The Weekend Wanderer: 23 July 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.

Sri Lanka“The Struggle for Sri Lanka’s Second Birth” – Ivor Poobalan in Christianity Today: “Chaotic scenes unfolded before an incredulous world last weekend in an Indian Ocean island the size of West Virginia yet with a population ten times larger. Since July 9, global media outlets have been running lead stories on the dramatic social ferment in Sri Lanka. A massive citizen mobilization pushed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the most powerful Sri Lankan leader since the days of the country’s ancient kings, to unceremoniously leave by a back door to escape the wrath of hundreds of thousands of protesters that came calling at his presidential palace this past Saturday. He fled Wednesday out to deep sea aboard a naval vessel, next to the Maldives on board a military jet, then to Singapore on a commercial airline. From there he sent his belated resignation Thursday, which enabled some closure so that the nation could look to rebuild from here.”


“Willard’s Four Critical Commitments: The Essential Quadrilateral for Authentic Spiritual Change and Transformation” – Gary W. Moon at Conversatio Divine: “Dallas Willard’s four critical concerns are simultaneously simple, profound and counter cultural to our modern world. But they are not new. We would go so far as to say that you will find these same four commitments across the centuries in the heart of each Christian saint; and at the heart of every movement of authentic change and transformation within the Christian church that has stood the test of time. These are  bold statements. But they are supported by Willard’s fourth concern. When an individual or a group of individuals are engaged with his first three concerns, the fourth concern, authentic and demonstrable transformation naturally flows forth. If this type of renovation is not happening, look back to his first three concerns to find the problem concerning the experience of Real Presence. In this essay, we will offer an overview of the mission of the Conversatio Divina ( website, provide an overview of Willard four concerns, and then offer insight into why we choose to feature the voices of ancient Christian spirituality, Ignatian spirituality and Dallas Willard.”

00.159.90_PS1..-768x384“The Tales the Carpenter Told: The kingdom of God is not built, but planted.” – Todd Brewer at Mockingbird: “Jesus’ father was a carpenter. Presumably his father was a carpenter as well. And his father before him. We might well imagine a few generations of tradesmen, passing their sophisticated engineering knowledge down from father to son: how to hang a plumb line, sharpen a hand saw, or level a wall. Jesus, likewise, would have learned the highly specialized craft from a young age. Alongside the usual religious education for children, Jesus and his siblings would have at least helped his father in the family business. If your roof caved in from a windy storm, Jesus would have been handy with a bow saw. Everything changed, however, when Jesus turned thirty. Leaving behind his auger, Jesus went into the kingdom of God business. But as mysterious as Jesus’ sudden career change was for his family — and they were none too pleased (see Mark 3:21) — it is more surprising that this traveling preacher famed for his analogies refrained from using imagery from the family business.”

new-nebula-xlarge“Stop for a minute: These space images are worth your time” – Sergio Peçanha in The Washington Post: “This is a nebula — a giant cloud of gas and place where stars are born. It’s called Carina Nebula. Carina is one of the largest star-forming regions in the Milky Way. It is about 7,600 light-years away. This means that it would take 7,600 years traveling at the speed of light to go from Earth to Carina’s region. So this is not Carina Nebula as it looks today but as it did 7,600 years ago, when the light recorded by the new James Webb telescope left its source. Bonkers, right? Everything about the Webb telescope is mind-boggling. Ponder this: Humans sent a telescope the size of a tennis court into space and parked it four times farther away than the moon. There it orbits the sun along with us, just so we can get some pictures. The very first Webb image made public showed thousands of galaxies as they appeared about 13 billion years ago — that’s almost as far back in time as the Big Bang itself.”

Hauerwas - Fully Alive“The Ruins of Christendom” – Brad East reviews Stanley Hauerwas’ latest book, Fully Alive: The Apocalyptic Humanism of Karl Barth, in The Los Angeles Review of Books: “This year Stanley Hauerwas turns 82 years old. To mark the occasion, he has published a book on Karl Barth, who died at the same age in 1968. The timing as well as the pairing is fitting. Barth is the greatest Protestant theologian of the 20th century, and probably the most widely read of any theologian over the last 100 years. As for Hauerwas, since the passing of Reinhold Niebuhr in 1971, he has been the most prolific, influential, and recognizable Christian theological thinker in American public life. Barth somehow graced the cover of Time magazine in 1962, even though he was a Swiss Calvinist whose books on technical theology are so thick they could stop bullets. Hauerwas has never made the cover, but in 2001 Timedid call him ‘America’s best theologian.’ That fall, Oprah even invited him onto her show. In short, given Hauerwas’s age and stature, Fully Alive: The Apocalyptic Humanism of Karl Barth has the inevitable feel of a valediction. In that sense, the book is an invitation to consider Hauerwas’s project more broadly. That project concerns, above all, the visible witness of the church in a secular age. That is to say, Hauerwas wants to envision, and in certain respects to rethink, what it means to live and worship as the Christian community in a liberal society. What this means for Hauerwas is a sort of social and political dispossession. Christians must be exorcised of the demon of presumptive responsibility for America, not to mention ‘the West.’ That demon’s name is Legion, for it is manifested in countless ways.”

