The Weekend Wanderer: 11 July 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.


Churches reopening“Churches, Coronavirus, and The New York Times” – Earlier this week The New York Times published an article with this title “Churches Were Eager to Reopen. Now They Are a Major Source of Coronavirus Cases.” The lede said, “The virus has infiltrated Sunday services, church meetings and youth camps. More than 650 cases have been linked to reopened religious facilities.” Now, at first blush you may say, “Oh my, how could churches be so foolish!” But then, without diminishing how serious everything is, you may stop and consider 650 cases across 50 states with total cases of more than 65,000 in the nation and say, “What a minute. Do these statistics really support the claim being made?” And then you might read this article by Ed Stetzer, former head of LifeWay Research and Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, and you reassess everything.


Supreme Court“What the Ministerial Exception Will Mean for Religious Employers” – Very significant rulings have come out of the Supreme Court in this past month. Several in the past week and a half have made significant impact in relation to religion in America, and this week brought a decision that put debate around religious liberty squarely at the center. “The Supreme Court defended religious liberty on Wednesday, bolstering and broadening the so-called ‘ministerial exception.’ In a 7-2 decision, the court ruled that the Constitution protects the freedom of religious organizations to hire and fire employees who play a vital role in fulfilling their religious mission.”


harps“A Letter on Justice and Open Debate” – This letter published in Harper’s seemed to cause quite a stir online this past week. While not at first glance related to faith and culture, it actually is about a certain kind of faith and culture. There is a clash of ideologies in our public sphere that is bringing a strange alliance of different groups. Here, artists and intellectuals as varied as Wynton Marsalis, Malcolm Gladwell, J. K. Rowling, and Salman Rushdie came together to sign onto a letter calling for the respect of free speech and the open exchange of information and ideas in a culture that is often aimed at cancelling and public shaming. A friend pointed me to Fredrik deBoer’s assessment of this called “Ending the Charade,” which is brief and will get you thinking. Also, at the Convivial Society, L. M. Sacasas directs our attention to the way that digital media plays into this debate in “The Material Sources of Free Speech Anxieties.”


Asian American Collaborative“Asian American Community Tackles Anti-Blackness In Chicago” – Last week, community members from the Asian American Christian Collaborative (AACC) marched from Chinatown to Bridgeport to fight anti-Blackness. WBEZ in Chicago interviews Ray Chang, the President of the Asian American Christian Collaborative and also the Ministry Associate for Discipleship in the Chaplain’s Office at Wheaton College. You can listen to the thirteen-minute interview at the link above, but also find out more about this even at the website for the AACC here.


Mel Lawrenz“Working Through Traumatic Loss and Grief: Interview with Dr. Mel Lawrenz on his new book, A Chronicle of Grief – When I moved to Milwaukee, I served as the college pastor at Elmbrook Church for five years. Mel Lawrenz was the Senior Pastor of Elmbrook at that time, and his daughter, Eva, was part of the college ministry I served. I still remember hearing the shocking news that Eva passed away unexpectedly in 2017 at the age of 30. Mel had written previously about grief and trauma, but when I received a copy of his book, A Chronicle of Grief, I knew it would be more personal and powerful. Here is an interview of Mel by Jamie Aten, Ph.D., is the Founder and Executive Director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute.


AP-immigration-trump-cf-170126_12x5_1600“Evangelical group writes to Trump urging him not to end DACA” – “A group of Evangelical leaders are writing to President Trump this week to urge him to reconsider plans to resubmit a filing to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Seven religious leaders encouraged the president to leave DACA in place until Congress passes legislation that permanently protects Dreamers, the young immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children. The Hill reported this week that Trump is expected to refile paperwork this week to end DACA.”


monreale“Rehabilitating the Quadriga” – This may seem a little off the beaten path, but I came across this 2013 article by Peter Leithart on rehabilitating the Quadriga, while writing a book review that I hope will come out this fall. The Quadriga is the fourfold sense of Scriptural interpretation with roots in the early church fathers: literal sense, allegorical/theological sense, tropological/moral sense, and anagogical/eschatological sense. While usually discredited in discussions of modern models of biblical interpretation, there is a movement afoot to recover figural or allegorical reading of Scripture, not in the sense of fanciful readings, but in the sense of regaining the theological meaning inherent within the literal reading of Scripture. Leithart does a good job of summarizing it all.


Ennio Morricone“Ennio Morricone’s life in pictures” – Okay, we are all over the place today, but if you did not hear that Ennio Morricone passed away, you should stop for a moment and take a look at this quick summary of his life in pictures. Famous for writing the scores for “spaghetti westerns” directed by Sergio Leone, such as The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and A Fistful of Dollars, Morricone continued to work on film scores, including those with more overtly religious themes. He received numerous Oscar nominations for his film scores, including that for The Mission, which was sometimes described as nearly overwhelming the movie in its power.


Music: Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile, “Scarcely Cricket,” from Not Our First Goat Rodeo.

[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: 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!

Empty Arms prayer service tonight

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Tonight at our regular 2nd Tuesday Worship and Prayer gathering at Eastbrook, we will have a special prayer service for those who have experienced pain in the loss of an infant or unborn child through miscarriage, the loss of a young child, regretted abortion, or the long ache of infertility. This gathering is open to anyone who has experienced these situations, or those who want to walk with them in pain toward healing.

We will sing, pray, have some experiential responses to God, and hear two testimonies from others in our congregation.  In the midst of the service, Kelly and I will also share the ways that God met us in our own story of loss, as well as encouragement from His word.

The Good News of Jesus

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This weekend, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus at Eastbrook Church, we will begin a two-week message series exploring “The Good News of Jesus.” Drawing upon the post-resurrection accounts within the Gospel of John, we want to bring into sharper focus the ways in which Jesus brings good news to the world.

April 20/21 [Easter]: “The Good News of the Resurrected One” – John 20:1-10, 30-31
The resurrection of Jesus from death brings good news into our lives. As we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, we will also explore three themes of how this is good news: light overwhelming darkness, freedom overcoming prisons, and life overpowering death.

April 27/28: “The Good News of New Beginnings” – John 20:11-21:25
After Jesus’ resurrection, John offer a series of encounters that Jesus has with real people. Each of these encounters sheds light on the way in which Jesus’ resurrection is good news: God’s presence in loss (Mary), God’s peace in fear (disciples in the upper room), God’s guidance in doubt (Thomas), and God’s restoration in failure (Peter).