The Weekend Wanderer: 10 August 2019

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.

Donna Barrett“Groundbreaking Vote” – “Delegates at the 2019 General Council returned Assemblies of God General Secretary Donna L. Barrett [to her post]….The election marked the first time a woman has been elected to a national office by a General Council vote in the 105-year history of the U.S. Assemblies of God….Barrett, 59, came into office in June 2018 by a vote of the Executive Presbytery. She received a standing ovation after the outcome announcement.” More info here: “Assemblies of God Elects First Woman to Top Leadership Team.”

 

Birmingham stained glass.jpg“Who’s Afraid of Social Justice” – Brian Dijkema at Comment relates his apology for the biblical calling to justice. “You can work very, very hard to downplay the host of scriptural references to justice, and the thread of justice that appears to run from the book of Genesis to Revelation, and which is captured in Reformed and small-c catholic confessions. You can ignore it; you can pretend it’s not there; you can attempt to blunt the sharpness of God’s Word; you can attempt to douse the holy fire that accompanies the execution of justice in Scripture, or to mute the strain and anguish of the voices in Scripture that cry out for justice. But after all of your efforts, justice will still be there in the embrace of peace, ready to be picked up by the downtrodden who read God’s Word; ready to convict the tyrant who is confronted by God’s Word; ready to lull those of us sitting comfortably on our dragon hoard of wealth to obey God’s command; ready to provide us with hope and encouragement.”

 

Screen Shot 2019-08-06 at 12.44.05 PM“America’s gun problem, explained” – After the shootings last weekend in El Paso and Dayton, everyone’s attention was turned toward the violence in our nation. Many, including clergy, linked these hate crimes with white nationalism. However, it returns us to the divisive dialogue around gun violence and legislation in the United States. Both this article from Vox and a companion piece at CNN (“How US gun culture compares with the world”) help examine statistics and data related to gun violence, hate crimes, and comparison with international approaches to guns. Regardless of your politics, this is worth the read.

 

Toni Morrison“Remembering the Peerless Toni Morrison” – If you’ve never read anything by Toni Morrison, you should do so within the year. I first read her in a literature class in college, and my wife regularly taught Beloved in her high school literature classes. “Toni Morrison, the Nobel laureate, Pulitzer Prize winner, and peerless American author, died on Monday at the age of 88. Since the publication of her debut novel, The Bluest Eye, in 1970, Morrison has been established as one of the most powerful and distinct voices in literature, a lyrical chronicler and witness to the African American experience. Her 1987 novel, Beloved, the story of a former enslaved person who is haunted by the child she killed, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988, and was named the best work of American fiction of the late 20th century by The New York Times in 2006.”

 

91627“Bonhoeffer Convinced Me to Abandon My Dream” – Many of you know that Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of my (dead) theological mentors and heroes. His statements on the church in Life Together revolutionized my cynicism. Here is Chase Replogle with a deeper dive into Bonhoeffer’s statements that challenged him to abandon his wish dreams to embrace the church that God had placed right in front of him. Pastors, take heed.

 

Upstart Kitchen“UpStart Kitchen Hopes To Boost Milwaukee Food Entrepreneurs” – Here’s some local news from Milwaukee about an exciting new initiative arising from the efforts of some friends. “There’s a new effort underway to help low and moderate-income food entrepreneurs in Milwaukee. UpStart Kitchen is an incubator kitchen set to open late summer in the Sherman Park neighborhood. It’s a shared, commercial kitchen space for chefs and caterers with dreams of opening or expanding their food businesses. It also has services to help the businesses get off the ground.”

 

Terry Gross 1991“Fresh Air Archive” – After 40 years of the NPR show Fresh Air, the entire archive of Terry Gross’ interviews have been archived and made available to listeners. Regardless of your perspective or politics, you cannot deny that Gross is an incredibly gifted interviewer with a probing curiosity that helps open up her guests. You might enjoy listening to her interview with cartoonist Charles Schulz (of “Peanuts” fame). She has also interviewed a number of Christian thinkers over the years, including Francis Collins, Richard Cizik, Al Mohler, Jim Wallis, Jerry Falwell, Peter Gomes, and more.

 

semicolon“The Birth of the Semicolon” – I don’t know why these sort of things interest me, but they do. “The semicolon was born in Venice in 1494. It was meant to signify a pause of a length somewhere between that of the comma and that of the colon, and this heritage was reflected in its form, which combines half of each of those marks. It was born into a time period of writerly experimentation and invention, a time when there were no punctuation rules, and readers created and discarded novel punctuation marks regularly.”

Music: Ralph Vaughan Williams, “Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis,” conducted by Andrew Davis and performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra at Gloucester Cathedral.

[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.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 9 March 2019

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.

