by Heidi Regier Kreider
Between now and Mennonite Church USA convention in 2019, congregations and conferences in MC USA are encouraged to engage in Journey Forward, a two-year process of church-wide discernment growing out of the Future Church Summit held in Orlando in 2017. JF has two primary documents for church use: Renewed Commitments (a one-page document of core values and commitments) and Pathways (an interactive study guide). Feedback on these resources is invited through the online survey at http://mennoniteusa.org/journey-forward/. As part of WDC’s participation in Journey Forward, my Sprouts articles over the next several months will reflect on each of the three sections of Renewed Commitments – “Follow Jesus,” “Witness to God’s peace,” and “Experience transformation.”
The first commitment, “Follow Jesus,” says this: “As an Anabaptist community of the living Word, we listen for God’s call as we read Scripture together, guided by the Spirit. Through baptism we commit ourselves to live faithfully as Jesus’ disciples, no matter the cost.” There’s a lot to ponder in those two sentences! For starters, the phrase “living Word” jumps out at me. It implies that God’s Word is not static, rigid or irrelevant, but is dynamic, contemporary and life-giving. Certainly God’s living Word is reflected in the writings of Scripture, but the “living Word” is more than words written on paper (or words on a screen, in this day of digital technology).
The gospel of John says that Jesus is God’s Word made flesh, and the Spirit of Jesus continues to guide our study of Scripture today, even as we witness Jesus in the people and world around us. Thus, as part of our commitment to living as Jesus’ disciples, we must interpret Scripture – the written Word – in light of the person and work of Jesus. Following Jesus may lead us to interpretations of Scripture that challenge our previous understandings or prompt us to hear God’s Word in new ways.
The book Through the Eyes of Another: Intercultural Reading of the Bible (c. 2004, Institute of Mennonite Studies) offers an intriguing example of this. It describes a 3-year research study in which the story in John 4 of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman was studied by Bible study groups from different cultures, languages and countries on five continents. Interpretations were then exchanged between groups of different cultural backgrounds, making it possible to read text “through the eyes of another.”
As we read scripture together within the church community and as we follow Jesus into the world, we are also called to read God’s living Word “through the eyes of another.” For much of Christian history, scripture has been interpreted by and at the benefit of those who wield power and control. This has resulted in interpretations shaped by racism and white supremacy, colonialism, nationalism, patriarchy, and other forms of oppression and violence. In light of that, I encourage us to listen to scripture interpretations from other perspectives, for example from members of indigenous communities, people of a variety of different ethnic, racial and cultural backgrounds, women, children and youth, persons of various socio-economic levels, survivors of violence and trauma, and others who have been marginalized.
We have numerous opportunities to listen for these voices – whether through daily encounters in our community or work, reading about current events and issues, or through relationships within our own congregation. I also encourage you to explore the WDC Resource Library, which has a wealth of Biblical study and interpretive materials. See https://mennowdc.org/library/ for the online catalog. As you consider resources, ask whether a variety of life experiences and viewpoints are reflected?
As an Anabaptist community of the living Word, may we listen for God’s call as we read Scripture together, guided by the Spirit, so that we might live faithfully as Jesus’ disciples – no matter the cost.