Who is the God I worship?

The faith that moves mountains counts on the impossible and knows how to read the signs of the times that announce the possibility of a new tune instead of the old refrain.                Eboussi Boulaga, Cameroonian Philosopher

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Stephen Colbert might have smiled and cried on Palm Sunday 33 AD

The popular Irish Catholic comedian Stephen Colbert often sets up frames of understanding as a part of his humor. He frames a situation and invites folks to look through the frame with new eyes as he smiles at the implications he does not name...and we laugh.

The triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem sets up a similar frame where, if we have eyes to see, we can hold the humorous and tragic tension of that event as naming the power of God to transform.

The video "Palm Sunday" by Marcus Borg describes the two triumphal entries that happened on Palm Sunday:

One procession up from the western coast town of Caesarea with a reinforcement of Roman troops for the Passover (read Jewish liberation from Egypt ceremony) in Jerusalem to keep the peace of the empire’s interests (read liberation not welcome).

And, the other from the east with entry of Jesus followed by crowds and children (read another kind of liberation) with a Messiah on a donkey! The vivid contrast of these processions could have been perceived by persons in the first century as a comic contrast with a tragic result:

Marcus Borg: Palm Sunday

http://bcove.me/hepw91sr (not responsible for advertisement before video)

I referred to the tension of these two different entries in my sermon “Nazareth Jesus and the Temple of Doom”


A part of this sermon focuses on the post Pentecost encounter between the disciple Peter (Acts 10) with the Roman centurion from Caesarea who most probably led, or was a part of, that procession from the west toward Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Their reconciling encounter completed through "good news" the tension that was set up in the gospel of Luke as described by Borg.

Peter then says what the crowds could not see on Palm Sunday: I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation those who fear God and do what is right are acceptable to him.  (Acts 10:34-35)

These links follow on our church’s informal sermon theme from last year of how most readings of scripture in the early centuries would have included a Stephen Colbert smile…at the implications of what was not said but meant to be seen in the original context.

In reading scripture we often take a literal reading of the "window frames" and miss the window into that culture’s challenges that the frame is highlighting. When we see the deeper meaning we can see the power of the Word in our own time also.

Which Palm Sunday will we remember? One, aren’t those children cute waving their palm branches? Or two, how many children have the empires of this world sacrificed this year by not following the way of the Lord Jesus?

I think this is why Jesus wept over Jerusalem before entering it “Oh Jerusalem would that you knew what made for peace.” (Luke 19:41ff.) The one who comes in the name and way of the Lord brings blessings of peace we do not expect.

Stephen Colbert could also have wept over a reading about Palm Sunday 33 AD as occupation and exile were his family's story. Yet, he names how the pain of remembering what the British Empire did to his Irish ancestors before they were forced to emigrate is turned into laughter in this video link while naming that his wife’s ancestors got land taken from his family by the British Empire:


I can imagine the disciple Peter and the centurion Cornelius sharing a grace filled laugh as they reflected on what brought them to the meal that day in Acts 10. Cornelius could have had Peter killed or imprisoned if Peter had not denied Jesus. Peter would have readily cut off the ear of Cornelius...or more. The work of the Spirit brought them together eventually in transforming reconciliation.

Waiting in hope for these grace filled eventualities is why peacemakers are called blessed. They do not react to one tragedy by creating another violent tragedy.

They do so standing in the River of Life that flows from the throne of God. That same river that flowed through the cross of Jesus Christ "breaking down dividing walls of hostility." (Ephesians 2).

So, we are called in faith to hold this foolish hope. The alternatives are not much better.

by Roy Hange


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When Restorative Justice Goes to Prison (upcoming webinar!)

On March 25th at 4:30 EST, the Zehr Institute at the Center for Justice & Peacebuilding will be hosting a webinar on the topic of restorative justice.

Topics to be covered will be:

  • What relevance does restorative justice have within a prison environment?
  • What are the possibilities, and what are the challenges or pitfalls?
  • What happens when restorative values are juxtapositioned with the retributive and control-oriented values that predominate in prison?
  • Who should take the lead in promoting restorative justice there?
  • What do prison-based programs look like?
  • Are there differences in the way it is articulated and received in prison as compared to the work outside?