Lent fast word cloud“What to Give Up for Lent 2019? Consider Twitter’s Top 100 Ideas” – Once again, you can follow in real time what Twitter users say they are giving up for Lent, which this year begins on Ash Wednesday, March 6.  As in past years, food is the most popular category for abstention, followed by technology and ‘vices’ like smoking and drinking alcohol. After analyzing the first 1,500 tweets—both serious and sarcastic—OpenBible.info’s Stephen Smith noted that ‘perennial favorites’ such as social networking, alcohol, and Twitter lead the list so far.”

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 11.57.21 AM“In Praise of Boredom” – With reference to Matthew Crawford’s The World Beyond Your Head, James K. A. Smith engages with the dehumanizing aspects of distraction and the importance of boredom for our recovery. “But how to overcome distraction? How to break through the bedazzling glare of our screens, the latest threat to parade as an angel of light? The problem isn’t simply that the technologies of distraction prevent us from making or appreciating art. This isn’t simply a competition for attention. The concern is more egregious: our distraction demeans us.”

 

iphone keyboard“Repenting in the age of iPhones and instant gratification” – Lent helps us learn repentance in our lives at multiple levels. Elizabeth Kirkland Cahill reflects on what this mean in the smart phone, social media culture. “The work of naming our wrongdoing to ourselves and to God is unlikely to bring immediate gratification. Nor will it engender the sort of external and public validation we may crave from our frequent forays into Twitter, Snapchat or FaceBook. The Creator of all will not be giving a ‘thumbs up’ to our expressions of remorse. The Divine Majesty is probably not going to ‘follow’ our episodic utterances of regret on Instagram. No, repentance is an I-Thou exercise.”

 

Welcoming the Stranger“A Migrant Invasion?”Noah Toly, Professor of Urban Studies at Wheaton College, reviews the revised edition of Matthew Soerens and Jenny Yang’s Welcoming the Stranger. Both Matt and Jenny were part of our Mission Fest at Eastbrook a couple of years ago, and this updated edition of the book is even more timely given our current debates. Toly offers a fine review of the book with helpful reflections on why Soerens and Yang’s work is “more than a counterpoint to anti-immigrant uproar, it is an antidote to the propagandistic way of being in the world.”

 

hands folded“Integrating Justice Into our Spiritual Disciplines”Kevin Garcia opens a discussion about gaps in classical spiritual formation related to justice, reflecting on ways that he has attempted to integrate the pursuit of justice within his spiritual formation rhythms. “Everyday there are several rhythms that shape our beliefs. What podcast do we play the most? What books do we read? What channel do we go to for our news? Who do we follow on Twitter? I began thinking more deeply about this recently as our church joined in a fast to start the new year. During this time, I immersed myself in some works considered classics on spiritual disciplines.”

 

Pope Pius XII“Vatican to open secret archives on World War II-era and Pope Pius” – “Pope Francis has announced that the Vatican next year will open its secret archives containing World War II-era documents from the controversial papacy of Pope Pius XII. The archives cover the years 1939-1958 and consist of several hundred thousand letters, cables and speeches. Critics of Pius say he did not do enough to publicly combat the rise of fascism in Germany and Italy. Supporters say he worked diligently behind the scenes to save Jews from the Holocaust.”

 

Macrina“This Church Mother Comforted the Grieving with Scientific Thinking” – “In AD 379, Basil the Great, one of the men who contributed to the Nicene Creed, died. Basil and his brother Gregory of Nyssa were two of the three Cappadocian Fathers­—men responsible for major theological decisions made in the early life of the Christian church. What is less well known is that they also had an older sister, Macrina. She was deeply precious to them for her love, her insight, and her wisdom; they even called her ‘Teacher.'”

 

gary saul morson“The greatest of all novels” –  At The New Criterion, Gary Saul Morson reflects on how Leo Tolstoy explores the complexities – not the simplicity – of human existence in his masterpiece, War and Peace. “All purported social sciences held that, as with Newtonian astronomy, the complexity of observed phenomena was explicable by a few simple laws. But with society and individual psyches, Tolstoy insisted, the very opposite is the case: ‘the deeper we delve in search of these [fundamental] causes,’ Tolstoy observes, ‘the more of them we find.’ Things do not simplify, they ramify.”

 

Music: “Forgive Us” from At the Foot of the Cross, volume 2, featuring Julie Miller, David Mullen, and Gene Eugene.

[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.]

May 7 Update on Pastor Andrew Brunson

brunson2-prayer-turkey

The trial of Pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey continues with no clear end in sight and no apparent justice in the law courts. Brunson has been held since 2016 under allegations of spying, even though he has vigorously denied these allegations and has been a resident of Turkey for more than 20 years. Brunson has served as a pastor for a small nondenominational church in Izmir, the third-largest city in Turkey.

Outside the court on Monday, Sandra Jolley, vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, called for the clergyman’s release.

