The Weekend Wanderer: 24 August 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.

 

1619.png“The 1619 Project” – The New York Times unveiled a major new project last weekend, reexamining American history through the lens of slavery. “The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.” If you have difficulty accessing the interactive article at The New York Times, you can also read a static version of this first 100-page installment here.

 

Fleming Rutledge“The year 1619 and my home state of Virginia” – There were all sorts of reactions to “The 1619 Project.” You could read some of those at National Review (“What The 1619 Project Leaves Out”), Vox (“1619 and the cult of American innocence”), The Washington Post (“The 1619 Project and the far-right fear of history”), and The American Conservative (“The NYT’s Woke-ism Undermines Liberalism”). However, the article related to the 1619 Project that I found most interesting was theologian and preacher Fleming Rutledge’s personal reflections on “The year 1619 and my home state of Virginia.” In this, Rutledge wrestles with her own personal history and background, questioning what it means for the church and individual Christians to face into the present moment.

 

91857“Have Archaeologists Found the Lost City of the Apostles?” – “After recent headlines announced that archaeologists in Israel had uncovered the Church of the Apostles, questions followed. What church is this? And what do these findings tell us about the days of Jesus and his earliest followers? The world’s attention has turned to a small excavation on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, a project I have been involved with as the academic director since the beginning. Our findings have rekindled the debate about the location for Bethsaida, the home of Peter, Andrew, and Philip referenced in John 1:44.”

 

article_5d24c3e7090fe“Fear of the Word”Hans Boersma at First Things: “My students are afraid to preach—not all of them, but more and more, it seems. And it is often the brightest and most eloquent, those who are least justified in parroting Moses’s excuse—“I am slow of speech and of tongue”—who lack the confidence to open the Scriptures for the people of God. I write now for them, though they are not alone: I have the same feeling of inadequacy, and I know that others do as well.”

 

Litter_on_Singapore's_East_Coast_Park.620_0“The tiny nation waging war on plastic” –  From BBC: “Over the years, the tropical island nation of Vanuatu has struggled with its attempts to eliminate single-use plastics, but thanks to an extensive campaign, the country is about to implement one of the toughest plastic bans in the world. Last year it banned drinking straws, plastic bags and styrofoam, but by December 2019 it will have added all single-use plastics to the list (ahead of the EU next year).”

 

Bernard of Clairvaux“On Loving God” – I reflected this week on the influence of Bernard of Clairvaux in my grasp of God’s love for us as believers and our return love to God. Here is a summary of Bernard’s teaching in his classic work, On Loving God. “You wish me to tell you why and how God should be loved. My answer is that God himself is the reason why he is to be loved. As for how he is to be loved, there is to be no limit to that love. Is this sufficient answer? Perhaps, but only for a wise man.”

 

download.jpeg“How the great truth dawned” – One of the most fascinating figures of the 20th century for me personally is Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. His insightful critique of both repressive Soviet communism and unbound American capitalism from a deeply reflective and insightful Christianity is still as valuable today as back then. Here is Gary Paul Morson reflecting on “the Soviet virtue of cruelty” with a healthy does of Solzhenitsyn woven into the mix.

 

Bob Dylan - Slow Train Coming“Slow Train Coming” – This past week marked the 40th anniversary of the release of Bob Dylan’s “Slow Train Coming.” Loved by some and reviled by others, “Slow Train Coming” was Dylan’s first release after his conversion to Christianity and every song on the album reflects those themes. This article is Rolling Stone‘s original review of the album, in which Jann Wenner writes: “The more I hear the new album — at least fifty times since early July — the more I feel that it’s one of the finest records Dylan has ever made. In time, it is possible that it might even be considered his greatest.” While certain tracks are religiously strange (“Man Gave Names to All the Animals”), I still love some of the tracks on this album, such as “You Gotta Serve Somebody,” “Slow Train,” and “When You Gonna Wake Up?”

 

Music: “Slow Train” by Bob Dylan from Slow Train Coming; this version from a live concert in Trouble No More.

[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.]

