Readings for the Ascension Journey

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 9:51


Day 45  9:51-52 Jesus sense of purpose

Day 44  9:53-56 – rejection by the Samaritans

Day 43  9:57-62 – the nature of discipleship

Day 42  10:1-16 – commissioning of the 70: preparing the way; 10:17-20 – return of the 70: priorities in success; 10:21-24 – Jesus; prayer and blessing;  Love, mercy, and listening as the heart of discipleship (10:25-42)

Day 41 10:25-28 – a lawyer’s challenge; 10:29-37 – parable of the Good Samaritan: mercy fulfills the law

Day 40  10:38-42 – Martha and Mary: the better part

Day 39  11:1-4 – Lord, teach us to pray;  11:5-8 – persistence brings help;  11:9-13 – children asking the father

Day 38  11:14-23 – Jesus’ power is from God not Satan  11:24-26 – an empty life invites intruders;  11:27-28 – the value of hearing and responding

Day 37  11:29-32 – the sign of Jonah: the need to repent;  11:33-36 – light and understanding

Day 36  6. 11:37-54 – condemnation of false piety: neglecting justice and love

Day 35  12:1-3 – warning against hypocrisy;  12:4-12 – encouragement to those who acknowledge Jesus

Day 34  12:13-21 – parable of the rich fool: the danger of possessions;  12:22-34 – trust in God eliminates anxiety

Day 33  12:35-48 – faithfulness to the Master

Day 32  12:49-52 – the coming judgment;  12:54-56 – reading the signs of the times;  12:57-59 – do not wait for the judgment;  13:1-5 – the need for repentance;  13:6-9 – the barren fig tree: a last chance

Day 31  13:10-17 – a crippled woman healed, and controversy;  13:18-19 – parables of the Kingdom: the mustard seed;  13:20-21 – parables of the Kingdom: leaven;  13:22-30 – the narrow door: reversal of expectations;  13:31-35 – Jerusalem: threat and lament

Day 30  14:1-6 – healing on the Sabbath;  14:7-11 – humility: human expectations not God’s;  14:12-14 – generosity beyond social conventions;  14:15-24 – parable of the banquet: anticipation of an unrestricted Kingdom

Day 29  14:25-33 – the cost of discipleship;  14:34-35 – warning against unfaithfulness

Day 28  15:1-2 – complaints against Jesus;  15:3-7 – the lost sheep: joy at the rescue of one;  15:8-10 – the lost coin found;  15:11-32 – loving father and 2 lost sons

Day 27  16:1-9 – parable of the dishonest manager;  16:10-15 – God’s economy: faithful in little;  16:16-18 – the abiding validity of the torah

Day 26  16:19-31 – the rich man and Lazarus: consequences of self-centeredness

Day 25  17:1-10 – disciples and community

Day 24  17:11-19 – 10 lepers cleansed: thankfulness

Day 23  17:20-21 – the Kingdom of God is present now;  17:22-37 – the end of the age

Day 22  18:1-8 – the unjust judge: patience in prayer

Day 21  18:9-14 – parable of the Pharisee and tax collector: self-righteousness

Day 20  3. 18:15-17 – receiving the Kingdom as a child

Day 19  18:18-30 – the rich ruler: the hindrance of wealth

Day 18  18:31-34 – Jesus again predicts his death

Day 17  18:35-43 – healing a blind man: sight and understanding

Day 16  19:1-10 – Zacchaeus: a model response to the Kingdom

Day 15  19:11-27 – the parable of the pounds: trusting servants with the Kingdom

Day 14  19:28-40 – Jerusalem:  the triumphal entry;  19:41-44 – Jesus weeps over the city and its future

Day 13  19:45-47 – the cleansing of the Temple

Day 12  20:1-8 – a challenge to Jesus’ authority

Day 11  20:9-19 – parable of the vineyard: rejecting the cornerstone

Day 10  20:20-26 – Trick questions: paying taxes to Caesar;  20:27-40 – more dishonest questions: the resurrection;  20:41-44 – is the Messiah a son of David?;  20:45-47 – the dangers of pride and self-righteousness;  21:1-4 – the widow’s offering

Day 9  21:5-36 Signs of the end and the coming of the Son of Man; call to vigilance and prayer;    21:37-38 – teaching in the temple

Day 8 Judas plans Betrayal; The Last Supper: 22:1-23
Day 7  22:24-38 Disciples’ problem: status, denial, purse, sword.

Day 6 Jesus praying, arrested, deserted, betrayed:  22:39-56-62
Day 5.  22:63-71; 23:1-25:  Jesus mocked, questioned, sentenced

Day 4.   23:1-25 Jesus before Pilate

Day 3.   23:26- 43 The Crucifixion of Jesus

Day 2.   Jesus death and burial:  23:44-56


1. New Day:  Easter:
Jesus Has Risen:  Luke 24:1-12
Day 2. Luke 24:13-49: Jesus appearances:

Day 3. John 21:1-14: Jesus appears to Mary

Day 4. John 21:19-31 Jesus appears in Galilee:

Day 5. Mark 16:1-20: He has been raised

Day 6: Matt. 16:1-28 Jesus will be raised

Day 7:  Mt. 20:  17-19: 3rd Prediction of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection

Day 8. Acts 5:17-22: Exalted him to His right hand

Day 9. Acts 13:13-44:  The one God raised up

Day 10. Hebrews 7:11-28:  He always lives to intercede

Day 11.  Ephesians 1:15-22:  Raised from the dead, seated in the heavenly realms

Day 12. 1 Thess. 1:  2-10:  He raised from the dead . . . Jesus our deliverer.

