The Weekend Wanderer: 30 May 2020

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.


George Floyd gospel legacy“George Floyd Left a Gospel Legacy in Houston” – Kate Shellnut at Christanity Today: “The rest of the country knows George Floyd from several minutes of cell phone footage captured during his final hours. But in Houston’s Third Ward, they know Floyd for how he lived for decades—a mentor to a generation of young men and a ‘person of peace’ ushering ministries into the area. Before moving to Minneapolis for a job opportunity through a Christian work program, the 46-year-old spent almost his entire life in the historically black Third Ward, where he was called ‘Big Floyd’ and regarded as an ‘OG,’ a de-facto community leader and elder statesmen, his ministry partners say.”


AND legacy“Statement from The AND Campaign on Racialized Violence in America” – “We mourn the loss of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and all others who have lost their lives due to racialized violence. The grief of their loved ones is our grief and we share in their agony. The riots in Minneapolis are not to be glorified or romanticized, but we must realize that they are a product of a riotous and unjust system. The disorder began when a man’s rights were violated and his life was taken. American racism was rioting against the people long before they took to the streets. We must condemn and address the cause before we can appropriately address the broken reaction.”


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“Becoming The Kinds of Leaders Who Can Do The Job” – Here is some wisdom from Dallas Willard published in 1999, later compiled into a chapter in Renewing the Christian Mind, that connects with the call to spiritual and moral leadership in this moment. “We had read all of Dallas’ books and been deeply impacted by them—not least by his latest, The Divine Conspiracy. But Brian had just finished presenting some thoughts on new models of leadership—leaders marked not so much by conquest and technique, but by spiritual goodness and wisdom. And so we sat there, slumped pensively in our chairs, until someone finally said, ‘Dallas…please talk to us about how we become those kind of people.’ So, during a break, Dallas began listing some of his thoughts on a whiteboard. And then in his gracious, careful way, he challenged us to become the kind of leaders this world so desperately needs. The following is some of what he told us.”


Grief Comes to Church“Letting Grief Come to Church” – Whether we know it or not, we are all grieving different losses that the pandemic has brought into our lives. What does it mean to allow space for grief in the church and how might that help us experience release and healing in our lives? Clarissa Moll writes about this for CT Pastors, sharing five ways we can welcome what may feel unwelcome once the doors reopen at our churches.


Supreme Court Church“Supreme Court, in 5-4 Decision, Rejects Church’s Challenge to Shutdown Order”New York Times: “The Supreme Court on Friday turned away a request from a church in California to block enforcement of state restrictions on attendance at religious services. The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s four-member liberal wing to form a majority. ‘Although California’s guidelines place restrictions on places of worship, those restrictions appear consistent with the free exercise clause of the First Amendment,’ Chief Justice Roberts wrote in an opinion concurring in the unsigned ruling.”


balcony church“Balcony church gains popularity in Kenya amid pandemic” – I always enjoy creativity in how churches gather people or reach out to people. Here is one that I have never heard of that seems well-suited for this time of the pandemic, flowing from a children’s outreach in Nairobi, Kenya. “Machira has taken his ‘Balcony to Balcony’ service on the road since Kenya’s first case was found in mid-March. It has become quite popular, the preacher at the All Saints Cathedral of the Anglican Church of Kenya said.”


Washington D.C.'s National Cathedral Webcasts Sunday Mass Due To Coronavirus

“Seeking to Understand the Rise, Fall, and Loss of Young Pastors” –  Robert Stewart writes at Chuck DeGroat’s blog about a serious and hard topic. “At least (five) high profile young pastors of whom I’m aware have taken their lives during these past twelve months alone. As painful as this topic is to discuss I believe that we absolutely must force ourselves to do so if we’re ever understand what’s going on here. We shouldn’t be trying to address this crisis until we better understand all the cultural, characterological, spiritual, and biological issues which influence it. After the space shuttle Challenger disaster stunned the world in 1986 all shuttle flights were grounded until the underlying cause (defective “o-rings” in the right side solid rocket booster) could be understood and resolved. Seven astronauts died unnecessarily in that incident. Almost that many young pastors (or maybe more) have died in this past year. And, the many opinions about why don’t add up to any real comprehension which could guide us towards life saving solutions. It just seems unconscionable to continue on as usual amid the carnage. So, how might we begin the quest to understand and solve this crisis with an inquiry as focused and complete as the one which solved the riddle of the Challenger?”


 

Music: Common Hymnal (featuring Dee Wilson),Rose Petals,” from Common Hymnal

[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.]

