The Weekend Wanderer: 5 November 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.


Bono on Morning Edition“Bono discusses his new memoir, ‘Surrender,’ and the faith at U2’s core” – Rachel Martin interviews Bono on NPR’s Morning Edition: “It was 1976. An Irish kid named Paul Hewson was trying to figure a lot of things out; his mom had died a couple years earlier, when he was just 14. Bono, as he was known, spent a lot of time at home, in Dublin, arguing with his dad and his older brother. But two goals kept him focused — to win over the heart of a girl named Alison Stewart and to become a rock star. And in the same week, he asked Alison out — (she said yes) — and he ended up in Larry Mullen JR’s kitchen for an audition. Two other guys were there — Adam Clayton and David Evans, also known as The Edge. The four of them would go on to become one of the biggest bands of their time: U2. And he is still married to Alison Stewart 40 years later. Bono writes about these foundational relationships in his new memoir, called Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story, releasing Tuesday Nov. 1. In it, he also delves into another core relationship: his spirituality. Though never a Mass-on-Sundays kind of Catholic, from a young age he was fascinated with mysticism and ritual – and Jesus.”


webRNS-Calvin-Butts3Calvin Butts, leader of Harlem’s historic Abyssinian Baptist Church, dies at 73″ – Adelle M. Banks at Religion News Service: “The Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, the senior pastor of New York’s historic Abyssinian Baptist Church, who followed in the footsteps of prominent Black ministers and paved his own path of leadership in education, health and political circles, died Friday (Oct. 28), his church announced. ‘It is with profound sadness, we announce the passing of our beloved pastor, Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts, lll, who peacefully transitioned in the early morning of October 28, 2022,’ the church stated on its website and on Twitter. ‘The Butts Family & entire Abyssinian Baptist Church membership solicit your prayers.’ Butts, 73, succeeded the Rev. Samuel DeWitt Proctor as pastor in 1989 after starting as a minister of the congregation in 1972. He became the church’s 20th pastor, according to the church’s website. ‘When we think about Dr. Butts we know that he served the community of Harlem but he served the wider community as well,’ said the Rev. James A. Forbes Jr., senior minister emeritus of Riverside Church, whose church was about two miles away from Butts’. ‘We have lost a great leader, one who really was a champion of justice and freedom for all.'”


D400-1839-085_Low_res_comp“6 ways to pray for our country during the election” – Katie Taylor at the World Vision blog: “How can we be more Christlike — in word and deed — during the 2022 U.S. election? We know a few things for sure: We’re called to love others (John 15:12). We’re called to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2). And we’re called to live in unity (Ephesians 4:3). In an election year, choosing love feels extra challenging when your environment often pushes you to pick one side and shun the other. How can we keep choosing to love rather than burying our heads under our pillows until Nov. 8? God sees our frustration and confusion. And He promises that when we pray, He’ll give us guidance and peace. ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:6-7). It seems too simple. And sometimes our voices feel too small. But when we pray, we allow God to start growing our capacity to love each other as Jesus does — even people who are the most different from us. As we approach the 2022 midterm election, we’re humbled that God saw our anger, confusion, and prejudice and still loved us enough to send His Son to be our Savior. That perspective calms our frustration and calls us to prayer.”


re-wilding faith“Exodus 3-4: Call and Response” – James Amadon at The Ecological Disciple: “The power and potential of places that are not dominated by humans is especially important in our age. Modern, industrial humanity has been exceptionally good at domesticating almost anything it touches. To ‘civilize’ something, or someone, has been an unquestioned good, and so ‘wild’ places, people, and other creatures have been tamed or destroyed. This civilizing impulse has included religion and religious spaces – we have domesticated God by reducing theology to what serves modern humanity (when was the last time you heard a sermon on the purpose/future of creation?), by confining the divine presence to the built environment (such as churches and other ‘sacred spaces’), and by controlling access to divine presence or approval (think about how religious communities define who is in/out, saved/unsaved, etc.). Moses lived in one of the most civilized societies of his time, yet it was also one of the most brutal – a paradox that, sadly, repeats itself through history. Leaving the civilized world opened Moses to new possibilities for himself and his place in the world, and to an encounter with the wild God of creation, who can never be civilized (just read the bewildering story of Exodus 4:24-26). When I ask people where they feel closest to God, almost everyone says “Nature.” This makes sense because we are fundamentally part of nature, creatures among creatures. It is often the false ideologies of ‘civilization’ that makes us less at home in the world. We need to re-wild our faith, remembering that our relationship to God is connected to our relationship with our local land and waterways, and with the creatures that share our home. This is true whether we live in a condo in the city or a cabin in the mountains. Finding ways to connect with the wildness around us can also connect us to the wildness of God, who tends to show up in surprising ways in these places.”