Day 13. Rom. 4:13-25:  Raised for our justification

Day 14.  2 Cor. 5:11-21:  Living for him who was raised

Day 15. I Cor. 15:1-16:  God indeed raised the Lord

Day 16.  Rom. 8:9-14:  Jesus, raised to life

Day. 17. Acts 1:1-5:  Learning about the kingdom; waiting for the spirit.

“He spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God.”

Day 18. Luke 4:40-44:  Preaching the Kingdom of God

Day 19. Luke 7:18-35:  Least in the Kingdom

Day 20. Luke 8:1-15:  Good news of the kingdom of God

Day 21. Luke 8:4-18: Secrets of the kingdom

Day 22.  Luke 9:1-6: Proclaiming the kingdom

Day 23.  Luke 9:10-17:  Healing, feeding and the kingdom

Day 24.  Luke 9:57-62:  Kingdom challenges

Day 25.  Luke 10:1-12:  The kingdom has come

Day 26.  Luke 11:14-23:  The kingdom has overtaken you

Day 27.  Luke 13:18-29:  What is the kingdom like? The banquet table.

Day 28.  Luke 14:15-24:  The kingdom banquet parable

Day 29.  Luke 16:1-18:  Priorities in the kingdom

Day 30. Luke 17:20-37:  Presence of the kingdom

Day 31. Luke 18:15-30:  Little children and wealthy rulers in the kingdom

Day 32:  Luke 19:11- 27 Kingdom work

Day 33:  Luke 19:28-40:  Receiving the King

Day 34. Luke 21:25-33:  Certainty of the kingdom

Day 35. Luke 22:7-30 I grant to you a kingdom

Day 36. Luke 22:33-56:  The thief remembered in the kingdom/paradise.

Day 37:  Acts 4:5-26: Healed by the name of him whom God raised Day 38:  Acts 2:14-36 “This Jesus, God raised up”

Day 39 (84):  Matt. 28:16-20:  He has been raised . . .  therefore go.

Day 40 (85):  Luke 24:50-53: during the blessing, he was taken up into heaven;

Acts 1:1-11:taken from you into heaven ….will come again.






Ascension Journey, A Lenten alternative

As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. Luke 9:51 NLT



Lenten materials arrived in my church mailbox.  They included scripture references.  I wondered which New Testament passages would explain Lent.  Not finding any, I started asking questions and doing some research.  The passage above helped me raise questions.


In the late Middle Ages, as sermons began to be given in the common language instead of Latin, the English word lent was adopted for the period before Easter. This word initially simply meant spring (as in German language Lenz and Dutch lente) and derives from the Germanic root for long because in the spring the days visibly lengthen. The original Greek term for the period is tessarakoste, for the “fortieth day” before Easter. This form is preserved for the period in Romance, Slavic and Celtic languages (for example, Spanish cuaresma, Portuguese quaresma, French carême, Italian quaresima).  Depending on the tradition the 40 days are calculated in different ways.  Sundays are skipped in the Roman Catholic tradition because they are “mini-Easters.”  Some have connected the fasting of Lent to an imitation of Jesus time in the wilderness (which would end possibly about the beginning of Lent).  Later, Lent “floated” to connect with “Holy Week” observances.  The roots of Lenten observance are believed by some to extend back nearly to the time of the apostles.   It is interesting to note that observation of Lent became part of expected religious observance after Christianity became the official religion of the empire.


Traditionally, church guidelines for Lent include prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  In addition, some people feel experiencing suffering during this time is important.  This takes the form of not eating a favorite food, for instance.  We know Jesus spent time in meditation and prayer. Luke tells us that he went out to pray “a long time before day”.  Other places we are told of Jesus fasting.  No specific mention of meditation is made but the words of Jesus various places, especially John 14-17, suggest that times of meditation preceded the talks/prayer. Jesus gave up material goods and comforts even before the days leading to his death.  This is made clear by his words to the prospective follower:  “Birds have nests and rabbits their hole, but the son of man has no where to lay his head.”  I would affirm the blessing of these spiritual disciplines, not just for a period in the spring, but throughout the year.

Questions from my study

The question being asked is what is the nature of what Jesus did during his last days: forty-five to fifty days to Lent or the eighty days plus to the ascension?  I wondered why in the nearly fifty years that I had been a Christian I had never heard this question.  (I think during the first part of that period we had revivals, rather than Lenten observances.)  An internet search revealed that I could order an “I gave up Jesus for lent” T-shirt but little more.  Since the Mennonite Church emphasizes following Jesus’ example, it seemed appropriate to review the practice of Lent in light of that focus.  Many questions have come to me as I reflected on Jesus activities during his last 45/85 days.  What questions would you ask?

