New Directions for Aimless Politics

Many Christians feel lost at sea this (U.S.) election. For some, the traditional loyalties that have anchored us have been severed. We have been thrown off-course, with no obvious way forward.

stock-photo-spicy-mustard-seeds-in-a-wooden-background-284886125Perhaps our disorientation is prompting us to inquire freshly into how the biblical story engages American society. Perhaps during this election month, we can make some sweeping decisions about how we will think and live after the election. How can we re-narrate Christian politics in light of scripture? And, how can Christians model a new way of living in community?

Not only at the polling booth but also beyond this election, Christ followers can be guided by the biblical story. The Bible narrates Christ’s restoring purposes for His world. Scripture unfolds the true story of the world; it even tells us the story’s ending. In order to be faithful to this story, we need to regain a sense of our ‘otherness’ to the political process.

In a moment, I will offer seven trajectories from the biblical story that may guide us I our political engagement. A couple of initial thoughts for reflection: we cannot evaluate what is happening in an entire nation based on whether its President claims to be a Christian, or not. Voting should be steered by policy that honors Christ rather than by a candidate’s claim to Christian affiliation.

Also, voting out of a sense of our own place in the biblical story moves our politics beyond party lines. We can move beyond party-political allegiance to seek policy that reflects Christ’s purposes for His world.

A biblical vision for society

So much in scripture is relevant to this discussion, but for the purposes of this short article, let me offer seven trajectories from the book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy might be a surprising choice, but it makes sense as a biblical example for politics because it is the “national charter” for ancient Israel—Deuteronomy set the agenda for their nation.

Some background: Deuteronomy called ancient Israel to live as kin with one another (e.g. Deut 14:28-29; 15:2, 7; 16:11, 14; 24:14-15; Matt 5:21:24). People were to treat each another as family. Living together as family, everyone was to be given the opportunity to flourish, especially the slave, the widow, the refugee, and the orphan. All of these were to be kin.

Similarly, Christ followers are called to discern: which policies are calling our community to care for one another as family? Whose political talk is calling us to count a cost for others?

Now, seven trajectories that emerge from the biblical story. I chose these trajectories by discerning how the biblical story, especially Deuteronomy, encounters American society.

First, creation care

In Deuteronomy, the land and its abundance are gifted by Yahweh. So the creation is sacred (e.g. Deut 7:13; 8:10; 16:13-15; cf. Exod 23:10-12; Psalm 148:1-10). Wendell Berry writes that “we are . . . required to honor in all things the relation between the world and its Maker.” Arguably, climate change, in light of its sheer irreversibility, is the pressing concern facing this generation. We didn’t start it, but we are now responsible for it.

Second, protecting the most vulnerable

Scripture always places the ‘weakest’ at the center. Jesus had the reputation of eating with tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners (Luke 15:1-2; 16:19-31). In Deuteronomy God demands: “There shall be no poor among you” (Deut 15:4; cf. Acts 4:34). God does not desire a ‘great’ or a ‘prosperous’ nation so much as a nation that lives well together, as sisters and brothers, as kin. This is true greatness. Examine each political party’s track record in helping the most vulnerable: those who are poor, mentally ill, incarcerated, or sick.

If human vulnerability requires our compassion, then vulnerability at the beginning of life and the end of life is also important. Abortion and assisted death should concern us deeply.

 Third, protecting democracy

Scripture’s egalitarian ethic supports open political processes and fair voting procedures. Deuteronomy was remarkably democratic in its ancient context. The king was greatly constrained (Deut 17:14-20). The judiciary was to be selected by the whole people (Deut 16:18). The biblical trajectory of fairness, participation, and restraint for those with the most power is still relevant. We should inquire: which candidate will limit the influence of corporations and big private donors upon future elections? Which will promote equal electoral participation? If the answer is “neither,” then let’s make some noise!

Fourth, responsible governance

Deuteronomy provides instructions for the offices of the state: judiciary, king, priesthood, and prophet. These office holders must be fair (16:18-20), they must not seek power or notoriety (17:20) and they must protect the most vulnerable (1:16-18). Compare leaders to these standards of responsible, fair, and humble governance.

Fifth, responsibility toward people who are seeking a home

Deuteronomy commanded ancient Israel to “love the stranger” (Deut 10:19). To “love the stranger” literally meant to have a covenant commitment to the stranger (Deut 10:15-19)! This is the strongest possible language for including displaced people within a community as full participants (Deut 16:11, 14; 31:10-12). The Bible calls upon the U.S. to offer a radical welcome to refugees and to other immigrants who are seeking a home.

Sixth, resisting racism

In Deuteronomy, every person in the land was to be treated as a sister and a brother (1:16-17; 16:11, 14). This included ‘strangers’ and servants, many of whom were foreigners (5:12-15). God’s ancient people were to live as family together, and this is God’s desire for all of humanity (Matt 5:21-24; Gal 3:28; Rev 7:9). Christians should nurture politics that knits the nation together as family, dignifying every ethnicity and group and especially those with less power.

Seventh, from nationalism to servant hearted patriotism

God gives life to every person and to every nation, in love. This is a part of the message of the famous Psalm 36: “Your love Oh Lord, reaches to the heavens” (see especially vs. 7-9). Because of God’s love for every person and nation, all nations have a responsibility toward others.

Throughout history, tragically, God’s good gift of nationhood has been corrupted by nationalism, which makes an idol of the nation. Nationalistic currents exclude people who are not ‘us,’ and they promote military decisions and trade policies that are self-serving. Scripture invites us to embrace servant-hearted patriotism: one does need to love America less, in order to love other nations more.

Let’s pray for mustard seeds

Perhaps our present bewilderment is the Spirit’s invitation to discern freshly how the biblical story encounters American society. As for me, I don’t pray for a Christian America, for that phrase continues to do damage to the reputation of Christ across the globe. Rather, I pray for mustard seeds: that beyond this election, the Spirit would continue to cultivate humble worshipping communities who are busy discerning the idols of our culture, living in solidarity with the marginalized, and emanating the joy of Christ to their neighborhoods. Also, I pray that the Spirit will give Christ followers the mind of Christ as we approach November 8th. Amen.

Mark Glanville is teaching faculty at the Missional Training Centre, Phoenix ( and he pastors at Grandview Calvary Church, Vancouver. He wrote his PhD on Old Testament ethics.

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An ancient Assyrian spell to make a baby go to sleep!

This is an ancient spell to make a baby go to sleep! It is written on this clay tablet that was stored in the Assyrian library of the Assyrian King, Ashurbanipal. I took the pic in the British Museum today.spell for baby.jpg

You could try the spell tonight;) It reads, in Akkadian:
“Belch like a drunkard, snort like a baby gazelle, until your mother comes, strokes you, and picks you up.”

Ashurbanipal (668BC-627) was king of the great empire of Assyria in the twilight years of Judah, the Southern Kingdom of ancient Israel. Jerusalem fell in 586BC.

I wonder whether Ashurbanipal had better sleep than we do in the early hours of the morning?


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A Jazz Talk | How Biblical Law Shapes Missional Communities

In this jazz-talk I speak from the piano about how to read the laws of the Old Testament, what is known as biblical law. I illustrate the nature of biblical law by comparing the development of biblical law to the development of jazz music. Enjoy!

The video was produced by my dear friend Natasha Irvine for Redemption Church, Tempe, Phoenix, and for Grandview Calvary Church, Vancouver. Please share it around:)


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The women who tricked Pharaoh

Twelve women appear in the opening chapters of Exodus, some of whom by their cunning, boldness, and decisiveness trick Pharaoh and preserve Moses’ life in order that God’s plans might be fulfilled.[1] “Without Moses, there would be no story, but without the initiative of these women, there would be no Moses!”[2] Jopie Siebert-Hommes shows how these twelve women correspond to the twelve tribes of Israel (1:1).[3] The exodus of the twelve tribes out of Egypt depends upon the resolve of these women who are used by God.

[An excerpt from my book, in preparation: Reading Exodus: Society Reshaped by Kinship. Lexham Press.]

Shiphrah and Puah

Exodus 1:15-22

The first individual named in the book of Exodus is not Pharaoh, who remains unnamed, but the two Hebrew midwives. These are the first in a “whole array of female characters in Exodus 1-2 who venture to trick Pharaoh as they rescue Moses from the deadly royal decree.”[4] Pharaoh demands of these women that they kill every male Hebrew newborn. But, as Shiphrah and Puah “feared God,” they didn’t fulfil the request. Shiphrah and Puah take a subtle jab at Pharaoh, implying the superiority of Hebrew women: “‘The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.’” (Exod 1:19) This is the first act of civil disobedience for the sake of justice in written history.



Exodus 2:1-9; 6:20

Jochebed, Moses’ mother, tricks Pharaoh by following to the letter of his decree that every newborn Hebrew male should be thrown into the Nile. Initially, Jochebed hid the newborn Moses for three months. When hiding Moses became too risky, she placed Moses in a carefully prepared basket, which she floated in the Nile. Pharaoh’s daughter found the baby, and at Miriam’s suggestion Pharaoh’s daughter appoints Jochebed as Moses’ wet nurse.

Jochebed’s name means ‘Yahweh is glory.’ This is the first name to appear in the bible that includes the divine name ‘Yahweh’: yah. ‘Yahweh’ is the personal name for God that God revealed to Israel. It seems then that name Yahweh was “embedded in [Moses] maternal lineage: if his mother bears YHWH’s name, Moses learned it from her.”[5]



Exodus 2:1-10; 15

After Moses’ mother placed the baby in the basket, Moses’ sister stood watch. When Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses, the sister suggested, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” (Exod 2:8) The girl fetched Moses’ mother. Moses’ sister displayed the cunning, boldness, and decisiveness that characterises all of the women in these opening chapters of Exodus. Pardes refers to these events as “the triumph of the female saviors over the mighty Pharaoh.”[6]

While Moses’s sister is not named in the early chapters of Exodus she is probably the same person as Miriam, who is a most significant leader within Israel. She leads alongside Moses and Aaron throughout the wilderness years. Miriam’s importance as a leader can hardly be overstated. For example, Miriam leads Israel in a song of celebration after crossing the Sea of Reeds (Exod 15:20-21); she is introduced as a prophet (Exod 15:20). Interestingly, Miriam is not referred to as a mother or as a wife, which is different from most of the women in the bible.[7]


Pharaoh’s daughter

Exodus 2:5-10

Another unlikely hero is Pharaoh’s unnamed daughter. This woman was motivated by compassion for a Hebrew baby: “He was crying, and she took pity on him.” (Exod 2:10) Pharaoh’s daughter gave Moses to his mother until the time of weaning (around three years), and then she adopted Moses as her own son, “right under her father’s nose.”[8] Her behaviour is rebellious.

Pharaoh’s daughter names the baby ‘Moses’, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.” (Exod 2:10) ‘Moses’ means ‘draw up/out’, also anticipating that through Moses God would one day draw up Israel from Egypt and from the Sea of Reeds. The name that Pharaoh’s daughter gave to the boy frames her as not only responsible for Moses’ life, but also for the Israelites’ escape.



Exodus 2:16-22; 4:24-26; 18:1-4 

Zipporah is a heroic figure who saves Moses’ life as he returns to Egypt. Zipporah was one of the seven daughters of Reuel, the priest of Midian (Reuel is later referred to as Jethro, in Exod 18:1). Moses delivered these seven sisters from shepherds when they were seeking to water their flocks. In turn, Zipporah’s father offered hospitality to Moses and then gave Zipporah to Moses in marriage (Exod 2:16-22). Zipporah and Moses’ first-born son was named ‘Gershom,’ which means ‘to drive off/drive out.’ This is a reference both to the event at the watering-well and also to the exodus from Egypt.