_900_sacred_heart_of_jesus_franciscan_sisters_of_christian_charity_reflection“The Heart Has Its Reasons” – Francis Beckwith in the University of Notre Dame’s  Church Life Journal: “In summer 2021, when I realized that on April 28, 2022 it would be exactly fifteen years since I had returned to the Catholic Church, I began ruminating about the Evangelical world from which I had departed and what it was that ultimately carried me back across the Tiber. Because I am a philosophy professor—someone who traffics in concepts, ideas, and arguments, and gets paid to do it—you would think my reversion was purely a matter of the intellect, that my choosing to return to full communion with the Church was the result of a detached rational consideration of the contending arguments offered by competing Christian groups. Although a decade ago I would have agreed with that account, or at least been highly sympathetic to it, I am not too sure about it anymore….Although it all seems so very strange to me now, to my teenage self—a young man who just wanted to follow Jesus—the love, fellowship, and Christian commitment of my Evangelical friends was attractive and overpowering. I felt like I was part of something new and special that was advancing the cause of Christ, but without the historical baggage of the Catholic Church in which I had been born.”

Music: The Smile, “The Smoke,” from A Light for Attracting Attention

How Should We Read Jesus’ Parables?: some basic guidance

Jesus knew we loved stories and so He spoke from stories quite a bit of the time. The type of stories he used were called parables. What is a parable? A parable is often defined as “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” It’s a story that deals with earthy things in order to talk about deeper things.

The word ‘parable’ comes from two Greek words:

  • Para: which means “alongside”
  • Bole: which means “to throw”

So parable literally means “to throw alongside” or “to compare.” As Stuart Briscoe says: “A parable is a story designed to compare that which is patently obvious to that which may not be obvious at all.”[1]

Jesus used parables to draw His hearers in by talking about everyday things they were familiar with: taxes, fishing, house cleaning, farming, family…

But as He drew the story to a close it became clear—for those who were really listening—that He was also hitting at a deeper meaning. He was opening up a discussion about unseen things by talking about things we could see. He was talking about spiritual truth through everyday things.

But how should we read parables? Let me first offer a word of caution that weneed to think about how we are approaching these stories so that we’re not expecting them to be something they’re not.

Let me use a parable of sorts to explain what I mean. Suppose we were going to watch a movie and suppose that someone picked “Little Women” or “Sense and Sensibility,” both clearly long and sweeping, romantic dramas. Now, it would be very important for me to approach watching these movies in the right way. If I approach viewing those movies looking for action, blood and guts, or non-stop laughs, I am going to be sorely disappointed. Even if I could agree that the movie was good—good acting, good cinematography, good character development, good musical scoring—if I’m expecting the movie to be a comedy or an action movie then I may not understand the point of the movie and may not even think it’s good.

In earlier times in the church’s history, biblical scholars used a method of interpretation that included a lot of allegory. Allegories are stories where nearly every character, item, or event signifies some other thing. Those earlier interpreters provided a wide variety of meanings particularly when it came to interpreting parables, where allegorical or spiritual meanings were linked to many elements within the parables.

While allegorical interpretation does have some value in certain ways, this is not usually how we are supposed to read parables, unless Jesus makes it abundantly clear that such meanings are there. “Parables are not allegories – even if at times they have what appear to us to be allegorical features.”[2]

When we pay attention to their context—the situation or questions that prompted the story—we will find that the parables have one clear and pointed impact related to one fundamental issue.

When we read or listen to parables we shouldn’t try to find secret meanings in every nook and cranny of the story, but try to listen, with the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit, for the strong, power-packed point on the main issue that hits us like swift punch in the gut.

So, as we approach the reading and interpretaton of parables, let us pray God will help us to hear the main idea Christ was speaking then and is speaking to us here and now today.

[1] Stuart Briscoe, Patterns for Power (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1979), 5.

[2] Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 2nd edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1993), 138.

The Living Parables of Jesus: Jesus’ non-verbal teaching in Matthew 21

If you want to write a good story, one of the golden rules is “Show, don’t tell.”

“Show, don’t tell” means that you don’t tell your read a situation is scary. Instead, you help the reader enter into the terror by describing it. “The darkness descended at night and an eerie stillness surrounded the trailer park. As he walked toward his destination, a prickly feeling crept up his neck that something bad was about to happen.” You don’t tell the reader everyone was joyful at the party. No, instead you open the joy to them. “As she entered the room and everyone shouted, ‘Happy birthday!’ she felt as if her heart would burst. All those people she loved finally in one room. She could hardly believe it was real.”

When good writers “show” instead of “telling” they create doorways by which the reader can enter the experience of the story. They create “ways in” by which the reader can live inside the world the writer has created. 

“Show, don’t tell” becomes a doorway into a new reality.

