Join in with the Eastbrook 365 daily devotional for this series here.
We also continue in-person services at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 AM this weekend at the Eastbrook Campus, but you do need to RSVP ahead of time. Find out more info here.
Each Sunday at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM, you can participate with our weekly worship service at home with your small group, family, or friends. This service will then be available during the week until the next Sunday’s service starts. You can also access the service directly via Vimeo, the Eastbrook app, or Facebook.
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“The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.
3 Posts by Alan Jacobs on Amazon Pulling Ryan T. Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally – Several people reached out to me this past week about Amazon pulling Ryan T. Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally, a somewhat provocative bestselling book about transgender, from their website. This was noteworthy enough for Newsweek to write about it. I really appreciated Alan Jacobs’ reflections on this from a philosophical and a practical level. I highly recommend reading his three posts on it: “Damnatio memoriae,” “free speech under technocracy,” and “up the Amazon.” If you end up pulling the plug on your Amazon purchasing, as Jacobs suggest, that’s one clear way to let a retailer know you’re not happy. Will that make a difference to Amazon? Given the number of people purchasing from them during the pandemic and the colossal increases in sales, it might not matter to them. But it might matter to you, and that may be what’s more important. You can read Anderson’s own comments about this in First Things, as well as buy the book directly from the publisher.
“I’m a philosopher. We can’t think our way out of this mess.“ – Here’s James K. A. Smith, author and professor of philosophy at Calvin College, reflecting on his calling, philosophy, and the arts in The Christian Century: “The path to philosophy is paved with polemic and fueled by brash confidence in the power of logic. When I answered the call to be a philosophical theologian 25 years ago, I imagined the world’s (and the church’s) problems amounted to a failure of analysis. If only we could think more carefully, the truth would come out. Good arguments would save us. And yet here I am, in the middle of this profession, in the middle of a career as a philosopher, with second thoughts. I’ve had a change of heart about how to change someone’s mind. This change is bound up with my biography.”
“Kirk Franklin: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert” – NPR Tiny Desk Concert: “Kirk Franklin, set up with his band and choir in a corner of Uncle Jessie’s Kitchen, makes a declaration. “I know you’re at home right now, in your draws, listening to some Jesus music. It’s ok. Jesus loves you in your draws!” The Arlington, Texas studio, named after a long time close friend, features a large photo of the iconic “I AM A MAN” protest signs from the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike on the wall. The jubilant energy that Franklin and company emit, juxtaposed with a visual reminder of the strife that Black people have endured is illustrative of the importance of gospel music in the Black community.”
“Swinging the Pendulum Too Far” – Ed Stetzer this past Thursday at “The Exchange” on the Equality Act: “Congress will consider the Equality Act, which its proponents indicate would ban discrimination toward people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. While discrimination toward people created in the image of God should, indeed, be opposed, the EA does so in ways that significantly disregard religious liberty concerns. Just how far remains to be seen….University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock spoke about this unbalanced impact of the Equality Act as well: ‘It protects the rights of one side, but attempts to destroy the rights of the other side,’ he said. ‘We ought to protect the liberty of both sides to live their own lives by their own identities and their own values.'”
“Interview: The Middle East Church Must Resemble Salt, not Rabbits” – An interview by Jayson Casper of Christianity Today with Michael Abs, head of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC): “Pope Francis will make the first papal visit ever to Iraq in March to encourage the dwindling faithful. War and terrorism have hemorrhaged the nation’s Christians, but he hopes they might return. Meanwhile in Lebanon, Michel Abs, recently selected as the new leader of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), agrees with the pontiff. But in an interview with CT, he said that schools and hospitals have distinguished Christians, who he hopes might even increase in number—and quality. And Protestants, he said, have a lever effect that raises the whole. Representing only 7 percent of the regional Christian population, they have a full one-quarter share in the council.”
It’s no secret that one of my favorite theologians of all time is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. His book Life Together is, in my opinion, the best book written on the nature of true community in the church. It is a must-read for many reasons, but one of the most important is the way that Bonhoeffer directly deals with something all of us face with the church: disillusionment. If you have not experienced disillusionment at some point in your involvement with the church, then you probably have not been that involved. At a time when people struggled with living their faith individually and together, when the church was rent apart by conflicting allegiances and hypocrisy, Bonhoeffer stepped forward to train young pastors to serve Christ’s church.
