The Minority Ministries Council of the Mennonite Church that was active in the 1960’s and 70’s recently reconvened at Greencroft. In those same decades I was an administrator in the Southeast Mennonite churches, so I felt at home among them. John Powell was among them then and now.
John Powell was a young African American activist. He became so discouraged with the Mennonite Church that he abandoned it. After a time he returned and now serves as a conference minister for small Mennonite churches scattered in the northern regions of the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference.
On the first Sunday of lent, Powell preached to the College Mennonite Church from Ezekiel 37. In the context of a valley of dry bones, Powell found hope for restoration to life and effectiveness for today’s church. The prophet Ezekiel prophesied as instructed, and the bones connected, flesh, sinew and skin covered them, but the bodies were just corpses until the prophet called for the wind. The bodies breathed and came to life as one great army.
I remember a sermon I preached to a discouraged church on Ezekiel’s vision. As I remember I said that if the bones of a church were well connected (organized), had gifted people with money (sinews, flesh and skin) such a church would not be alive till it was given breath by the wind (Spirit).
The civilized world is noting the story of Michael “MJ” Sharp while we mourn his death in the Congo. The more I learn about “MJ” the more I think of him as a remarkable young prophetic “fool” for peace who offered his life as a martyr for the restoration of neighborly relationships in a troubled region of the Congo. “MJ” and his colleagues refused to believe that the situation was hopeless like dry bones, very dry bones.
My daughter introduced me to another young prophet. He is a resident of Lancaster, Pa., a descendant of the first ordained bishop of the Mennonite Churches in Tanzania and a graduate of EMU. He was described as a poet, playwright, want-to-be-novelist, lover of the arts, world traveler, husband, father and candidate to be Lancaster’s mayor. He is an Anabaptist and Mennonite and is committed to a service-driven life.
Kevin Ressler was on his way to deliver a sermon in a chapel service at EMU when he heard news that confirmed the death of “MJ.” Sharp. He discarded his prepared sermon to dwell in a fresh way on the story of dry bones in Ezekiel 37. He remembered his friend, “MJ” and engaged issues of injustice and how we are called to be involved in our neighbors’ plight. You may hear a podcast of the chapel service by clicking here. Worship and be challenged by a second sermon on Ezekiel’s vision.
from Ezekiel thirty seven
read hear come to life