The Weekend Wanderer: 25 May 2019

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.

 

Karamles“The Impossible Future of Christians in the Middle East: An ancient faith is disappearing from the lands in which it first took root. At stake is not just a religious community, but the fate of pluralism in the region.” – Emma Green offers a stellar piece of reporting at The Atlantic on the situation that I have discussed often with my friends in the Middle East, both while visiting there and when they have visited here. There is a crisis in the Middle East of Christians fleeing their homelands for a variety of reasons.

 

Back Row America

“Back Row America” – Chris Arnade at First Things: “For many back row Americans, the only places that regularly treat them like humans are churches. The churches are everywhere, small churches that have come in and taken over a space and light it up on Sundays and Wednesdays. They walk inside the church, and immediately they meet people who get them. The preachers and congregants inside may preach to them, even judge their past decisions, but they don’t look down on them. They have walked the walk and know the shit they are going through, not from a book, not from a movie, not from an article, not from a study, but from their own lives or the lives of their friends. They look like them, and they get them. There are rules to follow if you join, but they don’t require having your paperwork in order or having proper ID. They don’t require getting grilled about this and that. They say, ‘Enter as you are,’ letting forgiveness wash away a past that many want gone.”

India-election“Why Indian Leader Modi’s Big Win is an ‘Absolute Tragedy’ for Christians” – From Open Doors: “Since Modi came to power in 2014, India has risen from number 28 to number 10 on Open Doors’ World Watch Listthe annual list that measures the 50 places around the world where it’s hardest to follow Jesus. Under his leadership, Hindu nationalist attacks against Christians have risen, believers are given fewer rights in some areas and the government is frequently accused of turning a blind eye to brutal attacks against religious minorities like Christians. Open Doors’ local partners recorded 147 incidents of violence against Christians in India in 2014, but they have recorded 216 violent incidents in India in the first quarter of 2019 alone, including two murders.”

 

90341“Lessons on Christian Rhetoric from Five of its Greatest Practitioners” – Erin Straza interviews James E. Beitler III on his new book Seasoned Speech: Rhetoric in the Life of the Church. There, Beitler examines the rhetorical strategies of C. S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Desmond Tutu, and Marilynne Robinson in their oral and written communication.

 

Processed with VSCO with e1 preset“After Technopoly” – Alan Jacobs reflects in The New Atlantis on Neil Postman’s assessment of “technopoly” with some help from Polish philosopher Leszek Kołakowski and English political philosopher Michael Oakeshott. With the fine distinction between technological core and mythological core, Jacobs’ concludes: “Technopoly is a system that arises within a society that views moral life as an application of rules but that produces people who practice moral life by habits of affection, not by rules. (Think of Silicon Valley social engineers who have created and capitalized upon Twitter outrage mobs.) Put another way, technopoly arises from the technological core of society but produces people who are driven and formed by the mythical core.”

 

Marilynne Robinson“Pushing Back Against Marilynne Robinson’s Theology” – Speaking of Marilynne Robinson, this essay by Jessica Hooten Wilson offers a thoughtful critique of Robinson’s approach to Christian faith. While I deeply enjoy Robinson’s writing, particularly her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gilead, there seems to be at times an uncritical reading of her work within Christian circles. Wheaton College’s theology conference two years ago was entirely focused on her work, producing a book of appreciation and critique entitled Balm in Gilead: A Theological Dialogue with Marilynne Robinson.

 

7d8acac56“Vacation is Good For Your Health” – “If you feel like you need a vacation, you’re almost certainly right. Americans get far fewer paid days off than workers in pretty much any other industrialized democracy, and the time we actually take off has declined significantly, from 20.3 days in 1987 to 17.2 days in 2017….people who take more of their allotted vacation time tend to find their work more meaningful. Vacation can yield other benefits, too: People who took all or most of their paid vacation time to travel were more likely than others to report a recent raise or bonus. And time not taken depresses more than individual career prospects: In 2017, the average U.S. worker left six paid vacation days unused, which works out to 705 million days of travel nationally, enough to support 1.9 million travel-related jobs.” So, take a vacation this summer.

 

great-day-of-his-wrath“A Revolution of Time” –  Paul Kosmin takes us on a journey through time to the cataclysmic beginning of marking time as we know it. “Last year was 2018. Next year will be 2020. We are confident that a century ago it was 1919, and in 1,000 years it will be 3019, if there is anyone left to name it. . . .Now, imagine inhabiting a world without such a numbered timeline for ordering current events, memories and future hopes. For from earliest recorded history right up to the years after Alexander the Great’s conquests in the late 4th century BCE, historical time – the public and annual marking of the passage of years – could be measured only in three ways: by unique events, by annual offices, or by royal lifecycles.”

