The Weekend Wanderer: 27 August 2022

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 these articles but have found them thought-provoking.


130547“Dallas Willard’s 3 Fears About the Spiritual Formation Movement” – James Bryan Smith in Christianity Today: “As a young man, I was privileged to be an eyewitness to the rise of the Christian spiritual formation movement. It began, in its modern form, in 1978, when Richard Foster wrote what has become the perennially standard text on the spiritual disciplines, Celebration of Discipline. Within a few years of its publication, Christians who had never heard of solitude, silence, or meditation were now practicing these disciplines. A lot of good was happening, but Richard saw that many Christians were practicing the disciplines in isolation and needed more guidance. So in 1988, he asked Dallas Willard, me, and a few others to join him in forming a spiritual formation ministry called Renovaré (Latin for “to renew”). Dallas, who served as a philosophy professor at the University of Southern California for 40 years, was one of the most important pioneers in the spiritual formation movement among evangelicals and mainline Protestants. He was close friends with Richard; in fact, Dallas first taught Richard about the spiritual disciplines, which of course were nothing new but were rooted in the ancient church….But privately, I noticed something else during those decades: Dallas was voicing serious concerns about the movement’s future.”


Isaac Adams“An Interview with Isaac Adams on ‘Talking About Race'” – Bill Melone interviewing Isaac Adams at Mere Orthodoxy: “Isaac Adams serves as lead pastor at Iron City Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and is the founder of United? We Pray, a ministry devoted to praying about racial justice. The following transcripted interview revolves around his book, Talking About Race: Gospel Hope for Hard ConversationsBill Melone: Isaac, thank you for participating in this discussion! Your book is a thoughtful and careful work that I hope is widely read, and I hope this discussion will connect people to the book and other work, and perhaps also give insights that connect your work to current issues in evangelicalism. I wanted to start by talking about hope. You wrote in your book:

I believe we still have an opportunity to stun the world with our love for one another, and I pray that we all are asking, ‘How can Christians love each other today on matters of race in such a way that the world has no choice but to say, “Wow! Look at how those Christians love one another!”‘

It’s impossible to write words like this without hope. But with all the division in America and in the American Church right now, it’s hard to have hope like this. Can you give a brief pitch for why I should question my pessimism about hope?”


image 3 - fire“Tending the Inner Fire” – David G. Benner in Conversation Journal: “Christian spirituality should never be a passionless spirituality. It invites us to come in from the cold and be awakened to love by Love. Love is right at the center of Christian spirituality: love of God, love of ourselves, love of our neighbors, and caring love for our world. Eros is an important source of fuel for this love. Brought to life by the Spirit as the flame of Love touches our soul, our passions awaken us and point us toward others and the Other. But as any good spiritual director knows, tending our inner fires is not simply for the purpose of self-fulfilment. Christian spirituality calls us to channel these fires in such a way that it moves us with (com)passion into the world. Passion for God should lead to passionate engagement with the world and the others who share it with us. Christian spirituality is not supposed to be a private matter, something within us or between God and us. Spiritual direction should never focus on the inner journey to the neglect of the outer. Henri Nouwen described the three movements of the spiritual journey as reaching in, reaching up, and reaching out. All three are essential for contact with and discernment and channeling of our inner fire.”


Kenya General Election“Amid post-election tension in Kenya, evangelicals urge to ‘preserve peace'” – Jonatan Soriano In Evangelical Focus – Europe: “Days after the election results were announced, tensions in Kenya remain high. The memory of the 2007 incidents, when 1,200 people lost their lives and another 600,000 were displaced, does not help. Although for the 2022 elections, religious and civic bodies have made efforts to promote a peaceful and “mature” voting process, the victory of the ‘alternative’ candidate led to riots in the capital Nairobi. With 50.49% of the vote and a lead of barely 200,000 votes over his opponent, the hitherto deputy president William Ruto has been declared winner of the elections. Analysts link his victory to three key factors: the support of the central region of the country (the most populated), the perception of Ruto as an ‘alternative’ to the country’s great political dynasties (the Kenyattas and the Odingas), and the state of the economy. However, the announcement by the electoral commission (IEBC) was met with backlash….The Evangelical Alliance of Kenya also issued a pastoral letter to its member churches. In it they acknowledge the work of ‘evangelical churches and communities across the country for the critical role they have played in this process.’ At the same time, they call on their members to recognise the work of the electoral commission and to maintain the connections that have developed, with several Alliance leaders assisting in the vote counting process. ‘During this period, we urge the church to lead the way in upholding the dignity of women, children and the vulnerable in society”, they add. Christians are called to ‘persist in prayer’, especially ‘for the peace that comes only from God.'”