Luke 9:51 marks the beginning of Jesus last days on earth, those associated with Lent, Easter and the Ascension. Some see the transfiguration in Luke 9:28ff as the beginning of this period.  There are very few indicators of time elapsed in these chapters.  The NT writers are fond of the number 40, so it is surprising that Luke does not mention forty days (or 45, if weekends are included) or some time period. (Articles referenced below on the origins of Lent do not refer to Luke 9:51 and what Jesus did during his last days on earth.)

Last days activities

What did Jesus do during those last days before his death as he anticipated his ascension?  He clearly had a sense that this was a crucial time in his ministry. How did the pressure of his coming death and ascension influence his activities?  Surely the activities of Luke 9 through Luke 22 arose out of Jesus declaration in his first sermon (Luke 4).   Beyond that, Jesus, I believe, was preparing the way for continuation of kingdom work.  He began a new phase outreach by sending out seventy of his followers (chapter 10) to announce the coming of the kingdom. Once ascended, he would reign and provide intercession for his followers as they lived as they were created to live.  During the last days of his life, didn’t he continue to do what he announced what he would do? What indications are there that he simply prepared for his death? (Of course, he prepared for his death or the manner of his death at Gethsemane.) Just before the ascension declaration in 9:51, Jesus had told the disciples that he was going to Jerusalem where he would be killed and then raised from the dead.  Did he change what he was doing under the threats from religious and political leaders? To what extent is it true that the way he lived led to the cross; to the tomb; from the tomb to his exaltation as King?  Was this why Jesus came, to draw people to God, to establish the Kingdom of Heaven? to be acknowledged as king in the kingdom of God?


Much of the Christian church uses the period before Passion Week to anticipate Jesus’ death. Jesus, according to Luke, “As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.”   The question I am asking:  what does one do about the disconnect?

What does this suggest we should do to honor Jesus last days on earth?  Perhaps we should experience the last days on earth as he did.  We should be announcing the kingdom, doing the works of the kingdom, accepting the consequences of kingdom work and recognizing the vindication by God of what has been done through Jesus’ giving himself.   Then, praising God for raising Jesus to his right hand to be our intercessor.  I will be posting a list of readings from Luke 9:51 through Luke 24.  Later I will add scripture from Acts and other sources for the period leading up to the ascension.

re-blogged from Compost & Grace.

Making chili for the Virginia Relief Sale: A Weavers Mennonite Church Project

Getting Started

Danny and Shirley Trobough started the original chili project in 2002, making 10 gallons of chili in their home. Their small group contributed ingredients, helped with the cooking and sold the chili at the Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale (supporting the Mennonite Central Committee’s work in disaster and famine relief).  In 2003, the Troboughs asked David Alleman if the Weavers Food Pantry Garden could donate some peppers and tomatoes.  About year later, the Relief Sale folk required that all food must be cooked in certified kitchens.  The project was transferred to Weavers’ Shady Oak kitchen.  So, the twenty gallons of chili were cooked at Shady Oak and transported to the sale where hungry folk made quick work of the peppers, tomatoes, meat and beans combined according to Danny’s recipe.  While the Troboughs served in Jamaica in Voluntary Service, they entrusted the project to Joe Earlys and David Allemans.

In 2003 and several years following, chili tomatoes and peppers mostly came from the parsonage garden.  Jan Kauffman harvested many of the tomatoes and peppers and the Allemans froze them in preparation for the early Saturday morning cooking.  The hot sauce Shirley made to accompany that chili included seven kinds of hot peppers.  Preparation of the chili continued to be coordinated by David Alleman and his small group and the sale by Joe and Janel Early’s small group over the next several years.

Getting ingredients

Sources of ingredients have shifted.  The last several years Seasons Bounty (produce) Farm has been giving us onions in exchange pulling onions for them.  In 2017 the 6th grade Vacation Bible School class, plus friends helped pulled about 25 plus bags (bushels?) of onions and we took about one bushel. For several years many peppers and tomatoes came from seconds solicited from several produce stands around the area or at the Harrisonburg Farmers’ Market.  Sometimes we got thirds from sellers at the Shen Valley Produce Auction.  For the past several years, all of the peppers & tomatoes have come from Weavers Church members or their friends.  More than a bushel of tomatoes in 2017 came from our fellow volunteers at Gift & Thrift.  Beans for the chili came from the Clayton Maust farm in Michigan 2013-2015.  One year he brought 50 pound bags of black, pinto and red beans and told us to take the rest to local food banks (we needed only about 20 pounds).  For 2017 volunteers purchased and contributed canned beans.

