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a prayer for those within empire

Last weekend I ran an event for TEAR Australia called “Come Out, My People!”: Learning to Journey Out of Empire. It featured, among others, my friends Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson speaking about the reality of empire in the Bible and in the world. They spoke about the need to discern God’s call to come out of empire and embody an alternative way of life.

This is a prayer I composed for the evening. It is a prayer for those of us living in the midst of empire who are trying to follow God’s call out of it. All present prayed it together, and I thought it may help others who are trying to live in God’s shalom amid the brutality of empire.

MCA

———-

Brueghel Tower of BabelCreator and Sustainer God,
we cry out to you from Babylon,
from empire built upon the land of people both like us and different to us,
from empire made possible by the murders and injustices of past and present.

We recognize that you have called us out of empire.
Out of a spirituality of domination and oppression.
Out of a story of exclusion and competition that leads to violence.
Out of the worship of false gods that demand our praise and obedience.

You have called us to be part of a radical alternative to empire.
Called to a spirituality of shalom and justice.
Called to the biblical story of embrace and welcome that leads to peace.
Called to the worship of the God that raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

And you have sent us into empire, in the world.
To witness to another way of justice, mercy and faithfulness.
To transform the slave economy that violates the bodies of both rich and poor and the earth itself.
To take the time necessary in a speed-addicted world to be friends, lovers, parents, carers, gardeners, advocates and peacemakers.

Creator God, our refuge and strength,
we confess we are complicit in the evils of our age.
Breathe on us as we commit ourselves to the way of Christ individually and as a community
to live in your story for the world;
to take up the heavy cross that we cannot bear alone;
to struggle for peace and justice;
to seek fullness of life for all creation;
to pray for your kingdom come.

Amen.

Matt Anslow, July 2013

can law bring about true justice?

Below is the rough text of a talk I gave yesterday at the University of Technology Sydney. I was part of a panel who were asked the question, “Is the law sufficient to bring about true justice?”

We were each given seven minutes to give a perspective (no problem!), and thus this is only a sketch of some ideas. There was then some Q&A. I was asked to bring a perspective from a) a Christian and, b) the context of TEAR Australia’s work with the global poor. As a rich, white, educated, Western male I did my best to speak on behalf of the bottom 3-or-so-billion…

Law is a mere tool, a political construction, used by humans to achieve a certain social ends. Like any tool, it is subject to the use and abuse of the one wielding it.

Much of the time law can be understood positively – law created by those elected representatives for the good of most, of not all, people. So long as law serves in this capacity it demands our respect. Such laws help society to construct more just, albeit impersonal, structures.

However law does not always work this way. Read the rest of this entry

how does God’s kingdom relate to ruling powers?

How should Christians relate to ruling powers?

Depending on your interpretation of different sections of the Bible you might say the different authors push for:

  • Submission (the conclusion many people come to when reading Romans 13, for example, or perhaps Ezra-Nehemiah)
  • Prophetic critique and nonviolent resistance (as found in much of the prophetic literature or Revelation)
  • A middle option
  • A blend

But what are we meant to do in our contemporary world as Christians? Should we simply do what we understand early Christians to have done in relation to ruling powers?

That is to say, how do we anticipate God’s transformative kingdom on earth, now, in the midst of a world of ruling powers that very often act contrary to God’s purposes? Read the rest of this entry

what is “justice”? a christian(‘s) perspective

Justice is a slippery term.

It can be used, from one point of view or another, to describe almost any conclusion regarding moral rightness. How the scales of justice are balanced often depends on the weights placed upon them, and this is in most ways a subjective affair. These weights may come in the form of such concepts as fairness, retribution, restoration and redistribution, or more cynically in realities such as greed and self-interest.

I cannot hope to outline a comprehensive or even convincing treatise of justice in this post, though sharing a few thoughts may be in order.

From a Christian perspective justice finds its definitive bearing in God. How to understand God is, however, not an easy task given both his transcendence and our interpretative horizons and limits.

Which commands of God are just? All of them? If so is a directive to genocide, such as those in the Old Testament, to be considered just? Does our ability as humans to obey such commands affect what is commanded of us by God? Read the rest of this entry

confessions of a “worship” leader

For years I have been involved in playing music to help lead Christians in worship.

Music leader, song leader, worship leader; call it whatever you want. Without wanting to sound in any way conceited (I assure you, about this I am not), I earned a fair amount of praise and encouragement from people who claimed my leading helped them in some way.

In my late teenage years (I have now just turned 26) so-called “worship” and music was central to my faith journey. My identity was largely derived from my music leading, and there was a lot of pressure to conform to the image of other well-known worship leaders. I truly believed that my calling, that my purpose, was to be found in leading people in worship by way of music.

I sang a lot of songs. A lot of words. But eventually something dawned on me – all that music, all that so-called “worship,” wasn’t necessarily changing me or anyone else I was leading. Read the rest of this entry

holistic community engagement

The following is a post I wrote for The Greenhouse Effect, a church-planting blog run by Churches of Christ in NSW. It’s fairly general compared to my regular posts, but hopefully you get something meaningful out of it.

The Church is meant to engage with the community that it finds itself in – most would not doubt such a statement. But how are we meant to go about such engagement?

Many church planters begin with a desire to ‘grow’ a church. Such church’s community engagement becomes necessarily characterised by a need to convince people to attend a program. Not only do people in a community tend to see through such shallow motives and relationships, but also this is not how God calls the Church to engage culture. Keep Reading

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