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SKMB On Mission Together: November 12, 2020

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SKMB is the Saskatchewan ministry arm of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches.

Click here for the printable version of On Mission Together and some additional information.

Click on the link to view the SKMB November 2020 Update from Phil Guenther.

In Desperation, Deliverance

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and His rule.” Matthew 5:3 MSG.

In his Sermon on the mount, Jesus teaches that the “poor in spirit” are blessed (Matthew 5:3). The Message Bible shapes it this way, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.” Jesus was speaking of people who understood their position before a holy and sovereign God. It describes a posture of the heart, a desperate awareness that one is spiritually bankrupt before God. The sense here is being at the end of one’s rope and seeking God’s help. Jesus says these humble souls receive God’s approval and divine joy. They are blessed.

Jonah knew desperation. His failed attempt to flee God and reject a divine call landed him in a space he described as the “depths of the grave” the “roots of the mountains.” It was from this place of darkness and hopelessness, where his life was ebbing away, that he remembered the Lord. He lifts a prayer to the temple of God, declaring that salvation comes from God (Jonah 2).

Pastor and professor Dallas Willard once said, “The Christian life is what you do when you realize you can do nothing.” From within his living tomb, where the “earth barred [him] in forever,” Jonah realized he could do nothing. It is here that a new faith seems to be born, a trust in God that is stripped of selfishness, self-centredness and self-reliance. It makes one ponder – is genuine, God-pleasing faith birthed out of desperation? Jonah’s narrative points us in that direction. Perhaps Job’s story ushers one to a similar conclusion. After suffering devastating losses, crippling physical ailments and after arguing with God and His purposes, a new faith seems to spring forth. “My ears heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5). Both Job and Jonah ‘saw’ the One who does not “reject a broken and repentant heart” (Psalm 51:17b). They ‘saw’ the One who is “close to the brokenhearted” and crushed (Psalm 34:18a).

For both Jonah and Job, in their desperation was also deliverance. Yes, deliverance from the dark realities of their immediate physical circumstances. Perhaps more importantly though, they received deliverance from hearts, agendas and attributes that were more about themselves than God. Come to think of it, our own salvation from the devastating consequences of sin, which we were powerless to do anything about, fits here as well (Ephesians 2:1; Romans 5:6).  Jesus was right – in desperation we can be truly blessed.

“God’s address is at the end of your rope.”   – Dallas Willard

Phil Gunther, DM


When Church Goes Online

“Technology is not in itself opposed to spirituality and to religion. But it presents a great temptation.” ~Thomas Merton, theologian (1915 – 1968)

Once upon a time, the word “zoom” either meant a Mazda commercial or the kids’ TV show Zoom (I can still hear the theme song in my head). A few years ago, I became acquainted with Zoom as the software we use to teach online students at Horizon College and Seminary. Of course, as COVID-19 began, Zoom became a full-fledged part of my daily activities. Work meetings, my small group, and times with my family were hosted by Zoom. It goes to show how a word can change its connotation from one season of life to the next.

As a pastor’s kid, a pastoral intern, and now a pastor’s wife, the physicality of the church building has been a significant presence in my life for as long as I can remember. Whether it was playing in the church as my dad worked, attending a board meeting, or gathering with my brothers and sisters on a Sunday morning, the church as a physical space was always there. Or rather, I was always there.

When COVID-19 began, and everything began to shut down, church moved online. We didn’t want to give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:25) but the shape of that “meeting” necessarily changed. Therefore, church moved online. My church used pre-recorded services, while other churches opted for a live-streaming set-up. All of a sudden, the physicality and embodied-ness of both the church building and my brother and sisters, was gone or happening somewhere in the cloud. And I, theologian that I am, have some questions about all of this. Should I partake in communion online? When a sermon is pre-recorded, what, if anything, is lost in the act of preaching? Does the communion of saints occur over Wi-Fi? What is worship anyways, and can I do it from my couch in front of a TV?

I certainly do not have all the answers here, but my offering to our SKMB community is simply an encouragement to continue or begin to ask these questions. Throughout COVID-19, the temptation for churches has been to react, to find a solution to our predicament now. However, I think the invitation is for us to pause and to think theologically about the present reality we as the Church find ourselves in due to COVID-19. I will keep you in the loop on my journey.

Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”   Jeremiah 29:11

Stephanie Christianson
Adjunct Faculty Advisor
Horizon College and Seminary
SKMB Advisor & Liaison