Getting help

One of the most important recent developments is the help of the young adults:  Wengers, Kings and Wheelers and several others they have brought with them.  Next to that has been the increase in the amount of chili made to 40 gallons.  We have made twice as much chili in nearly the same amount of time.   Several members of the SAMS small group found ways to make our work more efficient.   The younger workers made the chili go better.   We no longer raise our own garlic.  One year, a volunteer used a garlic crusher to crush all 120 cloves needed for the chili.  This required pulling the skins out of the crusher.  That evening she developed a rash which lasted several days.  Now she donates minced garlic in a jar.  Organizing ingredients Friday afternoon has also been important.  One year, during transport of the chili to the Fairgrounds, a bucket of chili tipped over. Never did hear whose vehicle had the chili flavored floor mats. That unfortunate occurrence led to another improvement.  I am sure the Jeep owner was glad Roger and Linda Nelson found us some buckets with lids.

Getting it right

Over the years there has been push and pull between those who like thick, full flavored chili and those who like bean soup.  There’s also the tug between those like to feel pepper burn and those who like to “taste all the ingredients”.  Our Anaheim peppers were plentiful in 2017 and a bit warmer than normal.  To test the wisdom of using up to half Anaheims (for the peppers) in the chili, the Allemans made a gallon batch.  Then they invited five men home from church for a Sunday dinner of chili.  Turned out just right.  Cornbread helped and no one asked for the hot sauce.   For the past several years Jewel Yoder has been making a scotch bonnet pepper-based hot sauce.  The hot sauce has been essential for the heat lovers to add to their chili.  She has made enough for Janel and Joe to sell at the end of the chili sales.  Chili making has been a community effort.  In 2017 more than 20 people contributed ingredients needed to make the chili.  There were 12-16 people involved in making the chili and 6 to 8 involved in selling.

Getting started again?

Chili making to raise funds for famine and disaster relief through the Mennonite Central Committee may have ended in 2017 after 15 years.  Will another group pick up this pain-in-my-back, joyful, good-fellowship, profitable for others, service project?



What do we do about “widows and orphans” today?  


“God not made with our hands” sermon follow-up Micah Hurst (1/28/18)

Encourage prisoners.

Many residents of correctional institutions are there due in part to poverty conditions. Some are not. In most cases we will not know why they are there. Many are lonely. The men to whom I have written have expressed their appreciation of receiving letters.  Knowing people care about them may keep them from returning to a life of crime when they gain their freedom.  For a list of prisoners to write to see:  Support Jason Wagner through Virginia Mennonite Missions.  Jason is the chaplain at the local jail.

Aid to homeless, underemployed, addiction challenged

Our Community Place has provided a place for people without jobs, homes or who are underemployed to find a sense of belonging and some opportunities for improvement in their situations.  Some of the services there include transportation to Community Service Board, job interviews (including training for the interviews and contacts for jobs), help in finding rehab for addictions and support for dealing with the above challenges.  The social activities of game night and movie night, as well as the common meals helps with this.  Work day contributes with developing a sense of contributing to the good of all.

The Friday Noon Restaurant trains people in food service skills preparing them for new jobs. Enjoy eating there knowing that you are helping to train the people involved.  To raise funds for OCP, Night Out monthly restaurant staffed by a local chef provides an excellent meal.  February 14, 2018 meal features Sri Lankan food.  Periodic projects for churches or other groups (grounds clean-up, painting, garden preparation) give OCP the labor for extra projects beyond what the regular clients can provide.  Donations of garden produce and other goods are appreciated.  Fund raisers such as OCP Walk in the Fall and the Plant Sale the beginning of May are opportunities to support OCP.

Mercy House provides housing and related services to homeless.  See their website for more information or talk to Roy Early or Steve Yoder.  Mercy House currently (1/30/18) is in need of two people for after school activities for four (4) Fridays in the month of April or May from 4-5 p.m.  You can plan your own activities but start with a Bible story.  Children’s ages are 4 to 12.  Number of children will vary–1-10 (?).  To ask questions or volunteer, call Chaplain Nan at Mercy House 413-505-8285 or email–faith.html

Mercy House Store supports the work of Mercy House.  See Deb Huffman for more information.

Open Doors:  An overnight shelter for people who are homeless sponsored by local congregations in and around Harrisonburg.  Mailing Address:  P.O. Box 1804, Harrisonburg, VA 22803Office Phone Number:  540-705-1908.  Weavers has been investigating whether we can participate in this program.

Bridges of Hope works with homeless women with children connecting them with a social worker and a group of people who will help the woman become self-supporting.

Salvation Army:  Provides meals and temporary housing.  They usually need people to ring bells for fund-raising in November and December.  Weavers’ participants include Clayton Shenk and Julia Alleman.  540.434.4854

Weavers has been participating in the School Backpack Program for several years. A list of foods for this project will be listed in the Weavers bulletin when it is our month to fill backpacks.  Talk to Therese Leigh or another Outreach Committee member.

 Patchwork Pantry:  Provides food and basic personal items to families/individuals meeting basic criteria.  Patchwork Pantry especially need help during the hours open (just before and after, too) 6-7pm Wednesdays.  Donations of garden produce and non-perishables welcomed.  Located at Community Mennonite Church, South High and Water Street.  See the following for more about this organization:    and

People helping People is a cooperative ministry of churches in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, Virginia which helps people in an emergency crisis with resources and guidance. Weavers people have staffed phones for this organization.  When individuals come to Shady Oak for help, assistance is coordinated through People helping People.