081022pastors-grief“Ministry with the grieving” – Cornelius Plantinga in The Christian Century: “Christian pastors are more than acquainted with grief. They’re steeped in it. First responders and emergency room personnel meet grief that accompanies trauma, but they don’t usually have to minister to it. Pastors do. Their day job is to weep with those who weep. And not just when a congregant gets injured or dies. Grief arises from a host of causes. People grieve job loss, with all its anxieties. They lament their poverty. They grieve over the diminishments of aging, over their poor judgment that led to a tragic mistake, over family estrangements. They grieve over the disturbance or loss of their faith—often itself caused by grief. Congregants rejoice when their child graduates or gets married, but they also grieve because while we want our children to grow, when they do grow we ache. Some folks lament a normalcy they never had: ‘I so wish I had loved my mother and that she had loved me.’ A fair number of congregants feel sad that their lives haven’t turned out as they had hoped. Their lives seem to them flat and insignificant, a wounding rebuke of their youthful dreams.”


spread of Christianity“5 Ways Christianity Spread Through Ancient Rome” – Becky Little at History: “How did Christianity go from a small sect in a corner of the Roman Empire in the first century, to the religion that the emperor converted to in the early fourth century? Its spread was greatly aided by the empire’s political unification and extensive road system, as well as the belief among many Christians that the religion was something anyone could adopt, regardless of regional or religious background.”


Music: Audrey Assad, “I Shall Not Want,” from Fortunate Fall

The Weekend Wanderer: 23 July 2022

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 these articles but have found them thought-provoking.


Sri Lanka“The Struggle for Sri Lanka’s Second Birth” – Ivor Poobalan in Christianity Today: “Chaotic scenes unfolded before an incredulous world last weekend in an Indian Ocean island the size of West Virginia yet with a population ten times larger. Since July 9, global media outlets have been running lead stories on the dramatic social ferment in Sri Lanka. A massive citizen mobilization pushed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the most powerful Sri Lankan leader since the days of the country’s ancient kings, to unceremoniously leave by a back door to escape the wrath of hundreds of thousands of protesters that came calling at his presidential palace this past Saturday. He fled Wednesday out to deep sea aboard a naval vessel, next to the Maldives on board a military jet, then to Singapore on a commercial airline. From there he sent his belated resignation Thursday, which enabled some closure so that the nation could look to rebuild from here.”


DallasWillard-sm

“Willard’s Four Critical Commitments: The Essential Quadrilateral for Authentic Spiritual Change and Transformation” – Gary W. Moon at Conversatio Divine: “Dallas Willard’s four critical concerns are simultaneously simple, profound and counter cultural to our modern world. But they are not new. We would go so far as to say that you will find these same four commitments across the centuries in the heart of each Christian saint; and at the heart of every movement of authentic change and transformation within the Christian church that has stood the test of time. These are  bold statements. But they are supported by Willard’s fourth concern. When an individual or a group of individuals are engaged with his first three concerns, the fourth concern, authentic and demonstrable transformation naturally flows forth. If this type of renovation is not happening, look back to his first three concerns to find the problem concerning the experience of Real Presence. In this essay, we will offer an overview of the mission of the Conversatio Divina (conversatio.org) website, provide an overview of Willard four concerns, and then offer insight into why we choose to feature the voices of ancient Christian spirituality, Ignatian spirituality and Dallas Willard.”


00.159.90_PS1..-768x384“The Tales the Carpenter Told: The kingdom of God is not built, but planted.” – Todd Brewer at Mockingbird: “Jesus’ father was a carpenter. Presumably his father was a carpenter as well. And his father before him. We might well imagine a few generations of tradesmen, passing their sophisticated engineering knowledge down from father to son: how to hang a plumb line, sharpen a hand saw, or level a wall. Jesus, likewise, would have learned the highly specialized craft from a young age. Alongside the usual religious education for children, Jesus and his siblings would have at least helped his father in the family business. If your roof caved in from a windy storm, Jesus would have been handy with a bow saw. Everything changed, however, when Jesus turned thirty. Leaving behind his auger, Jesus went into the kingdom of God business. But as mysterious as Jesus’ sudden career change was for his family — and they were none too pleased (see Mark 3:21) — it is more surprising that this traveling preacher famed for his analogies refrained from using imagery from the family business.”


new-nebula-xlarge“Stop for a minute: These space images are worth your time” – Sergio Peçanha in The Washington Post: “This is a nebula — a giant cloud of gas and place where stars are born. It’s called Carina Nebula. Carina is one of the largest star-forming regions in the Milky Way. It is about 7,600 light-years away. This means that it would take 7,600 years traveling at the speed of light to go from Earth to Carina’s region. So this is not Carina Nebula as it looks today but as it did 7,600 years ago, when the light recorded by the new James Webb telescope left its source. Bonkers, right? Everything about the Webb telescope is mind-boggling. Ponder this: Humans sent a telescope the size of a tennis court into space and parked it four times farther away than the moon. There it orbits the sun along with us, just so we can get some pictures. The very first Webb image made public showed thousands of galaxies as they appeared about 13 billion years ago — that’s almost as far back in time as the Big Bang itself.”


