The Weekend Wanderer: 21 November 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.


Hatch - preaching“When Words About God Become the Word of the Lord” – I think a lot about preaching and how the words of human communicators can possibly express the wonders of the Scripture given us by God. Not only do I think a lot about preaching, but I also preach quite a bit and write about preaching. Because of this, I don’t lightly recommend articles about preaching. This one by Nathan Hatch, President of Wake Forest University, is well worth the read.


Thabiti Anyabwile“Pastors Launch Church-Planting Network for ‘Black and Brown Neighborhoods'” – Over the last few years, a good friend of mine, Kurt Owens, has been working on new initiatives for equipping and raising up central city church planting. He found that many of the predominant models of approaching church planting really do not work well in non-suburban, non-white contexts. I applaud his work and try to encourage him. I was encouraged when I saw that Thabiti Anyabwile was also working on something similar with his new initiative, The Crete Collective.


Carl Lentz - K Beaty“Carl Lentz and the ‘hot pastor’ problem”Last week I posted the disappointing news about Hillsong-New York’s pastor, Carl Lentz, being fired after having an extramarital affair. At Religion News Katelyn Beaty offers a well-written, entertaining, and challenging read about Lentz, megachurch Christianity, and men’s and women’s roles within evangelicalism. The last line will leave you thinking. Another take on the same topic comes from Carey Nieuwhof in his blog post, “Some Thoughts on Why Megachurch Pastors Keep Falling.” Another article that I posted a couple of weeks ago is also relevant here, Andy Crouch’s “Spiritual Disciplines for Public Leadership.”


Bay area“Gardeners and Pilgrims: Reviving place in the Christian imagination” – I bookmarked this article at Comment several months ago, but returned to read it only this past week and found it particularly insightful and meaningful as I finished off a series on unity by looking at the new heaven and the new earth. In this article Wilfred M. McClay explores the loss of a sense of place that has accelerated because of technology and transience, considering how Christianity speaks into this loss in a way filled with tension between the now and not-yet. That description is a mouthful, but McClay’s essay will make you think about the way we live now.


Eagle and Child interior“Friends and Letters: A Review of Dorothy and Jack: The Transforming Friendship of Dorothy L. Sayers and C. S. Lewis, by Gina Dalfonzo” – Alexandria Desanctis in The National Review: “Lewis, Tolkien, and the Inklings have been the subject of careful study and popular interest for decades, but thus far scholars have paid relatively little attention to the friendship between Lewis and another well-known contemporary of his, Dorothy L. Sayers. The mind behind the Lord Peter Wimsey detective series, Sayers was a fiction writer who, like Lewis, devoted herself also to the study of Christian theology and produced several works of apologetics. In a new book, Dorothy and Jack, Gina Dalfonzo delves into the correspondence between these two writers, which spanned more than a decade, beginning with a letter from Sayers to Lewis and ending with Sayers’s death.”


children douthat“The Case for One More Child: Why Large Families Will Save Humanity” – While the title may not immediately grab your attention, or may even put you off, let me encourage you to give this article by Ross Douthat in Plough a spin: “We lack a moral framework for talking about this problem. It would make an immense difference to the American future if more Americans were to simply have the 2.5 kids they say they want, rather than the 1.7 births we’re averaging. But talking about a declining birthrate, its consequences for social programs or economic growth or social harmony, tends to seem antiseptic, a numbers game. It skims over the deeper questions: What moral claim does a potential child have on our society? What does it mean to fail someone who doesn’t yet exist?”


preaching-the-christian-year“Time Touching Eternity: Preaching through the Christian Year” – My latest article at Preaching Today went live this week. In it I explore the ways in which preaching can benefit from following the Christian year. As we move through Thanksgiving to Advent and the beginning of the Christian calendar, I am so thankful to the editors of PT for giving me the opportunity to share some ways the rhythms of liturgical year have shaped my own spirituality and preaching.


Music: I.Erickson, “Drowning

[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.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 14 November 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.


Carl Lentz“Fired Hillsong NYC Pastor Carl Lentz Apologizes for Infidelity” – I am more than tired of the failures of ministry leaders in North America. Here is one more example of a charismatic personality who has fallen into moral failure, bringing untold pain and confusion to his own family, congregation and others. There is a sickness at work within the church. While it does require appropriate accountability, we also need better guides for ministry, both old and new, as well as an adequate look at our dark side that we often hide from. This speaks of a deep need for radical repentance and different approaches to ministry. We must repent and re-learn ministry.


The Great Litany“The Great Litany” – Maybe a good place to start would be to pray great prayers of times past that lead us into silence, reflection, and repentance before God. Here is one time tested resource for that sort of approach to our spiritual need in this hour.