131335“What Ancient Italian Churches Tell Us About Women in Ministry” – Photo Essay by Radha Vyas in Christianity Today: “The Bible tells us of the important place of women in the early church. Women were the first to reach the empty tomb and to proclaim the Resurrection (Matt. 28:1–10; Mark 16:1–8; Luke 23:55–24:10; John 20:1–2, 11–18). They contended for the gospel alongside Paul (Phil. 4:2–3), taught new converts (Acts 18:24–28), prophesied (Acts 21:9), had churches in their homes (Acts 16:14–15, 40; 1 Cor. 16:19), served the church (Rom. 16:1), delivered Paul’s epistles (v. 2), and were considered ‘outstanding among the apostles’ (v. 7). There is also a lesser-known visual record of women in ministry in Italy’s oldest churches. From around the time of the First Council of Nicaea down to the 12th century, Christians created depictions of women preaching, women marked as clergy, and even one carrying a Communion chalice, with which believers have always recalled Christ’s words ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’ (Matt. 26:28). Radha Vyas, a photographer and a student at Dallas Theological Seminary, takes us on a tour of this artistic record of women in ministry.”


jacobs-thomasmerton-2“Thomas Merton, the Monk Who Became a Prophet” – Alan Jacobs in The New Yorker back in 2018: “On December 10, 1941, a young man named Thomas Merton was received as a novice by a monastery in Kentucky, the Abbey of Gethsemani. Precisely twenty-seven years later, he died by accidental electrocution in his room at a retreat center in Bangkok, Thailand. He entered the monastery three days after Pearl Harbor; he died a month after Richard Nixon was elected to his first term as President. It had been an eventful time. Merton was a remarkable man by any measure, but perhaps the most remarkable of his traits was his hypersensitivity to social movements from which, by virtue of his monastic calling, he was supposed to be removed. Intrinsic to Merton’s nature was a propensity for being in the midst of things. If he had continued to live in the world, he might have died not by electrocution but by overstimulation….Merton lived the public world, the world of words and politics, but knew that living in it had killed him. (‘Thomas Merton is dead.’) He sought the peace of pure and silent contemplation, but came to believe that the value of that experience is to send us back into the world that killed us. He is perhaps the proper patron saint of our information-saturated age, of we who live and move and have our being in social media, and then, desperate for peace and rest, withdraw into privacy and silence, only to return. As we always will.”


Music: The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, performing Ralph Vaughan Williams, “For All The Saints” (Sine Nomine), from A Vaughan Williams Hymnal

All Saints’ Day: A Celebration and Encouragement

fullsizeoutput_ae3.jpegToday, is the celebration of All Saints’ Day. What is All Saints’ Day and why should we celebrate it?

Since the 4th century, Christians have celebrated the lives of saints and martyrs. However, it was not until AD 609 that Pope Boniface IV dedicated one day of remembrance for all martyrs. Since that time, and after a broadening by Pope Gregory IV in 837 into a celebration of all past saints, All Saints’ Day has been a solemn holy day in the Roman Catholic Church, often connected with reverence for past Christians and relics.  While often criticized for idolatrous veneration of departed Christians, even after the Reformation, most Protestants continued to celebrate All Saints’ Day as a way to connect God’s faithfulness to His people in times past with God’s faithfulness to His people now.

In Hebrews, chapter 11, the writer takes us through what is sometimes called the “Hall of Faith.” We hear of Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Joseph, Moses and Rahab — all of whom faithfully walked through their ups-and-downs with God. The first words of chapter 12 take a sudden turn to the present: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” The lives of great heroes of the faith are celebrated as an inspiration for the Christians listening in the present moment, that they too might live with God faithfully in their everyday lives.