Hauerwas - Fully Alive“The Ruins of Christendom” – Brad East reviews Stanley Hauerwas’ latest book, Fully Alive: The Apocalyptic Humanism of Karl Barth, in The Los Angeles Review of Books: “This year Stanley Hauerwas turns 82 years old. To mark the occasion, he has published a book on Karl Barth, who died at the same age in 1968. The timing as well as the pairing is fitting. Barth is the greatest Protestant theologian of the 20th century, and probably the most widely read of any theologian over the last 100 years. As for Hauerwas, since the passing of Reinhold Niebuhr in 1971, he has been the most prolific, influential, and recognizable Christian theological thinker in American public life. Barth somehow graced the cover of Time magazine in 1962, even though he was a Swiss Calvinist whose books on technical theology are so thick they could stop bullets. Hauerwas has never made the cover, but in 2001 Timedid call him ‘America’s best theologian.’ That fall, Oprah even invited him onto her show. In short, given Hauerwas’s age and stature, Fully Alive: The Apocalyptic Humanism of Karl Barth has the inevitable feel of a valediction. In that sense, the book is an invitation to consider Hauerwas’s project more broadly. That project concerns, above all, the visible witness of the church in a secular age. That is to say, Hauerwas wants to envision, and in certain respects to rethink, what it means to live and worship as the Christian community in a liberal society. What this means for Hauerwas is a sort of social and political dispossession. Christians must be exorcised of the demon of presumptive responsibility for America, not to mention ‘the West.’ That demon’s name is Legion, for it is manifested in countless ways.”


_900_sacred_heart_of_jesus_franciscan_sisters_of_christian_charity_reflection“The Heart Has Its Reasons” – Francis Beckwith in the University of Notre Dame’s  Church Life Journal: “In summer 2021, when I realized that on April 28, 2022 it would be exactly fifteen years since I had returned to the Catholic Church, I began ruminating about the Evangelical world from which I had departed and what it was that ultimately carried me back across the Tiber. Because I am a philosophy professor—someone who traffics in concepts, ideas, and arguments, and gets paid to do it—you would think my reversion was purely a matter of the intellect, that my choosing to return to full communion with the Church was the result of a detached rational consideration of the contending arguments offered by competing Christian groups. Although a decade ago I would have agreed with that account, or at least been highly sympathetic to it, I am not too sure about it anymore….Although it all seems so very strange to me now, to my teenage self—a young man who just wanted to follow Jesus—the love, fellowship, and Christian commitment of my Evangelical friends was attractive and overpowering. I felt like I was part of something new and special that was advancing the cause of Christ, but without the historical baggage of the Catholic Church in which I had been born.”


Music: The Smile, “The Smoke,” from A Light for Attracting Attention

The Great Commission

This past weekend at Eastbrook, we concluded our series entitled “The Beginning of the End,” as well as our entire year and a half journey through the Gospel of Matthew. This series explores the resurrection of Jesus in tandem with some of Jesus’ teaching about the fall of Jerusalem and the end of all time. This weekend I preached from Matthew 28:16-20, the final portion of the Gospel and popularly know as the Great Commission.

This message is from the tenth and final part of our longer journey through the Gospel of Matthew, which includes “Family Tree,” “Power in Preparation,” “Becoming Real,” “The Messiah’s Mission,” “Stories of the Kingdom,” “Who Do You Say I Am?“, “‘Tis the Reason,” “Jesus Said What?!“, and “Scandalous Jesus.