The webinar will be hosted by two people deeply involved in restorative justice work:

Tyrone Werts was sentenced to life in prison in 1975. In Pennsylvania, where he was sentenced, life means life and commutations are exceedingly rare. In the early 1990s, he was part of the first restorative justice program at Graterford prison. For many years, Tyrone was president of the Lifer’s Organization and provided leadership to many other initiatives in prison. Then, after 37 1/2 years, Tyrone’s sentence was commuted in recognition of his outstanding integrity and accomplishments. Since March 2011, he has been on the outside, working with the public defender’s office and with the Inside Out Prison Exchange Program that allows college students and prisoners to study together.

Barb Toews is a long-time restorative justice practitioner and trainer. She was director of a restorative justice program in Lancaster, Pa., before joining the graduate program at CJP. After graduating, she worked for a number of years developing and facilitating restorative justice initiatives, often in collaboration with incarcerated individuals, in Pennsylvania prisons with the Pennsylvania Prison Society. She is now completing her PhD, focusing on the privacy, well-being and the design of correctional facilities. She teaches at Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College, where she uses the Inside Out Prison Exchange Program model. She is author of The Little Book of Restorative Justice for People in Prison and co-editor of Critical Issues in Restorative Justice.

You will need to register for this webinar and you can do so here!

For additional information, see their web site.

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Why Mennonite?

Why Mennonite? Why Anabaptist?

There are more than 57 varieties of Christians so why Mennonite? Throughout this blog are some links to speakers who go more in depth in an easy to listen to style.

Mennonite emphases include:

1--Focusing on a lived faithfulness by following Jesus in daily life through worship, service, stewardship, fellowship and community life. Prof. Heidi Miller Yoder focuses on whole life faithfulness:


2-Attempting to remain a peace church in various violent cultures over the ages while holding the vision of scriptures and the Early Church of being “ambassadors of reconciliation” through peacemaking– Professor Ron Sider on the Early Church and violence:


3-Having the practice of believers’ baptism, in contrast to infant baptism, led the early followers to be called “re baptizers,” or Anabaptist, and created a community that could hold together enemy love, holding Jesus as an example and living simply.  Mega church pastor Greg Boyd at Woodland Hills Church in Minneapolis explains the power of Anabaptist church life and theology: “On Anabaptism”


A direct link to the recording:


4- Being the church as a visible Kingdom Community.  Following is a contemporary introduction to Anabaptism and its distinctions from Protestant and Catholic ways of holding faith. The speaker, Bruxy Cavey, is the pastor of an Anabaptist church in Toronto, The Meetinghouse, which is one of the largest and most innovative churches in Canada. “Anabaptist Invasion”


5- Being a church that came out of the radical wing of the Reformation which called for the separation of church and state…a few hundred years before Thomas Jefferson and the Enlightenment thinkers did. The other churches remained state churches where belief and geography were fused.  In this sermon I highlight how Dutch Mennonites were essential in forming the vision for the separation of church and state in Western culture—“A Community that Dances in the Wind of the Spirit”


6-Being open to creative relationships with other Christian traditions. Within the last ten years there have been reconciling encounters and processes with church traditions that used to persecute the Anabaptists including Reformed, Lutheran and Roman Catholic. These relationships are facilitated by the Interchurch Relations department of Mennonite Church USA.


Our church in Charlottesville has a range of creative ecumenical relationships with other churches in town.

By Roy Hange

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Lent 2013: Temptation and Wilderness

Two weeks ago I had lunch with a friend. As we were talking, I mentioned that I was preaching that Sunday. Her response was ‘Lent 1, of course the temptation.’ And then she reflected how she had heard a speaker once who connected the temptation and the Lord’s prayer.

We pray each week “…and do not lead us into temptation” and yet that is exactly what happened to Jesus after the glorious moment of emerging from the river Jordan at his baptism “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22b). Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. From that wilderness Jesus emerged into ministry as the Son of God and proclaimed “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed to free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19).