Lamenting Our Losses: three vital parts of lament in the pandemic

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I was talking with a friend the other day about some of the changes we have experienced during the pandemic. Some of them were simple—activities we could no longer enjoy or places we could no longer visit—and others were more complex—missed milestones in our lives, friends and family members suffering with sickness, and concerns about the future.  Maybe you have had conversations like that recently as well. I certainly hope so because one of the most important things we can do in this time of the pandemic is to lament our losses. 

lamet 003Lament is commonly defined as “a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.” Within Scripture lament has the added significance of mingling our grief and sorrow with prayer as we bring it into the presence of God. Lament takes up a considerable amount of space in the Bible, from the psalms of lament to the Hebrew prophets to the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane and more. I often distinguish between complaint and lament by saying that with complaint we practice the presence of our problems, but with lament we practice the presence of God while simultaneously bringing our problems to Him. Complaint lives in agony with the self. Lament lives in agony with God. Each and every one of us needs lament these days. Let me suggest three parts of lament that are vital during this time of the pandemic.

The first is to name our losses. At a spiritual retreat I attended not too long ago, participants were asked to write a list of losses we had experienced in the past year. It was illuminating for me to write down things, whether small or large, I perceived as losses. When I read the list later, I realized some things that seemed small initially had become larger over time, occupying a lot of my background attention in life. Until I named those losses it was difficult for me to deal with them or let them go. Consider the words of the psalmist in Psalm 73 where inner troubles stewed until a name was given to the real source of trouble, both internally and externally.

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. (Psalm 73:2-3)

So, let me ask us: have we named our losses? Have we written them down, given a name to  them, or voiced them aloud as a loss to ourselves or others? We cannot lament without naming our losses.

The second vital aspect of lament is to grieve our losses. For some of us, this can be particularly difficult. My Scandinavian upbringing has taught me how to work hard and persevere in trials, but it has not always helped me to grieve things appropriately. Grieving was something that I had to learn how to do. Grieving is an essential part of lament. As mentioned above, lament gives space for passionate expression of grief or sorrow. Think about David grieving the disastrous death of Saul and Jonathan at the hands of the Philistines.

A gazelle lies slain on your heights, Israel.
How the mighty have fallen! (2 Samuel 1:19)

Here is the anointed of God, a mighty warrior, a man after God’s own heart, lifting up loud cries of grief over the loss of a dear friend and the untimely ruin of a ruler. What about us? What are our losses? Have we given expression through grief about these things? If not, our souls become a cesspool of hidden pain and difficulty often leading to bitterness and anger.

lament.002The third vital aspect of lament is to bring our losses to God. You may think this last point is obvious, but I have found over the years that this more difficult than we might expect. One the one hand, we find it easy to linger in our troubles. We readily practice the presence of our problems to the point that they become a sort of sick companion. But lament is not about lingering alone in our griefs. Psychology without acknowledgment of God often becomes narcissistic. On the other hand, those of us familiar with the church seem to find it easiest to be happy or joyful in the presence of God instead of giving voice to our griefs and angst. A quick search through the most popular worship songs today reveals very few songs of authentic angst and pain brought into God’s presence. Spirituality without space for lament quickly becomes superficial. Consider with me the book of Habakkuk, where the prophet meets with God again and again in his pain and complaint.

How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?

I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
and what answer I am to give to this complaint. (Habakkuk 1:2; 2:1)

Habakkuk shows us what true lament looks like, when trouble and pain is named, grieved, and expressed in the presence of God.

Friends, I find it hard to express how important it is that we recover lament today. I am sure each that every one of us could fairly quickly make a long list if we tried to name our losses. However, I am less confident we are truly making space in life to grieve our losses and to do so in the presence of God. I worry for all of us that without lament the deep places of our souls will fill with bitterness and anger, and that such foul waters, undrained, will spring out into our lives and those around us when we least expect it causing great ruin. May God help us to lament!

Senior Pastor Video Update in the Time of COVID-19 (April 22, 2020)

Here is my latest video update for Eastbrook Church as we navigate the time of COVID-19. I will continue to re-post these weekly video updates here at my blog for those who have not seen it or who are not part of our church but could use the encouragement. You can watch it here or at the Eastbrook Church Vimeo channel.

 

In this video update I reference Lamentations 3. I am including a longer portion of the passage because I find these words so rich and powerful.

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

(Lamentations 3:19-26)

A Resurrection Prayer inspired by the prophet Malachi

Lord of Hosts, you are our great King,
and Your Name is exalted among the nations.
You are the God of love and justice,
the God of faithfulness and generosity.

As with the people of Malachi’s day,
we face our human limitations
and failures most every day,
but particularly in times of trouble.

We admit that our hearts grow cold
in prolonged waiting for You,
and that sometimes we even turn away
from Your will and guidance.

Help us, Lord, when darkness drowns the dawn.
Give us hope’s clear vision of Your promise
that the sun of righteousness will rise upon us
with healing in its rays.

All this we pray, through Jesus Christ,
Our High Priest and Perfect Sacrifice,
to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit
be all honor and glory, now and forever.
Amen.


