“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.
“Supreme Court Abortion Case Holds Signs of Hope for Pro-Life Evangelicals” – Kate Shellnut at Christianity Today: “After a long-awaited challenge to Roe v. Wade made it to the US Supreme Court on Wednesday, pro-life evangelicals who had rallied for the cause for decades were encouraged that the conservative-leaning court appeared willing to uphold a contentious Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. The justices’ decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, due in late June, could overturn the country’s landmark abortion rights cases, making way for more restrictive state laws protecting the rights of fetuses in the womb. White evangelicals—who are twice as likely than the average American to want to make abortion illegal—gathered outside the high court in Washington and, across the country, listened to the oral arguments streamed online due to the pandemic. But the two-hour discussion—the greatest threat to abortion policy in 50 years of prayer and advocacy—largely skipped over familiar evangelical talking points to focus on the legal grounds for the case.”
“7 Ways Pastors Can Avoid Burnout Before It’s Too Late” – Ray Chang at The Better Samaritan with Kent Annan and Jamie Aten: “The number one thing I am hearing from people is about how exhausted they are. It seems like most people are running on fumes, with barely just enough to get through each day. This includes pastors. I am hearing so much from pastors who are on the brink of burnout or pushing through in the midst of burn out from everything that has been taking place. Everything from the COVID-19 pandemic and all of its entailments, to the deep political polarization that rears its head throughout churches, the pervasiveness of conspiracy theories, issues surrounding racial injustice and sexual abuse and how the church ought to respond, mental health struggles, and economic challenges, have all led to a compounding weight of sheer exhaustion. As I continued to hear what pastors have been sharing, I found that the primary points of exhaustion had to do with some combination of needing to lead through transition after transition, in addition to already having to do too much and being stretched too thin, with less support and help than ever. Essentially, the uncertainty of the pandemic and multitude of complex overwhelmings are leading to a significant strain on the soul. As a result, here are a few things I have been encouraging pastors and church leaders to do. Adapt and adopt if it can serve you.”
“Do You Know These Details of Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem?” – From Faith Life: “Christians understand the meaning of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem . . . but there’s so much that’s hazy in our imagination and understanding of the details. Popular Christmas songs, Christmas movies, and Christmas media have given us the wrong idea. Read about the fascinating truth in this excerpt adapted from the Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Gospels….For example, the geographical setting of Bethelehem: The ancient village of Bethlehem was located five miles (eight km) south of Jerusalem, one half mile (0.8 km) east of the watershed at the end of a short, narrow spur of chalky limestone angling southeastward. Its elevation, at just over 2500 feet (762 m), is about the same as Jerusalem, and the rainfall is virtually identical for Bethlehem and Jerusalem (twenty-four in, or sixty-one cm, per year, about the same as the wheat fields from central Nebraska to central Texas).”
“Died: Labib Madanat, Who Showed the Bible to Palestinians and Israelis in Word and Deed” – Morgan Lee in Christianity Today: “During his decades of ministry, Labib Madanat repeatedly passed through Israel’s main international airport. So regularly did security detain and thoroughly search him, he developed his own response. ‘Ben Gurion is my mission field,’ Madanat would say. ‘When I tell them that I am a Palestinian Arab Christian, and that I love the God of Israel and their Messiah, I get their full attention!’ The son of Jordanian missionaries who later led his father’s Jerusalem church, Madanat’s role as director of the Palestinian Bible Society (PBS) and later coordinator of all the Bible societies in the Holy Land offered him a platform to live out the gospel in a polarized region. He died on November 15 at the age of 57, after suffering three consecutive seizures during a ministry trip to Baghdad, Iraq. ‘There are people in the world who work and provide help to different groups not like them but don’t always have a love for those people,’ wrote his brother-in-law Daoud Kuttab, secretary of the Jordan Evangelical Council. ‘This was not Labib. He genuinely open-heartedly loved everyone he came in contact with, Arabs or foreigners, Palestinians or Israelis, Iraqi Shiites or Sunnis, Amazigh from North Africa, or Kurds in Irbil.'”
“Jesus Creed Books of the Year” – Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed blog: “The late Justice Antonin Scalia, known for his crystal clear and mind-shaping prose, once said this about what makes for good writing: ‘I think there is writing genius as well – which consists primarily, I think, of the ability to place oneself in the shoes of one’s audience; to assume only what the assume; to anticipate what they anticipate; to explain they need explained; to think what they must be thinking; to feel what they must be feeling.’ Herewith, I announce today the Jesus Creed Books of the Year, simultaneously the Tov Unleashed Books of the Year. These are good books I have read and not some kind of magical survey of everything written. Many of you will know my picks from the blog posts and newsletters, but much thought goes into picking which books become the subject of our conversations.”
