Which prophet have you not stoned

John Powell among the Elders

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).

“MJ” among friends in the Congo

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.

Candidate Ressler and family

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.

Relevant sermons
from Ezekiel thirty seven
read hear come to life

 

About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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4 Responses to Which prophet have you not stoned

  1. Freda Zehr says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Martin. I did not know Michael personally, but my husband, Vernon’s first cousin was married to a Sharp— Michael’s uncle, so my heart was with them, his extended family as all waited to hear what had happened. It is at times like this that I find myself doubting–I wonder why God did not reach down and prevent it. Where was God? And where is He now,, when I need him? Are those words—anything you ask in my name it shall be done unto you—are they simply words with no meaning? I want to have faith, I want to believe, I want to keep on praying for things, but I must admit that I am in a very troubling situation myself right now, something I cannot go into on here, but it feels like God has turned his back on me. Forgive my thoughts. Freda

    • Freda, you may be interested in the memorial service for “MJ”. You can google Hesston Mennonite Church and I think you will find a link to the archived record of the service. It is long, so if you go to near the end you should find a sermon by his aunt on the question: Where was God? She offers five answers, as I recall. I wish I could be with you. (you will need to go to their website)

  2. carroll lehman says:

    Martin your blog reminds me of the great spirituals–“Ezekiel saw de Wheel” and “Dry Bones”. You must have sung them sometime.

    • Almost nightly I fall asleep to songs by Barry Belefonte and Zekal saw de wheel is early in the collection. I used to preach a sermon on the Valley of dry bones to churches who were in deep discouragement. Some of them thrive today, not because of the sermon, However if I walked into a certain one today I believe one or two of the elders would remind me of the sermon.

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