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.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 7 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.


128209“As Pastoral Credibility Erodes, How Can We Respond?” – Glenn Packiam in Christianity Today: “Pastors do not hold the place of community esteem they once did. According to Barna’s State of Pastors report (2017), only about one in five Americans thinks of a pastor as very influential in their community, and about one in four doesn’t think they’re very influential or influential at all. The truth is, influential or not, many Americans don’t want to hear what pastors have to say. In 2016, Barna found that only 21 percent of Americans consider pastors to be ‘very credible’ on the ‘important issues of our day.’ Even among those Barna defined as evangelicals, the number only rises to slightly over half. Think about it: Nearly half of American evangelicals don’t see their pastors as being an authoritative voice for navigating current affairs. In a new study Barna and I did in 2020 for my book The Resilient Pastor, we learned that the picture might be getting worse. Only 23 percent of Americans said they ‘definitely’ see a pastor as a ‘trustworthy source of wisdom.’ Even among Christians, that number only rises to a mere 31 percent. Less than a third of Christians said they ‘definitely’ consider a pastor a ‘trustworthy source of wisdom.’ As you might expect, a mere 4 percent of non-Christians think of pastors in this way. That’s a pretty bleak picture.”


Supreme Court view“Overturning Roe v. Wade inches us back toward the arc of justice” – Karen Swallow Prior at Religion New Service: “Everywhere I look today — social media, news outlets, my email — people are discussing the SCOTUS leak. As a pro-life activist my whole adult life, I never thought I’d live to see the end of Roe v. Wade, if that’s what this is. Yet for me and others who recognize children in the womb as human persons whose lives are deserving of legal protection, overturning Roe doesn’t go far enough. The end of Roe will not bring back the millions of lives lost, heal the women and men and families harmed, or repair the damage done to our nation and our political life. But it is a step in the right direction. I really didn’t expect to see Roe overturned in my lifetime, but I always hoped. I know we can do better than abortion for women and children — and if Roe is overturned, we will have more than ever both the opportunity and the obligation to do so. Roe v. Wade forced abortion on the nation by inventing a ‘right’ to abortion on demand that was novel, unprecedented and unfounded on any common understanding of human life and human dignity. The most bizarre mental and linguistic gymnastics developed around this newly constructed constitutional right in order to justify, rationalize and shield ourselves from the obvious fact that abortion unjustly ends the life of a human being.”


candlelight“The Perpetual Flame of Devotion: How can we learn to pray in a way that pleases God? And what stands in the way?” – Richard Foster in Plough Quarterly: “By means of prayer we are learning to burn the perpetual flame of devotion on the altar of God’s love. I say “learning” because there is nothing automatic or instantaneous about this way of praying. Now, three great movements characterize Christian prayer. Each is distinct from the others but overlaps and interacts with the others. The first movement in prayer involves our will in interaction and struggle with God’s will. We ask for what we need – or what we want. Often what we want exceeds what we need, and our wants can be easily influenced by ego and greed. Most certainly, a substantial part of our inner struggle in this movement involves our own human rebellion and self-centeredness. But not always. Think of Abraham struggling to offer up Isaac. Or think of Job struggling to relinquish all human attachments. Or think of Paul struggling with a “thorn in the flesh” and learning that God’s grace is sufficient for him and that God’s power is made perfect in weakness….In time, we come into a second movement in prayer: the release of our will and a flowing into the will of the Father. Here we are learning to walk with God day by day. We are learning the contours of God’s character. And we are learning simple love for Jesus. Finally, we find ourselves entering into the third movement, what the great ones in the way of Christ have called “union with God” and the bringing of the will of the Father upon the face of the earth. Here we learn not only to love God, but also to love God’s ways.”


A Jacobs - not a server“You Are Not a Server: Nor are you finalizable” – Alan Jacobs in The Hedgehog Review: “That human beings understand themselves in terms of their dominant technologies has become a commonplace. Indeed, one could say that it was already a commonplace roughly 2,500 years ago, when the Psalmist wrote,

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.
They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not:
They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not:
They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.
They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.

So it is natural and indeed inevitable that we today think of our brains as computers, even though that is an inaccurate and woefully inadequate model. But I would like to suggest that, because there are many kinds of computers that perform widely varied functions, we should be more specific. I believe that we have been trained by social media to use our brains as servers—as machines designed to receive requests and respond to them according to strict instructions.”


D27017 Alexis and Prof. Watt 3-31-22“Afghan refugees start a new journey at UWM” – We’re glad to be connected to this. Kathy Quirk in UWM Report: “As they waited in their bus at the airport in Kabul last August, Samira and her friends kept watch out the windows in case someone might be approaching the bus with a bomb. That was just one moment in a long, harrowing journey from Afghanistan to Milwaukee for a group of young women now enrolled in UW-Milwaukee’s Intensive English Program. (Because of the risk of retribution against family members who remain in Afghanistan, this story is using only their first names and photos that don’t show their faces.) The young women, mostly ages 18-23, are part of a group of 147 students from the Asian University for Women (AUW) who fled Afghanistan together. Following a stay at Fort McCoy, a group of eight started class at UWM in January. Samira, the ninth young woman, is the sister of one of the UWM students. She is taking classes remotely at Arizona State University, but is thinking of doing graduate work at UWM. The younger students hope to stay and continue their undergraduate work at the university in the fall.”