Learning God’s Love with St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Bernard of Clairvaux.jpg

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a Cistercian monk in 12th century France, rose from relative obscurity to influence many  aspects of church life during his time. Born within a wealthy, Bernard forsook all of that to bring enter into a small monastic community in Cîteaux, influencing his five brothers and around twenty-five friends to join with him. Over time, his strict renunciation of life’s pleasures and influential love of God brought him to leadership, first in forming a new monastic community in Clairvaux and later to be an advisor to church leaders. His least admirable legacy was helping to whip up interest in the Second Crusade.

However, what Bernard is often best-known for today is his writings on the love of God. His work, On Loving God (available in full here or summarized here), provides one of the most powerful explanations of both God’s love for human beings and human love returning toward God. Most notably, he outlines four degrees of love for God, which have provided a framework for growing in love toward God for many over the years. In fact, I first heard about Bernard of Clairvaux in a seminar on the love of God that I attended during my college years while at the Urbana conference. The speaker referenced Bernard again and again, and I figured this was someone who I needed to know more about.

When I returned to school after Christmas break at Wheaton College, I scoured the lower level of Buswell Memorial Library until I found works by Bernard of Clairvaux. This led me to a four-volume set of his 86 sermons on the Song of Songs (excerpts available online here). Convinced that, as Paul writes in Ephesians 5, the relationship of a husband and wife in Christ mirrors the love relationship that exists between Christ and the Church, Bernard preached these sermons on the Song of Songs as a means to better understand God’s love in Christ for His people. When you read those sermons, you know that Bernard knew the love of God that surpasses all our knowing. Eugene Peterson, that rugged pastor to pastors, once wrote: “Love is Bernard’s theme, a non-sentimental, hardheaded and warmhearted love that is equally informed by self-knowledge and God-knowledge” (Take and Read 10).

Reflecting on God’s love and our love back to God, Bernard once wrote to a friend: 

You wish me to tell you why and how God should be loved. My answer is that God himself is the reason why he is to be loved. As for how he is to be loved, there is to be no limit to that love. [1]

If you are looking for a good guide into the love of God, I cannot recommend too many more heartily than St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

 


[1] Bernard of Clairvaux, “On Loving God,” https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-24/on-loving-god.html.

Prayer as Living within God’s Power and Love (Ephesians 3:14-21)

This past weekend at Eastbrook, we began a new series entitled “Power in Prayer: Learning to Pray with St. Paul.” This first weekend in the series, I took us inside of Ephesians 3:14-21, one of Paul’s notable prayers from this circular letter sent to churches in Ephesus and the surrounding area. I structured the message around two deep longings in our hearts: to have access to power and to find love. Prayer is, in many ways, a direct connection with these longings, as we reach out for power beyond ourselves and also open ourselves to the deepest vulnerability and intimacy possible in the spiritual realm.

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities for involvement. Each weekend I am also providing some resources for prayer related to the passage or theme of the week.

Resources for prayer

Our life of prayer is fueled by accurate knowledge of God’s power and love. Read through these verses and use them as material for prayer, both this week and in the future:

Understanding God’s love is central to our growth in faith and prayer. Here are some resources that may help us better understand God’s love:

Read More »

A Prayer of Bernard of Clairvaux

Bernard

Jesus, how sweet is the very thought of you! You fill my heart with joy. The sweetness of your love surpasses the sweetness of honey. Nothing sweeter than you can be described; no words can express the joy of your love. Only those who have tasted your love for themselves can comprehend it. In you love you listen to all my prayers, even when my wishes are childish, my words confused, and my thoughts foolish. And you answer my prayers, not according to my own misdirected desires, which would bring only bitter misery, but according to my real needs, which brings me sweet joy. Thank you, Jesus, for giving yourself to me.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Cistercian monk and Christian mystic.

An Advent Prayer of St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Bernard.jpg

Let Your goodness, Lord, appear to us, that we,
made in your image, conform ourselves to it.
In our own strength
we cannot imitate Your majesty, power, and wonder,
nor is it fitting for us to try.
But Your mercy reaches from the heavens
through the clouds to the earth below.
You have come to us as a small child,
but you have brought us the greatest of all gifts,
the gift of eternal love.
Caress us with Your tiny hands,
embrace us with Your tiny arms
and pierce our hearts with Your soft, sweet cries.

By St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Cistercian monk and church reformer.