Over the past year, I’ve connected with a fellow Anabaptist brotha, Marty Troyer. He is known online as the Peace Pastor and writes some killer (no pun intended) stuff! One article, he wrote for my blog, became one of the most popular guest articles on Pangea of all time (Indicting Violence: A Pacifist Review of The Hunger Games). He is someone to keep an eye on online.
Marty is the pastor of Houston Mennonite Church. Recently, they took up a project to discern the 12 foundational passages that shape the values and ethos of their community. The website says:
During August we at Houston Mennonite Church have discerned 12 Foundational Scripture texts that express our identity and call us into the future that God has for us. On September 2 we almost finalized this list of 12 texts. We continue to dialogue and pray about this list, and invite you to live into the reality of God’s word!
I’m going to list the passages they chose below, but first I want to make a few comments.
First, these serve as a great starting place for thinking about foundational passages for my own ministry context and for my own life. Although you may not lead a church, this excercize could be productive for: families, non-profits, individuals, and more.
Second, I’m not sure that these passages would all make my “list,” however, they all present values important to living into the way of Jesus. Some that are missing from my theoretical list might include: Acts 2.42-47, Romans 8, Revelation 21-22, and 2 Corinthians 5.11–6.2.
Finally, if every church throughout the world lived out the 12 foundational passages of Houston Mennonite Church, Christianity’s credibility and witness would bring forth the Kingdom in unimaginable ways. May God’s Kingdom come!
So, What would you choose as the foundational passages for your church/family/self/etc? What passages are missing to fit your context?
Here are the 12 Foundational Passages:
The Peaceable Kingdom
They shall beat their swords into plows, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more…The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Isaiah 2:4,11:6-9
Seeking this Peace in Houston
Seek the peace of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its peace you will find your peace… For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your peace and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes. Jeremiah 29:7,11-13.
Jesus unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ Luke 4:17-19
What does God require?
‘With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before God with burnt-offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with tens of thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’ He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:6-8
Being Transformed by God
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2
Becoming God’s people, in exile
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. 1 Peter 2:9-11
In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith…There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26,28
Becoming God’s Christ-like People
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Phil 2:1-11
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ Matt 22:37-40
On a Journey with God
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long. Psalm 23
On a Journey with Jesus
Then he said to them all, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Luke 9:23-25
Sermon on Mount Matthew 5-7
We’ve chosen the entire sermon. But here are some portions that have been suggested as symbolic representations of the whole:
- Beatitudes, Matt 5:3-12: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
- Lord’s Prayer, Matt 6:9-13: Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.
- Ask, Seek, Knock, Matt 7:7-11: ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
- Citizens on the Mount, Matt 5:14-16, in the summer of 2011 we preached through the Sermon on the Mount and used this title and verse: ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
- Built on Solid Rock, Matt 7:24-27: ‘Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!’