The Weekend Wanderer: 16 April 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.


Tower of Babel“Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid” – Jonathan Haidt in The Atlantic: “What would it have been like to live in Babel in the days after its destruction? In the Book of Genesis, we are told that the descendants of Noah built a great city in the land of Shinar. They built a tower ‘with its top in the heavens’ to ‘make a name’ for themselves. God was offended by the hubris of humanity and said:

Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.

The text does not say that God destroyed the tower, but in many popular renderings of the story he does, so let’s hold that dramatic image in our minds: people wandering amid the ruins, unable to communicate, condemned to mutual incomprehension. The story of Babel is the best metaphor I have found for what happened to America in the 2010s, and for the fractured country we now inhabit. Something went terribly wrong, very suddenly. We are disoriented, unable to speak the same language or recognize the same truth. We are cut off from one another and from the past.”


Religion and upbringing“Trying to raise successful kids? Experts say you shouldn’t forget about faith” – Kelsey Dallas in Deseret News: “In America today, being a parent is much like being a talent manager. Moms and dads shepherd their aspiring sports star or Rhodes scholar from school to practice to private lesson, all the while looking for additional opportunities to maximize their child’s potential. ‘Parents are emphasizing personal achievement and skill-building for their kids. … They’re looking for ways to build-out a resume, whether for college or future career success,’ said Daniel Cox, director and founder of the Survey Center on American Life. As part of this push, moms and dads often deemphasize activities that don’t lead to individual acclaim, like worship services or family dinners. When you’re heavily invested in building measurable skills, you quickly run out of time to do anything else, Cox said. ‘It’s not OK anymore for kids just to hang out and goof around. They have to be learning something,’ he said. In addition to creating a lot of stressed-out kids, modern parents’ fixation on achievement is reshaping families’ relationships with organized religion. Young adults today heard less about faith from their parents during childhood than previous generations and spent less time in church, according to a new report from Cox’s survey center. These findings help explain why members of Generation Z (34%) are more likely than millennials (29%) and members of Generation X (25%) to be religiously unaffiliated. Research has long shown that the quantity and quality of childhood religious experiences predict how religious someone is as an adult, Cox said.”


Holy-Sepulchre-exterior“High-tech start for restoration of Christianity’s holiest site” – Rod Sweet in Global Construction Review: “A major restoration project at Christianity’s most hallowed place, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, has begun with a high-tech start. By collecting more than 50,000 detailed images, built-environment researchers from the Politecnico di Milano have created detailed 3D models of the church’s floor ahead of the project, begun on 14 March, to conserve and restore it, conduct archeological research and install plumbing and other services at the site where Jesus is said to have been crucified and resurrected. The project, jointly funded by the Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches, will also evaluate the stability of the Holy Edicule, a shrine built to enclose what is considered to be Jesus’ empty tomb. Led by architect and archeologist Osama Hamdan of Jerusalem’s Al Quds University, the team collected the data between September and October 2021 using a bespoke system.” 


IMG_3289-copy-scaled“Divine Intimations: Contemporary Floral Design for Sacred Spaces” – Margaret Gardner in Image: “I sit in the pew waiting for the service to begin. Glancing from the cross to the pulpit, I am struck by the stunning tropical flower arrangement—a contemporary design of cut bamboo, protea, aspidistra, and heliconia, rising from a circle of thorny vines. Not your typical bouquet of roses or lilies, it expresses a sensibility beyond its beauty. The open mouths of the cut bamboo call out; the spiky heliconia, both erect and hanging, speak to spent blood and powerful straining upward. It’s Sunday, January 16, 2022, and the notes in the bulletin say that the flowers are given ‘to the glory of God in recognition of the January 15 birthday and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’ The symbolism of the arrangement is tangible. As a floral artist and longtime arranger for churches, I wonder about the vision behind this evocative design, and how other congregants connect with it as art. Located in a grand mid-century-modern building, my congregation is National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. As a member of the Reformed tradition, I am aware of our iconoclastic heritage and emphasis on plain style within the worship space. My previous church home, the Old Presbyterian Meeting House in Alexandria, Virginia, was an early nineteenth-century Protestant box of bare-bone architecture. Clear glass, no paintings on the walls, no cross in the front, a few historic tombstones embedded in the floor, it honored our forebears’ distaste for distractions from the word of God. Yet, as Reformed scholar William Dyrness has pointed out (in his works Visual Faith and Reformed Theology and Visual Culture), even John Calvin, who forbade the use of images in worship, waxed eloquent on the beauty of the natural world and the presence of God in the theater of creation. Arranged flowers seem an ideal way to bring that ‘third book’ of God into the sacred space.”