After encountering Yahweh at the burning bush, Moses journeyed to Egypt, along with his family. Along the way, one night, the Lord sought to kill Moses. Zipporah acted assertively, cutting off her son’s foreskin with a flint and touching Moses’ feet with it. Her action was skilled and decisive. Zipporah seems to work as a skilful priest, evident by her use of the flint, by her utterance (Exod 4:25), and by her knowledge of the circumcision ritual.[9] Indeed, Zipporah, like Moses, was from a priestly family. Female priestly functions were well known in the ancient Near East. On this night Zipporah was, in effect, modelling for Moses the character that he would need to acquire as he confronted Pharaoh and as he led Israel: namely a deep fear of and trust in Yahweh, and a great assertiveness and boldness.

We should probably understand the Lord’s actions against Moses in this event as a jolting reminder to revere the Lord through circumcision. It was the Midianite Zipporah, not Moses, who was attentive to this faithful act.

While God used these five women powerfully, God had a purpose not only for individuals but also for the whole nation of Israel. The wilderness was the school in which God’s people learned to trust God, as we shall see in the next chapter.

[1] For this section I have been guided in particular by the analysis in Carol Meyers, Exodus (The New Cambridge Bible Commentary; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

[2] J. Cheryl Exum, “’You Shall Let Every Daughter Live’: A Study of Exodus 1:8-2:10,” in A Feminist Companion to Exodus and Deuteronomy, ed. Athalya Brenner (The Feminist Companion to the Bible 6; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994), 37-61, at 52.

[3] “But if She Be a Daughter . . . She May Live!” in A Feminist Companion to Exodus and Deuteronomy, ed. Athalya Brenner (The Feminist Companion to the Bible 6; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994), 62-74, at 63-65.

[4] Ilana Pardes, “Zipporah and the Struggle for Deliverance,” pages 79-97 in Countertraditions in the Bible: A Feminist Account (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992), 81.

[5] Carol Meyers, “Jochebed,” pages 103-04 in Women in Scripture: A Dictionary of Named and Unnamed Women in the Bible, the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, and the New Testament (ed. Carol Meyers, Toni Craven, and Ross S. Kraemer; Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000), 103.

[6] Pardes, ibid., 88.

[7] Phyllis Trible, “Miriam I,” pages 127-29 in Women in Scripture, 128.

[8] Pardes, ibid., 82.

[9] Meyers, Exodus, 63.

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Enjoying a slow read through the opening chapters of Exodus

Enjoying a slow read through the opening chapters of Exodus.
At the beginning of Exodus, Pharaoh is, for all that most people can see, the unchallenged divine king of Egypt. Pharaoh’s rule is horrific, but then, mass enslavement and massive disparity of wealth is the norm in the ancient world. A quieter narrative is also being weaved, imperceptibly and yet irresistibly: a foreign God has swelled the numbers of His enslaved people (Exodus 1:7), and He weaves His counter-story through midwives, mothers, and girls—and now in the very household of Pharaoh—quietly marking all places, from the slave’s household to the royal palace, as belonging to Him. We are learning that this God prefers to work through ‘the least of these,’ in the empire’s shadow rather than in its glory, silently but observably weaving people into a new narrative about a completely different kind of society and a completely different kind of rule. [Your thoughts?]

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The Meaning of Christmas: Clandestine Celebration

Christmas day is a celebration, which Herod must not hear of. Christmas is a whispered celebration. I am not sure that we understand Christmas yet, we western Christians. May I try and unpack this season theologically? I begin with the seasons – please bear with me, the payoff is rich.

The Winter Solstice in Other Cultures

The winter solstice marks the turning of the season. This is longest night of the year. Up until now the nights have lengthened, night by night. And thSnow_on_the_mountains_of_Southern_Californiae climate has become colder and colder. Now from this night, the nights become shorter, and the world begins to warm. The winter solstice is the beginning of new life, and the end of death.