Stopping sex trafficking

New Creation works to counteract sex trafficking through education, awareness, and raising money through selling items designed and made by former trafficked individuals.  See

Minister to new arrivals

New Bridges: Vision: “Through extensive training and experience in the particular dynamics that influence the lives of immigrants and refugees, the agency works diligently to engage immigrants, connect cultures, and build community with a vision for a thriving community that everyone can call home.”

Refugee Resettlement Program:  We worked with them when we helped Gakwandi and Angelique and family last year.

Work for famine and disaster relief

Gift & Thrift Store of Harrisonburg is part of Mennonite Central Committee.  MCC relates more to overseas people who have experienced disasters such as drought, storms, war and other disruptions to their lives making access to food, water and housing difficult.  In volunteering at the store one helps raise money for these projects.

Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale:  Raises money for development of resources to help people deal with their basic needs.  Money also goes to MCC to provide water food, clothing and temporary housing after war, floods and other disasters.

School kits are assembled to assist school children and distributed through Mennonite Central Committee.  The SAMS small group has been inviting others to participate in this project.

Other forms of service

Virginia Mennonite Missions:  In addition to showing the way to a new life, VMM workers provide meals, distribute Christmas boxes, staff schools and advocate for better treatment of marginalized persons (for instance, supporting prison ministry and seeking to bring an end to sex trafficking).

Harrisonburg Rockingham Free Clinic

  • HRFC has more than 200 volunteers who support all aspects of our organization.  Many have worked with us for more than 5 years. Our volunteers feel there’s no better reward than being part of a dedicated team providing essential medical care to neighbors in need. Volunteers range in age from 18-85 and are working professionals, homemakers, students and retired individuals.  Clinical positions include Virginia-licensed doctors, PAs, NPs, nurses, EMTs, phlebotomists, pharmacists, pharmacy techs and others.  Non-medical positions include receptionists, eligibility interviewers, interpreters (French, Kurdish, Arabic, Spanish) and administrative assistants.  (If you have received medical insurance assistance or Medicaid assistance, part of your gratitude for these might be a contribution to HRFC.)


Ava Care Free pregnancy testing and confirmation – so you know for sure.

No specific information for Roberta Webb for volunteers.

Name: Roberta Webb Child Care Center
Address: 400 Kelley Street, Harrisonburg VA 22802
Contact Phone: (540) 434-8699


Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s research shows that young people who attend a Club regularly tend to do better than their peers nationally:

  • 68% of Club 12th graders volunteer at least once per month, compared with 39% of 12th graders nationally
  • 90% of Club ninth graders report abstaining from drinking alcohol in the past 30 days, compared with 77% of ninth graders nationally
  • 31% of Club girls ages 12 to 15 are physically active every day, compared with 23% of girls in the same age range nationally
  • A comparison of NYOI and National Survey on Drug Use and Health data suggests that low-income, regularly attending Club members ages 12 to 17 outperform their peers nationally on school grades.



Singing justice for the poor: Looking for Anabaptist-flavored worship music


I proclaim the power of God: 

You do marvels for your servants;

Though you scatter the proud hearted

And destroy the might of princes.

To the hungry you give food,

send the rich away ——empty.

In your mercy you are mindful

Of the people you have chosen.

Refrain:  And holy is your name through all generations. (verses 2 & 3 “My Soul is Filled With Joy”. #13 Sing the Journey.  See also, “I’ll praise my maker while I’ve breath” verses 2 and 3 Hymnal, a worship book – HWB #166)

Where can we find similar praise to God for caring for the poor and hungry in contemporary and traditional worship music?  The results of the search I’ve done show few examples of helping the marginal and bringing down the powerful in praise and worship music.   Early 2015 the Mountain States Mennonite Conference concluded an Anabaptist songwriting contest. They asked for “New songs with lyrics that espouse Anabaptist/Mennonite values:  (e.g. Non-violence, love for enemy, reconciliation, communal life, etc.), musically spanning from traditional forms to non-traditional genres, styles and cultural expressions.” Specific mention of the social justice theme is not made, but perhaps it is implied in “Anabaptist/Mennonite values”.  The link below identifies winners and includes their lyrics and music.  One of the six mentions attention to the poor. *  The 2015 Mennonite World Conference Songbook, Walking with God includes at least three of fifty-six selections that specifically praise God for his attention to the oppressed and poor.  January 4, 2016, MennoMedia announced Project 606, intended to produce a new hymnal by 2020.  Will this project include work on identifying elements of Anabaptist-flavored, Bible-based worship music?

 Biblical sources

What Biblical models warrant placing a strong emphasis on praising God for social justice, especially in praise music?  “Social justice” here is short hand for God’s act in delivering an immigrant/slave people from the super power of the day.  It is a social act because a group of people, the children of Israel, was rescued. A new people with a new plan for living (the Torah) were established. God’s rescue of an oppressed people was “just” because it showed God’s love and mercy, not because Jacob’s descendants deserved it.

