Confession: I identify myself with the Anabaptist movement of the 16th century and the Mennonite church of the present. The Anabaptists attempted to follow Jesus in radical ways through the practice of things like simplicity, community, and pacifism. Many of them were mercilessly persecuted, imprisoned and martyred for their faith. They were forced to flee to the countryside for safety and worshiped secretly in caves and barns. In a few weeks I am leading a tour to the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria to revisit some of the sites and stories of this movement. We will be flying over the Atlantic in a big jet, traveling in Europe by air-conditioned coach, sleeping in nice hotels, and eating good food.
Justification: I can’t give any justification for the extravagence of the trip. Mennonites are obviously doing better than they were a few centuries ago. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” We are now a fragile flower. We will cultivate community as we talk, walk, and eat together. We will renew our commitment to follow Jesus as best as we can in a very different time and culture. As we reflect on the violent persecution of the 16th century we will be grateful, and we will renew our commitment to the way of peace.
Penance: Think about this question: What does it mean to be a radical follower of Jesus today? At every place you pause to remember your faithful ancestors who were martyred, be grateful, but also lament. When you visit Dachau there will be a sign that says, “never again.” Lament that it has happened again.
“God is just, gracious, loving, kind, and in control of the world. There is something wrong when reality shows otherwise. Lament is an admission that things are not as they ought to be, and not as they forever will be, for we do not lament over things that are as they ought to be.
I believe that today we are in danger of losing the art of lament. Perhaps that is because we believe, and I have heard it said, that rather than complain, we should try to change things. But the truth is that not everything can be changed.
The art of lament is important because it gives expression to the conviction that things ought not to be that way. Failure to lament does one of two things: either it gets us to use measures that are extreme in seeking to change things we really cannot change, or it gets us to accept the status quo as normal. Laments commit us to the struggle that even though we cannot change things on our own we believe that change can happen. Lament binds us to the notion that God is working at redeeming fallen creation.”