We need the Spirit’s renewal
Re “Alive with the Holy Spirit” (March). Thank you for your emphasis on Pentecost and the great gift of the Holy Spirit in the latest issue of the Herald. I was reminded of another powerfully enlightening article on this topic in the May 18, 1990 issue titled, “What happened to Pentecost?” by John E. Toews. It just sets my sights straight spiritually and, frankly, I feel a lot of us MBs could benefit from a renewing of the Holy Spirit within us.
Don’t put the Spirit in a box
Re “Learning to fly with the Spirit” (Features, March). Thanks for devoting the March issue to the Holy Spirit. I especially rejoiced at the article by Ray Harms-Wiebe. The response of the believer to the Holy Spirit was compared to a kite responding to the wind. Very fitting.
In meditating on this, I recalled that Jesus said, “The wind [the Holy Spirit] blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound [what the Spirit is saying to us], but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.” (John 3:8) In other words, Jesus says you can’t put God’s Spirit in a theological box.
I believe the Holy Spirit is given to us at the new birth. But once in a while we need a fuller measure of the Spirit. All we need to do is ask and it will be given to us. “The joy of his salvation” (Psalm 51:12) is restored to us and our spirit once again hears his Spirit’s voice whenever we stop long enough to ask him what he sees happening and what he wants us to do about it.
An unpredictable wind
Re “Alive with the Holy Spirit” (March). After reading the articles about the Holy Spirit, I was reminded of my father’s thinking on the subject. He had a favourite sermon based on John 3:8. Self-taught, he had been an ordained a deacon/evangelist in the MB Church in the Ukraine about 1921. He knew this sermon so well he could preach it at a moment’s notice.
One evening when he was in his late eighties I asked him to preach it to me again. In my parents’ tiny living room he, son of a miller, told me what he had learned about the Spirit while studying the wind. He believed the Spirit in a believer’s life produces life, but also the direction and character of that life.
“When I look outside I can’t see the wind, but I can see the wind’s activity by the waving of branches. I can’t see who is born of the Spirit, but I can see the deeds of the Spirit. You can never set the time when the west wind will begin. It starts slowly. I wet my finger and turn it in the air to feel the wind even before I see branches moving. When it cools my finger, I know it’s time to prepare the mill. The wind will be steady, dependable for several days at a time after it gets started. So, many people cannot say the exact day of their spiritual birth.”
The essence of his words was that you can’t pin the Holy Spirit down to just one way of working in our lives. I agree.
Katie Funk Wiebe
Friction between church and artists
Re “The art world needs more beauty and suffering” (Crosscurrents, March). It was a pleasant surprise to read Andrew Siebert’s article on the work and lectures of Erica Grimm-Vance. It’s not often you come across such a thoughtful piece of art criticism in a Christian publication.
I was particularly intrigued by the pairing of beauty and affliction; both concepts are indeed unpopular in the art world and philosophy. Beauty in particular, is a term that most people barely understand, and both artists and theologians need to unpack this concept further. By drawing into the discussion of beauty and affliction the cultural theory of “meaning versus appearance,” Grimm-Vance points to a way out of the superficial euphoria of our postmodern,
consumer-driven culture. She and other artists that address “universal questions” make space for art that’s truly counter-cultural.
In the final paragraphs, Siebert addresses Grimm-Vance’s lectures and the underlying philosophical basis for her work. Though his criticism of her eclectic philosophy may be warranted, it’s unfortunate that he didn’t critically address her actual work as an artist, other than to say it offers a glimpse into what the arts can be. Perhaps it’s telling of the friction between church people and artists; we like to see good art, but we struggle to understand the artist. Conversely, the artist wants to be understood, but struggles to communicate from a field that has been robbed of a credible voice.
Where are programs for single dads?
Re “Single-parent families” (February). I attend Southpoint Community Church and a friend of mine gave me the February issue of the Herald because I’m a single father. I found several of your articles on single parents very interesting and uplifting.
My one concern is that none of the churches seem to have any support mechanisms for single fathers. I noted singular support but no church programs to assist these fathers. I realize we’re a minority but perhaps we also need support. Single mothers seem to have become socially acceptable, including in your articles. Yet single fathers are not. Canada’s government is included in this because, to date, virtually no single fathers have been approved for adoption of a child.
Severing our oneness in Christ
Re “Question of the month” (December). I was upset upon seeing the results of December’s online poll: 51% voted that “Mennonite” ought to remain an ethnic term. As one with a “non-Dutch-German-Russian” (DGR) ethnic background, I was encouraged by Bruce Guenther’s challenge at the study conference to unreservedly accept non-DGRs into the Mennonite fold.
When I was a freshman at Bethany College, I understood that being a Mennonite was not unlike being a Lutheran, Methodist, or Anglican; it had to do with doctrinal and theological concurrence, not whether my parents knew how to speak Low German or bake paska. As I continued learning about the history of Anabaptism, my appreciation and understanding for this rich cultural identity grew – yet I still didn’t understand or appreciate the fact that I knew non-Christians who called themselves Mennonites simply because their surname was Penner or Wiebe.
By (improperly) naming ourselves according to our ethnic past, we are isolating ourselves in a way that severs our oneness in Christ. Paul insisted that Gentile Christians were engrafted into the story of Israel. Yes, Jewish Christians remained “Jewish” the same way as DGRs are always going to be DGRs. But all who are in Christ are to be one in Christ. By this logic, insisting that “Mennonite” remain an ethnic term is equal to the early Jewish Christians insisting that “Christian” be a title reserved for Jews.