The contest (see above) reminded me of my quest of some years to find references to discipleship in worship music, narrowed here to social justice. After some 40 years of hearing loss,  hearing aids no longer helped.  My cochlear implant is engineered to help with the hertz range of conversation level, but does not cover high and low notes of music.  So, I give my attention to the words of the song.  This has led me to ask questions about the theology behind the music used in worship. As a non-musician I make no claim to expertise in evaluating musical quality of any of the songs mentioned.  I need a welcome help in identifying the quality of lyrics and music featuring attention to God’s interest in the oppressed.

What I have learned

Worship music in the evangelical churches I am familiar with usually includes what can be categorized loosely as contemporary Christian music (CCM), traditional hymns, and gospel songs.  These types of music have some overlap.  I am not going to define each type.  Each has its focus.  Contemporary and traditional music praise God for many attributes and deeds, give many invitations for rededication to Christian living, and rejoice in the promise of future life with God, but seldom on concern for the poor and oppressed.  My focus on the marginalized in this essay is very narrow.

Christian contemporary music

Several writers have noted the lack of attention to social justice issues in CCM. Jay Howard writes: “There are few [contemporary Christian worship] songs concerned with social justice because there are few songwriters from the Anabaptist tradition.”  He analyzes 77 Contemporary Worship Songs –those most frequently requested of the licensing service CCL–and finds only one that gives direct attention to social justice issues.  John L. Bell, songwriter argues that CCM is mainly about the birth and death of Jesus and ignores his life.  Have I missed some CCM titles that give attention to Jesus’ life, especially to his attention to the poor, the widow, and the outsider?

Traditional ‘gospel songs’ and hymns

Praise and thanksgiving in traditional hymns and gospel songs (I will not define these here, but look at the section on “Gospel Songs” Mennonite Hymnal for examples) give little attention to social justice.  “Gospel songs” are strong in their emphasis on grace, God/Jesus’ companionship and love.  I have not found any of these that praise God for his love and care of the “widow and fatherless”.  There are a number of hymns in HWB, that include an interest in the poor and oppressed and justice for them.  One that honors God for this attention is “I’ll Praise My Maker”, verses three and four (HWB, #166).  Some encourage us to follow Jesus’ example in caring for the marginalized.  Did I miss hymns that specifically praise God/Jesus as Miriam and Mary did for God’s championing of the oppressed?

Models and sources:

The preliminary Biblical models I would propose for praise songs are Miriam’s song (Exodus 15) and Mary’s song in Luke 1. The book of Psalms was Israel’s “praise and worship” book.  That requires some attention to psalms that praise God for his attention to disadvantaged and those who prey on them.


Miriam’s Song

While God the warrior image usually makes Anabaptist uncomfortable, God is first called holy when he rescued the Israelites from the Egyptian cavalry and foot soldiers.

Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like you?—majestic in holiness, fearful in praises, working wonders?
 You stretched out your right hand,
the earth swallowed them. (Ex. 15:11-12 (New English Translation)

God is praised for delivering the immigrant/slaves God chose to become his covenant people.

The Psalms

In his work on the Psalms, Walter Brueggemann says that the things we praise God for shows the way we view the world and our place in it.  Many Psalms praise God (see also Miriam’s Song) for delivering a slave/immigrant people from the Egyptian superpower whose religion favored politically powerful and the rich. We are sometimes tempted to assign God’s action here to a special category, rather than see it as a model of what God does.  Psalmists praise God (and kings) for their concern for the poor and marginalized.  God is praised for being a just judge and for making wars cease.  See the following Psalms: 9, 10, 29, 35, 65, 66, 68, 69, 72, 74, 81, 82, 94, 96, 97, 98, 99, 102, 103, 105,106, 107, 109, 123, 124, 135, 136, 139, 140, 146.

 Phrases from Psalms 72 and 146 capture a king’s and God’s attitude and action and are characteristic of the other Psalms:

Ps. 72:  The King:

— takes pity on the weak and the needy
—  saves the needy from death.
rescues them from oppression and violence,
— for precious is their blood in his sight.

Ps. 146.  The Lord

–upholds the cause of the oppressed
–gives food to the hungry.
–sets prisoners free,
gives sight to the blind,
— lifts up those who are bowed down,
— loves the righteous.
watches over the foreigner
–sustains the fatherless and the widow,
–frustrates the ways of the wicked

Praise the Lord.

Repeatedly God gives attention to the oppressed and provides security and safety to victims of violence.  To what extent should words and phrases like these from the Psalms be present in our worship music?


Attention to the needs of the orphan/widow/poor is identified more with prophets than the Psalms and I was pleased to find significant attention to this topic in the Psalms.  Prophetic critiques of worship do not contain comments on purity of sacrifices, social justice content of Psalms or the quality or frequency of Psalm recitation.  The prophetic critiques point out that Sabbath worship by the people of the covenant should be reflected in covenant behavior during the week.

Mary, Jesus, Paul

These themes are continued in the New Testament.  Mary’s prophetic vision of her son’s work is captured in the song “My Soul is Filled With Joy”. (#13, Sing the Journey, verses 2 and 3 above).  Jesus inaugural sermon repeats these themes.