Heather Cirmo - accountability“How to Prevent the Next Evangelical Leadership Scandal” – Heather Cirmo at Christianity Today writes: “Working as a public relations professional in the Christian world, I’ve had an up-close and personal view of how quickly crises can develop and how easily they can engulf an organization in controversy and confusion. I have been called on to help numerous ministries in crisis, many of which were struggling to come to terms with revelations of sexual impropriety or abusive leadership. My role is to try to minimize the public damage. But in many situations, it becomes clear that organizational problems existed far before the sin was ever made public.”


Hunter - on the brink“Dissent and Solidarity: Times of crisis are always times of reckoning” – James Davison Hunter at The Hedgehog Review: “If you were a forty-year-old in 1955, your life would have already spanned most of World War I, the Spanish flu pandemic, the convulsive birth of the Soviet Union, the Great Depression, the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany, World War II, the communist takeover in China, and the Korean War; closer to home, you would have witnessed McCarthyism and the growing pressures for remediation of ongoing and unresolved racial injustice—for all of the manifest good of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, Emmett Till was murdered in 1955. During those four decades from 1915 to 1955, the nation had faced crisis after crisis, and, had this been your life, you would have known little else but a nation on the brink. Then, as now, these national trials were rightly recognized as existentially momentous, and then, as now, there was wide and deep controversy over how to make sense of them.”


Seychelles President“Anglican Priest elected Seychelles President in first victory for Seychelles Democratic Alliance” – “An Anglican priest, Wavel Ramkalawan, has been elected to serve as the fifth President of the Seychelles. It is the first time in the country’s 44 years of independence from Great Britain that the President is not from the United Seychelles Party. President Ramkalawan came close to winning power in the 2015 election, falling just 200 votes short of victory. But he triumphed in last month’s elections, winning 54.9 per cent of the vote against incumbent President Danny Faure’s 43.5 per cent.”


f14f8836c81d05f92479de92da21695b-729x1024“The Power of Love: Grace in Augustinian Perspective” – Simeon Zahl at The Mockingbird blog: “There is a particular challenge that emerges when we speak about divine grace. On the one hand, God’s grace is given to sinners. There is something about the deep structure of divine love that is revealed in the fact that it makes a bee-line for those whose lives are most broken (Mk 2:17; 2 Cor 12:9). Indeed in some mysterious sense it is the nature of God’s grace to burn the brightest where it is least deserved (Rom 5:6, 5:20). On the other hand, God’s grace also transforms the sinners it encounters, at least in some minimal sense: grace redeems (Col 1:13-14) and heals (Jer 30:17; Mt 4:23), breaks chains (Gal 5:1) and gives life (Rom 4:17; Jn 10:10). If grace offered us no help at all in our distress it is not clear how it could ever become attractive to us in the first place.”


Music: Jpk., “Rosewater

[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.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 7 November 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.


Brooks - happiness“Are We Trading Our Happiness for Modern Comforts?” – This article by Arthur Brooks in The Atlantic explores an important reality: “One of the greatest paradoxes in American life is that while, on average, existence has gotten more comfortable over time, happiness has fallen….amid these advances in quality of life across the income scale, average happiness is decreasing in the U.S. The General Social Survey, which has been measuring social trends among Americans every one or two years since 1972, shows a long-term, gradual decline in happiness—and rise in unhappiness—from 1988 to the present. There are several possible explanations for this paradox: It could be that people are uninformed about all of this amazing progress, that we can’t perceive progress very well when it occurs over decades, or that we are measuring the wrong indicators of ‘quality of life.’ I suspect the answer is all three. The last idea, however, is especially important to understand in order to improve our own happiness.”


Li-Young LeeLi-Young Lee reads “Changing Places in the Fire” – I needed a break from politics this week, no matter how hard that was to find, so I turned to other things to fill my mind and heart, such as poeetry. Li-Young Lee is a powerful poet who I heard in person while I was an undergraduate student studying literature. This recent poem by Lee plays with the concept of the word/Word through a form of poetic conversation. “There are words, I say, / and there is The Word. / Every word is a fluctuating flame / to a wick that dies. / But The Word, The Word / is a ruling sum and drastic mean, / the standard that travels / without moving.”


iceberg“Spiritual Practices for Public Leadership”  – With his characteristic insight, Andy Crouch offers fine wisdom for spiritual leadership in the public sphere. “Being a public person—someone who is recognized by people who do not actually know us personally—can be a lot like being a cruise ship. We are rewarded for cultivating the parts of our lives that are visible: our talents, our opinions, our appearance. And while the most spectacular cruise ships on the public ocean may be the people we call celebrities, the unique reality of life in the age of social media is that we are almost all public now, publishing a version of our life to gain others’ attention and, we almost always hope, approval.  This kind of life carries with it grave threats to our health, and the safety of those around us. Without spiritual practices to guard against the unique temptations of public life, we will likely drift into narcissism and exploitation. Sooner or later we will hit an iceberg—and the testimony of maritime history is that when a cruise ship meets an iceberg, the iceberg wins.”


