The Weekend Wanderer: 4 September 2021

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.


Texas abortion law“Is the Texas ‘Heartbeat Bill’ the End of Roe v. Wade?” – Russell Moore in Christianity Today: “Many people counted down until midnight last night, waiting not for a New Year but for the possibility of a post–Roe v. Wade America. That’s because, due to a legal technicality, the Supreme Court of the United States had until then to overturn a new Texas abortion law before it went into effect on September 1. The fact that the Supreme Court didn’t intervene has some Christians wondering: Is Roe now effectively gone? The reason this case, in particular, is of such intense interest to both sides of the abortion debate is because the law in question, Senate Bill 8, seems to effectively ban abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy. Unlike the Mississippi law that will come before the Court this year, this law is different. It is not enforced by the state but rather by private persons who can sue anyone involved in an abortion—except the woman seeking the procedure. Still, because a law seeming to prohibit abortion is now technically on the books, some have wondered if this means the almost fifty-year era of Roe v. Wade is at its end. And the answer to that is probably not—at least not yet.”


measurement“Urbanization and Measuring the Remaining Task” – Justin Long at Mission Frontiers: “For a very long time, many missiologists have tended to measure “progress in the Great Commission” (however that was defined) to some extent in the context of people groups, and how they are reached, evangelized and/or Christianized. This thread has been pushed forward by the work of David Barrett, Patrick Johnstone and Ralph Winter, who each in his own way pushed thinking and activism related to unreached peoples. ‘Reaching the unreached peoples,’ in particular, has tended to replace the idea of ‘a church in every country’ as the operative definition of closure or fulfillment of the Great Commission. Unreached People Groups better fit the Scriptural concepts of ‘every tribe, language, nation, tongue before the Throne’ (Rev. 7:9). The principal motivation behind the development of the unreached peoples concept was the idea of “gaps”—that there were languages and ethnic groups who had “no access” (defined as the reasonable access of individuals in the group to the gospel within their lifetime) principally being shared) or ethnicity (they couldn’t accept what was being shared by outsiders). However, as we have refined our strategies for closure as ‘reach the unreached’ strategies, two additional issues have emerged, and we’re struggling to address them.”


Kleinig_final_pod-38-1024x536“Why Our Physical Bodies Matter to God” – John Kleinig at the Lexham Press blog: “Our world has many living wonders, many ordinary creatures that are all quite extraordinary. This array of wonders ranges from a simple cell to the supremely complex human body. From every point of view, each embodied person is the most amazing visible being on earth. Our human bodies, linked as they are to the whole web of life on earth and the life of the living God, are indeed ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Ps 139:14). Yet the more we examine our bodies and learn about them, the more we discover how little we actually understand them and their complexity. Our vision of ourselves is always partial, incomplete, and one-dimensional, often a reflection of how others see us and of what they tell us about ourselves. We never see ourselves directly, or fully, either by looking at ourselves in a mirror or by thinking about what has happened to us. We only ever see bits and pieces, moments and episodes, in the story of our physical lives on earth—mere snapshots at various stages of our lives, rather than a complete video of our entire embodied life from all points of view.”


Listening Unfolding“Listening Unfolding” – Nate Klug in Image: “The carpeting in the living room is indeed wall to wall, and smells as musty as I remembered. But since my interview visit, someone has spread a tablecloth over the wing table in the living room and planted a sofa by the window, so that when I arrive for my first morning of office hours as the interim pastor, the parsonage resembles a place people actually might visit. For I have assured my new congregation, both in the printed bulletin and during my first Sunday’s announcements, that “I am interested in where God is moving in their lives,” which is true, and that “as they go about their days, they are most welcome to stop in for a conversation”—which might be true as well. As I sit and wait, I remember that I’ve brought my study Bible along. Flipping to next Sunday’s text, I plop it in front of me like an oversized prop, proof against a charge of idleness, in case anyone might be watching through the window. Despite my new surroundings, and the eerie quiet of Main Street in this small Iowa town that I’ll call Ramoth (next door to Gilead), something about the morning’s combination of anxiety and excitement feels familiar. I realize that when I’m at home during the middle of the week, working on my own poetry instead of ministry, I assume the same posture, staring out the window with the words of others nearby, my mind clouded with witnesses—or often just cloudy.”