Miriam’s Song, many Psalms, the prophets’ reminders all tell us that connecting worship and living is crucial.   The New Testament contributions of Mary’s song, Jesus life and teaching, and Paul’s take on worship in Romans 12 all point to the worship-discipleship-concern for poor and marginalized as an essential element in our praise and life.  I have found very few songs in CCM and “gospel songs” with this focus and only a few in traditional hymns that praise God as a champion of the down and out.  (Perhaps additional research and help from knowledgeable persons will locate songs with a social justice focus.)  Eugene Peterson’s (The Message) take on Psalms 65:1 provides an appropriate conclusion:

Silence is praise to you,
Zion-dwelling God,
And also obedience.
You hear the prayer [praise] in it all.

(My emphasis.)


*Text and music of six winners can be found at:


Thanks to Julia H. Alleman and Ray E. Horst for sharing their music knowledge with me.

Revised from an essay previously posted on Compost & Grace


David Alleman

Nov. 27, 2016



Daniel and the wisdom prophet, Part 3: Reading Daniel today

How do we read Daniel?

Many Mennonites have preferred the “calendarizer” -Vernard Eller’s term- approach to the book of Daniel and its “prophecies”.   In doing so they have emphasized the chronological connection between events in the fashion of the diviners and astrologers.  This approach neglects the ethical connection between events in prophetic utterance:  good deeds will bring blessing, evil deeds bring curses.  Others have joined the modern trend of casting the wisdom prophet into the ivory tower of apocalypticism and throwing away the key.  By declaring Daniel “apocalyptic”  the prophetical/ethical dimension has been of the book has been blunted.

The “proto-constantinianism” of the Maccabees has been the key to interpretation of the political relevance of Daniel for both protestants and Catholics. (see Harrington, The Biblical Model for Revolution).  These interpreters agree with the book of the Maccabees that revolutionary violence and state violence are necessary to protect the people of God and punish evil.

Although Mennonites have focused on the ethical dimension of the Christian faith, they have not given much attention to this dimension of Daniel.  The Mennonite Encyclopedia. does not contain an article on Daniel, in spite of the importance of Daniel to many of the era of the editors of ME.   [There is mention of Daniel in the article on “chiliasm”.]  That Daniel was of importance to the early Anabaptists, such as the Munsterites, has not increased the appeal of Daniel.  The disputes between the premillennialists and amillennialists and their use of Daniel to create timelines has detracted from viewing the ethical aspect of the wisdom prophet’s ethical teaching. There have been no interpretative articles on Daniel in the Gospel Herald/Mennonite since at least 1960, if my research is correct.  I have searched the indexes back to 1960 and talked to former editors, Dan Hertzler and John Drescher.  (The Believers’ Church commentary on Daniel was published after I began this study.)

This essay proposes that we expect the wisdom prophet, as other prophets, to provide practical guidance on a current issue of the day, not simply children’s rescue stories or timetables for the distant future.  For our day also, when evil people arise, the wisdom prophet’s stories can encourage us to faithfulness to God and trust in him.  In the face of oppression and persecution, many have chosen the Maccabean way of violent resistance, rather than the wisdom prophet’s way of faithfulness and suffering.  From the Münsterites of the Anabaptist era to the Branch Davidians of Waco, Texas and liberation theologians today, people read the book of Daniel as if it supported the Maccabees, rather than opposed them.

Many followers of God have insisted that God’s people need the state and state violence for their preservation of Christian values.  Christians rooted in the Cold War era saw the United States’ nuclear weapons as a necessity for the survival of Christianity.  Christians have encouraged the Israelis to believe that only by military superiority will they be spared another Holocaust.  In the post-9/11 world, Christians have insisted that the evil of terrorism will only be overcome by violence.  How can people of peace encourage others to let the angel Michael (Dan 10:13) and the Son of Man deal with the enemies of the people of God?  Following Daniel’s example, we can choose the way of suffering, prayer, and the wisdom of trusting God.


Daniel and the Wisdom Prophet—Part II

How did the people of God respond?

With violence:

The Maccabee family led the violent opposition to Syrian oppression.  They were joined by some of the hasidim (holy ones).  Around 165 BCE a group of these hasidim warriors sought refuge in a cave to observe the Sabbath, their covenant with God.  The Syrian forces discovered them and killed them.  The Maccabean-led group cited this massacre as the basis for their decision to fight on the Sabbath to drive out the Seleucids.  They continued the fight, eventually gaining control over the land of Israel in 161 BCE.  Part of their success was due to a treaty with the Romans who were interested in gaining a foothold in the eastern Mediteranian.  The Maccabean family established the Hasmonian dynasty that ruled an area nearly as large as Israel under King David.  After a hundred-plus year of independence, they came under the control of the Roman Empire.  The apocryphal books of the Maccabees contain an account of this battle for independence, emphasizing how God helped them defeat the Seleucid/Syrian forces and establish their kingdom.

