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God is calling the remnant

3.2. 2017 Posted By: Mennonite Church USA 775 Times read

Iris de León-Hartshorn is director of Transformative Peacemaking for Mennonite Church USA. This piece originally appeared on the Mennonite Church USA Menno Snapshots blog

 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” – Luke 1:46-55 (NRSV)

To say I have been grieving or depressed for the last few months is to put it mildly. But it was not until last week, when I preached at Augsburg Mennonite Church in Germany, that it hit me: I am grieving the loss of the church’s moral voice and witness, and depressed that “The Christian Church” has once again failed to heed the call of Jesus.

In the last year, I have been mulling over the Magnificat, Mary’s Song, and rereading the parables in Luke using Luke 1:46-55 as the frame for interpreting them. In my reading and reflecting, as I consider the times we’re living in, I am struck by the numbers of Christians who chose to side with the proud, powerful and wealthy through their vote in the November 2016 presidential election.

My words are for those in the Mennonite community, my tribe. I name “white evangelical Christians” because many in my tribe identify themselves as evangelicals. I acknowledge many other Christians made the same decisions, but they are not part of my tribe. I also acknowledge a small percentage of people of color also made similar decisions this election season, but their votes did not carry the election. The fact is, 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump, the most that have voted for a Republican candidate since 2004.

White evangelical Christians have been the most vocal in the last few decades in tying their morals and ethics to the political agenda. And yet the majority of them voted for a president who degrades the lowly; makes business deals off the back of the poor; wields power to crush immigrants; women and people of color; and has a white nationalist agenda. Where is the “good news?”

I had hoped that the church was God’s main instrument for bringing the good news to the lowly, oppressed and vulnerable.

But now I have come to believe—just as in the days of the Reformation—it is the remnant within the church that is heeding the call of Jesus.

I know that Christians are now working in coalitions and networks together with others outside the church to carry out God’s mandate to “lift the lowly and feed the hungry with good things.” We are not to be proud, wield power or set our sights on wealth. God uses those who are willing to serve with mercy, justice, and above all, love.

While in Germany, visiting some of our spiritual foremothers’ and forefathers’ sites, I was reminded of the roots of the Anabaptist movement. I imagined 88 Anabaptists huddled together in a home in Augsburg, risking death to read the Word as community and to follow Jesus in their lives.

Today I see Christians in Los Angeles joining in an interfaith project to buy safe houses, providing sanctuary for those most vulnerable in the midst of mass deportation. I don’t want to get into an argument about whether people are documented or not. I don’t understand that as being God’s ultimate concern. I am hearing of Mennonite churches becoming places of sanctuary and many inquiring, “What do we need to do to be a sanctuary for our neighbors who live in fear?” Coalitions are being formed to respond by speaking truth to power and walking alongside the vulnerable, doing what is necessary to lift up those the world has deemed lowly.

I have become convinced it is not the white evangelical Christian church, as we know it now, that will be the witness to the world of God’s amazing love and grace, but it will be the remnant of the church joining with others that will be the light our world needs.

Isn’t this after all the missional church strategy, finding the places where God is acting in the world and joining with that movement?

This does not mean I have given up on the church by any means, but it does mean that I must be open to where God is working. The future may be a church no longer confined to buildings, but defined by Christians engaging in their communities, building coalitions with others to ensure that the lowly are lifted up, the hungry are fed and those who are oppressed are liberated with the good news.

Many people of color have expressed sadness in what they view as the betrayal of the church. We can’t stay stuck in those feelings of betrayal.

We must be willing to move forward and follow the One who knows what it means to live on the margins, to risk his life, to choose nonviolence over violence and the lowly over the rich. The one who came seeking peace over power and liberating the oppressed, Jesus the Christ.

Note:  For information about becoming a Sanctuary Congregation or other ways to help immigrants in your area, click here.

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3 Responses to “God is calling the remnant”

  1. A lot I agree with here, Iris, including your grief about how the witness of the Christian church has been compromised by its strong support for Trump and your conviction that God will use “a remnant of the church joining with others (to) be the light our world needs.”
    My question is this: Would you have published this essay if Clinton had become president? Your linking of the election results with disillusionment (“I had hoped that the church was God’s main instrument for bringing the good news to the lowly, oppressed and vulnerable”) suggests not.
    Yet your grief would have been just as appropriate in the event of a Clinton victory (albeit for somewhat different reasons) and your conviction just as well-grounded.

  2. Rainer Moeller says:

    Well, Iris de León-Hartshorn has chosen to do something for “undocumented” immigrants. That’s her choice.
    I have chosen to remind everyone of the plight of the little shopkeepers who are forced out of business by LGTBQ lawfare. They didn’t deliver a wedding cake or a wedding photo, but are such trivia legitimate reasons to take one’s economical existence away?
    So, looking at MY “vulnerables,” I am glad so many people voted for Trump and I hope freedom of conscience will be better protected in the future.

    • Lynn Miller says:

      Amen. In 2014, 72% of the refuges coming into our country were men. Where are the widows and orphans? Why were only a tiny percentage Christian? And why is it not reasonable to question the motives of a person coming into our country? It is good to be tenderhearted, but we should never forget that God has an enemy who wants to kill, steal and destroy his children in innumerous ways. I am constantly amazed that so many have lost their minds over losing a president that promotes abortion, who promotes every sort of sexual deviance from God’s way and who invited and sponsored Muslim refugees who may or may not have evil plans. If an immigrant wants to come to our country because they admire our freedoms and who is willing to embrace our ways, they should also be willing to become documented. If, on the other hand, they want to devote themselves to radical Islam, which says all non-Muslims are the infidel deserving death, our God-given common sense should cause us to refuse them entrance. I am relieved we have a president who cares about our safety. Look at what is happening in the European countries! Is that what we want here?
      I am noticing a trend in MC USA: shaming white people. What is that all about?

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