Turkey church“Despite Drop in Deportations, Turkey Still Troubles Christians” – Jayson Casper in Christianity Today: “Last year, Protestant Christians in Turkey suffered no physical attacks. There were no reported violations of their freedom to share their faith. And there was a sharp reduction in foreign missionaries denied residency. But not all is well, according to the 2021 Human Rights Violation Report, issued March 18 by the nationally registered Association of Protestant Churches (APC). Hate speech against Christians is increasing, fueled by social media. Legal recognition as a church is limited to historic places of worship. And missionaries are still needed, because it remains exceedingly difficult to formalize the training of Turkish pastors. ‘Generally there is freedom of religion in our country,’ stated the report. ‘But despite legal protections, there were still some basic problems.'”


Carl Lenz hype pastor“The rise and fall of Hillsong’s ‘hypepriests'” – Leah Payne at NBC News: “Is the era of the ‘hypepriest’ over? The ouster of pastor-turned-celebrity Carl Lentz of Hillsong NYC, the controversy and legal troubles swirling around Hillsong founder Brian Houston and a recent documentary series chronicling alleged abuse in the famously famous Hillsong Church, might certainly lead some to believe that the American public has tired of expensively dressed pastors with famous friends and large social media followings. But while recent headlines have led to a precipitous decline in Hillsong USA churches, the celebrity pastor’s place in the United States is not under serious threat. At least not yet. America’s affinity for dramatic preaching, sex appeal and celebrity predates the American republic. George Whitefield was an actor in England before he crossed the pond and used his gifts for self-promotion and status as a ‘most beautiful youth’ to win young admirers and become the celebrity preacher of the colonies in the 1700s. Presbyterian Charles Finney’s worship spaces of the 1800s resembled theaters as much as they did sanctuaries, and he popularized ‘new measures’ of engagement, like emotive preaching and stirring music, which entertained and revived the spiritual feelings of the faithful. The 20th century brought enterprising American preachers new media outlets for spreading the good news. The attractiveness of the preachers — their body, voice and demeanor — often went hand in hand with their success. Hellfire and brimstone preacher Billy Sunday understood this well and had suits tailored to displayhis athletic physique. Women and men alike enjoyed his ultra-masculine preaching performances.”


Music: Sufjan Stevens, “Ah, Holy Jesus,” from Silver and Gold

Lavish Your Love on Jesus

Pastor Femi Ibitoye, Eastbrook’s Pastor of Worship and Prayer, concluded our Lenten preaching series, “Scandalous Jesus,” this past weekend on Palm Sunday. Femi preached out of Matthew 26:1-16, giving specific attention to the episode where a woman comes and anoints Jesus in the home of Simon the Leper.

This message is from the ninth part of our longer journey through the Gospel of Matthew, which includes “Family Tree,” “Power in Preparation,” “Becoming Real,” “The Messiah’s Mission,” “Stories of the Kingdom,” “Who Do You Say I Am?“, “‘Tis the Reason,” and “Jesus Said What?!