Jamie Smith - public art“Attention as Prayer: Public Art in the Pandemic” – “Simone Weil once said that ‘Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer.'” Building from this idea, James K. A. Smith takes us along on his morning jog through Grand Rapids to help us recover attention to the beauty around us, specifically in the form of public art in the beauty-drained times of the pandemic.


church-groningen“New Bible translation goes back to capital letters to refer to Him” – Most English Bible translations no longer use capitalized pronouns for God, a move which reflects changes in language over time and perhaps also translation or editing challenges. However, a new Dutch translation of the Bible, while not attempting to become archaic, has reintroduced the capitalization of pronouns referring to God. “The Bible translation most commonly used in Protestant churches in the Netherlands, has been modernised but capital letters have returned to refer to God. The NVB21, which stands for the new Bible translation for the 21st century, has been altered in 12,000 places making it ‘better, sharper and more powerful’, the Dutch Bible association NBG said.”


unlearning“On Unlearning” – Here’s Kirsten Sanders at the Mere Orthodoxy blog: “The problem with Theology done at a critical remove is that we can become untethered from love of God and so untethered from the Other. It is then that we begin talking mostly about ourselves. Even ‘transcendence,’ often referred to, longingly, can be misappropriated as the erotic longing of the soul. This happens slowly, but it begins when the initial orienting love of God is forgotten. Anselm’s ‘where can I find you?’ is based in trust, but it can become a cry of despair.”


Music: Chris Lizotte, “Peace Be With You,” from Long Time Comin’

[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.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 31 October 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.


Abood - Asher Imtiaz“Grace Under Pressure: A photo essay” – A friend, Asher Imtiaz, has a very special photo essay in Comment that I would encourage you to take a look at. Asher writes: “I have been doing documentary photography for almost a decade now. Very early I asked myself this question: Why do I take photographs? The answer was: to honour people living under pressure. To give those who we consider as other’ a voice and a story….So when in 2016 I finally decided to start a long-term, self-assigned project to collect stories and photographs of immigrants, I wanted to produce work that is not just a report. Work that would evoke enough feeling in people to change their attitudes about immigrants. In the process, I found myself changed.”


George Yancey“I see nothing, I know nothing!!!” – George Yancey writes an extended blog post jumping off from his observations of Professor Eddie Glaude in his encounter with Rod Dreher on the Morning Joe show. As a sociologist and conservative Christian, Yancey explores how bias against conservative Christians in academia parallels other biases we have. The post is wide-ranging but looks at the interplay between our blindspots, the evidence we need of wrong in differing domains, and how that shapes who we defend and who we do not.


public engagement“The Early Church Saw Itself as a Political Body. We Can Too.” John Piper’s article that I shared last week highlighted one of the weaknesses of 20th century Christianity: we do not have a very well-considered theology of public engagement that touches on the individual and the corporate aspects of what God’s kingdom looks like. This is at least part of what I was trying to get at in the five-week series we walked through on the kingdom of God recently at Eastbrook. Tish Harrison Warren looks at the issue from a different angle in this recent essay in Christianity Today: “We have an impoverished and inadequate political theology. It took us generations to get here, and this one election, regardless of the results, will not undo that. So before we know who wins or loses, we as a church must begin to reexamine how the good news of Jesus shapes us politically.”


Nice attack“Three dead as woman beheaded in attack in French church” – France has faced shocking events in the past weeks with religious-based extremist violence. Just a couple days ago, an attack at Notre Dame church in Nice left three people dead. This followed an earlier attack just  over a week ago where a schoolteacher was killed in a suburb of Paris after exhibiting satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed in a lesson on free speech.  This is part of a long conflict around a series of depictions of the Prophet Muhammed that goes back to 2005. Let’s all pray for wisdom, peace, and healing in France and for an end to acts of terror, reprisals, or mistreatment in any direction.


Wilton Gregory“Wilton Gregory: Pope Francis names first African-American cardinal” – “Pope Francis has said he will appoint 13 new Roman Catholic cardinals, among them the first African-American clergyman. The Pope announced the 13 cardinals from eight nations in a surprise address from his window overlooking St Peter’s Square in Rome on Sunday. Wilton Daniel Gregory, the progressive 72-year-old Archbishop of Washington DC, will be one of them. The cardinals will be installed in a ceremony at the Vatican on 28 November. Cardinals are the most senior clergymen in the Roman Catholic Church below the pontiff.”