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

A Return (28:16)

11 apostles (the 12 minus Judas) 

Leaving Jerusalem

A return to where everything started: “Galilee of the Gentiles” (4:15)

A Meeting (28:17)

Jesus meets with the disciples

The disciples worship Jesus

Some of the disciples hesitate or doubt

Jesus draws near to speak to them

A Commission (28:18-20)

The authority of Jesus (28:18)

Go and make disciples of all peoples (28:19)

Baptize them in the name of the Triune God (28:19)

Teaching them all Jesus’ taught (28:20)

The ongoing, abiding presence of Jesus (28:20)

An End and a New Beginning

The end of the Gospel of Matthew is a new beginning for the church

The end of our journey with this Gospel is a new beginning for us

Join the song:

  • Growing as disciples ourselves: word and baptism
  • Making disciples ourselves: declare Jesus’ authority and invite people to become Jesus’ disciples

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize Matthew 28:18-20
  • Like the disciples in this scene, take time to worship Jesus as King with words or song. What hesitations or doubts do you have? Name those and bring them to Him in prayer.
  • As we finish our journey through the Gospel of Matthew, return to look over the entire book and write down a list of some of things God has been teaching you or ways God has been growing you through it. Share that with a friend this week.
  • For further insight into the Great Commission, consider reading:

The Weekend Wanderer: 21 May 2022

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 these articles but have found them thought-provoking.


womanpaintembed“In the Shoes of the Woman Considering Abortion” – Kirsten Sanders in Plough: “Both these narratives rely on the idea that life exists to self-actualize, that the goal of being alive is to enjoy as many positive experiences as possible and ‘make something of yourself.’ Pro-choice individuals argue that women need the opportunity to self-actualize in the form of career success and personal pleasure; pro-life individuals argue that those in the womb deserve such opportunities. The Christian life, however, is not about making the most of yourself, about removing impediments to pleasure and opportunity. To argue that those in the womb deserve life in this sense is simply to move the language of rights from the mother to the child. It is to decide who deserves to suffer. If life is simply about opportunity, abortion politics becomes a very real calculation of whose opportunity can be terminated. Christian teaching tells us that the things that are real are given by God, and therefore that all life given by God is good. But it also tells us that life is deeply fragile and marked by sorrow. It promises that the goodness in life is not in what we make of it or how much we enjoy it – the goodness of life is that it is given. Its givenness is what makes it real, what makes it good. It is not, then, in self-optimization, in building institutions, or in bringing our creativity to expression that we are living our best lives. It is, I believe, more likely to be found in parenting, where we are given life and must give our lives.”


Bono Surrender“Bono to release memoir about ‘the people, places and possibilities’ of his life” – Lucy Knight in The Guardian: “The first memoir by Bono will be released this year, publisher Penguin Random House has announced. While the U2 frontman’s career has been written about extensively, this will mark the first time Bono has written about it himself. Titled Surrender, the autobiography will span the singer’s early days growing up in Dublin, including the sudden loss of his mother when he was 14, the success of U2 and his activist work fighting against Aids and poverty. Surrender will contain 40 chapters, each named after a U2 song. Bono has also created 40 original drawings for the book. A video, in which Bono narrates an extract from the memoir, has been released across U2’s digital platforms. It uses animations based on Bono’s drawings to illustrate an extract from the Out of Control chapter, which is about how he wrote U2’s first single on his 18th birthday, exactly 44 years ago today. Bono said his intention was that the book would ‘draw in detail what [he’d] previously only sketched in songs. The people, places and possibilities in my life.’ He said he chose the title because, having grown up in Ireland in the 1970s, the act of surrendering was not a natural concept to him. Bono, whose lyrics have frequently been inspired by his Christian beliefs, said that /surrender’ was ‘a word I only circled until I gathered my thoughts for the book.'”


alan jacobs“The Speed of God” – Alan Jacobs at his blog, Snakes and Ladders, reflecting on aspects of Andy Crouch’s new book, The Life We’re Looking For : “Many of the key ideas in Andy Crouch’s new book The Life We Are Looking For emerge from his definition of the human person, which he derives from the Shema of Deuteronomy 6, as adapted by Jesus in Mark 12 (keywords emphasized):

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Thus Andy: “Every human person is a heart-soul-mind-strength complex designed for love.” Simple and direct; but the more you think about it the more complex and generative a definition it is.”


Changing the World?“The Monthly Salon (May): Changing the World vs living with it” – Paul Kingsnorth at The Abbey of Misrule: “I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the notion of ‘changing the world’, and how it represents a kind of post-religious religious impulse. I’ll be writing in my next essay about the teleology of Progress, but a good question to ask of any culture, and of any person, is: what god do you worship? It’s a question that would have been easy enough to respond to in any previous time, and still is to most people worldwide. But to those of us raised by the Machine it’s inadmissable. We do worship gods, of course, but we don’t call them gods, because gods are superstitious things that our ignorant ancestors dealt in, whereas we, being grown-ups, deal in reason and facts and The Science. Of course, we don’t really do anything of the sort, and the notion of ‘changing the world’ illustrates it. Progress is our God, and ‘changing the world’ is its liturgy. It’s a phrase I used to use all the time, but now I’m almost embarrassed even to look at it. Changing the world. Changing the world. Changing the world. It’s such an astonishing concept: that we have, or could ever have, the agency, ability or knowledge to change the nature of a vast, complex planet we barely understand, when most of us can’t even change ourselves. And that we imagine the results would be good if we did. What could be more superstitious?”