covid_vaxxed+3“The Young And Secular Are Least Vaccinated, Not Evangelicals” – Ryan Burge at Religion Unplugged: “As the delta variant has caused COVID-19 to surge again in the United States, there’s been a flurry of attention paid to the share of Americans who have chosen to forgo the vaccine against the coronavirus. Trying to understand the causal factors that would lead to one not getting the inoculation seems to be the first task when it comes to finding ways to reduce vaccine hesitancy coast to coast. One of the primary dimensions that news outlets seem to be focusing on is religion. The headlines are published nearly weekly – evangelical Christians are the ones who are the most reluctant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Yet, when I review the data from a survey that was conducted on May 11, 2021 that was administered by Data for Progress, I don’t find a lot of evidence that evangelicals are the ones lagging behind. In fact, I find that those without any religious affiliation were the least likely to have received at least one dose of any COVID-19 vaccine.”


Daniel Darling firing“NRB spokesman Dan Darling fired after pro-vaccine statements on ‘Morning Joe'” – Bob Smietana at Religion News Service: “The spokesman for a major evangelical nonprofit was fired for promoting vaccines on the MSNBC ‘Morning Joe’ cable news show, Religion News Service has learned. Daniel Darling, senior vice president of communications for the National Religious Broadcasters, was fired Friday (Aug. 27) after refusing to admit his pro-vaccine statements were mistaken, according to a source authorized to speak for Darling. His firing comes at a time when Americans face a new surge of COVID-19 infections due to the highly contagious Delta variant even as protesters and politicians resist mask mandates or other preventive measures.”


Music: Mordent.IO, “Places Everyone,” from Mordent.IO

The Weekend Wanderer: 12 June 2021

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.


Oran“Pastor of church ordered to close receives suspended sentence and fine in Algeria” – From Evangelical News – Europe: “Less than a week after a a court in Algeria ordered pastor Rachid Seighir’s church to close, a judge in handed him a one-year suspended sentence and a fine for “shaking the faith” of Muslims with Christian literature at his bookstore, sources said. Pastor Seighir’s Oratoire Church building in the city of Oran was one of three ordered to be sealed in western Algeria’s Oran Province on Wednesday (June 2). On Sunday (June 6) he and bookstore salesman Nouh Hamimi were sentenced to one-year suspended sentences and a fine of 200,000 dinars (US$1,494) in a ruling on their appeal of a prior sentence of two years in prison and a fine of 500,000 dinars (US$3,745).”


N T Wright“Anti-Racism in the Church” – NT Wright wrote this originally in The Spectator in March and it was reposted here: “Douglas Murray complains that the C of E has embraced the ‘new religion’ of anti-racism (‘The C of E’s new religion’, 20 March). But the truth, which neither he nor the church seems to have realised, is that the ‘anti-racist’ agenda is a secular attempt to plug a long-standing gap in western Christianity. The answer is to recover the full message, not to bolt on new ideologies. The earliest Christian writings insist that in the Messiah ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek’. The book of Revelation envisages Jesus’s followers as an uncountable family from every nation, tribe, people and language. At the climax of his greatest letter, St Paul urges Christians to ‘welcome one another’ across all social and ethnic barriers, insisting that the church will thereby function as the advance sign of God’s coming renewal of all creation.”


Christian Smith - next generation“Youth Pastors and Parents Cross Wires on the Core Purpose of Church” – Lyman Stone interviews sociologist Christian Smith in Christianity Today: “How religious mothers and fathers balance their children’s growing autonomy with robust discipleship is the topic of a new book, Handing Down the Faith: How Parents Pass Their Religion on to the Next Generation, by Christian Smith, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame, and Amy Adamczyk, professor of sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in the City University of New York (CUNY).”


