Canadian Mennonite
Volume 10, No. 06
March 20, 2006


Missions must be modelled on the biblical Jesus

Schertz, Mary H., and Ivan Friesen, eds. Beautiful Upon the Mountains: Biblical Essays on Mission, Peace, and the Reign of God. Elkhart, Ind.: Institute of Mennonite Studies, Co-published with Herald Press, 2003. 268 pages. Foreword by J. Nelson Kraybill.

After the crisis in western missions around 1970, churches and missiologists have had to relearn that Christian mission is God’s mission. Therefore, it must revolve not around the church or western culture, but around the kingdom of God. And if it is God’s mission, then it must be done God’s way—as revealed and modelled by Jesus of Nazareth and illustrated in the Bible.

In Beautiful upon the Mountains, the writers seek to discern if the Bible has an overarching vision for mission and, if so, how this relates to peace and the kingdom of God. The book’s title derives from Isaiah 52:7. The editors’ preface rightly claims: “Isaiah’s song about a messenger who announces peace and brings good news is not a lone voice in the biblical wilderness. Rather, from Genesis to Revelation, mission and peace are inseparable as the vision of God’s reign.”

This claim is borne out in the 14 penetrating exegetical essays by as many Mennonite biblical scholars. They give readers a guided tour through the Bible, touching down on all the key literary genres and time periods, probing for a central, unifying message.

We are shown that the “covenant relationship” of the rainbow (Genesis 9:1-17) “is a significant passage for mission and peacemaking…because it represents a new beginning between God and humanity.”

The Psalms, Israel’s worship resource, frequently proclaim God’s kingship over all peoples and creation. Gordon Matties asserts (with Walter Brueggemann): “[W]hen announcements about the reign of God are made in worship, Israel is engaging in ‘the work of evangelism.’”

The prophets are also seen to presuppose the rule of God over both Israel and the nations (Isaiah 2, Micah 4)—a reign in which God leads them and in which armaments are converted to peaceful purposes.

In the gospels, Jesus predicates his life and teaching on the in-breaking reign of God, which he himself embodies (Matthew 11:25-27, Luke 4:18-21). Paradigmatic of Jesus’ inter-ethnic peacemaking mission is his exchange with both the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28) and the Samaritans (John 4).

Here lies the foundation for Paul’s insight that in Christ ethnic, gender and class distinctions have been relati- vized (Galatians 3:28). We are now God’s ambassadors of peace, inviting everyone to become part of God’s reign of peace (II Corinthians 5).

Finally, Revelation, for all its apparent violent scenes and imagery, is no less committed to the peaceable “war [and rule] of the Lamb,” which, through martyrdom and resurrection, brings the kingdoms of the world into subjection to the rule of God (Revelation 5 and 11:15). This way of witnessing promises a reconciled humanity, gathered with all of creation and all of heaven’s beings in joyous worship before the throne of God and the Lamb.

Beautiful upon the Mountains will prove valuable to biblical and mission scholars, adult study groups, and any readers interested in missions well beyond the historic peace churches. As a teacher of missiology, I had the chance to try out this book in a missions seminar; its essays proved to be both accessible and engaging to the students.

—Titus F. Guenther

The reviewer is associate professor of theology and missions at Canadian Mennonite University, and book review editor of Mission Focus: Annual Review.

Woman, Your Role is Important

A poem dedicated to all Mennonite women in particular, and to all women in general.

Woman, your role is very important.
God acknowledged this when he said:
“It is not good that the man should be alone.”
You were chosen as mother
to the Lord and Saviour of the world.
Your role is so important because:
It is you who accompanied
Jesus in his ministry, until his arrest;
it is you who followed him
to the cross and to death;
it is you who were a fearless
eyewitness to his resurrection.

Your role is very important.
In the home you are the counsellor;
you oversee the comings and goings.
You are the full-time nurturer and educator;
without you, the home is without warmth and cheer.
You are tireless until bedtime.
You are the carrier of life.
You are a creature
with a sixth sense, intuition,
and by your faithful and intuitive sight,
you discern and resolve problems.

Your role is very important.
You are devoted and active in the church
where your work is not done for reward.
You are a woman of prayer like Anna,
A woman of hospitality and standing like Lydia,
The Shunammite woman, the widow of Zarephath….
A woman of peace like Abigail, resolving disagreements among men;
You are an evangelist like the Samaritan woman,
Mary Magdalene and others.
Are you not also a prophetess like Deborah,
Whose words often bring people to Jesus?
You walk in the footsteps of Dorcas, Mary, Suzanne, Joanna and others;
you are able to lead and liberate like Esther, Ghandi, and Joan of Arc;
Through your sensitivity, love and gentle spirit you are a woman ready to listen.

Your role is very important.
When there are tears, it is “mother, mother!”
When there is singing, it is “O, O, mother!”
A child in danger always calls for mother,
and one who stumbles cries “mother, mother,”
rather than for father.

Your role is very important.
Even if men discredit you,
remember that Jesus loves you.
He has already redeemed you and considers you very important.
Remember the woman who suffered
from hemorrhages for twelve years
and found healing.
It is a sign that you too will be restored
to your place in the church
for full-time service.

Remember: however long the night, the day always comes.

Your role is very important.

So do not be like Jezebel.
Do not be disobedient like Eve.
Do not be like Athaliah.
Do not be like the wife of Job,
or the wife of Lot.

Your role is very important.

—Sidonie Swana, Kinshasa, Congo; translated from the French by Tim Lind

The poet serves on the leadership committee of the African Women Theologians group and is president of the Association of Congo Protestant Women Theologians. An active member in the Congo Mennonite Church, Swana teaches religion and other subjects at the Christian University of Kinshasa. This poem was read at the 2003 Mennonite World Conference gathering in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

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