Jesus does that too. When Jesus enters Jerusalem at Passover, He steps away from verbal teaching and into enacted teaching. He dramatically serves up lived parables to create doorways for His hearers to enter a new reality they can live within. Jesus invited them, and us, to respond to Him through His showing, not telling.

With Jerusalem swelling from its normal 30,000 inhabitants to nearly 180,000 during Passover, Jesus rides a donkey from the Mount of Olives into the city. His actions call to mind the words of the prophet Zechariah as He takes this route in this way into the city. As Jesus draws near to the Temple precincts, He enters the court and turns over the tables of the money changes and the benches of those selling doves. Jesus conjures up in His viewers’ imagination the rededication of the Temple by the Maccabees in 164 BC after the desecration of it by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. There is a new cleansing and rededication needed. Shortly thereafter, Jesus curses a dense but fruitless fig tree while walking from Bethany to Jerusalem. More than just Jesus being “hangry,” He is pointing out the apparent life within the established religion, but the lack of fruit that is there.

In Jerusalem, right there in the Temple, Jesus is displaying that not only is He a prophet but, even more, He is the Messiah. His surprising actions – turning over the tables, casting out the cursing the fig tree – all serve as doorways – “ways in” – to the reality that He has come to bring the fullness of God’s kingdom to earth. He shows, not just tells, that there is something new happening in Him.

[This is an excerpt of my message, “The Withering of the Old Ways.”]

Bibliography for Stories of the Kingdom: the parables of Jesus

When I conclude a sermon series, I usually share resources I utilized in my study and preparation for sermons. Here is the bibliography for our recent series, “Stories of the Kingdom: the parables of Jesus,” which is the fifth part of an extended walk through the Gospel of Matthew, focusing on Jesus’ parables in Matthew 13.

Bibliography for “Stories of the Kingdom: the parables of Jesus” [Gospel of Matthew, part 5]

Kenneth E. Bailey. Poet & Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes: A Literary-Cultural Approach to the Parables in Luke. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1983.

________. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2008.

Craig L. Blomberg. Interpreting the Parables, 2nd ed. Downers Grove, IL:InterVarsity, 2012.

Jeannine K. Brown and Kyle Roberts. Matthew. The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2018.

Michael Joseph Brown. “The Gospel of Matthew.” In True to Our Native Land: An African American New Testament Commentary, edited by Brian K. Blount, 85-120. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2007.

John Calvin. A Harmony of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Volume 1. Trans. By A. W. Morrison. Calvin’s Commentaries. Ed. by David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1972.

John Chrysostom. Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of St. Matthew. NPNF, series 1, vol. 10. Ed. by Philip Schaff. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994.

C. H. Dodd. The Parables of the Kingdom. New York: Collins, 1961.

R. T. France. The Gospel of Matthew. NICNT. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007.

Joachim Jeremias. Rediscovering the Parables of Jesus. London: SCM Press, 2012.

Craig S. Keener. Matthew. IVPNTC. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1997.

Scot McKnight. “Matthew, Gospel of.” In Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, edited by Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall, 526-541. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1992.

Manlio Simonetti, editor. Matthew 1-13. ACCS. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2001.

Klyne R. Snodgrass. “Parable.” In Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, edited by Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall, 591-601. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1992.

________. Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2018.

Burton H. Throckmorton, Jr. Gospel Parallels: A Comparison of the Synoptic Gospels, 5th edition. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1992.

The Treasure, the Pearl, and the Net

This past weekend at Eastbrook, I concluded our series, “Stories of the Kingdom: Parables of Jesus,” by looking at three parables of Jesus: the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl of great prices, and the net of fish. All of these parables, as well as Jesus concluding comments, are found in Matthew 13:44-52. These three brief parables open up to us some profound realities about God’s kingdom.

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.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”  (Matthew 13:44)

The Parable of the Treasure and the Pearl (Matthew 13:44-46)

  • The kingdom of God is more valuable than anything else
  • The disciples’ wholehearted response to God’s kingdom will be evident to all
  • Those who find the kingdom of God receive the gift now

The Parable of the Net (Matthew 13:47-50)

  • The present reality: good and bad fish intermixing in the water
  • The future gathering: gathering all kinds with God as judge
  • The future destiny: the wicked cast away and the righteous kept

Bringing Out the Old and the New

  • Jesus is the fulfillment of the law
  • Disciples of Jesus are teachers of both old and new

Dig Deeper:

This week dig deeper into Jesus’ parables in one or more of the following ways:

  • Journal about one of these three parables, expressing your thoughts about them, what God is teaching you through them, as well as your prayers to God about them.
  • Draw, paint, or ink the parables as a way of reflecting on what Jesus is saying and praying about your own response to the Lord.
  • Parables are stories that take everyday things and bring forth deeper, spiritual meanings. Consider how you would describe what God’s kingdom is all about through your own parable. Maybe you could tell it to someone else or write it down to share with others.
  • Consider exploring more of Jesus’ parables by reading “All the Parables of Jesus” at the Jesus Film Project or reading Craig L. Blomberg’s book, Interpreting the Parables.