Multicultural friends group using smartphone with coffee at university college break - People hands addicted by mobile smart phone - Technology concept with connected trendy millennials - Filter image

“The Questions Concerning Technology” – L. M. Sacasas in The Convivial Society email newsletter: “I then went on to produce a set of 41 questions that I drafted with a view to helping us draw out the moral or ethical implications of our tools. The post proved popular at the time and I received a few notes from developers and programmers who had found the questions useful enough to print out post in their workspaces….This is not, of course, an exhaustive set of questions, nor do I claim any unique profundity for them. I do hope, however, that they are useful, wherever we happen to find ourselves in relation to technological artifacts and systems. At one point, I had considered doing something a bit more with these, possibly expanding on each briefly to explain the underlying logic and providing some concrete illustrative examples or cases. Who knows, may be that would be a good occasional series for the newsletter. Feel free to let me know what you think about that.”


Ten Commandments for Tech“Ten Commandments for Tech” – Continuing the technology theme, here is Amy Crouch in Comment: “Our tech devices are designed to make life easier, but maybe ease isn’t what we need. They’re designed to captivate us, but maybe we need time to look up and around. Silicon Valley’s technologies promised a revolution in speed and convenience, and they certainly delivered. Yet it’s starting to look like those were the wrong promises. 24/7 communication and distraction haven’t relieved us from stress, boredom, or loneliness. As our lives become increasingly mediated by algorithms and machines, tech designers need to rethink those promises. The following “ten commandments” suggest a way of designing that is centred not on ease or distraction, but flourishing. Perhaps we don’t need greater convenience in our communities and callings. Perhaps instead we need help to venture further on the straight-and-narrow path of righteousness.”


Arrival“Arrival and Annihilation: Cinematic Reimaginings of the Resurrection of the Body” – Here is Jon Coutts writing in The Other Journal about two science fiction movies and their reapproaching of what resurrection means: “When we think of the so-called afterlife, we cannot help but use our imaginations. As a young child in church, I imagined an unending hymn-sing or an eternity spent floating suspended in the clouds. To me, the thought of ceaseless heaven was terrifying. And since then, I’ve received no help from the idealized projections of near-death-experience literature or from popular renditions like The Good Place. Even in its light-heartedness, the NBC sitcom could find no better ending than a get-out-of-the-afterlife-free option that’s triggered once perpetual self-satisfaction wears into infinite tedium.”


Music: Bill Evans, “Peace Piece,” from Everybody Digs

Restoration and Embodied Sexuality

This past weekend at Eastbrook, I concluded our series, “Love-Sex-Body: Toward a Biblical Theology of Embodied Sexuality,” focusing on the fourth chapter of God’s Good Story: the Restoration of all things.

I spent a lot of attention in this message on Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15, which draw together Adam and fallen human bodies (ch. 2 – the Fall), Christ and His resurrection body (ch. 3 – Redemption), and the hope of future resurrection bodies for all those who belong to Christ (ch. 4 – Restoration). I connected that with the calling of the church to be a community marked by resurrection hope, living in holiness and love, touching upon Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 6. The conclusion of the message directed attention to the ultimate consummation of Christ and His bride, the church, with the new heavens and new earth described in Revelation 21.

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 to connect.

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The Flesh of Our Savior: the importance of the body in Jesus’ redemption

Crucifixion, Matthias Grunewald.jpg

The entire life of faith begins with God reaching out to us first. In response to humanity’s fall from grace and sin’s impact upon this world, God sent Jesus, fully God and fully man, to live, die and be resurrected to bring us and all creation back to God through relational restoration. This is how Paul describes it:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, through for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)

In the face of humanity’s sin-soaked efforts to stand at the center and push God to the periphery, in the face of humanity’s guilt and shame, God steps in to demonstrate His love by sending Jesus into our midst.