I love that phrase: “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.” Those witnesses are the believers in God that have gone before us. They bear witness to us that there is a way to live faithfully with God upon earth now even as they also bear witness that there is future hope with God beyond our earthly lives. Although it may sound strange to our ears, all past believers are ‘saints’ in that they are ‘holy ones’ (the literal translation of the Greek word hagioi) through Jesus Christ. All Saints’ Day brings to the foreground the spiritual bond that exists between believers from all times and in all places. More specifically, All Saints’ Day highlights the connection between the saints who have gone ahead of us into God’s presence (sometimes called “the Church triumphant”) and the saints still upon this earthly plane (sometimes called “the Church militant”). We celebrate those who have gone before us so that we might be encouraged to run the race before us with our eyes fixed on Jesus.

In a culture dominated by the ever-pressing latest and greatest that is new and now, All Saints’ Day is a powerful corrective. It reminds that we are an important part of God’s story, but we are not the only part of the story. When we celebrate the saints of previous times we realize that we would not be here were it not for Abraham, Jacob, Ruth, David, Esther, Isaiah, Mary, and so many more.

In a culture that is obsessed with our present opinions about our present matters, All Saints’ Day offers us perspective. It helps us grow beyond “the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about,” to steal a phrase from G. K. Chesterton. We reconnect with Catherine of Siena and Augustine of Hippo, with Perpetua of Carthage and Janani Luwum of Uganda, with Sojourner Truth and Blaise Pascal. We need them; perhaps even more than we know.

In a culture that has forgotten how to think about the future, All Saints’ Day reminds us to have hope of a future day. Since there are saints who have gone before us, we can persevere now as saints upon earth. Jesus Himself told us that He is preparing a place for us and, as John testifies, there will be a great company there of saints from every tribe, tongue, and nation around God’s throne celebrating in God’s eternal kingdom.

By God’s grace, we, too, will join that great company. But until we do, we celebrate God’s faithfulness in their lives as a means to lean into God’s faithfulness in our own lives as persevering pilgrims in this land that is not our home.

The Weekend Wanderer: 18 June 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.


Juneteenth“For Christians, Juneteenth Is a Time of Jubilee” – Rasool Berry in Christianity Today: “I was never taught about Juneteenth growing up. I was born and raised in Philadelphia, the ‘cradle of liberty,’ in Pennsylvania—which was the first state to end slavery with the Gradual Abolition Act of 1780. Philly was one of the major stops on the Underground Railroad, thanks to the abolitionism of the Quakers, and the home of Richard Allen’s Free African Society. And while slavery was abolished in Pennsylvania more than 80 years before the Civil War began, I always thought of the Emancipation Proclamation as the document that ended slavery in America. It wasn’t until years later when I heard of a woman named Ms. Opal Lee, who walked halfway across the country at 89 years old to advocate for Juneteenth to become a national holiday, that I discovered a history I had never learned in school. Over two and a half years passed between President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and when the first of those enslaved in Texas tasted freedom: 900 more days of being separated from family and forced to work under the threat of violence and death. But the question remains, why does Juneteenth matter to the church?”


Taste and See“Introducing Taste and See” – Featured at The Rabbit Room blog: “Every once in a while, the Rabbit Room team has the good fortune of crossing paths with someone whose creative work is shockingly aligned with our own. These moments re-invigorate us not only in our own mission and vision, but in the desire to share the good and lasting work of kindred spirits far and wide. Most recently, this wonderful convergence has taken place with Andrew Brumme, who is directing a new documentary series called Taste and See that will blow your mind and change the way you think about breakfast. If, in some blessed alternate universe, Robert Farrar Capon had decided to make a documentary with Terrence Malick, guided by the foundational wisdom of Wendell Berry, then they would have made something like the pilot of Taste and See. Yes, it’s that amazing. Put more succinctly, and in the words of the official website, Taste and See ‘explores the spirituality of food with farmers, chefs, bakers and winemakers engaging with food as a profound gift from God. Their lives in the fields, in the kitchen and around the table serve as a meditation on the beauty, mystery and wonder to be found in every meal.'”