For this reason, ancient agrarian cultures celebrated the winter solstice with anticipation and joy. Feasting was common on this night. In some cultures the winter solstice was the beginning of the new year. In ancient Canaanite culture, it was thought that Baal, the fertility god, came to life on this night, and Baal began to bring life to agriculture and to the wombs of animals and humans. This season was full of mystery and it was pregnant with hope.

The Winter Solstice and Advent

Why is Christmas celebrated on December 25th? Why in the dead of winter—the solstice? A likely (though not certain) view is that the date was borrowed from pagan celebrations. The Romans had their mid-winter Saturnalia festival in late December. According to this theory, early Christians deliberately chose these dates to encourage the spread of Christmas and Christianity throughout the Roman world.

The winter solstice signifies much the incarnation. (Aussies and other Southern Hemispherians need to do some re-appropriation here.) Palestine, under the Roman Empire, felt like winter. The population was poor, and it suffered under heavy taxation. Selfish puppet kings ruled Israel, and the emperor was honoured almost as a god. For Israel this was a time of exile—a return to Egypt. This was the long night of Herod’s reign, and the long night of proud and money hungry chief priests. Where was God?

Into this dark winter, a child is born. Not a full-grown, adult king, but a child. The incarnation is a hopeful whisper, not a shout. And with the incarnation the season has turned. Spring is around the corner, though it is not here yet. Now the nights become shorter, night-by-night. The incarnation is joyful to be sure, and yet it is not the full-blooded victory celebration of Easter Sunday. Rather the incarnation is whispered into the night. The wise men slinked away, undercover, for fear of Herod. And a dreadful slaughter of infants follows. To be sure, Herod still rules in Palestine, for now.

In the North we celebrate Christmas at a particular point within the seasonal calendar, in the dead of winter. The Christmas festival signifies the end of death, and the beginning of new life. We whisper about new life. New life isn’t yet our full reality, for Herod is still alive and well in our world. This narrative raises the question: how can we celebrate advent and Christmas in a way that corresponds to this seasonal movement? How can we experience a strain of warmth, deep within Herod’s winter?

Worshiping through Advent and Christmas

  1. Advent and Anticipation in the Ache of Winter

“Watching, waiting, for the one . . .” Advent comes in the dead of winter. Advent is a time of watching for God, while living subversively and wisely under the rule of other gods and of other powers.

How can we urban dwellers experience something of the dead of winter, and the spark of new life? Perhaps we can share in a star gazing night? Perhaps we can have a contemplative night walk though the snow/heat (for Aussies), as a community. Perhaps these could follow an evening service.

  1. Christmas and Clandestine Celebration

Christmas day is a celebration, which Herod must not hear of. The world’s true king is born, and his rule will overthrow all rulers, in time. “Clandestine” means in secret. Christmas is a whispered celebration. Now the nights are becoming shorter, and new life has begun.

How can we experience Christmas as a clandestine celebration? Perhaps we can plant bulbs in a pot, as a sign of new life, just begun. Our Christmas Eve candle-lit walk to the park is a rich sign to Christ’s whispered beginning. Lots of small, warm gatherings in homes across the neighborhood. Is there a subversive activist participation that might fit here?

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How does “Canaanite Destruction” relate to mission and justice?

The most common grudge people have against scripture is surely the apparent annihilation of the Canaanites. In my estimation those who complain most loudly against this issue, including scholars from the New Atheist camp, have done little serious research into the matter. As it turns out, this theme is not the atrocity that it appears to be. And understanding this theme properly is vital for a proper understanding the mission of Christ. However, you will need to buckle-in and journey with me for a while, back in time, and then back to our time, so that we can understand these ancient texts. I will focus on the book of Deuteronomy.

Moabite Stone, Louve

Moabite Stone, Louve

What follows is an excerpt from my chapter in a forthcoming book with Eerdmans, “A Missional Reading of Scripture: Hermeneutics, Preaching, and Theological Education,” edited by Michael Goheen.

