This last Sunday we had the distinct pleasure of welcoming Gordon Matties, Professor of Biblical & Theological Studies at Canadian Mennonite University, to The ConneXion to share with us a sermon from Joshua chapter 5. Matties recently finished a commentary on the book of Joshua (published through Herald Press). The sermon focused on verses 13-15 in chapter 5 where Joshua encounters the figure of a man who appeared before him with “a drawn sword in his hand.” Matties’ sermon explored the way in which this encounter can act as a foil for reading the entire book of Joshua, informing the way in which we understand the taking of the land. The commander of the Lord’s army identifies himself, not as being “on the side of” either the Israelites or the Canaanites. Rather, as “commander of the Lord’s army,” this man shows that God’s “army” is not subject to or completely allied with any human people group but stands in authority above and in judgement of all human armies. The practical and theological outworking of such a statement are many, both from the viewpoint of the book of Joshua as a whole and from the viewpoint of modern politics and culture wars. God is not simply “on our side,” but is above all “sides,” working for the reconciliation of the whole cosmos.
This last Sunday Ward Parkinson led us in a reflection on how we are to, as Christians, relate to the state/government. It was a great discussion and one that is ongoing. Today, Ward emailed me and asked me to share this quote with you which he felt nicely fit with the theme of church and state from an Anabaptist perspective. Let me know your thoughts:
Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.
—Martin Luther King, Jr., “Where Do We Go From Here?
Here is a quote that I read at the service this last Sunday. The quote comes from the book Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire by William Cavanaugh. I realized after I read the quote aloud in the service that it is quite a lot to take in when just hearing it , so I thought that I would post it here so that people could mull over it a little more effectively. Also, to contextualize this quote a bit, the author is addressing questions of what it means for Christians to be free in a world where certain free market ideologies articulate freedom as defined purely by the ability of an agent to get what they desire without the interference of external actors.
“Freedom is something received, not merely exercised. Therefore, in order to determine whether a person is acting freely, we need to know much more than whether or not that person is acting on his or her desires without the interference of others. In Augustine’s view, others are in fact crucial to one’s freedom. A slave or an addict, by definition, cannot free himself or herself. Others from outside the self — the ultimate Other being God — are necessary to break through the bonds that enclose the self in itself. Humans need a community of virtue in which to learn to desire rightly.” (9)