 

90711“1 in 10 Young Protestants Have Left a Church Over Abuse” – “Surrounded by revelations of #MeToo and #ChurchToo, younger Christians are more keen to recognize sexual abuse—and less likely to put up with it. According to a new study sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources, 10 percent of Protestant churchgoers under 35 have previously left a church because they felt sexual misconduct was not taken seriously. That’s twice as many as the 5 percent of all churchgoers who have done the same. Among the younger demographic, 9 percent said they have stopped attending a former congregation because they personally did not feel safe from misconduct.”

 

age of fear.jpeg“Age of Fear” – John Wilson, editor of the now defunct Books & Culture, wants to talk about fear. In his own inimitable style, Wilson does so in First Things by interviewing himself about fear based on a tweet that he made earlier this month. In this self-interview, Wilson tracks through a number of books and articles he has been reading on the topic, including a piece in The Weekly Standard that I referenced in an earlier edition of “The Weekend Wanderer,” which you also might enjoy reading, “Fear Factor,” which is an extended review of Martha Nussbaum’s The Monarchy of Fear.

 

Music: Bob Dylan, “Everything is Broken,” outtake from MTV Unplugged in 1994; originally from the album Oh Mercy.

[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.]

Live in Peace

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Have you ever felt worried, distressed, or anxious?

Yes, I know that might seem like a ridiculous question. In one way or another, we have all experienced worry, distress, or anxiety. These real experiences of our lives are the sort of things we encounter throughout the Scripture. In fact, the writer of Psalm 4 expresses thoughts we all likely relate to:

Answer me when I call to You, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. (Psalm 4:1)

Where do you turn to find peace in these times? Often, we turn to friends or family for support, or look to distractions like television or reading a book. In themselves, none of these things are bad. However, within Psalm 4, we are directed in another way. The psalmist instructs us in the way we should turn in our distress.

God’s Strong Presence
First of all, the psalmist shows us to whom we should turn. “Of course,” you might say, “you are going to say that I should turn to God.” Yes, that is true, but it is not enough of the truth in this case. The psalmist says Read More »

The Weekend Wanderer: 4 August 2018

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.

 

1000“Rare medieval bible returned to shelf at Canterbury Cathedral” – “A 13th century bible, one of a handful of books which survived intact when the library of Canterbury Cathedral was broken up at the time of the Reformation, is back in the building after almost 500 years. The Lyghfield bible – named for a monk at the cathedral who once owned it – is the only complete bible and the finest illuminated book known to have survived from the medieval collection. The cathedral won a grant of almost £96,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and raised £4,000 more to buy it at a recent rare books sale in London.”

 

Willie Jennings“Can ‘White’ People Be Saved?” – At the beginning of July I spent a week in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with a small group of pastors, professors, and non-profit leaders learning from Dr. Willie James Jennings around his outstanding book The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race. I wish I could have taken everyone there with me because the conversations were transformative for me, even as I continue to ponder all that I experienced. Since I couldn’t take you with me, I’d like to share this video of Dr. Jennings’ session at Fuller Theological Seminary, in which he helps define “whiteness” and the ways in which Christianity has been distorted through a racialized imagination. This is not for the faint of heart, but I highly recommend you wrestle with this challenging message. [Thanks to Nic Fridenmaker for sharing this particular link with me.]

 

29.thumb“Choosing Church: There are lots of reasons to avoid church, but here are the reasons to look again” – After listening to Jennings, you may find it helpful to look at this essay written over a year ago by Marilyn McEntyre, in which she addresses questions about Christianity’s relevance in the context of the rise of “religious nones” and  in a politically and racially divided world. McEntyre offers both admission of reasons to avoid church while also pointing to the ways in which the church is still important.

 

tal_vertical“Come All Ye Faithless” – A couple weeks ago on “This American Life” Eric Mennel told the story of one church planter, Watson Jones, who sets out on his mission to build a new church in a very challenging setting. As I listened, I was reminded again and again of the challenges of urban, multi-ethnic church planting. This episode will make you laugh and cry, particularly if you have been a part of efforts like this. [Thanks to the ten different people who shared this link with me.]

 

57221732_6481d1d067_o“Archaeologists May Have Discovered a Church Built on the Site of Constantine the Great’s Conversion to Christianity” – “Archaeologists working along the banks of the Tiber river in Rome last week discovered what may be the remnants of an early Christian church likely dating to the fourth century CE. The site of the church is only about 150 to 200 meters from where the emperor Constantine fought his rival Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312 CE — and in close proximity to the place where historical accounts indicate that Constantine saw a cross emblazoned in the sky, a cross that convinced him to convert to Christianity.”

