The Weekend Wanderer: 14 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.


The Life We're Looking For - Andy Crouch“Can We Be Human in Meatspace?” –  Brad East reviews Andy Crouch’s new book, The Life We’re Looking For, in The New Atlantis: “In thinking about technology, three questions are fundamental. What is technology for? What are we for? And how is our answer to the first question related to our answer to the second? Since the Enlightenment, we have come to take for granted that there really is no relation, because we cannot publicly agree on what humans are for. We can answer that question only privately. But technology is public, not private. We create it for common use, ostensibly in the service of the common good. If we cannot broadly agree on what we are for, then how can we reason together about what our technology is for? It appears that we cannot. While the question about human purpose is now cordoned off from public debate, the question about the purpose of technology has vanished altogether. We no longer ask why we are making the latest widget. Its existence is self-justifying. Only listen to a Silicon Valley mogul talk about the newest invention or cutting-edge research. It is a dismal menu of options: the fantastical (immortality, uploading your consciousness to the cloud), the terrifying (digital surveillance, sentient robots), the shallow (streaming videos, the metaverse), the banal (smart thermostats, voice assistants), and the meaningless (‘greater connection,’ ‘enhanced creativity’). The last category alone is damning. We are meant to be connected and creative. Connected how? Creative to what end? A terrorist cell is deeply connected and highly creative. So is a local chapter of the Klan. Indeed, such groups are often among tech’s early adopters. What we need is a recommitment to public argument about purpose, both ours and that of our tools. What we need, further, is a recoupling of our beliefs about the one to our beliefs about the other. What we need, finally, is the resolve to make hard decisions about our technologies. ”


128842“Don’t Ignore Race. Or Alienate White People.” – Monique Duson in Christianity Today review George Yancey’s new book Beyond Racial Division: “For a long time, Americans committed to fighting racism have rallied around the ideals of colorblindness. Both legally and culturally, they have sought to build a society where, in Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous words, people are judged not ‘by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’ Over time, however, the persistence of racism has raised doubts about the colorblind approach. In response, groups like Black Lives Matter have seized on the rival paradigm of antiracism. Instead of aspiring to colorblindness, its proponents say, we should acknowledge that America is plagued by deep-seated racism—and then take aggressive steps to stamp it out. In Beyond Racial Division: A Unifying Alternative to Colorblindness and Antiracism, Baylor University sociologist George Yancey seeks a new way forward, one grounded in a vision of healthy interracial communication and community. As Yancey argues, both colorblindness and antiracism result in ‘racial alienation,’ which prevents us from working out our racial issues together in a way that honors the dignity, value, and worth of every individual.”


charlesdefoucauld“Shadowing the Carpenter” – Andreas Knapp in Plough: “I worked for years in an ecclesiastical ministry in Germany, as a university chaplain and as the director of a seminary. But I never really felt at home. An inner restlessness dogged me. For a long time, I couldn’t put my finger on what was missing. As time went by, it became clear: I was subconsciously looking for a different life. Finally, in a discussion with a superior, I blurted out, ‘My original goal was to follow Jesus; but in the meantime I’ve turned into a civil servant.’ I shocked myself with the bluntness of that formulation. But it mirrored my disquiet. I had become part of a comfortable social system in which following prevailing norms seemed to count for everything. And yet I was bothered by the fact that I had so little to do with people who were not part of this system – those who were cut out of it. I longed for a simpler life, one lived in solidarity with others; I wanted to share my day-to-day existence with like-minded people. I simultaneously yearned for more silence and more time for prayer. How could I feed the fire of my longing? As I searched for answers, I found inspiration in Charles de Foucauld, whose legacy – his life, faith, and writings – eventually led me to the Little Brothers of the Gospel. What fascinated me most was the way he showed me, step by step, how to live like Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth.”


