 2007

Calls for living the call (San Jose sermon montage)

A sermon montage from San Jose 2007

Click play to listen to sermon, or read the text, or both.

I am not the author of this morning’s sermon, but the editor.
I’m going share a taste of what we heard at "San Jose 2007"
as various preachers called Mennonite Church USA,
to “Live the Call.”
These voices were important to hear, not only because of their content,
but because of who was speaking.
Every one of the preachers in the adult convention
were profoundly shaped by the Mennonite Church on the West Coast.
The vast majority of Mennonites live in the east or midwest,
and are rooted in a rural tradition of 200 years plus.
So it’s notable that the primary voice of the church
at this Assembly was from the west coast,
and from a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, primarily urban context.

Mennonites in the Pacific Southwest Conference, our hosts,
speak nine languages.
In southern California, their churches are
95% first-generation Mennonites,
91% non-European,
80% born outside the U.S.
50% new to Christian faith,
and 50% have no personal memory
of two Mennonite denominations.

These are voices we need to hear,
if we want to relate to our larger Mennonite family.
So today I give you a small taste of the adult convention sermons.
I took snippets from each half-hour sermon
and pieced together a 2-3 minute sound clip.
I apologize to the preachers,
because it does not do justice to the whole.
But my point isn’t to give you the meat of the message,
but the flavor and spirit of it.
And hopefully, to encourage you to listen to the whole thing later,
which we have available.

We focused on Ephesians,
so the sermon clips will be interspersed with readings,
and a few introductory comments of my own.
Some persons who attended the convention, will be our readers.

First, Loren Swartzendruber, reading from Ephesians, chapter 1.

Ephesians 1:15-19 (NRSV)
15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

The opening sermon was by Juan Martinez, an hispanic Mennonite Brethren pastor and scholar, who currently is an assistant dean at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He is a past president of Semilla, the Anabaptist seminary in Guatemala City. He switched effortlessly between English and Spanish in his sermon, and presented a strong call for us to deconstruct the walls of class and culture that divide the ethnic groups within the church, and divide the church in the global north from the global south.

[Juan Martinez clip]

Ruby Lehman will be reading from the second chapter of Ephesians.

Ephesians 2:12-14, 18-20 (NRSV)
12 remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.
18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.


Mary Thiessen Nation, from Harrisonburg, used this text for Tuesday’s sermon. She obviously lives in the east. But her message was clearly formed by her 18 years as an urban missionary in a violent and impoverished Los Angeles neighborhood. Her message called us to a robust reading of scripture, and of the whole story of Jesus, as a basis for our work in reconciliation.

[Mary Thiessen Nation clip]

Julian Sider will read from Ephesians 6.

Ephesians 6:10-17 (NRSV)
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16 With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.


Jennifer Davis Sensenig was our Wednesday preacher. Some of you might remember when Jennifer and her husband Kent spent a weekend here at Park View 5 or 6 years ago, as candidates for a pastoral role with children and youth. They decided to go in a different direction, namely, to the West Coast, where for the last few years, Jennifer has been an associate pastor at Pasadena Mennonite Church. She delivered a powerful prophetic call for to church to put on the “whole armor of God,” and be confident of our victory through the suffering, non-violent love of God in Christ.

[Jennifer Davis Sensenig clip]

Paul Alexander preached on Wednesday evening, in the one joint worship service, that included all the youth, junior youth, and adults, around 6,000 in attendance. He called on the youth and adults alike to hold firm to our Anabaptist faith, and to be faithful to our church and its peace witness. This exhortation was remarkable in the fact that it came not from a Mennonite, but from a 30-something 4th-generation Pentecostal Assemblies of God preacher from Texas.

[Paul Alexander clip]

Steve Shenk will read from Ephesians chapter 5.

Ephesians 5:8-14 (NRSV)
8 For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light-- 9 for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. 10 Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; 13 but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Shane Hipps preached on Thursday. Shane joined the Mennonite church when he began seminary studies at Fuller, and a couple years ago became pastor at Trinity Mennonite Church in Phoenix, Arizona. Shane also exhorted the church to be clear and bold in its witness. So that you know what he’s referring to, Shane started out with a story of how the church at Pasadena Mennonite, though they only been there a few months, loved and cared for him and his wife after she had a severe bike accident. He also developed an analogy based on the fact that Arizona, a dry desert state that needs water, sits on top of a vast underground reservoir that’s inaccessible to drilling.

[Shane Hipps clip]

The closing sermon was based on the theme text from Ephesians we read earlier, on living our call to be one body serving one Lord. This sermon was delivered by another recent Mennonite, a pastor from Nigeria named Chuwang Pam, who is pastor at Los Angeles Faith Chapel, which has an active ministry among the poor and homeless.

[Chuwang Pam clip]

I hope you gained a small window into these voices from the West.
They are part of our body.
I do encourage you to listen to the rest of the sermons.
They were full of personal testimonies and vivid stories,
that I obviously couldn’t include in these sound-bites.

These voices called us to a vigorous lived faith, grounded in Christ,
so let us respond with a vigorous song, “In Christ Alone.”
We sang this one several times out there.
Let us stand, and sing with full hearts and voices.

—Phil Kniss, July 15, 2007

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