The Weekend Wanderer: 8 August 2020

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.


Last week I took a break from “The Weekend Wanderer,” as I was at Fort Wilderness speaking for one of their summer family camps in the beautiful north woods of Wisconsin. Here are a couple of photos of the beauty.

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Beirut explosion“16 Beirut Ministries Respond to Lebanon Explosion” – Tuesday’s explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, directly affected people within our church and partners in that part of the world. We are praying for the country and the believers as the recover and talking with church partners as they fashion a response (support our efforts by giving financially here). Here are some examples of ministries responding on the ground in Beirut in an article at Christianity Today. You may also benefit from reading about the way this reflects deeper problems in Lebanon (“Beirut Explosion Looks Like An Accident — And A Sign Of The Country’s Collapse”), the impact on humanitarian aid for refugees (“More than $600,000 in humanitarian aid for refugees destroyed in Beirut explosion”) and one journalist’s attempt to explain this disaster to his children as they live in Beirut (“How I Explained Beirut’s Explosion to My Kids” ).


CT bodily worship“Preserving Our Body and Bodies for Worship” – One of the most important aspects for worship and discipleship is our bodies. Those who serve an incarnate Lord serve Him incarnationally, following Him by offering our bodies as living sacrifices and living together as the redeemed community. Here is Hannah King reflecting on the importance of this in relation to the body of Christ, our bodily life, and the church at worship. “Corporate worship demonstrates this reality weekly. We gather as bodies, presenting our whole selves to God in praise and thanksgiving. We sing and lift our hands, we kneel to confess and to pray, we take the bread in our hands and eat. But we also gather as a body of bodies, embedding our individual faith within a larger, corporate reality. Christianity is never merely personal and private, but interpersonal and familial. Our communion with God is the fellowship of a family.”


51MxgeRI+ML._SL250_“Barbara Peacock – Soul Care in African American Practice – Review – In The Englewood Review of BooksOpe Bukola reviews a book I hope to read soon: “Though I was drawn to contemplative practice, the little I knew of it made me doubt it was ‘for me’ as a 30-something Protestant black woman. I know my share of prayer warriors, so praying intentionally resonates strongly as part of black Christian practice. But contemplation? Not so much. I’ve since learned of the African roots of Christian contemplative practices, from church fathers like Augustine and Tertullian, to 20th century giants like Howard Thurman. So when I first heard of Dr. Barbara Peacock’s book, Soul Care in African American Practice, I was immediately drawn to the term ‘soul care.’ In the book, Peacock highlights the spiritual practices that have sustained generations of African American Christians and urges black Christians to prioritize intentional soul care.”


Science_poetry_98603463“What Poetry Means for Doctors and Patients During a Pandemic” – As a lover of poetry and limping writer of poetry, I found this article in Wired fascinating. What is it about poetry that helps us in times of difficulty? “When Rafael Campo took over as poetry editor at The Journal of the American Medical Association a little over a year ago, he wasn’t expecting to field quite so many submissions….At first, Campo says, he got about 20 or 30 poems each week. Some are from patients or family caregivers. Most come from doctors and nurses. But as the pandemic got underway, more and more poems arrived. Now, his inbox is bursting with over a hundred weekly submissions. ”


White fragility“White Fragility: Why this Book is Important for Evangelicals” – Ed Stetzer invites Allison Ash to be the first in a series of interactions with Robin DiAngelo’s 2018 book White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. She writes: “I think this book is important for evangelical Christians, particularly white evangelical Christians (both people who would identify as progressive, conservative or a combination of the two), because it speaks a language that has been almost completely missing within the white evangelical church throughout its history.” For another perspective you may want to look at an article I posted in July by George Yancey, “Not White Fragility, Mutual Responsibility.” 


Flannery O'Connor“The ‘Cancelling’ of Flannery O’Connor?:  It Never Should Have Happened” – Flannery O’Connor is a twentieth-century southern novelist whose Christian faith weaves in and out of her work with a mesmerizing and sometimes ghastly force. If you’re not familiar with her work, I’d encourage you to start with her short stories in A Good Man Is Hard to Find. O’Connor, however, has recently come under scrutiny for some of her views, leading Loyola University of Maryland to remove her name from a building because “some of her personal writings reflected a racist perspective.” In Commonweal, Angela Alaimo O’Donnell takes the university to task for this decision.


Music: Bon Iver, “AUATC.”

[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.]

A Prayer for Service

Make us worthy, Lord, to serve our fellow men throughout the world who live and die in poverty and hunger. Give them, through our hands, this day their daily bread, and by our understanding love give peace and joy.

Lord, make me a channel of they peace, that where there is hatred I may bring love; that where there is wrong, I may bring the Spirit of forgiveness; that where there is discord, I may bring harmony; that where there is error, I may bring truth; that were there is doubt, I may bring faith; that were there is despair, I may bring hope; that where there are shadows, I may bring light; that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.

Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted; to understand rather than to be understood; to love than to be loved; for it is by forgetting self that one finds; it is by dying that one awakens to eternal life. Amen.

This prayer is sometimes attributed to St. Francis, but has been augmented here and is taken from Something Beautiful for God by Malcolm Muggeridge

 

What Does Faith Believe?

Faith mountain

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
for he breaks down gates of bronze
and cuts through bars of iron.
(Psalm 107:15-16)

Do we believe God can break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron? Do we believe God can do things vastly beyond anything we could ask or imagine? Too often we say that God is powerful—able to do all things, even—but then rarely look for God to do powerful things in and around our lives. We temper our expectations down to more tame heights or abstract aims.