The theme of judgment in Deuteronomy focuses our view of the missional encounter with culture of a worshipping community: God’s people exist both for and against the world.[1] Two great sins are condemned in Deuteronomy: apostasy and injustice. For tolerating these two great sins Israel would ultimately be exiled, as Deuteronomy had predicted. Of course these two themes are dependent on one another, for it is precisely Yahweh’s good rule that forges a society in which every person and all of creation can flourish.

Judgment Upon the Canaanites.

The Deuteronomic texts that command the utter destruction of the Canaanite populations require some discussion at this point (7:2, 5, 23; 12:30: 20:15-16).[2] These texts raise important questions about grace, violence, ethnicity, judgment, and the character of God. In order to clear the ground for our discussion, allow me to address some of the major objections to the ethics of these texts, with three brief points. First, Yahweh’s judgment upon the Canaanites is not arbitrary but is the divine response to their injustice and wickedness (12:31). Second, God’s judgment also fell on Israel itself for the same reasons, demonstrating that judgment upon “the nations” was not ethnically motivated. Third, there is no inherent incongruity between Yahweh’s judgment upon a nation at a particular point on the journey of salvation history and Yahweh’s blessing all nations through Abraham at the destination of the journey. God acts in power throughout history in order to restrain evil and injustice so that blessing may flourish.

Nonetheless there are good reasons for thinking that Deuteronomy does not have in view the entire destruction of the Canaanite populations. Walter Brueggemann asserts that this theme “requires a class reading, this rhetoric is on the lips of those who have no weapons.”[3] Insofar as Deuteronomy was allowed to shape the community during the monarchic period, it was a text in solidarity with those on the margins of society, those without economic power or military capacity. Furthermore, K. Lawson Younger, among others, has investigated the literary techniques of ancient conquest accounts, focusing on Assyrian, Hittite, Egyptian, and Israelite texts. Younger demonstrates that expressions of annihilation in ancient conquest accounts have a highly figurative and an ideological aspect that is commonly communicated through hyperbole. These accounts use stereotyped phrases that overstate the historical reality, expressing the ideology of the text’s sponsor.[4] Younger’s argument is perhaps most easily demonstrated in the well-known Mesha inscription (the Moabite stone) wherein King Mesha of Moab claims: “Israel has gone to ruin, yes, it has gone to ruin for ever,”[5] and claims that every resident in the vicinity of Nebo has been killed.[6] Of course in fact neither Israel nor Nebo were annihilated: the text is hyperbolic and ideological.[7] This observation does not mean that the Mesha inscription is historically void and that these battles never occurred. It does show that this genre of ancient writing communicates through literary conventions that exaggerate elements of annihilation in order to make an ideological or theological point.[8] Younger demonstrates that “Joshua 9-12 shares a similar transmission code with its ANE counterparts.”[9]

In Deuteronomy herem signifies the total loyalty that Yahweh demands and that deep human flourishing requires. Other societies were shaped by a different kind of rule and were therefore in many ways an aberration of Yahweh’s intention for society. Israel is meant to reject utterly the false worship of these kingdoms. Herem amounts to a kind of spiritual map, distinguishing between the kingdoms of darkness and of light. The lens of a missional hermeneutic highlights for us that Deuteronomy’s theology of judgment is preparing a people for a wholesale confrontation with the dehumanizing idols of culture.

Canaanite Destruction and a Missional Encounter with Culture.

Deuteronomy’s stipulations regarding foreign participation in the covenant community demonstrates a certain tension. On the one hand, the pagan practices of the Canaanite people who were established in the land posed a clear threat of syncretism for Israel. Intermarriage in particular would have spelled the end to Israel’s distinctive life and missional identity (7:3-4). On the other hand, Deuteronomy also insists upon the full inclusion of the stranger and the chattel slave in the life of the nation, and many of those included would have been from other kingdoms and would have worshipped other deities. Seemingly these latter groups did not present the same threat to the community’s faithfulness because of their vulnerability. Israel was to keep these principles in tension, taking steps to exclude threats to its own faithful allegiance to Yahweh but also striving to be a radically inclusive community (in line with the exodus motif). The command to separate from the Canaanites is as dependent upon the missional context of the community as the command to radical inclusivity.