Sagittarius A*“Black hole: First picture of Milky Way monster” – Jonathan Amos at The BBC: “This is the gargantuan black hole that lives at the centre of our galaxy, pictured for the very first time. Known as Sagittarius A*, the object is a staggering four million times the mass of our Sun. What you see is a central dark region where the hole resides, circled by the light coming from super-heated gas accelerated by immense gravitational forces. For scale, the ring is roughly the size of Mercury’s orbit around our star. That’s about 60 million km, or 40 million miles, across. Fortunately, this monster is a long, long way away – some 26,000 light-years in the distance – so there’s no possibility of us ever coming to any danger. The image was produced by an international team called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration.”


03.27-2-Men-Fishing“The New Testament Picture of Discipleship” – Dallas Willard at Renovare: “Evangelicalism always looks to the Bible as the point of reference from which concepts are defined, practices legitimated, and principles adopted. So we must ask what can be made of discipleship and of the disciple of Jesus as seen in the life of the New Testament. Indeed, as it turns out, the New Testament ​disciple’ is by no means a peculiarly ​’Christian’ innovation. The disciple is one aspect of the progressive and massive decentralization of Judaism that began with the destruction of the first Temple (588 BC) and the Babylonian exile, and proceeds through the dispersal of the Jewish people among the nations that followed the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. During this period the synagogue emerges as the center of the local Jewish communities, devotion to the Torah becomes the focus of the synagogue, and the rabbi or ​’great one’ stood forth in the role of interpreter of Torah: ‘By degrees, attachment to the law sank deeper and deeper into the national character…. Hence the law became a deep and intricate study. Certain men rose to acknowledged eminence for their ingenuity in explaining, their readiness in applying, their facility in quoting, and their clearness in offering solutions of, the difficult passages of the written statutes.'”


Music: Charlie Peacock, “Psalm 51,” from West Coast Diaries, Vol. 2

What Does It Look Like to Rest in God?: insights about the easy yoke from Dallas Willard

Renovation of the Heart

One of the most striking aspects of the writing and teaching of Dallas Willard is his ability to open up with fresh perspective what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. One of Willard’s most powerful contributions to disciple is found in his explanation of Jesus’ well-known invitation:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Willard refers to our discipleship response to this invitation as living in “the secret of the easy yoke” in his book The Spirit of the Disciplines. As I recently re-read Renovation of the Heart, I came across this basic description of what Willard sees as the essence of discipleship in the easy yoke of Jesus. I hope it speaks to you as much as it did to me.

Jesus heard the soul’s cries from the wearied humanity he saw around him. He saw the soul’s desperate need in those who struggled with the overwhelming tasks of their life. Such weariness and endless labor was, to him, a sure sign of a sou not properly rooted in God—a soul, in effect, on its own. He saw the multitudes around him, and it tore his heart, for they were ‘distressed and downcast’ like ‘sheep without a shepherd’ (Matthew 9:36). And he invited such people to come and become his students (‘learn of me’) by yoking themselves to him—that is, letting him show them how he would pull their load. He is not ‘above’ this, as earthly ‘great ones’ are, for he is meek and lowly of heart (Matthew 11:28-30).

His own greatness of soul made meekness and lowliness the natural way for him to be (Philippians 2:3-11). Being in his yoke is not a matter of taking on additional labor to crush us all the more, but a matter of learning how to use his strength and ours together to bear our load  and his. We will find his yoke an easy one and his burden a light one because, in learning from him, we have found rest to our soul. What we have learned is, primarily, to rest our soul in God. Rest to our soul is rest in God. My soul is at peace only when it is with God, as a child with its mother.

What we most learn in his yoke, beyond acting with him, is to abandon outcomes to God, accepting that we do not have in ourselves—in our own ‘heart, soul, mind, and strength’—the wherewithal to make this come out right, whatever ‘this’ is. Even if we ‘suffer according to the will of God,’ we simple ‘entrust our souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right’ (1 Peter 4:19). Now, this is a major part of that meekness and lowliness of heart that we also learn in his yoke. And what rest comes with it!

[From Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2002), 209.]