The Weekend Wanderer: 21 March 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.


Microscopic view of Coronavirus, a pathogen that attacks the respiratory tract. Analysis and test, experimentation. Sars“Coronavirus Resource Center” – Please take a look at this resource from Harvard Medical School, which provides answers to important questions that many of us have about the nature of COVID-19. One of the most important things to read on this relates to the spread of the virus. “A recent study found that the COVID-19 coronavirus can survive up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. The researchers also found that this virus can hang out as droplets in the air for up to three hours before they fall. But most often they will fall more quickly.” We should be aware of these facts and adjust appropriately, not just for our own sake but out of love for our neighbor.


1_lwPg8Ugu1wPz6XFcOpSgyA“Leading Beyond the Blizzard: Why Every Organization Is Now a Startup” – Andy Crouch, Kurt Keilhacker, and Dave Blanchard offer a sober look at how the COVID-19 pandemic is more than a blizzard we can wait out, but a potential ice age that will deeply affect the nature of all that we do for the next 12-18 months. I strongly encourage you to read this article. “In any case, responsible leaders have no choice, today, but to assume that the winter is upon us, and an ice age of unknown duration is before us. We are playing a game no one now living has ever played before. We are, for reasons only God knows, on the front line, on the starting team. Let us act boldly, today, to build as best we can, for the love of our neighbor and the glory of God.”


Spiritual Rhythms for Quarantine“Spiritual Rhythms for Quarantine” – If you’re not familiar with Justin Earley’s book, The Common Rule, I would highly recommend if you have free time now to give it a read. However, if you do not have capacity to read the entire book, I would strongly recommend that you take a look at this resource for individuals and groups adapted for the situation of quarantine related to COVID-19.


cs-lewis_at_desk“C.S. Lewis on Times of Fear” – Thanks to Chase Replogle of Pastor Writer for posting this extended quotation from C. S. Lewis on facing fears, followed by an extended reflection on Psalm 91. Writing from the context of post-World War II and the growing threats of the atomic age, Lewis’ words are bracing for us in this day. “In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. ‘How are we to live in an atomic age?’ I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.'”


116063“20 Prayers to Pray During This Pandemic” – Jen Pollock Michel writes: “In recent days, as COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic and countries have taken urgent measures to stem the spread of infection, I wish I could say that my first impulse has been to pray. It’s probably more honest to say that I’ve obsessively refreshed my feeds….With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of 20 prayers to pray during this pandemic. Each one addresses the specific needs of a specific community.”


article_5e6edf554f658“The Time of the Virus – Ephraim Radner offers this insightful look at the life of the church in what he terms “the time of the virus.” He looks at the calling to quarantine through the lens of jubilee, which may give us a new way of reflecting on this. He also sees the church’s struggle with the virus to actually be a challenge—a provocation—to be the church and engage the culture in new ways that we have missed in recent days.


fear not“Preaching in the Wake of COVID-19” – Preaching Today quickly pulled together a number of resources for pastors who are trying to figure out how to pivot the ministry of preaching to meet the changes of this day and time. Resources include Jeremy McKeen’s sermon “Christians and the Coronavirus” from Matthew 6, Max Lucado on “Facing Fears” as a preacher, Darrell Johnson on “Preaching During the COVID-19 Pandemic” with reference to Romans 8, Lee Eclov on “Preaching God’s Unfathomable Comfort,” Scott Gibson’s “Preaching and Panic,” and my own article “The Ministry of Preaching in the Time of COVID-19.” Thanks to the editors for the invitation to contribute and for so quickly pulling this resource together.


church cancelled“Places of worship need immediate government support, too” – Sean Speer and Brian Dijkema call for government attention to the supports that churches will need financially and in other ways as a result of the pandemic. Writing from Canada, they call public officials to recognize the needs of this moment not just in terms of social, economic, educational, and medical spheres, but also in the sphere of spiritual care and support for people.


_111334288_kids_976alamy“Coronavirus: Should you let your children play with other children?” – I found this practical guidance from the BBC about social distancing and children helpful as many of us navigate having children home due to school cancellations: 1) Follow guidance of local health authority on what’s safe; 2) Avoid playgrounds or other high-touch areas; 3) Go outside!; 4) Interact with friends and family over the internet or video chat. I also saw that Crossway Publishers is offering free e-resources during this time.


Music: Mahalia Jackson, “I Know It Was the Blood

[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 Ministry of Preaching in the Time of COVID-19

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On Monday, the team at Preaching Today invited me and a number of others to write something related to our current situation. That invitation spawned the article, “The Ministry of Preaching in the Time of COVID-19.” You can read the entire article here, but I’m including an excerpt below.