Ukraine-Children“Faith-based NGOs are helping Ukraine’s children. Now we have to prove it” – Brian Peterson at Religion News Service: “Only six weeks into Ukraine’s invasion by Russian forces, it was reported that nearly two-thirds of the country’s 7.5 million children had been displaced. These numbers are worsening as the conflict ensues and more and more families have to leave behind their homes, schools, belongings and livelihoods. At a time in their lives when routine and familiarity are critical to their development, millions of children in Ukraine have been forced to navigate a situation in which not only their physical safety, but their mental health and psychosocial wellbeing are in jeopardy. We know from research on children in similar situations — it’s estimated that 1 in 4 of the world’s children live in countries affected by armed conflict or disaster — that the effects of trauma from living through conflict are long-lasting and may be transmitted inter-generationally. To that end, it’s critical that support of the world’s most vulnerable children go beyond traditional aid or monetary donations. Holistic care — physical, mental, social and spiritual — is required. While it can come from a wide variety of organizations, faith-based organizations are natural partners in providing holistic care.”


051822niebuhr“Reading The Irony of American History 70 years later” – James K. A. Smith in The Christian Century: “When Reinhold Niebuhr published The Irony of American History in 1952, the United States was a very different place. The cataclysm of World War II was still a fresh wound, even as the postwar economy and reproduction rates were booming. Victors in a clash of good and evil, the United States nonetheless emerged from the war with a terrifying moral stain: this was the country that dropped the atomic bomb. These were the realities most on Niebuhr’s mind when he published the book to widespread acclaim. Indeed, the reception of the book is another reminder of the difference between Niebuhr’s generation and our own. That the musings of a theo­logian and minister on matters foreign and domestic could garner widespread public attention is hard to imagine today. All of this could make Irony a curious relic from the past. And yet, 70 years on, reading the book still feels timely. And in ways he couldn’t have anticipated, Niebuhr’s own blind spots are the reason this book deserves our renewed attention.”bi with his coterie of special students was a familiar feature of Jewish religious practice by the time of Jesus.”


ECPAChristianBookAward“Christian Book Awards for 2022”The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association announced the 2022 Christian Book Award winners by categories, including audio books, Bibles, Bible reference works, Bible study, biography & memoir, children, christian living, devotion & gift, faith & culture, ministry resources, and more. Tish Harrison Warren’s Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep was named the book of the year, as well as winning top marks in the “Christian Living” topic area.


Music: Bifrost Arts [feat. Molly Parden], “Psalm 126,” from He Will Not Cry Out: Anthology of Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Vol. 2

You Are the Salt of the Earth

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.(Matthew 5:13)

Salt is incredibly important for various reasons. It gives flavor for cooking. It serves as a preservative for food. Some salts are even important in agricultural fertilizer. Salt was incredibly important in Jesus’ time and it continues to be important in our time.

When I was traveling in sub-Saharan Africa, mining for salt near a natural salt lake continued to this day. The salt was bagged up and sent throughout the region as an important export of that specific area because salt is important and valuable.

In some ways, here in Jesus’ teaching, it is less important what salt does, and perhaps more important what salt is. Salt is salty. It has a salty impact upon the world around it. If it loses its saltiness, well, it really isn’t valuable as salt anymore. You might even wonder if it’s still salt. Jesus says such material will be thrown out and trampled underfoot. It might as well be sand.

In a similar manner, disciples should have an impact on the world around them. Like salt in all its various uses in the world—flavoring, preserving, fertilizing—disciples are to have an important impact on the world around them. What is that impact? Well, Jesus will expound on that in the later sections of the Sermon on the Mount, but we can give a shorthand definition like this:

Disciples of Jesus are to proclaim and embody the love of Jesus Christ wherever they are. They are to look like Jesus in their character, words, and actions.

And here in this specific example from Matthew 5:13, disciples should taste like the kingdom of God and bring that wonderful savor, preservative, and fruitfulness to the world.

Just like unsalty salt isn’t really salt anymore, so un-disciple-y disciples aren’t really disciples anymore. It’s nonsensical to be a non-disciple-y disciple. And disciples live like God in the world.

So, to these everyday people who have become disciples—and to us—Jesus says: “You’re in the Kingdom of God and part of My people. So live as salty disciples wherever you are. Just don’t lose your saltiness.”

Walk with Jesus: The Road to Emmaus as a Picture of Whole-Life Discipleship

image 1 - The Road to Emmaus I - Daniel Bonnell.jpg
Daniel BonnellRoad to Emmaus I; 2011.

The story begins like this: Jesus was arrested and His followers fled. He was tried and killed by crucifixion. His body was taken from the Cross by Joseph of Arimathea, who was a wealthy, secret follower of Jesus. The disciples scattered at Jesus’ arrest, but returned to one another in a gathering place in Jerusalem. Some women went to the tomb to care for Jesus’ body, but the body wasn’t there. They talked about angelic presences that informed them Jesus had risen from the grave. But it seemed so hard to believe, most of the others remained skeptical. Later the same day on which the women visited the empty tomb, two disciples walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a town west by northwest from Jerusalem. 

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.

15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

Look again at that phrase: “Jesus himself came up and walked along with them.” (Luke 24:15). If we look at this story as an image of discipleship it reminds us that discipleship is primarily walking with and in the way of Jesus.

image 2 - Walking the Road to Emmaus.jpg

Discipleship means to apprentice to someone, or to take someone on as a teacher. Jewish rabbis often invited their disciples – or apprentices – to follow in their steps, or walk in their way. This was more about taking on the approach to life of their teacher or master. 

Because of that, discipleship in the New Testament is often described as walking. We see this in Ephesians, when several times, Paul writes things like “walk worthy of your calling” (Eph 4:1) or “walk in the good works that God commanded ahead of time” (2:10). The Greek word περιπατέω literally relates to walking, but became a metaphor for living life under a certain leader’s way of life and teaching. For Christians, this means experientially walking with the Risen Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit but also walking in the way of life that Jesus modeled and opened to us through His life, death, and resurrection.

As these two disciples walk on their way, Jesus comes to walk with them. The way of discipleship – growing as a follower of Jesus – is essentially learning the way of Jesus. We invite Him to walk with us in our lives; sometimes, even recognizing that He is walking with us when we didn’t realize it. Discipleship means letting the everyday context of our lives become a setting in which we increasingly walk with Him and walk like Him; that is, we live with Jesus and learn His ways.

When we say the word discipleship, it is not primarily about a curriculum or about a book or about certain activities. Rather, we learn in the ordinary context of our daily life to walk with Jesus and in the way of Jesus. When we go to the store, we learn to walk with and in the way Jesus. When we go to our workplace or school, we learn to walk with and in the way Jesus. When we enjoy conversations with others, we learn to walk with and in the way Jesus.  Day by day, we grow as disciples, not just in the religious sphere of our lives, but in the totality of our lives. Jesus is not that interested in one slice of the pie of our lives called “church,” but in revolutionizing all of our lives as we walk with Him and grow in His way of being truly human. This is what discipleship is all about.

Growing Disciples

As we continued our “Roots” series this past weekend at Eastbrook Church we looked at what it means to be a disciple, grow as a disciple, and invite others to discipleship. To do that, I walked through the memorable story of Jesus appearing to two disciples along the road to Emmaus in Luke 24. I discussed how disciples walk with Jesus, hear from Jesus, burn for Jesus, and speak about Jesus.

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities for involvement.

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Roots: Looking Back and Reaching Forward

 

This coming weekend at Eastbrook Church we begin a new preaching series entitled “Roots: Looking Back and Reaching Forward.” This series is the second of a three-part series related to our 40th anniversary as a church, following on our series, “Power in Prayer.” This is a series celebrating our legacy as a church, and also recalibrating as we head into the future together. We will look back at what God has done in our midst at Eastbrook, while also looking forward to what God is calling us into as a church.

September 7/8 – “Activated by the Holy Spirit”

September 14/15 – “Truly Community”

September 21/22 – “Growing Disciples”

September 28/29 – “Sacrificial Generosity”

October 4/5 – “Worship in the Beauty of Holiness”