“Pakistani Minister Whose Church Was Bombed to Resume Ministry at Home” – Anne Lim at Eternity News: “Sydney-based Anglican minister, the Rev Ijaz Gill, is not letting fear stop him from returning to his homeland of Pakistan to resume his ministry – despite a horrific bomb attack that killed 122 of his congregation, many of them children, and injured 168 of his friends. Rev Gill was just about to remove his robe after morning service at All Souls Church in Peshawar when the first bomb hit on 22 September 2013. The historic 19th-century church was crowded with about 500 people, including many families, who were celebrating wedding announcements with a spread of food and sweets. ‘When the first bomb blast hit, I fell down; it hit my head and shoulder, I was injured. The second bomb blast hit many, many people,’ he recalls, shaking his head over the immense carnage. Rev Gill believes the suicide bombers targeted his church, located on the border with Afghanistan, because of his outspoken stand against the Taliban.”
“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.
Coronavirus – Public Health Informational Links – In the midst of all of the ever-changing updates on coronavirus and COVID-19, it is important to stay informed about what the virus is and what to do. I urge everyone to stay informed through the following resources:
- World Health Organization, “Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19)”
- Center for Disease Control, “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)”
- Please also check your state and local resource information, which for us in Wisconsin include Milwaukee Health Department and Wisconsin Department of Health Services
Coronavirus – Church Resource Links – I have also come across a wide variety of resource links for churches who are trying to navigate this situation. Here are the resources pages I have found most helpful. If you have others, please feel free to post them in the comments for this post.
- “Coronavirus Resources for the Church” from the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College
- “Is Your Church Ready for the Coronavirus?” is a summary of the previous resource by Jamie Aten that I posted last week
- “Should Your Church Stop Meeting to Slow COVID-19? How 3 Seattle Churches Decided”
- “Community without Communing: Resources for Virtual Church” – a pool of resources from pastors of churches of various sizes
- “Coronavirus and the Church” – The purpose of this site is to assist churches and ministry leaders as they prepare for and respond to the effects of the Coronavirus in their congregations and communities
- “COVID-19 And Your Congregation” – a denominational resource page that is fairly concise and helpful
- “Flu Season, Coronavirus, and the Church” – this is a resource page put together by the Wisconsin Council of Churches, which has links to additional resources
- “What the Early Church Can Teach Us About the Coronavirus” – Moses Y. Lee provides a historical reflection on how the church has responded to plagues and health crises as a way to inform our present action
“Eastbrook at Home” – Like many other churches, we were forced to move our weekend services away from public gathering because of the declaration of a public emergency by our governor and the recommendation that events involving groups over 250 not meet. We have dubbed that online presence “Eastbrook at Home,” and it also includes links for further worship and discipleship at home resources. You are welcome to join us. We also have pulled together a page for congregational updates, including from our Medical Advisory Team, at “Health and Wellness Updates.”
“Love in the Time of Coronavirus” – Andy Crouch offers a thorough and insightful look at how we can step forward to shape the culture at this unique time.”A leader’s responsibility, as circumstances around us change, is to speak, live, and make decisions in such a way that the horizons of possibility move towards shalom, flourishing for everyone in our sphere of influence, especially the vulnerable.” I view this as a must-read article for anyone with some sort of leadership presence. Justin Taylor offers a helpful summary of Crouch’s article in “A Guide for Christian Leaders in the Time of Coronavirus.”
“Wuhan Pastor: Pray with Us” – I had not seen this letter written in January by an anonymous pastor from Wuhan, China, until I stumbled upon it recently when searching for something else. Given the way this situation has changed so quickly for us in the States, as well as around the world, I highly recommend reading this pastoral letter to believers in a time of crisis.
“Bethlehem Christians Bear Burden of Israel’s Coronavirus Crackdown” – “Visitors to Israel are now required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, according to safety measures implemented by the Israeli government in response to the global COVID-19 outbreak. The new policy has put a major dampener on Easter pilgrimages to the Holy Land—where 6 out of 10 tourists were Christians in 2018—dealing yet another blow to communities heavily dependent on foreign visitors.”
[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.]
Micah prophesied to both the northern and southern kingdoms during the reigns of kings Jotham (742-735 BC), Ahaz (735-715 BC), and Hezekiah (715-686 BC). He is mentioned in the book of Jeremiah as one who spoke during Hezekiah’s reign (Jeremiah 26:18). He witnesses the fall of Samaria and the northern kingdom in 722 BC, but also speaks about the coming exile for the southern kingdom, which happens after the time of his ministry. Micah hailed from Moresheth Gath, about 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem. His name literally means “Who is like Yahweh?” and his prophecies focus on both the doom coming upon a straying people and the hope that God will bring.
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 on the minor prophets here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities to connect.
Advent and Christmas always plunge me back into music and poetry, mostly, I believe, because the wonder and mystery of the incarnation cannot be expressed merely in the language of explanation and logic. Instead, this mystery stumbles beyond our words into the leaping artistry of words and melodies to help us enter into the deepest places of what the Apostle Paul described as “the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:4-5).
The other day, I was listening through the album Blood Oranges in the Snow by the Cincinnati duo Over the Rhine. This is the third Christmas album they assembled and it still catches my imagination. Here is a song entitled “Bethlehem” from that album.
They write this about the song:Read More »