As MennoNerds, we all have found certain distinctives of Anabaptism to be central in our expression of faith. This article is part of a MennoNerds Synchro-Blog in the month of May on Anabaptism. This blog will explore some of the Anabaptist distinctives that my fellow Mennonerd, Tyler Tully, has written up on his blog (http://thejesusevent.com). To read what other Mennonerds are saying on Tully’s Anabaptist formational arguments, I’d encourage you to check out: http://mennonerds.com/special-blog-series/mennonerds-on-anabaptist-convictions/).
The following is Tyler’s description of what being Agents of God’s Shalom looks like:
“Agents of God’s Shalom– More than merely being non-violent on a personal level (a measure that all Anabaptists will not flinch from) we are dedicated to producing God’s Shalom in our communities. Therefore, we stand against violence in all of its forms (Empire, oppression, poverty, war, etc.) while we live in justice as an alternative community. Shalom is more than the absence of conflict (Pax Christi), it is the peace that surpasses all understanding and the project of the Holy Spirit as God’s Reign fosters wholeness through reconciling the hierarchies of class, race, ethnicity, age, sex, gender, sexuality, and ableism. Although there are tensions within the Anabaptist movement as to the Church’s possible political activism, Anabaptists reject Dominionism in favor of persuasion. Thus Anabaptists can responsibly engage the Powers and Principalities through prophetic and non-violent witness. Yet like Jesus, this living of justice as an alternative makes us bearers of violence as it is sometimes done against us, but it is never instigated by us.”
The following poem differs from the other writings in that it is not a personal reflection. This story displays some of what I have learned from living in Toronto for 4 years and rubbing shoulders with many who would consider themselves outsiders of the church. It is a call for Christians to rise up and choose to live an active lifestyle of faith through emulating Christ rather than simply to sermonize. It is the belief that all Christians have the ability to be “Jesus with Skin on” though only a few of the really serious ones will actually take Him up on the offer.
You sit there drinking your hot steaming cup of coco while I look aimlessly into the sky
5 years ago today, I took to the streets
I still have my tattered blue jeans and my wool sweater from that era.
I had a few bad knocks in life
I few rough turns.
I was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
I was born the wrong shade
With the “wrong” mindset
And the “wrong” gender.
It wasn’t my fault,
Or so I keep telling myself.
I needed protection, I needed a way out,
And so I took to these streets.
Aimlessly I search the sky overhead
Begging for an answer
But there is none.
The question barely forming on my lips
As I quiver and shake.
I used to have a family.
I used to laugh and play with my younger siblings
And now nothing.
There was a time in my life when I was the hero,
And now I’m the one trodden down.
You, see, there was a church just around the corner.
But there was also a bar.
The bright lights flickered to me, calling me to engage in a new found escape,
While the church seemed a bit lonely and abandoned.
The church was meant to be an agent of change,
But the only agent I see presently is the one writing up a report and walking past me on these streets.
I haven’t caused harm to anyone
And then I realize
That maybe there really isn’t an answer at all
Yet questions always are unending.
BUT even in the questioning there is a beauty
And that beauty is that as hard as life can be
There will always be Ambassadors of the truth.
Those who don’t just talk about some newfound faith,
But truly live it out.
Those who do not preach sermons,
But live each day as if their life were a sermon.
Those who do not judge,
They do not ignore,
But stand tall,
When I think about what makes a Christian, I consider,
It is not the ones who shut the doors of their church to me
I am too stinky
Wearing ugly clothes
And have a “past”,
The ones who walk beside me daily,
Who come into my life,
And who choose to stay for the long run,
Rather than just a few short weeks to say that they have “made a difference” and to feel good about themselves
They’ve chosen to come and live in my neighbourhood
Despite the fact that socioeconomically they could have done much better
They choose to bring me a sandwich
Eat it with me.
And they do invite me to church,
But in a different way than you might expect.
For they are not inviting me simply into a strange and foreign building
Where the spires reach to the highest heavens
And where the stain glass beckons an artistic expression
Such beauty lies in these places,
But I am not yet at the place where I can understand and appreciate the beauty.
That day is coming
But is not now.
For now, they don’t invite me to the Bible study
For I do not know how to read.
They do not invite me to the banquet
For I have no money or clothes
But they invite me into a living and breathing relationship
One in which they are present
One in which Christ is so present that I can see, and taste, and touch, and smell Him.
They do not try to change me,
But they beckon me to come.
And as I move in closer to them,
I see the face of Christ imprinted on them.
Years ago someone asked me what Christ looked like.
I thought He looked like a kind and gentle man with a beard and piercing brown eyes
Today I know that He looks like
The woman who offered me an extra cup of soup at the homeless shelter
The man who sat down with me over coffee and listened to my sobs
The young girl who begged her Daddy to have compassion on me.
When I stop and consider
I realize Christ is in each and every person
If only they will open up themselves to that possibility.
As I take to the streets again,
I feel courage.
I no longer feel ashamed.
I know that there are agents – secret angels working for Christ
Who will offer comfort and consolation.
This truly is what the church is.
This truly is what being a Double O agent is all about.