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


When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.  Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Matthew 26:12-13)

The Chief Priest and Elders of the people plotted to kill Jesus instead of lavishing their love on him (26:3-5)

       They schemed to kill Jesus instead of loving him (26:3)

       They plotted to kill in secret instead of loving him (26:4)

       They feared the people instead of fearing God. (They loved appearances, and praise of the

       People, instead of the praise from God. (26:5)

       They willingly and knowing plotted to kill Jesus in secret breaking the command of God. “You shall not kill” (Matthew 26:5; Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 27:24-25)

Judas loved money Instead of loving Jesus

       Plotted with the Chief Priests to kill an innocent person with bribery (26:14-16)

       Judas loved money more than loving Jesus (26:14-16)

       Judas and the other disciples have forgotten the greatest commandment. 

       “Love God” (Matthew 26:7-9, 22:26-40)

A woman (likely Mary, sister of Lazarus, lavished her love on Jesus (26:6-11)

       She loved by pouring expensive perfume on Jesus

       She lavished her love on Jesus publicly

       She loved Jesus by listening and believing in him

       Jesus honored and blessed her in return.  You cannot out give Jesus.

Why lavish our love on Jesus

       Because he first lavished his love on us (1 john 4:19, 4:9-10)

       Because it is the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36-38)

       Because Jesus is worthy of our love and worship (Revelation 5: 11-14)

What can we do to lavish our love on Jesus?

      Worship him

      Obey him

      Love people

      Give

Lavish your love on Jesus publicly. At church, at work, on social media.  Love Jesus instead of money, power or status.   


Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize Matthew 26:11-12.
  • Take some time to pray through Matthew 26:1-16, letting God reveal any areas where you have gotten off-track in your life with God. Confess and repent of those wrong ways in prayer. What will you do to lavish your love on Jesus today? Take a stand and act.
  • Prepare for Holy Week by reading Matthew chapters 26, 27 and 28.

The Weekend Wanderer: 9 April 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.


Amazing Love“Holy Week Playlist: Songs to Survey the Wondrous Cross” – Kelli Trujillo compiles a playlist with contributions from various people at Christianity Today: “Our special issue The Wondrous Cross reflects on eight pieces of music that help us enter into the meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice. In addition to those songs, we’ve asked several Christian leaders—as well as some members of CT’s staff—to share their favorite pieces of music for contemplating the Cross and celebrating the Resurrection. You can listen to all of these songs on our Spotify playlist.”


Ketanji Brown Jackson“Ketanji Brown Jackson First Black Woman Confirmed to Supreme Court – Lawrence Hurley, Andrew Chung, Andrew Cowan in Sojourners: “Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday as the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court in a milestone for the United States and a victory for President Joe Biden, who made good on a campaign promise as he seeks to infuse the federal judiciary with a broader range of backgrounds. The vote to confirm the 51-year-old federal appellate judge to a lifetime job on the nation’s top judicial body was 53-47, with three Republicans – Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney – joining Biden’s fellow Democrats. A simple majority was needed, as Jackson overcame Republican opposition in a Supreme Court confirmation process that remains fiercely partisan. Jackson will take the 83-year-old Breyer’s place on the liberal bloc of a court with an increasingly assertive 6-3 conservative majority. Breyer is due to serve until the court’s current term ends – usually in late June – and Jackson would be formally sworn in after that. Jackson served early in her career as a Supreme Court clerk for Breyer.”