This same tension of being both for and against the world faces any missional community, because a missional community must immerse itself in the world’s grief and joys, its structures and sociality and yet not drown in its whelming idolatry. As G. Lohfink puts it: “Precisely because the church does not exist for itself, but completely and exclusively for the world, it is necessary that the church not become the world, that it retain its own countenance.”[10] Missional leaders must persistently ask: “What does it mean to love our neighborhood? And what are the idols that threaten our particular community in this particular place?”

I suggest that one strategy for the western church to live faithfully amidst cultural idolatry is to relocate itself at the margins of society, with the marginalized. Scholars and laypeople reading the New Testament notice that Christ ate his way through the gospels and that he had a reputation for eating with all the wrong people: tax collectors, prostitutes, sinners. But this social rearrangement through Kingdom feasting didn’t begin altogether with Christ. As we have seen in Deuteronomy, Israel was always supposed to live this way, sharing the festal table—indeed all of life—with the vulnerable, with gratitude to God. Certainly, the church is called into every sphere of culture, into education, health, business, politics, and the arts. Some of us are called to influence the very center of culture. Yet no matter what our calling or sphere of influence, we cannot neglect to make our home also at the margins, with “sinners.” This is how we set our table; this is where we feast.

[1] “The Church is for the world against the world. The Church is against the world for the world. The Church is for the human community in that place, that village, that city, that nation, in the sense that Christ is for the world. And that must be the determining criterion at every point” (Lesslie Newbigin, A Word in Season: Perspectives on Christian World Missions [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994], p. 54).

[2] See further, McConville, Deuteronomy, 90, 161; Wright, Ethics, pp. 472-80.

[3] Brueggemann, Theology, p. 243.

[4] K. Lawson Younger,Jr, Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing (JSOT Supp. 98; Sheffield; JSOT, 1990), p. 123.

[5] “The Inscription of King Mesha,” translated by K. A. D. Smelik in The Context of Scripture (eds. William W. Hallo and K. Lawson Younger; Leiden: Brill, 2000), 2.23.

[6] The Hebrew/Moabite word hrm is used here, the same word employed in Deuteronomy.

[7] Bruce E. Routledge argues that the significance of Mesha devoting the Canaanites to Kemosh was that the deity then stood between the two social groups, preventing exchange of any kind and therefore of any kind of human sociability (Moab in the Iron Age: Hegemony, Polity, Archaeology [Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004], p. 150).

[8] Similarly C. Wright writes, “We do need to allow for the exaggerated language of warfare” (Ethics, p. 474).

[9] Younger, Conquest Accounts, p. 241.

[10] G. Lohfink, Jesus and Community, p. 146.

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Voting and the Kingdom of God

I have had a short article published in light of the upcoming Canadian elections: “Voting and the Kingdom of God.”HAR1444

At the polling booth this election, Christ followers can be guided by the biblical story, which unfolds Christ’s restoring purposes for the world. Christians are not directionless when it comes to politics, for we have a script to orientate us and narrate the true story of the world.

Scepticism is rampant about the integrity of politicians and about the point of participating in politics. Comedian Will Rogers said once, “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts!” Making light of an overwhelming situation is understandable – yet scepticism can’t be our only response. The biblical story is, in part, a story of how humanity is supposed to function in community and that has implications for politics. Therefore, thoughtful voting is a part of our Christian vocation.

“Decisions are made by those who show up,” someone once said. When Christ followers are engaged politically, involving ourselves in the world and creating justice, we honour the global authority of Jesus Christ. We could even say that voting is an act of faith – we vote in faith and we vote out of our faith.

Deuteronomy has been called a “national charter” for ancient Israel – it set the agenda for their nation. Deuteronomy called ancient Israel to live as kin with one another. People were to treat each another as family. So everyone was to be given the opportunity to flourish, especially the slave, the widow, the refugee, and the orphan. All of these were to be kin.