At times this is because of uncertainty or fear. We say, “God is might to save, but will He do it here and now with this specific situation?” Unsure, we draw back from asking because we do not want to be disappointed if God does not answer in the way we hope or timing we would like.

But this reveals a deeper problem of our faith. If faith “is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1), then even if we do not see what we pray for, true faith still believes that God is at work. We walk by faith and not be sight. True faith is not decimated by perceptions, otherwise it would not be faith at all but something else. Faith believes God is at work, able to do vastly beyond anything we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20) and bringing to completion the glorious work He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6).

The Transcendent Gift of Adoption in Christ

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14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:14-17)

Thank You, Father, for the gift of Your Holy Spirit which we have received through faith in Christ. I could not buy or earn this favor, but must receive it from You as a presented gift. I do not take it lightly. Thank You that the Holy Spirit makes us children, not slaves, and brings us boldly and lovingly into Your family. We can call out, “Abba, Father!”, by the Spirit and know that we belong and will be heard.

What dramatic sort of gift is this, Lord? How could it be that any who come by faith through Christ might receive the immeasurable gifts of belonging, sonship, and being able to call on You? All of these gifts are beyond value. Many things that we live our lives for and strive endlessly after still outpace our wild grasping or earning, but here with You it is sheer attainable gift! What else can we say but “thank You”? Thank You for the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit who speaks of our adoption, confirming within what we are told is true through Your Word. Thank You that we are heirs of Your full kingdom as we become children—even co-heirs with Christ—as we share in both the suffering and the glory of discipleship. As Peter writes, this is “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade…kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). Thank You!

And so, Father, with never-ending praise and gratitude we step into this day as children of God, heirs of God, co-heirs with Christ, those who have received the Spirit, and we yield and surrender ourselves to You again. Let us enter into the fellowship of Your suffering that we might also enter into the fellowship of Your glory. Let us deny ourselves that we might find You, and also find ourselves in the journey. Today, Lord, we are Yours.

The Pilgrim Way: relearning life as a journey with God from the faithful in Hebrews 11

pilgrim way.jpgAn old spiritual offers describes our life as Christians this way:

I am a pilgrim and a stranger, traveling through this wearisome land,
I’ve got a home in that yonder city, good Lord, and it’s not…not made by hands.

It is an overused description to say that life is a journey. The reason this idea is overused, even cliché, is that it is true. We are, as the Apostle Peter writes: “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11). Day after day, year after year, we move along the twisting path of our lives until we reach some sort of destination. Of course, many people perceive the destination differently but the author of the letter to the Hebrews says that past people of faith “acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth….seeking a homeland….they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:13-16).

This theme returns throughout Scripture, coming to striking focus in the psalms of Ascent. The concept of pilgrimage guides the journey of the psalms of Ascent (see our seeries Ascend: A Study of the Psalms of Ascent), which is outlined as a practice of God’s people in Deuteronomy 16:16-17:

Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed.  Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God that he has given you.

Pilgrimage is something woven throughout the faith life of the Hebrew people. It is something Jesus Himself participated in with His family and neighbors, traveling to Jerusalem at least twice in his early life that are recorded in Scripture (Luke 2:22-38, 41-51), but likely more often than that.

Yet, pilgrimage is a foreign concept to most of us in North America. While we turn to vacations to help us recover from life, the idea of taking a religious journey is not something we search for too often. The concept of religious pilgrimage, however, is not only part of other faith traditions, but is woven into the history of Christianity as well. The Camino do Santiago, or the Way of Saint James, a well-worn pilgrimage route through Europe has become an increasingly well-known in North America, perhaps in part due to the movie “The Way” featuring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez.

In his book, The Way is Made by WalkingArthur Paul Boers relates his own journey on the Camino, offering insights about how this physical pilgrimage taught him about the spiritual pilgrimage of our life with God in Christ. Here is an excerpt that gives the feel of why we need to recovery pilgrimage as a guiding metaphor for our spiritual lives:

Pilgrimage in its truest sense is religiously motivated travel for the purpose of meeting and experiencing God with hopes of being shaped and changed by that encounter. Pilgrimages are often concretely physical – journeying to a particular place, perhaps with some extraordinary expense and exertion – and spiritual – one hopes to meet God in this travel.

An irony – indeed a danger – of pilgrimage is that we try to settle in a final destination, considering only that particular place holy and forgetting the call to be faithfully on the move for God. Think of Peter wanting to remain on the mountain where he, John and James (Santiago) experienced the transfiguration: “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” His suggestion is dismissed: “He did not know what to say, for they were terrified” (Mark 9:5-6). Christian pilgrimage always calls us to further growth. As Origen wrote: “Travelers on the road to God’s wisdom find that the further they go, the more the road opens out, until it stretches to infinity.”

Pilgrimage sites are not merely an end in themselves. They are not strictly speaking even necessary. They richly symbolize the fact that our lives are to be a journey with and to God. Even if not all of us can afford or are able to go to famous places for prayer, every time we venture to church for worship we make a small pilgrimage to deepen our faithfulness. The Greek word paroikia means “sojourn” and is “also the root of English word ‘parish’, meaning a congregation of pilgrims.”

I love that phrase at the beginning of the last paragraph: “our lives are to be a journey with and to God.” Wherever we are today, let’s lift our legs for one more step, lift our hearts to our God, and fix our eyes on the eternal kingdom, which is just around the next bend in the road.