Recovering-Piety-980x551“Recovering Piety: The old-fashioned virtue might help renew our institutions, especially the church” – Alan Jacobs in Comment: “Sir Thomas Browne offered a warning in the seventeenth century: ‘Every man is not a proper champion for truth, nor fit to take up the gauntlet in the cause of verity. Many from the ignorance of these maxims, and an inconsiderate zeal unto truth, have too rashly charged the troops of error, and remain as trophies unto the enemies of truth. A man may be in as just possession of truth as of a city, and yet be forced to surrender: ’tis therefore far better to enjoy her with peace, then to hazard her on a battle.’ Some of my philosophical friends are horrified by Browne’s argument and remind me of St. Peter’s exhortation: ‘Always [be] prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you’ (1 Peter 3:15). But I would reply by noting two things: there is more than one kind of preparation, and there is more than one kind of defence. All too often Christians think of preparation for ‘making a defence’ as a matter of gathering information and training themselves in dialectical agility: anticipating arguments and coming up with clever responses to them. But the example of Joseph Knecht suggests that prayer—and contemplative prayer even more than the petitionary variety—is at least as important a mode of preparation. Indeed, I would claim that it’s more important, because in my experience it’s far less common for debating Christians to be uninformed than it is for them to be angry, truculent, and uncharitable—and to the degree that they are, they reflect a lack of preparation, a lack of piety.”


webRNS-Yelling-Argument1-1536x864“Language is hard: Are you sure they mean what you think they mean?” – Karen Swallow Prior at One Eye Squinted: “In 1712, Jonathan Swift, the Anglican clergyman most famous for his brilliant satire, published ‘A Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue.’ Complaining that the English language was subject to ‘daily corruptions’ and continuous ‘abuses and absurdities,’ Swift offered a plan (perhaps facetiously) for ‘fixing our Language for ever.’ Although it would be impossible to establish a perfect English, Swift admitted, ‘I am of Opinion,’ he wrote, ‘that it is better a Language should not be wholly perfect, than that it should be perpetually changing.’ Obviously, Swift’s proposal was never implemented. Hundreds of words are added to English dictionaries every year, arising from new technologies, phenomena and trends. The number of words in English has long surpassed 1 million. Not only are new words constantly added to the language, but old words can take on new meanings, too (as anyone who’s read a quaint 19th century novel knows, for they are full of words and phrases that have less innocent meanings today). Two camps shape the field of linguistics: prescriptivism and descriptivism. A prescriptivist approach sets out the rules of grammar and usage and is concerned with how language and words should be used. A descriptivist approach, in contrast, attempts to assess and describe how language is being used. Because I teach English, I am by necessity a prescriptivist first, a descriptivist only reluctantly. It’s hard to be a prescriptivist in descriptivist world.”


_112099487_church“Sacred Space, Desecration, and Reconciliation: A Story and Some Theses”  – Brian J. Walsh in The Other Journal: “‘Brian, Shahla would like to see where we pray.’ The request wasn’t totally out of the blue. Shahla had been moved to tears a week earlier upon hearing from her friend Janice that our little group of Christians at the University of Toronto had been praying for her. An Iranian woman who had escaped the violent repression of the Islamic Revolution, Shahla had, like so many Iranian émigrés, abandoned religion. Prayer was a tool of oppression and violence in Iran, and she had found a place of safety in a decidedly secular vision of life. Nevertheless, she arrived on campus that day, and we walked down the long hallway to the chapel where the Wine Before Breakfast community gathered to worship every Tuesday morning. We looked around the space, and she noted how beautiful it was. After a few minutes, I could tell that she was ready to move on. But before Shahla and Janice left, I asked if they would come down to the chaplain’s office for a moment. I had something to give to Janice. The time in the office was also short, and the two women went on their way. An hour after they had left, Janice called. ‘Brian,’ she said, ‘This is pretty amazing. When Shahla and I left the office, she immediately told me of a dream that she had. Shahla takes dreams very seriously and often calls her sister in Iran to help her interpret them.'”


maverickcitymusic_hdv“‘All the Glory to Jesus’: Maverick City to Make History in Performance at 64th Annual Grammy Awards” – Talia Wise at CBN News: “Maverick City Music will make history at the 64th annual Grammy Awards becoming the first Christian group to perform on the grand stage in 20 years. ‘All the glory and praise goes to Jesus,’ read the group’s Instagram post. The five-time Grammy-nominated group will be the first Christian or Gospel artist to be televised during the ceremony in over 20 years as well as the first time an artist has been nominated in all four categories across the two genres. ‘Blessed is an understatement for how we feel about all #Jireh is doing in this moment – we’re making history,’ they said of their upcoming Grammy performance. ‘We truly feel that we have been placed here for such a time as this and are excited to continue to share this journey with you all!'”