This is part of a series of posts with prayers based upon the message of the Minor Prophets:

The Weekend Wanderer: 4 April 2020

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.


Washington D.C.'s National Cathedral Webcasts Sunday Mass Due To Coronavirus“Christianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus. It’s Not Supposed To” – NT Wright’s essay in Time speaks to how lacking most answers are right now and how important it is to recover one of the most biblical responses to a situation like the COVID-19 pandemic. “Rationalists (including Christian rationalists) want explanations; Romantics (including Christian romantics) want to be given a sigh of relief. But perhaps what we need more than either is to recover the biblical tradition of lament. Lament is what happens when people ask, ‘Why?’ and don’t get an answer. It’s where we get to when we move beyond our self-centered worry about our sins and failings and look more broadly at the suffering of the world.”


116514“Arab Christians Have Lost Easter Before. Here’s What They Learned” – Our church has good friends around the globe, many of whom are in the Middle East: Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and more. The instability of the region during many years caused disruption of worship services and fellowship that have parallels to our present moment with the COVID-19 pandemic. This article from Christianity Today reflects largely on the Coptic and Maronite Christian realities and what we might be able to learn from it.


Anti-Asian Racism“Statement on Anti-Asian Racism in the Time of COVID-19” – My wife, Kelly, and I were talking with a dear friend from Asia who related to us some of the ways prejudice against Asians is rising in our country, including recent anti-Chinese graffiti at the UW-Madison campus. In talking with another friend living in the Middle East, I heard about similar things happening there. As Christians, we must unequivocally stand against this sort of thing. I was glad to hear the Asian-American Christian Collaborative drafted this “Statement on Anti-Asian Racism in the Time of COVID-19.”


Screen Shot 2020-04-03 at 11.12.55 AM“Pregnant in a Pandemic: Coping and Hoping” – Betsy Childs Howard: “A month ago, my mind was filled with the normal concerns of a first-time mom anticipating birth. What did I need to buy for the baby? What should I take to the hospital, and how would I get there? Who would be available from our family to help me after the birth, and when should they arrive? Then we all became aware of COVID-19, and I realized the remaining weeks of my pregnancy would be far from normal.”


ap_20089618290522_custom-4f7db72fa3acfc7d781ba78ee98ab2da873fd7a9-s1500-c85“States Consider Whether Religious Services Qualify As ‘Essential'” – After the arrest of controversial evangelist and pastor Rodney Howard-Browne for resisting state guidelines for public health during this pandemic, states around the country continue to debate whether to consider religious services as “essential” or not. South Korea has wrestled with this as one cult group became the source of a major outbreak and the government is considering legal action against those who defy public health guidelines . Regardless of the governmental orders, the joint statement by the NAE and Christianity Today (which I posted here last week) offers some guidance on how to think about whether to cancel or not cancel services. That being said, in the midst of a clear global health emergency, we have to wrestle with what it means to love God with all of who we are while also loving our neighbor. I would like to suggest that foolishness in regards to public health is neither honoring to God nor loving to our neighbor. If we’re honest this is less about cancelling than about retooling in a time of crisis so as to love God and love our neighbors well.


richc“Rich Christians in an Age of Coronavirus”Matt Soerens of World Relief takes Ron Sider’s old book title, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, and applies it to the current moment and the expected stimulus Americans will receive from the government. In a time when so many needs loom large, Soerens asks, how then should we live, as rich Christians in an age of coronavirus? What would happen if we offered our portion of the stimulus to help those in need?


Stone Churches Ethiopia“Dreams of Stone: Searching for paradise in Ethiopia’s rock churches” – This is not your typical look at churches as Ishion Hutchinson, a Rastafarian from Jamaica, experiences the ancient Christian tradition in Ethiopia. Sometimes it’s good to see your own tradition through different eyes. “As we neared Biete Medhane Alem, a service was underway; the sounds of Geez, the ancient Ethiopic liturgical language, resonated through the mighty stone pillars that greeted me before the structure itself—an auditory monument, the presence of numinous poetry, an intimation of the enormous space before me, undulating and wide….as I turned a corner, I saw the praying people. Robed splendidly, mostly in white shawls, the supplicants shuttled through the rock passages.”


Old-Vintage-Books“Why Pastors Should Be Good Readers” – Here is Philip Ryken, President of Wheaton College and former Senior Pastor of Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia, speaking to the reading life of pastors. While studying with Phil’s father, Leland Ryken, at Wheaton College, I made the life-changing decision to become an English major instead of a Bible major as an undergrad. Of course, after college I went on to receive the MDiv degree with all the Bible and theology classes necessary. However, I am so glad I made that decision in my earlier studies.


 

Music: Fernando Ortega, “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” from Hymns and Meditations

[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 help me think more deeply and broadly.]