 

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 5.31.55 PMWhile in conversation with some colleagues in ministry, one of them shared a ministry resource with me that I had not encountered. The Flourishing in Ministry project is organized by the Well Being at Work initiative of the University of Notre Dame. “Flourishing in Ministry examines what motivates pastors and priests to be engaged in ministry—and what disrupts them from experiencing wellbeing in their work. In our research, we attempt to explore how clergy—often working with lean resources—can give so much to others, and experience a sense of fulfillment and growth in their daily work lives.” Explore it and flourish.

 

BN“Barnes & Noble says sales of books related to anxiety are soaring. Here’s why” – If you’ve been feeling anxious about life in our current cultural climate, you may not be the only one.  “Sales of books related to anxiety are up more than 25 percent through this past June from a year ago, according to Barnes & Noble. The bookseller said ‘we may be living in an anxious nation.'”

 

Bergman“Remedial Bergman: On his centennial, introducing the great director to a new generation” – One of my favorite movie directors of all time is Ingmar Bergman, both in relation to the themes of his work and the skill with which he directs movies. John Simon offers a helpful introduction to Bergman and his work over at The Weekly Standard. He writes: “Bergman is unequaled in his filming of the human face; he uses faces in eloquent, sometimes sublime, close-ups to tell much of his stories. This is one reason why conventional synopsis often doesn’t suffice with Bergman’s films.”

 

[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.]

When We Feel Like Running Away

There are times in our lives when we feel like running away. I still remember when I was an elementary school kid and one of the bullies came after me during a recess football game. I definitely felt like running away…and I did! As fast as I could go.

As I’ve grown older, however, I’ve encountered much more threatening things that make me and others want to run away. I’ve seen a father of four crushed by lack of work. I’ve seen parents helplessly lose a child they love. I’ve seen a single mom struggle to parent teenage children in rebellion. I’ve seen students feeling overwhelmed by confusing decisions. I’ve seen churches challenged by dire situations. These things and more can make us feel like running away.

In Psalm 11, we hear of a similar situation. The writer is struggling with the advice from a friend to simply run away:Read More »

Worry and Faith (discussion questions)

Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Worry and Faith,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is part of our series “The Kingdom Life.” The text for this week is Luke 12:22-34.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When have you experienced the greatest worry in your life? How did you deal with it?
  2. This weekend we continue “The Kingdom Life” series by looking at Luke 12:22-34. After beginning your study in prayer, ask God to speak to you, and then read those passages aloud.
  3. This teaching from Jesus begins with a strong exhortation not to worry. What does Jesus say not to worry about in 12:22, 29?
  4. Jesus offers two examples from nature – the birds and the wildflowers – for His disciples. What do these two examples tell us about worry and faith?
  5. What does Jesus tell us about God’s thoughts and actions on our behalf in relation to our worries (12:24, 30-31)?
  6. How have you learned to give your worry to God? Take a moment to read Philippians 4:6-7. How does this illustrate the connection between prayer and worry?
  7. Jesus’ summary statement in 12:31 is well-known. What do you think it means?
  8. In 12:32-34, Jesus exhorts His disciples to not fear, but to do something else instead. What does He call them to do?
  9. What do you think it means to live as a reflection of Jesus’ words in 12:34?
  10. What is one way that God is speaking to you personally through this study? If you’re on your own, write it down and share it with someone later. If you are with a small group, discuss this together.

 


Daily Reading Plan

To encourage us together in our growth with God, we arranged a daily reading plan through this series. You can also join in with the daily devotional here. As you read each day, ask God to speak to you from His word.

Monday, May 8                     Luke 12:22-26
Tuesday, May 9                    Matthew 6:25-27
Wednesday, May 10             Psalm 147:1-11
Thursday, May 11                 Luke 12:27-34
Friday, May 12                      Matthew 6:28-34

Worry and Faith

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church we continued our series “The Kingdom Life” by exploring the topic of worry and faith. My message centered on Jesus’ words in Luke 12:22-34, giving some attention to John 20:19 and Philippians 4:6-7 as well.  Here’s my contention: if Jesus opens the doorway to God’s presence through the Cross and the Resurrection, then it is possible to move from a place of fear to fearlessness in our lives.

I started off with the results of the 3rd annual Survey of American Fears. I’m not sure what you’re most afraid of, but you might enjoy looking at the last few entries on the list of all fears Americans have.

You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

Also, you are welcome to join in with the daily reading plan for this series.

 

Read More »

Surrendered

imageThis weekend at Eastbrook Church we continued our series, “Journey to the Cross,” by looking at Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives in Mark 14:32-42.

The message, entitled “Surrendered,” drew out six observations about Jesus’ time in Gethsemane with application to our own approach to human distress and suffering in our own lives. In some ways, this was my attempt to speak into the life of our local church fellowship that has experienced some significant, untimely losses of key church members these past couple of weeks.

You can listen to my message at the Eastbrook web-site here. You can also follow the RSS feed for Eastbrook sermons or follow Eastbrook Church on Twitter or Facebook.

The six key points of message are included below:Read More »