We have been listening to a preacher named Michael Bunker on the internet. We really enjoy a good sermon – isn’t that an odd thing to say? His expositions on scripture, modern life and Anabaptism have really helped us clarify some of our beliefs.
First, the doctrine of separation. Christians are not to be invisible in the world. If nothing else, we should be known by our good works and our love for Christ. We are not merely an ethical society, a philosophy of good. We are followers of Christ, guided by the inner Light that God grants us in the Holy Spirit. We are not just form, we live what we believe, we live what we pray. Our Plain dress is part of that, but not just because it is an identifier with a group; it is an artifact of living the gospel, of modesty and humility, of serious consideration of what the scripture tells us. It is not a legalism, because legalism is a dead interpretation of Law. We are called to a living faith, a way of peace and abiding in the land.
Bunker says we need to take Genesis seriously. I agree; it is not a matter of creationism versus evolutionism, of science against doctrine. It is a matter of knowing why God created us and what for. We are called to live our physical life as closely to the purpose God intended for us as we can. For us, that means homesteading, tough as it is. I truly wish at times it wasn’t so tough! But who said life would be easy? Who said it was going to be cakes and ale every day, if we were just good children like we are told? No, the Lord promised us great gifts, with tribulation.
As a shepherd I’ve had my share of disasters and trouble, both for me and the animals. Sick animals in the flock, a lamb that doesn’t make it through a cold night, contaminated feed, poor pasture. But there are good things about raising animals, too, and more than just the physical benefits of warm wool, top quality meat, or milk. There is the tangible benefit of being in the real world, the world God created, and following the way of the ancestors. I can understand Abraham and David much better. I can understand the parables of sheep and shepherds Jesus told. There’s knowing that when I have to get up at 3 a.m. to tend a ewe in labour, and the stars are as bright as they were when first created, that God meant me to see them, to hold a wet, shuddering little lamb, to give a pail of warm water to a tired new mother. It is more real, more intentional than any office or shopkeeping job I ever had. It is more real than all the church meetings I ever sat through. It is certainly more real than the fantasy world of malls, television, the internet and status seeking.
Life is hard. It is especially hard for the poor. Until we have lived among the poor as the poor we cannot understand why the Lord blessed them with His kingdom. If we are too centered in this world, the world of earning a paycheck, of sending the mortgage payment, of buying a better car and having a good time, then we are not of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is, in this life, a place of struggle and doubt and trouble. It is also a glimpse of the glory to come when the Lord returns (maranatha!) and restores the universe to what He intended. Right now, it is as we meant it to be, and haven’t we done a lousy job so far?