Music: Fernando Jesus, “Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted” from The Crucifixion of Jesus

Calling Out with Longing to God :: Marc Chagall, “Hannah Prays to God”

Marc Chagall - Hannah Prays to God.jpg
Marc Chagall, Anne invoque l’Eternal, etching; France: 1931-39, 1952-56.

Lent brings us face to face with our own sins and brokenness, but also with our deepest desires. We all long for things, but many times we are afraid to voice them aloud. One of the most moving stories of Scripture arises within a marriage bereft of children. Elkanah the Ephraimite, we’re told in 1 Samuel 1, has two wives. One, Peninah, has many children, but the other, Hannah, has no children. Hannah longs for children, but over the years she is never able to conceive. Her husband Elkanah speaks a memorable line that humorously but painfully misses the heartache of Hannah’s life: “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” (1 Samuel 1:8). Anyone who has ever longed for something just out of reach knows how it seems nothing is really adequate to that unrealized desire. Eventually, Hannah travels with her husband to the place of worship in Shiloh and calls out from the deepest places of her soul to God. Her prayer arises to God from deep agony and earnest desire. Marc Chagall’s Hannah Prays to God (Anne invoque l’Eternal) expresses Hannah’s strong emotion and longing. One hand on her breast and one raised to God, Hannah calls out in prayer, letting the depths of her soul rise up to the ever-listening God. How many of us have been Hannah? Don’t we all encounter seasons where our deepest desires seem to go unanswered for exhausting lengths of time? Perhaps we, too, can call out with longing to God today.

The Woes of the Religiously Misguided

Continuing our Lenten preaching series, “Scandalous Jesus,” this past weekend at Eastbrook we traveled through Matthew 23. In this chapter-long discourse, Jesus sharply names casts deep shadows over the ways the teachers of the law and Pharisees have lost their way with God. This is no simple passage, however, but calls each of us to a response with Jesus ourselves.

This message is from the ninth part of our longer journey through the Gospel of Matthew, which includes “Family Tree,” “Power in Preparation,” “Becoming Real,” “The Messiah’s Mission,” “Stories of the Kingdom,” “Who Do You Say I Am?“, “‘Tis the Reason,” and “Jesus Said What?!

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


“So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” (Matthew 23:3)

Three Critiques of Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees (23:1-6)

They are inconsistent (23:3)

They burden people (23:4)

They are concerned with appearances and reputation (23:5-6)

A Contrast for Jesus’ Disciples (23:8-12)

Shunning titles and praise from people (23:8-10)

Following Jesus’ humble path (23:11-12)

Seven Woes on the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees (23:13-36)

1. They keep people out of God’s kingdom (23:13)

2. They make converts who become as misguided as them (23:15)

3. They make oaths that show their blindness about spiritual matters (23:16-22)

4. They practice detailed obedience while disobeying in important matters (23:23-24)

5. They look clean on the outside but are polluted in their inner lives (23:25-26)

6. They look righteous on the outside but are hypocrites on the inside (23:27-28)

7. They stand violently against God’s purposes and messengers (23:29-36)

A Lament from Jesus over Jerusalem (23:37-39)

Jesus’ desire to gather for healing (23:37)

The reality of impending destruction (23:38-39)


Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize Matthew 23:11-12.
  • Take some time to pray through Matthew 23, letting God reveal any areas where you have gotten off-track in your life with God. Confess and repent of those wrong ways in prayer. If there is someone you need to make things right with, prayerfully reach out to them.
  • Prepare for Holy Week by reading Matthew 26 and 27.