Space Invaders Spirituality...


OK... First day of the Annual Methodist Conference over and I'm not going to moan... But...

Actually I'm NOT going to moan... There are things that need addressed, but this isn't the forum to address them...

However, my reflections today have been dominated by some thoughts shared by Drew Gibson, Presbyterian Professor of Practical Theology at Union College, as part of a communion service in the Ministerial Session of Conference. It was actually, on the whole, quite a helpful, insightful and indeed encouraging address based around Joshua 1 and the command of God to Joshua to "take the land."

He looked at the land in terms of the challenging alien landscape that is the wider western world today... a world of post-modernism, secular humanism, decadent consumerist materialism, violence and virtual reality. But, he claimed, just as God had prepared the promised land for the Israelites under Joshua, so he has prepared the world outside for us in Jesus Christ, and he has prepared the people for the land in both circumstances. And just as Joshua took the Law of God into the land so we should not be afraid to take the word of God into the public square. What was particularly helpful was his insistence that those who have already "done their bit" have an obligation to continue the struggle for the sake of others who have yet to come into their promised land...

There was little new about it, and I, as I am sure was true of many of the ministers gathered there, have preached and heard similar sermons in the past. But it was well put together and compelling...

Until the final few minutes... when he started talking unequivocally about "taking the land" in terms of invasion and occupation... Stirring stuff... and at another time and place I may have used similar phrases myself.

But as I reflected on it I became increasingly uneasy about the imagery... Not the ideas behind it, but the terms themselves... Because in a global context, invasion, occupation and taking the land have HUGE overtones of injustice and imperialism. And here in Ireland... well our recent history should speak for itself.

Now I'm not saying anything here that I didn't say directly to Drew himself (I've learnt from previous ungracious rants on this platform), but I also said, that whilst we can look to the stories of Joshua et al for images and metaphors for how to engage with the world beyond the wilderness that the church finds itself in, we must look at them through the lens of that other Joshua, or Yeshua... Jesus of Nazareth...

Whilst Joshua entered Canaan at the head of the army and with the Law of Moses to guide him, we must remember that Jesus didn't enter this world at the head of an angelic army, but as a child... And whilst law came through Moses... Grace comes through Jesus...

Not so much invasion as incarnation.

Not so much occupation as infiltration.

Not so much law as grace.



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