When I was a youth a girl who chose to follow Jesus in our Mennonite setting was quickly given a new identity. The process began when she “stood” for Jesus on one night in a revival meeting and the next night she appeared in church wearing a covering and a cape dress. She was soon expected to wear her new apparel where ever she went.
A boy’s identification was less dramatic. A long necktie was taken off, and perhaps later in time a straight cut plain suit replaced a fashionable lay-down collared one. He likely wore the plain suit only for church.
A Greencroft resident introduced herself to a small group by thanking them for accepting her. She explained that she had worn “this covering” for many years. Apparently she had been a part of groups in the past where she felt out of place, unaccepted and peculiar. Her identification as a Mennonite is strong.
How things have changed. This past Sunday several youth were baptized at our church. One was a young woman dressed in a gown with a low neckline and bare arms. Her dress was not “plain” but her smile was radiant and her testimony was persuasive.
Pastor Phil Waite is preaching a series of sermons on the general question “am I a Mennonite?”. My Joy and I have found these sermons worth listening to a second or third time. On August 2 he told us that he knew he was a Conscientious Objector to war before he knew one Mennonite.
On August 9, he told us that his identification as a candidate for ministry was strengthened by marrying a Mennonite woman, the daughter of a Mennonite theologian. I asked an octogenarian how he knew he was a Mennonite? My father, grandfather and great grandfather were Mennonites, he replied. Such identities are sad and weak, said Phil.
On August 16 Phil preached from Philippians 3 and asked us to forget (yet not really forget) the past, but consider it rubbish, as Paul did. I had preached from this scripture and since I was the son of an organic farmer I knew what to do with the kind of rubbish Paul wrote of. Turn it into compost I told my audience.
In both second and third sermons Phil reminded us that early Christians were baptized “in the buff” by literally disrobing, being baptized, and puting on new clothes. A new Christian took off the old and put on the new, i.e. Jesus.
Phil ended his third sermon with Isaiah 2:2-4 .Phil believes that Paul and Isaiah had the same universal vision. Mennonites, when clothed with Jesus, have the secret of world peace, according to Phil, and this Old Fool.
The links take you to Phil’s sermons found about midway through the service.