There’s a “defining question” facing Mennonite Church USA, Meghan Larissa Good believes.
She asked it two ways in her July 7 evening worship address during MennoCon21 at Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati, with about 590 people attending in person and 454 registered online.
How much does Jesus actually matter to the work of reconciliation?
What do Jesus and peace have to do with each other?
The questions have emerged for a couple of reasons, said Good, who is the teaching pastor at Trinity Mennonite Church in Glendale, Ariz.
First, Mennonites today are working for peace alongside people and groups who practice other faiths or philosophies.
Second, “there are more and more people in our Mennonite church communities who are sure they know about good but not so sure they know about God.”
For her part, Good is sure Jesus and peace are inseparable.
That conviction comes from Ephesians 1:10, which says that at the climax of time God will bring all things in heaven and on earth together in Christ.
Further, Ephesians 2:14 says Jesus himself is our peace.
“Individuals and groups who would naturally repel each other will be held together when they find a center of gravity in something bigger and better than either of them,” she said.
“This is where the New Testament puts its hope: In one nail-scarred body that will draw all people to himself.”
The work of reconciliation needs Jesus as its gravitational center, Good said.
“The proclamation of Jesus that skips out on the work of reconciliation loses its purpose,” she said. “But reconciliation work that gives up on the proclamation of Jesus loses its very ground.”
The world is full of wounds, many of which are beyond our ability to heal.
“But there is one who is able to heal,” she said. “And where his presence goes, his power goes.”
Too often, however, we try to do the work of reconciliation without Christ’s presence and power.
That is like having our hands tied behind our back and our feet tied together.
“We can be channels of a power that is beyond us,” she said. “But we have tried it so little, we don’t know there’s a difference” between relying on our own power or channeling Christ’s power.
“I am convinced that we as church are at a crossroads,” Good said. “We can commit to peace but minimize Jesus because it makes relationships with others easier, or because we’re not so sure what we think about Jesus. We can do those things and we can still do good stuff.
“But if we choose that course, we shouldn’t be surprised if our efforts to hold things together are overcome by repelling forces stronger than us.”
If we make the other choice — to grab onto the presence of the living Jesus — “everything will be different for us.”
She concluded by praying for those who are weary from doing the work of reconciliation and for young people contemplating a step into the unknown.
“I want you to know that the best thing in the world is to be with Jesus and participate in the work he is doing,” she said. “It is the best feeling you will ever have in your life.”
MennoCon21, the biennial convention of MC USA, continues through July 10.