“Every day that Andrew Brunson spends here in prison is another day that the standing of the Turkish government diminishes in the eyes of not just the U.S. but the entire world,” she told reporters.

As The Atlantic reported yesterday, Brunson has become a pawn in political machinations between Turkey and the United States (read “Turkey’s Dangerous Game of ‘Hostage Diplomacy’: How an American pastor became a political pawn for Erdogan“).

Brunson is the only American on the list of “Prisoners of Conscience” complied by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

For updates and advocacy related to Brunson’s situation:

Jubilee (discussion questions)

appearing-series-gfx_app-squareHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Jubilee,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is part of our series, “Appearing.” The text for this week is Luke 4:14-30.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When was a time in your life when you really felt free? What happened?
  2. This week we continue our “Appearing” series by looking at Luke 4:14-30, where Jesus charts the course of His ministry as the dawning of a new age. Begin your study by asking God to speak to you from His Word, and then read that passage aloud.
  3. Jesus truly begins His public ministry with this episode. What do you notice about Jesus’ activity after the time of testing in the wilderness, according to 4:14-15?
  4. Jesus’ visit to his hometown synagogue in Nazareth brings a decisive moment of self-identification and sparks mixtures of anticipation and tension with others. Evidently, Jesus regularly attended the worship gathering of the synagogue (see 4:16), which included readings of Scripture. Jesus reads from Isaiah 61:1-2 and 58:6. What stands out to you about these words from Isaiah the prophet?
  5. It was normal for someone to teach from the Scripture from the seated position. It is likely that Jesus spoke longer than what Luke recorded but that the key statement was what we read in 4:21. Why do you think Jesus’ statement here so important?
  6. Jesus continues by comparing His ministry to that of the prophets Elijah and Elisha, specifically their work with non-Jews (1 Kings 17-18; 2 Kings 5:1-14). Why was this significant?
  7. The people initially respond with awe (4:22), then suddenly shift to resentment of Jesus (4:28-29). Why would this happen? How might you have responded to Jesus if you were there?
  8. How do you need to experience the new age of Jesus’ life and ministry today? What is one specific thing that God is speaking to you through this study? If you are with a small group, discuss that with one another and pray for one another. If you are studying on your own, write it down and share it with someone.

 


Daily Reading Plan

To encourage us together in our growth with God, we are arranging a weekday reading plan through this entire series with the Gospel of Luke. As you read each day, ask God to speak to you from His word.

Follow along with the reading plan below, through the Eastbrook app, or on social media.

  • Dec. 12           Luke 4:14-15; Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14-15
  • Dec. 13           Luke 4:16-21
  • Dec. 14           Isaiah 42:1-4; 58:6; 61:1-3
  • Dec. 15           Matthew 11:2-6
  • Dec. 16           Luke 4:22-30

A Call to Prayer and Forging a Way Forward

On Monday morning, December 22, I had a meeting scheduled with a group of five pastors (three African-American pastors and two Caucasian pastors) to discuss how we might stand together in the midst of the racial tensions in Milwaukee. Ironically, as we were walking into the meeting, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office announced that there would be no charges in the Dontre Hamilton shooting case. This quickly changed the agenda and sense of urgency within our meeting.

The Dontre Hamilton case has added to the stream of cases, particularly over the past year, which raises questions about systemic issues of racial disparities in the implementation of justice in our nation. Along with the well-known cases of Trayvon Martin in Florida, Michael Brown in Ferguson, and Eric Garner in New York, the shooting of Dontre Hamilton increases the subtle sense that something is amiss in the way African-American men, even if committing crimes, are experiencing the implementation of justice in our nation. This is a complex situation that is bigger than just one element, whether law enforcement, educational opportunities, employment possibilities, or more.

I have talked with many individuals over the past few weeks who are trying to understand exactly what happened, what the meaning of this outcome is, and how we should respond as Christians in the face of these challenging times. As a pastor of a multiethnic church here in Milwaukee, I believe that the strongest witness happens when we journey together across our diverse backgrounds into a learning process that involves listening, speaking, and some very healthy reflection. Regardless of your opinions on the above matters, as followers of Jesus Christ we must approach these issues based upon God’s Word in the Scriptures.