Lawrence+Cherono+at+Kiptagat+Training+Center,+Kiptagat,+Kenya-1_web“How Christian Faith Propels Elite Kenyan Runners To Global Success” – Dr. Robert Carle in Religion Unplugged: “Since 1988, 20 out of the 25 first-place men in the Boston Marathon have been Kenyan. Of the top 25 male record holders for the 3,000-meter steeplechase, 18 are Kenyan. Eight of the 10 fastest marathon runners in history are Kenyan, and the two outliers are Ethiopian. The fastest marathon time ever recorded was Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge’s in the 2018 Berlin Marathon. The fastest women’s marathon ever recorded was Kenyan Bridgid Kosgei’s in the Chicago Marathon. Three-quarters of these Kenyan champions come from the Kalenjin ethnic minority, which has only 6 million people, or 0.06% of the global population. The Kalenjin live in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Iten, a town that sits on the edge of the valley at 7,000 feet above sea level, is nicknamed the City of Champions. ‘If you look at it statistically, it sort of becomes laughable,’ said David Epstein, a former senior writer at Sports Illustrated. ‘There are 17 American men in history who have run under 2:10 in marathons. There were 32 Kalenjin who did it in October of 2011.’ American journalists have been fascinated by Kalenjin runners for decades, and their explanations for Kenyan dominance in running have included training, culture, biology and diet. However, one factor remains little explored or understood in media coverage: The spiritual lives of the Kalenjin runners have received scant attention.”


OPC general assembly“Orthodox Presbyterians Apologize for Racism at General Assembly” – Daniel Silliman in Christianity Today: “The General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) apologized Friday for four racist incidents at its annual gathering. In a statement of ‘sorrow and regret’passed without dissent, the General Assembly said ‘there is no place in the church for such conduct’ and ‘we repudiate and condemn all sins of racism, hatred, and prejudice, as transgressions against our Holy God, who calls us to love and honor all people.’ The 126 commissioners from the Reformed denomination’s 296 congregations gathered in Philadelphia at Eastern University on Wednesday. The annual meetings do not normally involve much controversy and could even be considered boring when compared to the dramatic conflicts within the Presbyterian Church in America or Southern Baptist Convention.”


MISSING“The Mysterious Disappearance of Moses: Somehow the Jewish sect that claimed to follow the Messiah Jesus very quickly ceased to follow the Law” – Todd Brewer in Mockingbird: “Investigators from the missing persons unit of Christian Theology are seeking the public’s assistance in locating Moses ben Amran, who has gone missing. His last known whereabouts appear to be some time in the first century. His last known associate was Saul of Tarsus, last seen traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus on a secretive business trip. While some witnesses are claiming that Moses has been heard from recently, his public appearances have mysteriously dwindled and investigators remain baffled as to the cause. Where did Moses go? At the heart of Christian origins stands the mysterious case of Moses’ disappearance. Somehow the Jewish sect that claimed to follow the Messiah Jesus very quickly ceased to follow the Law, i.e. the covenant of Moses given on Mount Sinai.”


'Bathing the Baby Jesus in a wooden bowl', scene inspired by the apocryphal gospels. Detail of m?

“‘The Apocryphal Gospels’ Review: Good News and Fake News” – Michael J. Kruger in The Wall Street Journal: “In December 1945, Muhammad Ali—not the boxer but a peasant farmer from Nag Hammadi, a town of Upper Egypt—uncovered an ancient earthenware jar. Muhammad and his brother broke it open and found books, 13 in all, among them more than 50 ancient Christian texts. The circumstances of the discovery have long been debated—the books may not have come from a jar after all—but no one disputes that he had made one of the greatest archaeological finds in the modern era. The cache of Christian texts came to be known as the Gnostic Gospels. The discovery upended the world of biblical scholarship. The new texts generated an insatiable interest in the so-called apocryphal Gospels—the ones not included in our Bibles. For those outside the scholarly guild, what is commonly known about these ‘lost’ accounts of Jesus typically comes through blog entries, internet lore, fictional books (think of The Da Vinci Code) and a host of conspiratorial documentaries. It’s often suggested that all the ancient Gospels are more or less the same and that the four biblical Gospels made it into the canon only because of political pressure or an ecclesiastical power grab. What’s almost invariably missing in debates over such claims is a careful reading of the original apocryphal texts—which are both similar to and different from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Apocryphal Gospels edited by Cambridge University scholar Simon Gathercole, is a welcome addition to discussions about these mysterious writings. Mr. Gathercole offers a brief and helpful introduction to the world of the apocryphal Gospels, but the bulk of the volume is devoted to his English translations of the earliest apocryphal Gospels, those that appeared before A.D. 300.”