The_Temptation_of_Christ_by_the_Devil-768x402“Forget the Horns. Ditch the Pitchfork. What Do We Really Know about the Devil?” – One of the questions I often receive as a pastor is from folks wanting to know about this or that term or idea in the Scripture. One of the most frequent is related to the devil or to demons. I came across this simple summary of our understanding of the devil at the Lexham Press blog and thought I’d share it for those who are interested in the biblical backgrounds related to our understanding of the devil or Satan.


Music: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, “Killing the Blues,” from Raising Sand

[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.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 24 October 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.


policies-persons-and-paths-to-ruin-kw3ndwdf-7d312cf67d6382959ed12b355aab78f7“Policies, Persons, and Paths to Ruin: Pondering the Implications of the 2020 Election” – John Piper, Pastor Emeritus at Bethlehem Baptist Church, set of a mild Twitter-storm when this article released because of sections like this: “this is a long-overdue article attempting to explain why I remain baffled that so many Christians consider the sins of unrepentant sexual immorality (porneia), unrepentant boastfulness (alazoneia), unrepentant vulgarity (aischrologia), unrepentant factiousness (dichostasiai), and the like, to be only toxic for our nation, while policies that endorse baby-killing, sex-switching, freedom-limiting, and socialistic overreach are viewed as deadly.” Or this: “When a leader models self-absorbed, self-exalting boastfulness, he models the most deadly behavior in the world. He points his nation to destruction. Destruction of more kinds than we can imagine. It is naive to think that a man can be effectively pro-life and manifest consistently the character traits that lead to death — temporal and eternal.” While I may disagree with certain aspects of Piper’s theology, I was encouraged by his words here that show his consistency over the years (as opposed to other evangelical leaders who have changed their approach from one President to the next) and keep us rooted in the Word of God and kingdom citizenship.


Nigeria conflict“Deaths From Nigeria Protests Now 56 With Crackdown, Amnesty Says” – We are not the only nation dealing with conflict related to political and social tensions. Nigeria, one of the most stable and robust nations in sub-Saharan Africa has trembled with protests related to police brutality in the country’s largest city, Lagos. Please pray for this situation in Nigeria, which Amnesty International now says has resulted in 56 deaths. “‘Victims include protesters and thugs who were allegedly hired by the authorities to confront the protesters,’ Isa Sanusi, a spokesman for the group in Nigeria, said in an emailed statement. ‘In many cases the security forces had used excessive force in an attempt to control or stop the protests.'”


Diane Langberg“Today’s Crises Have Multiplied and Exposed Trauma: How Will the Church Respond?” – One of my biggest concerns as we head into the winter of this pandemic is how we deal with mental health challenges in this time. Diane Langberg speaks directly to that pressing challenge: “We are living in times of trauma, surrounded by confusion, threats and unrest. The COVID-19 pandemic and outcries against racial injustice profoundly impact our world, our nation, our churches, our neighborhoods and our homes. It is disruptive and unsettling. And if we’re honest, we feel vulnerable. In fact, we are vulnerable. But the threats are not merely external. We face internal threats as well. Many are anxious or depressed or grieving. Others are full of anger. There is no end in sight.”


man-2125123_1280-690x450“Bioethics must recognize ‘we are made for love and friendship,’ scholar argues” – At last part of the reason we are struggling with trauma these days is the radical changes to our relationships. This is not just an accident of human experience but a vital part of how we are made. Because God is a relational Being, He has made humans as relational beings as well. O. Carter Snead, Professor of Law and Director of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame, argues for something similar in his his new book, What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics. In contrast to the prevailing hyper-individualized approach to ethics which downplays the body in relation to personal decisions, Snead calls for a recovery of the significance of embodiment in anthropology and in the realm of bioethics. This interview with Charles C. Camosy for Crux gives some insight into the direction of his argument.


Azerbaijan Armenia reconciliation“Turks and Armenians Reconcile in Christ. Can Azeris Join Them?” – The recent tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijin over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region has captured our attention recently, but has a long history. When there is a long history of pain and tension, is it possible for reconciliation of relationship to happen? Jayson Casper reports on this helpful parallel of the relational healing that occurred between Turks and Armenians as an example of what could happen for Azeris and Armenians. May God help us.


Thomas Howard“Died: Thomas Howard, Author Who Said ‘Evangelical Is Not Enough'” – Thomas Howard passed away this past week. He was one of the evangelicals who walked the Canterbury Trail to Anglicanism and eventually swam the Tiber to become Roman Catholic. He told the tale in several books, most notable Evangelical Is Not Enough and Lead, Kindly Light. Along the way, Howard left us a treasure of historic recovery of liturgy and a beautiful engagement with literature that is a wonderful legacy.


Music: The Fearless Flyers, “Assassin.”

[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.]