On September 4, 2022, I shared my faith story with my congregation as part of the process of transferring my membership from my previous congregation. Here is what I shared.
If I were to sum up my faith journey in a phrase, it might be this: “Pursuing Jesus who first found me.”
I grew up in a conservative evangelical environment, nominally Anabaptist. I knew my Bible. I knew about Jesus. But I didn’t know Jesus.
In my university days I went on a spiritual quest. I checked out other religions—Hinduism and Buddhism fascinated me for a while. I actively participated in a different church every year of university: Pentecostal, United Church, Lutheran, Baptist. I was baptized in that Baptist church.
Along the way I had a profound spiritual experience that pushed me back to the Bible. I read it like I’d never read it before, in huge chunks: all of Isaiah in one sitting, all of Luke and Acts in another, all of Genesis in a morning, all of John in an afternoon, Romans before bed. I gorged on Scripture.
And that’s how I first met Jesus. I read the Bible and I found Jesus. Or rather, Jesus found me, and I’ve pursued him ever since.
Later, when I was teaching through the New Testament at a small Christian college and working on my Ph.D., I had an epiphany: this Jesus-centred reading of Scripture had made me into an Anabaptist. By reading the Bible to follow Jesus I had become committed to Jesus’ way of nonviolence, his way of just peace, his way of community, his way of love.
And so, when I left this nondenominational college to move into pastoral ministry, it made sense to serve in a Mennonite congregation, one that was thoroughly Anabaptist.
That was 13 years ago, and our journey since then has brought us from Alberta to Ohio to Manitoba, and now into my current role as Executive Minister of Mennonite Church Manitoba, and member of Home Street Mennonite Church. I’m grateful for this congregation, for its commitment to pursue Jesus who first found us.
Last week Ingrid shared about developing a centred-set approach to church instead of a bounded-set approach. I’ve also taught that concept since first coming across missionary anthropologist Paul Hiebert’s use of this idea. And this, to me, is at the centre of this thing we call “Christianity,” and this thing we call “church”: Jesus, and Jesus’ way of love.
Jesus of Nazareth, crucified Messiah and resurrected Lord, and Jesus’ way of devotion for God expressed through compassion for others, especially those the world deems “last,” “least,” or “lost.”
We gather around Jesus and his way of love like people gathering around a bonfire on a cold, dark night. We draw close to Jesus and his love for light and warmth, and as we do so we find ourselves drawing closer to each other.
Around this fire we tell our stories, we sing our songs, we pray our prayers, we share our bread and wine. And we commit ourselves to following Jesus and his way of love as we go out into the world, carrying our candles lit with the fire of Jesus’ love.
As we go we proclaim the greatest revelation Jesus has given us: God is love. We should know this from Scripture, we should know this from observing creation around us, but in Jesus this is confirmed and clarified: God is love.
God always loves. God cannot not love. Everything God does is motivated by love and enacted in love. This means that anything we experience that is not of love is not of God. God is not the author of evil or suffering or harm.
Love is the essence of God in a way that God’s other attributes are not. God’s holiness is a holy love. God’s justice is a just love. God’s wisdom is a wise love. God’s power is a powerful love.
All is being moved by love towards God’s good purposes. Love is stronger than injustice or violence. Love is stronger than every other power. Love is stronger than death. In the end, love will win, and all will be well.
Jesus, and Jesus’ way of love, pointing us to the God who is love.
This is indeed good news.