Music: Robbie Seay Band, “Psalm 91 (He Knows My Name),” from Psalms LP

When God Calls You by Name

“When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!'” (Exodus 3:4)

Moses draws near to this bush that is on fire, perhaps mostly out of curiosity about this strange sight. As Moses draws close, the Living God captures his attention and then begins speaking to him.

God says something simple, yet full of meaning: “Moses! Moses!”

Notice first of all that God invites Moses into a conversation. It is not an abstract or impersonal conversation, but one that is deeply personal. God calls Moses by his name. Moses is not anonymous to God but is known. Moses is not just a resource to be used by God, but a person. And this personal invitation is bathed in loved. Speaking his name twice, God addresses Moses in a way that reflects tender love by repeating his name twice This reminds us that God knows all people personally, even by name, and that God has tender love for people, regardless of their background.

Next pay attention to the fact that God’s address to Moses is an invitation into authentic relationship. This episode at the burning bush begins a long relationship between Moses and God. There are ups, like the literal journey up Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, and there are downs, like Moses’ disobedience in striking the rock. In the end, Moses was known as one who God knew and related with face to face (Deuteronomy 34:10). When we hear a computerized voice say our name, reading a text through our phone or car, it doesn’t do much for us emotionally. The message may be meaningful, but the voice often feels at odds with that, coming across as sterile and inhuman. But when I hear someone I personally know call my name—my wife, my child, or my friend—I am immediately drawn into intimate relationship and vulnerable conversation. This episode with Moses and God at the burning bush reminds us that God isn’t interested in standing at a distance. Instead, God risks entering into real relationship with human beings, knowing us and being known by us. This is an amazing and nearly incomprehensible gift.

Wherever you are right now, let me encourage you to pause. Let me encourage you to still yourself and remember there is a God who exists. He has reached out to us first in creation and He has reached out to us even more personally through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Remember that He calls you by name and wants to know you. In the stillness of this moment, hear God call you name. Then, speak your response to Him.

Listen to Him!: The call to attention for disciples of Jesus

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5)

At the mount of transfiguration, Jesus’ glory is revealed before the eyes of Peter, James, and John. Overwhelmed by all they are beholding, Peter offers to build a set of shelters for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Mark tells us “[Peter] did not know what to say, they were so frightened” (Mark 9:6).

It is a great relief, then, that before Peter can go any further with his ideas, there is a divine interruption in with several accompanying physical signs. First, “a bright cloud covered them.” This cloud represents God’s presence and power, just as at the exodus God led the people with a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. Second, there is a voice from the cloud, booming through the cloud and accompanying the transfigured Jesus. Third, there is the message of that voice, which rings with dramatic power: speaking through the cloud to them, booming with this message: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5b).

The message here directly echoes the words spoken over Jesus at His baptism, with one significant addition. In Matthew 3, at His baptism, God’s voice speaks primarily for Jesus, affirming and commissioning Jesus into ministry. But here in Matthew 17, at the transfiguration, God speaks primarily for those who are with Jesus. The strong word, “Listen to Him!”, is for the disciples’ ears. They had listened to Him so well up to this point. Yet when Jesus begins to speak of going to Jerusalem to suffer, die, and rise again, they wonder if their idea that He is the Messiah might be wrong. But it is precisely here that they are to listen to Jesus. Even though some of the words He speaks may confuse them, particularly the part about messianic suffering and death, they must listen most attentively here.

For it is in the suffering and dying that the meaning of Jesus as Messiah will be most truly revealed. It is as if the Father says, “Listen, watch, attend to Him. What you will hear and see will shock you, but it will shock you right into abundant life.”