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.]

Moving Beyond Church Idealism: Bonhoeffer on the Gift of Disillusionment with the Church

Bonhoeffer

In my sermon this past weekend, “A Crash Course in Church Growth,” I paraphrased some thoughts from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together about how disillusionment in the church is a gift from God. I mentioned the need to give thanks for the gift of disillusionment with the church that God gives to us. Here are Bonhoeffer’s original words:

Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.

By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world.He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping it illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of the brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.

Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. We thank God for what He has done for us. We thank God for giving us brethren who live by His call, by His forgiveness, and His promise. We do not complain of what God does not give us; we rather thank God for what He does give us daily….Even when sin and misunderstanding burden the communal life, is not the sinning brother still a brother, with whom I, too, stand under the Word of Christ? Will not his sin be a constant occasion for me to give thanks that both of us may live in the forgiving love of God in Jesus Christ? Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together – the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.

[These quotations are taken from John W. Doberstein’s classic translation of Life Together (New York: Harper & Row, 1954), 26-28.  A more recent translation with thorough annotations and a helpful introduction is found in Volume 5 of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works.]

5 Must-Read Statements on the Church

This past week, I spoke at Kaleo, our Thursday night young adults gathering at Eastbrook, overviewing 1 Corinthians. I shared a quotation on dealing with disillusionment within the church from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. His book Life Together is, in my opinion, the best book written on the nature of true community in the church. Here are 5 must-read statements on  the Church from Bonhoeffer:

  • “Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world.” [26-27]
  • “Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.” [27]
  • “Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together – the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.” [28]
  • “If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is not great experience, not discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.” [29]
  • “A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men….Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren.” [29-30]

[These quotations are taken from John W. Doberstein’s classic translation of Life Together. A more recent translation with thorough annotations and a helpful introduction is found in Volume 5 of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works.]

5 Must-Read Statements on the Church

Given my recent sermon, “Connecting Together,” on what it means to be the church, I wanted to share again some thoughts from one of my favorite thinkers on the church, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. His book Life Together is, in my opinion, the best book written on the nature of true community in the church. Here are 5 must-read statements on  the Church from Bonhoeffer:

  • “Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world.” [26-27]
  • “Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.” [27]
  • “Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together – the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.” [28]
  • “If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is not great experience, not discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.” [29]
  • “A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men….Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren.” [29-30]

[These quotations are taken from John W. Doberstein’s classic translation of Life Together. A more recent translation with thorough annotations and a helpful introduction is found in Volume 5 of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works.]

Dietrich Bonhoeffer and “Life Together”

In my last sermon at Brooklife on 1 Corinthians 12 about the body of Christ and each members’ place in it, I mentioned what is in my opinion the best book on the church and true Christian community.

That book is Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran theologian, professor, and author who resisted the Nazi regime during World War II. He paid for his resistance with his life at the age of 39 near the end of the war in 1945.

Scot McKnight, an excellent commentator on the faith, has recently written six reflections on Bonhoeffer on his blog that I think are insightful, as well as a helpful introduction to this great book.

If you have the interest and time, why not take a visit to his blog to read more here.