Posted by: thebylog | October 18, 2005

Visiting Churches I

I arrive late at the mainline Mennonite church here in State College because I didn’t know what time the service started. A long-haired usher greets me pleasantly, asks me if I was by myself (aw, shucks, yeah I was), and leads me to a seat in the front row.

It’s a small church, stuck on a tiny lot on one of the key streets in the city. As a result, parking on the immediate premises is severely limited. Thankfully, it’s Sunday morning and we’re south of much of the parking frenzy that accompanies life in the middle of this college town.

A small church on the outside translates to a small sanctuary with no pews. People sit in folding chairs, and they not only face the podium in the traditional way, but also are set up along the sides, something of an Amen Corner idea.

Of course, this being a Mennonite Church, there aren’t many Amens emanating from the congregation.

Ah, the sermon. The preacher, a likeable fellow with excellent oratory skills, speaks from Matthew 22, the passage in which Christ says to give to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s. I like what I hear, his message is engaging and thought-provoking.

Then he does something that makes my large ears perk up: he quotes Marcus Borg. Borg, of course, is the liberal, but reknowned, New Testament scholar from Oregon State University who is associated with the Jesus Seminar and advocates preposterousnesses (my new word) such as no linteral resurrection of Christ from the dead. The actual quote was relatively benign, though slightly troublesome, in that it intimated that we can’t really make judgments based on this passage about whether it’s God’d will whether we’re anti-taxes or not.

Other than that, mostly good stuff. A couple of things:

:: God is the God of justice – so shouldn’t we fight for it?

:: In Isaiah 45, Cyrus is described with the Hebrew word for Messiah. Cyrus was a pagan, but this preacher asserted that because he desired and attempted to do justice in his rule, God had good feelings toward him.

:: The point of his message was that our material possessions should be used out of an image of God, used for good (i.e. feed the hungry, buy a cup of coffee for a friend) not ill (i.e. hoarded, used to fund a war, used to buy another’s body for a moment of pleasure).

Interestingly, once in the sermon and once in the students’ Bible Study afterward, there were “conservative Menno” moments (points at which what was being asserted sounded like where I’ve come from: conservative Mennonitism).

In the sermon, he opined about the irony of the great passion with which many Christians have decried the attack upon the phrase “Under God” in the pledge of allegience, asking why Christians are pledging their allegiance to anything other than God in the first place.

And then in the Bible Study for students after the service, one of the Eastern Mennonite University-educated leader-types noted how that Evangelicals often don’t emphasize the life that must continue after the initial “born again” experience.

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Responses

  1. very interesting. I like going to mainline mennonite churches. My aunt attends one. Mennonites are a fascinating study.

  2. Hey Byran. This is Greg. Don’t know if you remember me…Fellow Penn Stater, but at the Hershey campus…Anyway, I read your blog often and I know people that go to the Mennonite church in State College. If you ever go again and meet someone named Faith who used to work with Greg, say Hi for me…
    Good luck in school. Amy tells me occasionally what you study.. Hmm, makes me glad I’m in medical school.

  3. Maybe I’ll see you at Milmont sometime, Greg. I think I sat by you in SS once, when you were hoarse.


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