With wisdom and faithfulness:

A prophet of the day did not support their violence, instead he emphasized faithfulness, wisdom, prayer, and trusting God.   He recalled how Daniel and his friends in Babylon were blessed for their faithfulness (Dan 1-6).  The same writer recalled or experienced the visions (Daniel 7-12) that communicated a powerful awareness that God still controlled the fate of crazy kings and evil kingdoms.  I call this writer/editor of Daniel, the wisdom prophet because of his emphasis on living and teaching wisdom.

He was a prophet in the deuteronomic sense:  declaring that evil deeds lead to curses and good deeds lead to blessings (Dt. 18). He recalled the stories of Daniel and his friends to provide a model of faithfulness to God and to encourage the teaching and practice of wisdom.  He challenged the revolutionaries to see that God’s people have remained faithful to God under oppression.  The remained faithful without state violence or revolutionary violence to defend and protect the faith.

The wisdom prophet spoke also to the Hellenizing Jews of Judea calling them to faithfulness by recalling how the Jews in Babylon remained true to the faith.   Further, he showed that this faithfulness brought gentiles and their rulers to recognize the true God.  The role of the state was an important issue between the Maccabees and others of their era.  The Hellenizers and the traditionalists clash over the appointment to the office of high priest led to the murder of one of the candidates, Onias II (the “anointed one” of Dan 9.26). Once in control the Maccabeans/Hasmoneans combined the office of king and high priest.

The Babylonian stories also showed how mad and crazy rulers were toppled by God’s hand. Through the visions of smashed statues, rams, bears, leopards and the ancient of days he assured the Jews that they could serve God with confidence in the final outcomes.  God would punish the evildoers without the need for human participation.

Those insisting that through violence the Jews should defend the faith saw Phineas (Numbers 25:7) as a hero and were willing to kill fellow Jews who opposed them.  The wisdom prophet chose Daniel and friends as heroes.  The wisdom prophet used Daniel as a eponym/pseudonym because of the Maccabeans willingness to kill Jews who opposed them.

We can read the “children’s story” of Daniel in the lion’s den in the context of the ethical issues of the day.  Placing it near the center of the book of Daniel, the wisdom prophet shows Daniel willing trust God to care for him, just to pray three times a day.  The Maccabees were not willing to take that risk even to preserve the covenant sign of the Sabbath rest.  In another “children’s story”, the fiery furnace rescue, the wisdom prophet derides the view that king and high priest, state and religion should be combined.  The statue on the Plain of Dura and the humorous worship scene there illustrates the wisdom prophet’s view of what happens when religion and state are combined.  The testimony of Daniel’s friends and the furnace scene contrasts with the Maccabees unwillingness to let God fight for them.

With humor

The wisdom prophet pokes fun at the Babylon view that the food offered to idols could make one wise (chapter 1).  All of the first six chapters contain an element of humor, especially chapter six with the idea that one could have a “god for a month”.  (See my blog )

With trust in God

The conclusion of the stories in the first half of Daniel complements the visions of the second half.  God’s people can be faithful without the support of the state or revolutionary violence because God is in control.  The visions portray the wisdom prophet’s certainty that God controls history.  (Looking at the numbers in the visions as symbols emphasizing certainty obviates the need for the complicated calculations favored by the “calendarizers”.)  Humans do not need to deviate from their primary responsibility.  The wise live faithfully, teach wisdom and give their lives for others (chapters 11 & 12).

The reflection of the Isaiah servant songs in 12:1-4 presages the joining of the suffering servant motif with the divine warrior motif (seen with the Ancient of Days in ch. 10) in the person of Jesus.  The faithful wise are willing to give their lives, perhaps for the salvation of others.


The wisdom prophet shows us Daniel who prayed before the challenges of interpreting a dream when he first had to tell the crazy king the dream details before giving the interpretation (ch. 2).  The wisdom prophet risked death in the den of lions to pray three times a day (ch. 6).  His prayer of confession led to the angelic assurance that “God would fight for [them]”. (Ch 10).  He fasted and prayed before the vision of the last times(Ch 11).

Jesus and the wisdom prophet

Scholars disagree about the Essenes’ (a first century religious group) influence on Jesus.  One scholar suggests that the writer/editor of Daniel was the founder of the Essenes who withdrew to the desert to preserve their way of holiness and peace.  By whatever avenue first century Judaism influenced him; Jesus words and deeds raised questions about the violence of the Maccabees.  Did Jesus choose the Son of Man title to align himself with the nonviolent resistance of the wisdom prophet?  Was Jesus claim to be the  “light of the world” against the backdrop of the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) in John 10 a provocation for the plot to kill Jesus?  Can we view Jesus claim to be the good shepherd who gives his life for his sheep as a commentary on the claims of the Maccabees/Hasmonians to be “shepherds?” The debate following the healing on the Sabbath (in Mark 3) contains an echo of the dispute between the Wise and the Maccabeans.  Jesus asks whether it is appropriate to kill on the Sabbath.  Finally, when the Maccabeans recaptured Jerusalem, Judas Maccabeus rode a white horse into Jerusalem.  In his entry into Jerusalem, Jesus chose to ride a donkey.

Next:  Part III, Daniel for today