And through that demonstration of love in Jesus, sin’s disordering power in our lives and choices is broken by God’s grace.  Here is Paul again, just a few verses later:

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:17-21)

Let me summarize Paul’s flow of thought like this:

Adam’s sinful action Christ’s righteous action
Death comes to humanity Grace and life to humanity
Condemnation to humanity Justification and life to humanity
Humanity becomes sinful Humanity becomes righteous
The Law highlights sin’s victory in wrong and death Grace highlights Jesus’ victory in eternal life

Death reigned through Adam’s sin, but those receiving the grace of Christ will reign in life. Condemnation came down through Adam’s one sinful act to all humanity, but Jesus’ one righteous act eradicates judgment and opens the way to life. Adam’s disobedience made all humans sinners, but Jesus’ obedience makes many righteous. The law of God highlights the victory of sin in which human beings are trapped to the point of death.  But the grace of God in Christ has victory over sin, bringing us into eternal life.

The background of Genesis 1-3 is important here because Jesus is, in a sense, the second Adam, bringing redemption to humanity from the power of the Fall.  This is a re-introduction to the way things were supposed to be in the original creation, and the doorway into that renewal is Jesus the Messiah.

Jesus gives grace, life, and freedom from guilt and shame. We don’t have to be afraid of God or ashamed of God because of Jesus and what He has done. The access point for us to this is new life and grace is faith. We reach back to the God who first reached out to us.

The Importance of Jesus’ Redemption in the Body
Now, we all know this is really important in terms of salvation, but we may wonder what any of this has to do with our love, sexuality, and body life. 

It is important to remember that Jesus came in a body to do this work of salvation. That incarnation – that physicality – is not tangential but vital to the redeeming work of Christ. The Apostle John writes:

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Jesus came in a body because we live in bodies. His saving work – His redeeming work – had to be physical to bring God’s power to bear upon the created world. It may seem outlandish that God would draw near in a human body, but this is the way salvation works and, in a sense, must work. This is the fleshed-out reality of the title “Immanuel,” which means “God with us.”

Without Jesus’ body, there would be no redemption or salvation. John the Apostle knew this and so a major theme of his letters is counteracting the proto-Gnosticism so prevalent and popular in his day. 

“Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” (1 John 4:1-3)

The fleshy-ness of Jesus is vital to the truth of what God is doing. Why? John goes on a bit later in that same chapter:

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10)

Paul told us earlier that Jesus’ death demonstrated God’s love for us (Roman 5:8), and now John echoes that, saying God’s love is shown in Jesus’ death as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Sin ruptures relationship with God. That rupture happened through human bodies and human activity in the garden. The physicality of sin had far-reaching spiritual impact:  humanity trying to be at the center of the universe, including self-will, the condemnation of guilt, and the hiding of shame.

In like manner, Jesus dealt with sin’s impact through a human body and through human activity. The physicality of Jesus’ sacrifice had far-reaching spiritual impact: restoration of relationship with God, new life, acceptance, and freedom from condemnation.

[This post is excerpted from the message, “Redemption and Embodied Sexuality,” delivered at Eastbrook Church on November 16/17, 2019.]

Redemption and Embodied Sexuality

Love Sex Body Series GFX-05I continued our series, “Love-Sex-Body: Toward a Biblical Theology of Embodied Sexuality,” this past weekend at at Eastbrook Church by turning to the third chapter of God’s Good Story: Redemption in Jesus Christ.

This message builds off of previous messages on Creation and the Fall, looking at Christ’s redeeming work as outlined in Romans 5. I take some time to reflect on the significance of Jesus’ incarnation for redemption from John 1 and 1 John 4. I then examine the reality of Christ’s bodily redemption in relation to our bodies, sexuality, and love with reference to various passages of Scripture, including John 8 & 9, Romans 6, 1 Corinthians 6 & 13.

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 to connect.

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