Francis and Kirill“Pope Francis warns pro-war Russian patriarch not to be ‘Putin’s altar boy'” – Delia Gallagher at CNN: “Pope Francis warned the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, not to become “Putin’s altar boy,” he said in an interview this week. In his strongest words to date against the pro-war Patriarch, Francis also slammed Kirill for endorsing Russia’s stated reasons for invading Ukraine. ‘I spoke to him for 40 minutes via Zoom,’ the Pope told Italian daily Corriere della Sera in an interview published Tuesday. ‘The first 20 minutes he read to me, with a card in hand, all the justifications for war. I listened and told him: I don’t understand anything about this,” said the Pope. ‘Brother, we are not clerics of state, we cannot use the language of politics but that of Jesus. The Patriarch cannot transform himself into Putin’s altar boy,’ the Pope said. Francis said the conference call with Kirill took place on March 16, and that both he and the Patriarch had agreed to postpone a planned meeting on June 14 in Jerusalem.”


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.’ The rabbi with his coterie of special students was a familiar feature of Jewish religious practice by the time of Jesus.”


Music: Sandra McCracken, “We Will Feast,” from Steadfast (Live).

What is the Secret of Jesus’ Easy Yoke?: insights from Dallas Willard

This past weekend I preached from one of my favorite teachings by Jesus, where we hear His stunning 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)

One of the most powerful insights into understanding what Jesus means by the easy yoke comes from Dallas Willard in his profound book The Spirit of the Disciplines. In the opening chapter, entitled “The Secret of the Easy Yoke,” Willard writes the following:

And in this truth lies the secret of the easy yoke: the secret involves living as he lived in the entirety of his life — adopting his overall life-style. Following ​“in his steps” cannot be equated with behaving as he did when he was ​“on the spot.” To live as Christ lives is to live as he did all his life. 

Our mistake is to think that following Jesus consists in loving our enemies, going the ​“second mile,” turning the other cheek, suffering patiently and hopefully — while living the rest of our lives just as everyone around us does. This is like the aspiring young baseball players mentioned earlier. It’s a strategy bound to fail and to make the way of Christ ​“difficult and left untried.” In truth it is not the way of Christ any more than striving to act in a certain manner in the heat of a game is the way of the champion athlete. 

Whatever may have guided us into this false approach, it is simply a mistake. And it will certainly cause us to find Jesus’ commands about our actions during specific situations impossibly burdensome — ​“grievous” as the King James Version of the New Testament puts it. Instead of an easy yoke, all we’ll experience is frustration. 

But this false approach to following Christ has counterparts throughout human life. It is part of the misguided and whimsical condition of humankind that we so devoutly believe in the power of effort-at-the-moment-of-action alone to accomplish what we want and completely ignore the need for character change in our lives as a whole. The general human failing is to want what is right and important, but at the same time not to commit to the kind of life that will produce the action we know to be right and the condition we want to enjoy. This is the feature of human character that explains why the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We intend what is right, but we avoid the life that would make it reality. 

…So, ironically, in our efforts to avoid the necessary pains of discipline we miss the easy yoke and light burden. We then fall into the rending frustration of trying to do and be the Christian we know we ought to be without the necessary insight and strength that only discipline can provide…. 

So, those who say we cannot truly follow Christ turn out to be correct in a sense. We cannot behave ​“on the spot” as he did and taught if in the rest of our time we live as everybody else does. The ​“on the spot” episodes are not the place where we can, even by the grace of God, redirect unchristlike but ingrained tendencies of action toward sudden Christlikeness. Our efforts to take control at that moment will fail so uniformly and so ingloriously that the whole project of following Christ will appear ridiculous to the watching world. We’ve all seen this happen. 

So, we should be perfectly clear about one thing: Jesus never expected us simply to turn the other cheek, go the second mile, bless those who persecute us, give unto them that ask, and so forth. These responses, generally and rightly understood to be characteristics of Christlikeness, were set forth by him as illustrative of what might be expected of a new kind of person — one who intelligently and steadfastly seeks, above all else, to live within the rule of God and be possessed by the kind of righteousness that God himself has, as Matthew 6:33 portrays. 

Instead, Jesus did invite people to follow him into that sort of life from which behavior such as loving one’s enemies will seem like the only sensible and happy thing to do. …Oswald Chambers observes: ​“The Sermon on the Mount is a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is getting his way with us.”

[Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988), 4-8.]

The Messiah’s Challenge and Invitation

Some of the most meaningful words to me personally in the Gospel of Matthew are these:

“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)

This past weekend at Eastbrook, I had the privilege of preaching on those words as we continued our series entitled “The Messiah’s Mission,” by looking at Matthew 11:20-30. Here, Jesus offers both a hard word and a tender word, a challenge and an invitation.

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


“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

The Messiah’s Challenge (11:20-24)

  • The call to repentance
  • The nature of repentance
  • The reality of judgment

The Messiah’s Invitation (11:25-30)

  • Jesus’ prayer of thanks
  • Jesus’ unique relationship with the Father
  • Jesus’ stunning invitation

Responding to the Messiah’s Challenge and Invitation

  • Turning from sin and self
  • Turning like children to the Father
  • Turning toward the easy yoke of Jesus

Dig Deeper:

This week dig deeper into Jesus’ teaching here in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize Matthew 11:28-30.
  • Take time in prayer this week to consider what weariness or burdens you need to bring to Jesus. Also, pray about how you can respond to Jesus’ invitation to enter His easy yoke.
  • To reflect more deeply on this passage, sketch, ink, or paint a response to Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30. As you do that, prayerfully talk with Jesus about your burdens and His easy yoke.
  • Consider reading one of the following: