The Weekend Wanderer: 26 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.


Wang Yi“Concerns Grow Over the Health of Imprisoned ERCC Pastor” – From International Christian Concern: “Concerns over the health of the imprisoned pastor of the banned Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) are growing. Pastor Wang Yi has been in police custody since December 14, 2018. Wang Yi, the pastor and founder of ERCC, was detained by the police in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, the southwestern Chinese province where ERCC is located. He was arrested alongside dozens of members of his church on suspicion of ‘incitement to subvert state power.’ Pastor Wang was found guilty of this charge by the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court. In December of 2019, he was sentenced to nine years in jail. In addition, authorities placed his family and the other members of his church who were detained under house arrest.”


AAPI mental health Verma“Churches Should Help Normalize Mental Health for Asian Americans” –  Prasanta Verma in Sojourners: “Last month, Chicago-based writer Liuan Huska tweeted that she “can’t write or talk about getting a massage without feeling retraumatized” by the Atlanta spa murders in March that left eight people dead — six of them Asian women. Huska is Chinese American and her mother is a massage therapist. With the documented rise in violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, fueled at least in part by racist rhetoric blaming Chinese people for the COVID-19 pandemic, Huska is not alone in feeling race-based trauma. Recent polling found that one-third of Asian adults in the U.S. fear physical attacks and threats, and more than half the Asian American women interviewed in a separate poll conducted by National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, reported experiencing incidents of hate in the past two years. A recent report by Stop AAPI Hate, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Asian American Psychological Association found that Asian Americans who have experienced racism are more stressed by anti-Asian hate than the pandemic. Further, it found that 1 in 5 Asian Americans who have experienced racism show signs of racial trauma. But unlike Huska, who has been able to process her grief with friends, family, and a professional, many Asian Americans have been unable to share the trauma they are feeling. While 18 percent of the general U.S. population seeks mental health services only 8.6 percent of Asian Americans do so. This discrepancy is especially stark when compared to white U.S. citizens, who access mental health services at three times the rate of Asian Americans.”


Eternity in Our HeartsEternity in Our Heart: How Art Makes Us Long for Home” – Kelly Kruse in Ekstasis Magazine: “As a child and young adult, I thought that I was homesick for beauty itself. Like many artists, I was aware of a sort of insatiable hunger in me for the beautiful at an early age. I grew up in northwest Iowa, near a place called the Loess Hills, named for its glacially deposited bluffs of humus-rich yellow soil. The sunsets in those bluffs brought about some of my first experiences of transient beauty, too rich to savor all at once, a feast that disappears before it can be finished….Sehnsucht is a German word for a particular kind of longing that I have heard described as a homesickness for a place you’ve never been. You may ask, but how could we be homesick if we haven ’t been there? This is a good question, and it’s also part of the secret.”


OBS-Trees“Practices of Place” – Matt Busby in The Intersection Journal: “Onion Bottom is a place in Chattanooga. Most people who live in Chattanooga have never heard of it, and those who have would argue that it isn’t much of a place. To be honest, there is probably at least some truth to that. There aren’t any houses in Onion Bottom, and most of the lots are vacant industrial land bisected by railroads….Onion Bottom is also the home of our church, Mission Chattanooga. I wanted to begin with a rich description of our neighborhood because I believe that one of the only ways to overcome this gap between mission as evangelism and mission as social action is in the embodied presence of the church in a place.”


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

“Social Media, Identity, and the Church” – Tim Keller in Life in the Gospel: “Recently I was in a Zoom forum of journalists and academics who were discussing the increasing polarization of American culture. At one point a male speaker said, ‘If I wanted to invent a public forum that would undermine civil discourse and lead to social division, I couldn’t do a better job than to create Twitter.’ A respected woman journalist, who had been working for nearly a year to understand how social media worked, agreed with him. I believe they are right. But I don’t see social media going away, either, because it has enormous benefits, too. It is also deeply embedded in the psyches especially of the young. So Christians can’t ignore it, and most of all we need to begin to understand it. One book that will be useful for that purpose is Breaking the Social Media Prism: How to Make Our Platforms Less Polarizing by Chris Bail (Princeton, 2021). This is not a religious book—it is a work of social science. (Bail is professor of sociology at Duke University.) But its findings can be significant for how Christians conduct themselves and consume social media. And, indeed, many of his final principles for “a way forward” align with Christian ethics. Here’s what we can learn from the book.”


CROP_a and b“From Here to Utopia: What religion can teach the Left” – David Albertson and Jason Blakely in Commonweal: “Utopian thinkers have often been motivated by Christian faith. The last century alone includes William Morris, G. K. Chesterton, Karl Barth, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, and Cornel West…But too often Catholic political identity is limited to issues, ideology, and religious affiliation in survey polls. Equally important is the slow ethical formation of the self through the various practices of the Catholic faith, especially liturgies and other rituals that actually do the labor of constituting social belonging between individuals….The Left needs to learn how to introduce what James K. A. Smith has termed ‘cultural liturgies.’ Liturgies in this sense are cultural practices that shape our desires toward a highest good. Smith is ultimately concerned with Christian sacraments, readings, prayers, ascetic acts, charitable works, celebrations, and holy days. But he also draws attention to the way that other liturgies are offered to us by consumer capitalism that condition the heart to seek a rival highest good.”


Music: Jpk. (feat. Dominik Ray), “life thoughts.”

Community and Identity: Part 2 of a reflection on Henri Nouwen’s “In the Name of Jesus”

Yesterday I began a series of three posts on Henri Nouwen’s book In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership. I continue that series here by delving into the second part of that book: “From Popularity to Ministry.”

Doing Ministry Together
I have read this book several times, but I continue to be deeply impacted by Nouwen’s emphasis on the fact that ministry is shared and not something in which we strive “to do something spectacular, something that could win [us] great applause” (53). How often I have seen in myself and others a twisted motivation in ministry aimed at the wrong end: praise, attention, recognition, or accolades. We sometimes become bent on others’ opinions that we miss the true nature of ministry.

True ministry involves proclaiming the gospel together, not lifting up ourselves. True ministry comes from a place of reliance and interdependence, where trust that “the same Lord who binds us together in love will also reveal himself to us and others as we walk together on the road” (59).

Think of that. I wonder, when we engage in ministry with others, are we so together in it that we trust God to reveal himself to and through us to others? Or are doing something else entirely? Are we competing with others for the praise and glory of ourselves in the eyes of other humans?

Who We Are – Who We Are Not
Our twisted motivations often come from twisted souls. Nouwen presses the conversation of this second part of the book toward the heart of the matter: our identity in Christ. We need to know our identity and, specifically, that ministry it is not about us, but about God.

Nouwen writes:

We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life. We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for. The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God. (62)

If you skimmed that section quickly, let me encourage you to stop and read it again. This is so important and challenging.

I wonder, do we know who we are and who we are not when it comes to ministry? I know it is such a struggle. It is vital that we let go of our need to appear competent, to be needed, and to be seen as the source of good in ministry. We are made in the image of God and valuable in that regard, but we are also, in a sense, unnecessary to God. He does not need us to do ministry, but He does desire to work in and through us. There is a holy humility to this aspect of knowing our identity. There is a freedom in letting go of our need for acclaim and simply relying upon God to work.

This can be a fierce struggle, but it also can become one of the freeing joys of truly doing our ministry in the name of Jesus.

I am Loved Beyond Measure (message at Elmbrook Church)

Game Changer.pngThis past weekend I had the chance to speak at Elmbrook Church as part of their summer “Game Changer” series. Returning to Elmbrook is always a joy for me because my first full-time vocational ministry role was as Elmbrook’s College Pastor with The Ave (2003-08).

This series allows speakers to share Scriptural truths that were “game changers” in their lives. For me, growing in my understanding of God’s love changed me from the inside out and has continued to transform the way I think about God, myself, and others. Some aspects of this message were derived from a weekend in a series we did at Eastbrook entitled “Who Am I?”  However, I always find that preaching is an experience of three-way communication between God, a congregation and a preacher that makes the preaching event always unique.

You can watch the message below:

 

Also, my dear friend Mike from Kettlebrook Church in West Bend opened Scripture with Eastbrook as part of our “Great Prayers of the Bible” series while I was away. You can watch his message here as well:

Bibliography on Christian Identity for the “Who Am I?” series

books.jpgWhenever I study for a sermon series, I spend a lot of time far in advance of that sermon series doing research, reading books, thinking, reading articles, reflecting, reading more books, writing, and reading even more. I usually gather all of the resources I use together into a bibliography for each series. In the past I’ve shared those bibliographies here for those who are interested (access “Bibliography for the Theology of Suffering and the Life of Joseph” and “Bibliography on the Trinity”).

Here is the resource bibliography that accompanies our recent series, “Who Am I?”, on grasping our sense of identity with God through Christ. Although I utilized many commentaries for specific weekends of this series, I did not include those in this bibliography, limiting it to books specifically related to the topic of identity. The books I found particularly helpful are marked with an asterisk.

Christian Identity – Bibliography

Jerry Bridges. Who Am I?: Identity in Christ. Adelphi, MD: Cruciform Press, 2012.

Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2016.

Eric Geiger. Identity: Who You Are in Christ. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishers, 2008.

Timothy Keller. Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters. New York: Penguin Books, 2009.

*________. Making Sense of God. New York: Penguin Books, 2016.

C. S. Lewis. The Four Loves. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1960.

Loyola McLean and Brian S. Rosner. “Theology and Human Flourishing: The Benefits of Being Known by God.” In Beyond Well-Being: Spiritual and Human Flourishing. Ed. Maureen Miner, Martin Dowson, and Stuart Devenish. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, 2012.Read More »

I Am Filled with God’s Power

In our current series at Eastbrook Church, “Who Am I?“, we are exploring biblical answers to questions about our identity as human beings. This past weekend I concluded the series by looking at how the Holy Spirit anchors our identity in God, connects us to a broader family, and sends us out with a new sense of mission.

You can view the message video and an expanded sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

Read More »