This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

AMBS Pastors Week focuses on biblical vision

ELKHART, Ind. — The Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary “Fab Five” took on snow and frigid temperatures to help participants to see Jesus at Pastors Week Jan. 27-30.

Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary professors Allan Rudy-Froese, Rachel Miller Jacobs, Jamie Pitts, Safwat Marzouk and Andy Brubacher Kaethler presented during Pastors Week Jan. 27-30. — Photo by Jason Bryant
Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary professors Allan Rudy-Froese, Rachel Miller Jacobs, Jamie Pitts, Safwat Marzouk and Andy Brubacher Kaethler presented during Pastors Week Jan. 27-30. — Photo by Jason Bryant

AMBS planners questioned whether to go ahead with the event amid winter emergencies in the area. But the weather challenges may have served only to help inspire and unite the 157 participants as they encountered five points of view on the theme, “Help Me See Jesus! Help Me See, Jesus!”

Presenters Andy Brubacher Kaethler, Rachel Miller Jacobs, Safwat Marzouk, Jamie Pitts and Allan Rudy-Froese are each in their second or third year of teaching at AMBS. They took on the challenge of helping participants see Jesus anew and allowing Jesus to help them see in new ways.

Pitts, associate professor of Anabaptist studies, opened the week with reflections on baptism. He drew parallels among the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, Jesus’ baptism and our own baptisms. The Israelites’ passage “changed their vision of God and of the world. It changed them and their way of being in the world,” he said. Jesus entered the Jordan River for his baptism, “leaving behind his artisan’s work and emerging with a vision of the Spirit that led him to an itinerant ministry.”

Explaining how vision changes under water, Pitts said, “We enter the baptismal waters where our vision is undone, distorted and finally blotted out. Only then are we prepared to see what is next.” We are transformed by that experience, and it spurs us to “right seeing in the world.”

Right seeing also involves seeing our contexts and the culture in which we live, said Andy Brubacher Kaethler, assistant professor of Christian formation and culture. When we do not examine our own culture and the way it shapes our reading of the Bible, we risk being blind to God’s liberating, reconciling work.

Jacobs, assistant professor of congregational formation, also challenged participants to a new way of thinking when studying the Bible in congregations. Instead of feeling that we or our congregations lack knowledge or time for Bible teaching and study, she said, we should approach the Bible with a spirit of “enoughness.”

She encouraged pastors to follow Jesus’ example of living and teaching with a sense of abundance and vulnerability.

Marzouk, assistant professor of Old Testament, led a study of the story of Sara, Hagar, Ishmael and Isaac as a way of exploring identity — how we see ourselves and others. The story often is read in a way in which self and other are binary opposites. Readers identify with Sara and Isaac, viewing them as positive and superior, while Hagar and Ishmael are seen as inferior, defiant or something to be resisted.

Marzouk pointed out, however, that Ishmael is neither an outsider nor an insider in God’s promises. His identity is complex: both Israelite and Egyptian yet neither fully Israelite nor Egyptian.

Jesus also has a hybrid identity. He “was fully human but divine … a prophet who did not fit anywhere,” Marzouk said. For Christians, too, there is an in-between identity, and recognizing this is important.

“We are called to be disciples in this world but not of this world,” he said. “We live in the already, not yet.”

Helping others see Jesus through preaching was the challenge Allan Rudy-Froese, assistant professor of Christian proclamation, worked with. To prepare for preaching, he called participants to prepare their bodies and minds. The whole body is involved in speaking, and rehearsal is important for the preacher just as it is for the choir and soloists. Preachers must also allow themselves to receive a gift from Christ in their study and preparation.

“If we don’t get the gift ourselves, we won’t preach it either. If we have not seen Christ, how can we help others see Christ? If we cannot see how Christ is carrying us, how can we say to others that Christ is carrying them?” Rudy-Froese asked.

Sign up to our newsletter for important updates and news!