A clear biblical response to this situation is to grieve. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” We should mourn with the family of Dontre Hamilton, who lost a loved one in a way that no one would ever desire. Regardless of our ethnicity, we should mourn together as one with the African-American community who sense that things are not as they should be. Regardless of our opinions, we should mourn for the tragic killing of two police officers in New York City in an apparent act of vengeance for the outcome of the Eric Garner case. Regardless of our politics, we should mourn over our own city which ranks so highly in ethnic segregation, poverty, violent crime, racial disparities for incarceration, and more. A healthy biblical response is to grieve about this local situation in Milwaukee, as well as the situation that is shaking our nation.Read More »

All I Want is a New Beginning (discussion questions)

All I Want for Christmas Series Gfx_Web AdHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “All I Want for Christmas is a New Beginning,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This was the second part of our series “All I Want for Christmas.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. As we continue our series, “All I Want for Christmas,” this weekend, we will study Isaiah 61:1-11. Whether on your own or with a small group, take a moment to begin with prayer, asking God to speak through your study of the Scripture. Next, read that Bible passage out loud.
  2. Background: In the 8th century B.C., the people of Israel and Judah were exiled from their homeland to Babylon. A good portion of the land, as well as the religious and political center of Jerusalem, lay in ruins. Scripture tells us that God exiled the people as punishment for their disobedience to Him as expressed in the covenant at Mount Sinai. The prophet Isaiah addresses these exiled people with a message of hope and new beginnings.
  3. Within Isaiah 40-66, there are four major ‘servant songs’ that speak of how a servant of the Lord, perhaps an individual or the people of Israel together, will suffer while also bringing a revelation of God to the world (see Isaiah 42:1-4; 49:1-9; 50:4-9; and 52:13-53:12). Isaiah 61:1-3, is often grouped with these as conveying a message from a servant-Messiah sent by God. Describe this servant-Messiah’s job and message as outlined in verses 1-3?
  4. How do you think Isaiah’s promise of such a figure would impact the Israelite people exiled in Babylon?
  5. In contrast to the destruction and plundering Israel had experienced, Isaiah speaks a strong message of restoration in verses 4-6. What are the elements of this message? How might this change Israel’s view of their losses, as well as their relationship with surrounding nations?
  6. In Isaiah 61:3 and 7, as well as 60:17, God promises to exchange a certain set of things for another set of things for His people. What sort of exchange does He promise and to what extent does it go?
  7. Where in your own life do you long for God to make such a great exchange? How might you pursue that today?
  8. What does verse 8 say about the character of God?
  9. Verses 10 & 11 describe a life powerfully transformed by God’s touch. What does it look like? Where have you experienced God’s touch in this way in your own life?
  10. In Luke 4:16-21, Jesus reads Isaiah 61 to launch His public ministry in Galilee. Read that section of Scripture aloud. How would you say that Jesus fulfills what we read in Isaiah 61:1-11?
  11. What is one thing you will take away from this study about new beginnings? If you are alone, share that with someone this week. If you are with a small group, take some time to discuss these things with one another. Close in prayer.

All I Want is Some Good News (discussion questions)

All I Want for Christmas Series Gfx_Web AdHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “All I Want for Christmas is Some Good News,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This was the second part of our series “All I Want for Christmas.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. Name a time in your life when you received some good news right when you needed it. What was happening at that point? What was the good news?
  2. This weekend at Eastbrook, we continue our series “All I Want for Christmas” by looking at Isaiah 40:1-11. In preparation, ask God to speak to you through your study of the Scripture and then read that Bible passage aloud.
  3. Background: Isaiah was a prophet in the 8th century B.C., speaking to the people of Judah (southern part of Israel) during times of great pressure. Surrounding nations were threatening them, and eventually many were exiled into Babylon. The book of Isaiah is divided into two major sections. Chapters 1-39 speak to the judgment on God’s people and chapters 40-66 speak to the restoration God will eventually bring. Chapter 40 begins the second major section aimed at bringing hope for God’s people based on His direct and personal intervention.
  4. Isaiah 40:1-11 contains three sections built around ‘voices’ – or people – speaking into specific situations (see verses 1-2, 3-5, and 6-8). How would you summarize what the first voice is saying in verses 1-2? Why would this message be important in the midst of a difficult situation like the exile?
  5. The second ‘voice’ in verses 3-5 speaks about God’s personal intervention in a crooked and wild place. What is the significance of this message and why might it be good news in Isaiah’s time?
  6. Verse 5 highlights the glory of God revealed so all people will see it. This is one of the few Old Testament passages referenced by nearly all of the Gospel writers (see Matthew 3:1-3; Mark 1:1-3; Luke 3:4-6). If Isaiah was foretelling God’s future comfort, what are the Gospel writers trying to tell us by mentioning it?
  7. In verses 6-8, the third ‘voice’ tells the prophet to cry out. What is the message the prophet is given? Why would this be a meaningful announcement for a people exiled at the hands of another powerful nation?
  8. This passage culminates in verses 9-11, which focus on bringing good news that is centered in God’s revelation. What is the message here about God and why is it good news?
  9. In response to this study, consider the good news God has spoken to you. How has it changed you? Now consider the good news God brings in Jesus Christ for others. Who in your life most needs to hear the true message about Christ this season? What is God calling you into this year? If you are alone, write it down somewhere so you can think about it further this week. If you are with a small group, take some time to discuss these things with one another. Close in prayer.

Read More »