[This sermon was preached at Orchard Street Church, Eugene, Oregon, October 3, 1976. It was the first sermon I ever preached. The timing notable. I wrote it shortly after I graduated from college but before I began to read Mennonite theology.]
Our pastor, Stuart Smith, asked me a couple of months ago to share about my experiences this past summer of driving across the United States and back. Since then I decided that I would take this opportunity to share about what I have learned in this past year and a half since I began attending Orchard, with the learnings of last summer being only the latest.
I would like to challenge everyone seriously to think through the question I ask in my sermon title. We hear many one-line, simple, pat-type answers to this question of why we are Christians. By sharing the evolution of my own attempted answers to this question I would like to show how it is a very complex question and one, which, when wrestled with can reveal a lot about where we are at in our relationship with God.
So, I would like to share with you the development of my own thinking regarding why I am a Christian. It is a person testimony of sorts, so please bear with me.
I think we can divide this question into two separate aspects – why did I become a Christian and why do I remain a Christian? Continue reading
The Mennonite tradition is well-known for its rejection of participation in warfare. This pacifism has many fruitful expressions over the past nearly 500 years. However, Mennonite pacifism has a shadow side as well. In my article, “Pacifism is a gift from God” (published in the Gospel Herald, February 1, 1994), I reflect on some of the problems with this tradition and propose a strongly grace (rather than obligation) oriented approach to pacifism.
I do believe in pacifism as a core conviction that should be taken seriously by all followers of Jesus (indeed, all human beings). However, we need to think through the motivations for our commitment to nonviolence. I believe this commitment must ultimately stem from love if it is to be fruitful and sustainable.
Christian theology, I believe, should always be directly linked with practical living. Following Paul in Romans 13:8-10, we may summarize Jesus’ message as a call to love our neighbors. All theology should serve that calling.
In my essay, “The Doctrine of the Christian Life,” I conclude my reflections on Christian doctrine by returning to the theme of how we are called to live as Jesus’ followers. I use the Parable of the Good Samaritan as the jumping off point for reflecting on how faith in Jesus includes as an integral element faithfulness in persevering love toward the people we share life with.
This essay is the thirteenth and final one in a series that examines core Christian doctrines, consistently asking what shape they should take if they are articulated in light of Jesus.
The traumas the 16th-century Anabaptists faced due to their core convictions (church free from state control, refusal to support war, rejection of social hierarchies, and non-possessive economics) remain highly instructive, both for helping us understand problematic elements in Mennonite communities and for reminding us of the continuing relevance of those ideals.
This article, “The Anabaptist faith: a living tradition” that was published in The Mennonite (May 2, 2006), reflects on these themes.