Here are 5 must-read statements on the Church by Bonhoeffer from Life Together. I hope you find them as challenging and encouraging as I have over the years:
“Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world.” [26-27]
“Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.” 
“Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together – the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.” 
“If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is not great experience, not discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.” 
“A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men….Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren.” [29-30]
Every Thursday during Lent, I post a poem that I find helpful for deeper engagement with Jesus’ journey to the Cross and the significance of Lent. Here is Langston Hughes’ poem “The Ballad of Mary’s Son” from The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. Langston Hughes was one of the central figures of the Harlem Renaissance and a renowned 20th-century African American poet.
It was in the Spring The Passover had come. There was feasting in the streets and joy. But an awful thing Happened in the Spring – Men who knew not what they did1 Killed Mary’s Boy. He was Mary’s Son, And the Son of God was He – Sent to bring the whole world joy. There were some who could not hear, And some were filled with fear – So they built a cross For Mary’s Boy.
It’s in the context of all the everyday people with everyday problems gathered around Him that Jesus begins to speak about the good life in Matthew 5:3-12.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (5:3)
Contrary to appearances, the broken down and poor in spirit, actually belong in God’s kingdom – they are flourishing with God because they know their need and are looking to God.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (5:4)
Those who lament and cry out have the promise of comfort because God, the comforter, is near at hand. In the future, He will wipe away all our tears, and in the present, He is the God of all comfort. He will “bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning” (Isaiah 61:3).
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (5:5)
Those who depend upon God instead of their own strength, who don’t throw their weight around, but wait upon Him with meekness will find their fortunes reversed because God is their provider in the future and for today. “The lowly will possess the land and will live in peace and prosperity” (Psalm 37:11, NLT).
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (5:6)
Those who are hungry in their spirits for what God desires often will see what’s lacking in the world. Those who look with a clear-eyed desire for things to be made right – for God’s deliverance to come – for justice to roll on like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream (Amos 5:24) – oh, Jesus says, those will be filled. The day is coming when God will make all things new (Revelation 21:5), but even now God’s kingdom is at hand in Jesus. You’ll be stuffed to overflowing with God’s righteousness and justice. But you’re blessed now even though you’re hungry…live into that blessing now.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (5:7)
When you have a generous heart, even toward those who don’t deserve it, you’ll be shown that same generosity from others, but also by God. For our God is a God who is slow to anger and abounding in compassion, mercy and steadfast love (Exodus 34:6).
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (5:8)
Those whose hearts seek after God actively, who move beyond just outward actions of ritual purity, and toward undivided hearts set on God above all others, they’ll see God. Even if it’s not acknowledged by others, we will experience a transforming vision of God in our lives. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (5:9)
In a world of strife and division, where hatred and violence abound, those who promote peace, who listen with ears of love, get messy in the midst of conflicts to bring the soothing presence of God’s shalom, are blessed. Such people look like their Father. They’ll enter the everlasting kingdom of peace, but even now they will be kept in perfect peace because their minds are steadfast as they trust in God (Isaiah 26:3).
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (5:10)
Those who live for what God requires, shouldn’t be surprised when opposition comes. That opposition isn’t a curse from God but the reality of a world opposed to God. It means such people have made the decision to enter the blessing of God’s flourishing kingdom more important than worldly blessing.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (5:11-12)
With this last of the Beatitudes, Jesus personalizes the statement, helping His disciples know that in this world they – and all future followers – will have trouble, but they can take heart. The prophets, who lived and spoke for God and His blessed life, also faced the same thing. These are the heroes of the faith, who looked for God’s kingdom and lived in the now in light of that kingdom reality. That’s what it means to flourish and be blessed, even if persecution comes.
Jesus says to all those people gathered around Him, the everyday people with everyday problems, “Wake up, turn around, pay attention. God’s kingdom is right here. Come on in and find your place. God is bringing a blessing in the fullness of time. But even now you are blessed. In God’s kingdom your life is a μακάριος life: fortunate, flourishing, happy…blessed. Live now in light of that reality.”