Mennonite Church USA has renamed its Leadership Development office Church Vitality to better reflect its focus on helping congregations thrive. “All of our work is […]
Photo: Participants at morning worship. Photo by Vada Snider.
Stop doing whatever you’re doing and breathe, before it’s too late.
Meghan Good challenged worshipers the morning of July 5 at Mennocon19 to be powered not by their own breath, but by the much more powerful wind of God.
The teaching pastor at Trinity Mennonite Church in Glendale, Arizizona, said the breath that gave life to Adam in the Garden of Eden was not a singular act, but a regular connection. Some say the name Yahweh itself is the sound of breathing in and out. Mankind is not a collection of watches with springs that just get wound up once.
“It’s more like a hot air balloon that is constantly powered by a fire that blows hot air into it, and if that stops you sink, sink, sink,” she said.
Some point to a loss of life in church decline and identify things like cultural shift or religious hypocrisy, but Good said Christians don’t just lose their breath for negative reasons. Sometimes people of faith get busy doing important things — and still the wounds develop faster than the healers, the questions multiply faster than the answers.
“Mennonites have a bigger problem here than other Christians because of our strengths,” she said. “We are a people of action, so we’re always doing stuff and we need community to sustain us in that action.
“But the trouble is we cannot survive as people of action if we only breathe other peoples’ exhalations. We need the fresh breath of God.”
Community can still exist without breathing God, but Good said that sort of gathering is like being shut in an airtight box breathing only each other’s carbon dioxide.
“The most fundamental truth I know is that we are beings that live based on someone else’s air,” she said.
It’s no coincidence that the first thing Jesus does after he is resurrected is to stand among the disciples and breathe on them. And the gospel’s good news means every day since then is also resurrection day, if the people of God simply pause to take a breath.
“Jesus Christ is here right now every bit as present as he was in that locked room with the disciples,” she said. “He is here and he is breathing, saying ‘Receive my life.’ Breathe him in.”
The worship service opened with acknowledgment that worship instructions to greet one another with handshakes and hugs can make some individuals uncomfortable. Based on input from the abuse-prevention organization Dove’s Nest, worship leaders lamented any harm that may have been caused and offered suggestions from Dove’s Nest executive director Anna Groff about how people can approach each other with consent.
“I’m appreciative of Dove’s Nest for the example they’ve set for how we deal with conflict in the church,” said MC USA executive director Glen Guyton. “Dove’s Nest is crucial to use for abuse-prevention in the church.”
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