How did Jesus come to that understanding? How did he know what he was called to do? How did he know how to be the son of God?  It appears formation happened through temptation. Jesus worked out his calling in the wilderness where he was tempted to falsely use his power and his role. Jesus’ calling is for the sake of the poor, the captives, the blind and the oppressed. But the devil tempts Jesus to use his power as Son of God to serve his own needs and self-centered desires by satisfying his own hunger, by using his ruling authority and seeking to proof his invulnerability.

Wilderness time is a time to sort things out. The wilderness was a place where Israel itself was birthed as a people, where habits formed by slavery in Egypt were discarded and new ways of complete trust in God were formed. The wilderness was a place where prophets like Moses and Elijah began their ministries, where John the Baptist was nurtured, where the Word of God came to him and where he began preaching. The Wilderness is a place that Jesus withdrew to after a flurry of activities, a time of healings and teachings, to be restored, re-centered, renewed (Luke 4:42) and a place to pray (Luke 5:16).

Lent gives us the opportunity to enter the wilderness of our lives, and examine where we are tempted, ask ourselves what stones do we turn into bread, how do we satisfy or ease our hunger,  who do we worship and serve, and where are we tempted into invulnerability?

The questions in our lives remain: When are we ever famished? Or better, when do we ever stop long enough to notice that we are actually famished? Our lives are too full, too busy creating their own kind of wilderness. What if for forty days we would turn our busy lives into empty spaces? What if we found one way to simplify our lives, create space, turn off what fills up our time in meaningless ways and turn to God.  Forty days to stop and pause and really look and see who and what diverts us from becoming who God calls us to be. What keeps us from following God’s vision for our lives?

Let us remember who we are as a people of faith, not what we are to do, but who we are and how we are connected to God. And that is what Lent is all about, the transforming power in remembering, repenting, reconnecting to God, the source of all life.

Maren Tyedmers Hange has served as co-pastor of Charlottesville Mennonite Church for 14 years after spending 5 years in the Middle East under Mennonite Central Committee. She is a graduate of  Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. She loves to travel, play board games, read widely, and roast coffee.  


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Beginnings and Vision Statements


I welcome you to the blog for Charlottesville Mennonite Church! Our hope is that this blog will provide you a flavor of the spirit of our fellowship, encouraging deeper reflection and fostering conversation. The following is a meditation on personal visions.--RH

Each of us moves through life with a script or vision we either hold before ourselves or one that holds us without our being aware of it.

Much of the scriptures hold stories of leaders inviting awareness of negative scripts or evoking a life giving vision in faithfulness.

Our church’s recent journey through advent and epiphany was a walk with the scripts in our lives held up against the vision of the good news in Jesus the Messiah. On a recent sabbatical I revised my own ministry vision statement (below) and I invite readers to do the same within a sense of their own vocation.

We each do so with a sense of our own brokenness held in God’s grace. These are not statements about anyone’s perfection but a vision for focusing our energies in a world with many demands of time for lesser things.

Ministry Vision Statement for Roy Hange:

As a servant of the church, I daily strive to join with the mystery of the Spirit’s work in our broken world as an agent of God’s vision, healing and hope. Held in the grace and peace of God in Jesus Christ, I invite others to know and be held by this mystery of a salvation graciously offered for all to be strengthened in their inner being.

Empowered by the Spirit and accountable to others, I will to offer my giftedness in preaching, teaching, pastoral care and counseling for the healing of persons. I will hold these gifts within transformative and peacebuilding ministries at personal, social and political levels for the healing of the nations. All this is to honor the One “who by the power at work in us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.”


Roy Hange has served as co-pastor of Charlottesville Mennonite Church for 14 years after spending ten years in Egypt, Syria and Iran under Mennonite Central Committee at various times during the 80's and 90's. He is a graduate of Eastern Mennonite University and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. He works in church oversight for the Harrisonburg District of Virginia Mennonite Conference.  He has also taught courses in peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University and the University of Virginia. 
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