Christ followers are called to discern: which policies are calling our community to care for one another as family? Whose political talk is calling us to count a cost for others? Our culture is post-Christian, and Canadian politics is post-Christian. So we are not seeking a “Christian” figurehead for our “Christian” nation. Voting should be steered by policy that honours Christ rather than by a person’s claim to Christian affiliation.

We can move beyond party-political allegiance to seek policy that reflects Christ’s purposes for His world.  Now six trajectories that emerge from the biblical story. I chose these trajectories by discerning how the biblical story, especially Deuteronomy, encounters western culture.

For the remainder of the article in Light Magazine, click here.

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A choice between trust and fear is at the heart of almost every tension

A choice between trust and fear is at the heart of almost every tension.

aaaaaThe pioneer of development psychology Erik Erickson spoke of “basic trust.” This is the confidence that a baby begins to have in its mother. The baby is trusting that the mother is reliably concerned and attentive even when not visibly present. Erickson says that all human beings are finally confronted with the options of trust and fear.

Are we trusting God in these messy, difficult, challenging lives we live? Or do we fear? We all wrestle between trust and fear.

This choice between trust and fear is at the heart of almost every point of tension that we feel: relational complexities, work complexities, living arrangements, decisions about romantic relationships, marriage, parenting . . .

Here is a study in trust: the story of Abraham and Abimelech, Genesis Chapter 20. Abraham fears that Abimelech will kill him for his wife, Sarah. What is Abraham to do? Abraham pretends that Sarah is his sister. Then Abimelech ends up marrying Sarah. When Abraham’s pretence is found out, Abraham makes all sorts of excuses, like, “Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife.” Abraham’s behaviour is pathetic. Ironically, Abimelech, not Abraham, trusts Abraham’s God!

For myself, I have been praying through a relational issue. The more I pray the more I realise that it’s my issue, and that I have to choose between trusting that God is working in this situation, or fear. Abraham gave way to fear. When we live, or speak, out of fear, instead of trust, things go wrong. But when we are trusting in God, with a childlike “basic trust,” then we live wisely, and we speak wisely—and we bring life.

We can rest in God. We don’t have to compromise. We don’t have to grasp. We don’t have to fight. We can wait for the Lord. As Julian of Norwich wrote, “All will be well and all will be well.” We have to wait for the Lord. This time, this era, is all about waiting. And that’s ok. Be faithful. Let’s dig deep in Christ together; let’s dig deep in life together. And wait for the Lord.

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“The Sacred Year”

deleteConsider Mike Yankoski’s new book, “The Sacred Year.” Here is a book to give your friend who is disenchanted with church—a good fraction of generation Y-Zers in my experience—and who need a fresh vision for following Christ. This is the give-away book that I have been searching for some time. It is also a book for deepening in your own walk with Christ.

Mike Yankoski is a dear friend of mine and a cherished author and speaker. Mike weaves this call to a deeper life into his own journey from living as an airport-dwelling Christian speaker, to slowing down in order to know God and to know God’s world.

Here a personal anecdote from Mike’s book that I enjoyed. Mike is reflecting on his jam-packed, frenzied, itinerant and facebook-saturated life:

Interesting but relatively useless facts stick in my mind like darts in a dartboard. Like this one:

Did you know that so long as it is stretched very, very thin (only a molecule or so thick), a single gallon of water could cover an area five square miles in size? A friend recently fired that one at me.

I winced as its tip hit home, realizing it at once for what it was: a mockery of my current state of being, a chafing metaphor for my life.


“But if you could focus that same gallon,” my friend continued, “pouring it into a straw about the size of a human hair, it would reach all the way down the center of the world, four thousand miles beneath the ground on which you stand.”

Decreasing breadth increases depth. That’s just the way things work in this three-dimensional world of ours.

You can check out Mike’s book on this link. Chapter 1 is offered for free.

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