The last few weeks have seen such quick changes in the state of our nation that it is often difficult to keep up. For preachers, the context of our ministry is radically different now than it was just a weekend or two earlier. A weekend ago, I might have written some of us, but now I write with confidence that all of us are preaching differently than we ever imagined. How do we navigate these days in the preaching ministry? This question has so many answers, but let me provide some contours for considering how we approach the ministry of preaching in the time of COVID-19.

Remember the Core Message

Every day brings shifting messages in our own city, state or province, nation, and the greater world about the nature of this pandemic. With all these messages coming at us daily and hourly, it is so vital for preachers to remember the message they proclaim. Even as we pay careful attention to the guidelines offered for overall health and wellness at this time, I also want to encourage us as preachers to step back from all this messaging in order to remember our core message in Christ. Without taking time to consider the message of God’s good story in the Bible, as well as key themes of our faith that seem particularly pertinent at this time, we may lose our way, not only as preachers, but as Christians…

Pivoting Our Preaching

Even as we remember our core message, it is self-evident that we need to pivot the way we preach in these times. Let me offer three areas in which we could pivot toward new ways of preaching so that our message can both reach people and stay fresh for our present moment. In no way are these areas exhaustive, but I hope they suggest some ways we can continue with creative and vibrant preaching now…

The Weekend Wanderer: 29 February 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.

Jean Vanier“Internal report finds that L’Arche founder Jean Vanier engaged in decades of sexual misconduct” – This was one of the most devastating headlines of the past week. If you are not familiar with Jean Vanier and L’Arche, I am sad that this would be your introduction. L’Arche has been a strong force in dignifying those with intellectual disabilities, helping others to see their gifts and creating environments where the disabled and non-disabled form communities together. Vanier has been an inspiration to many and influential through his speaking and writing, such as his book Becoming Human. Henri Nouwen famously left his teaching positions at Harvard and Yale to join a L’Arche community, which he references in Adam: God’s Beloved and In the Name of JesusHow do we come to terms with those we respect who have fallen? I recommend Marlena Proper Graves’ article “Don’t Let Jean Vanier (or Other Heroes) Off the Hook” as a way to reflect further on this.


115567“Chinese American Churches on the Frontlines of Coronavirus Vigilance” – “There has been no sustained community transmission of the coronavirus in the United States so far, and many Chinese churches such as Raleigh Chinese Christian Church (RCCC) are doing their best to keep it that way.  Taped to the entrance of the church’s glass doors is a yellow notice with the word ‘ATTENTION’ in capital letters. It warns parents not to bring their children to church if they’ve traveled to Asia in the past 14 days. Churches such as RCCC—a nondenominational congregation with services in Mandarin, Cantonese, and English—have taken it upon themselves to self-quarantine, in keeping with Centers for Disease Control guidance.


webRNS-Multiracial-Churches2-011620-1200x675“Multiracial churches growing, but challenging for clergy of color” – Our church has participated in discussions about multi-ethnic ministry for years, but we know we have not figured out everything (if anything, we sometimes think). Helpful catalysts in our growth over the years have been contacts we have made through various groups, including Mosaix, a relational network of pastors, churches, organizations, and denominations founded by Mark DeYmaz and George Yancey. Here is an article summarizing some of the important trends and lessons-learned from the most recent Mosaix conference in Keller, Texas.


30keller2-superJumbo“How Do Christians Fit Into the Two-Party System? They Don’t” – As I prepare for an upcoming series at Eastbrook on faith and politics, here’s an opinion piece by Tim Keller in The New York Times that someone brought to my attention this past week. Although I had not read Keller’s article before, he speaks to one of the key approaches to Christian political engagement that I often emphasize: if we find that one political party or one political system seems to perfectly align with our understanding of Christian faith, then we probably have a misapprehension of either the political party/system or the Christian faith. The kingdom of God has yet to be perfectly represented by any particular political party or system, thus giving us space to critique all of them as we stay rooted as citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20).


Screen Shot 2020-02-28 at 8.11.16 AM“This Arctic Explorer Was One Tent Pole Away from Death” – I don’t know what it is but these sort of stories grip me every time. Drawn from his memoir, The Impossible First, Colin O’Brady recounts here in Outside some parts of his ground-breaking solo journey across Antarctica. “Alone with his thoughts for nearly two months in the vastness of the frozen continent—gripped by fear and doubt—he reflected on his past, seeking courage and inspiration in the relationships and experiences that had shaped his life.” Themes of solitude, perseverance, failure, fear, consequences, and choices rise up again and again.


MLK“Four Powerful Preaching Practices from Martin Luther King Jr.” – A few years ago, I listened through The Landmark Speeches and Sermons of Martin Luther King, Jr. From a historical perspective, I was fascinated by the development of themes and the earlier use of material that eventually became part of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC. As a preacher, I learned a lot from King’s use of biblical texts and imagery, as well as his command of rhetorical devices. Here’s Lenny Luchetti at Preaching Today with an examination of preaching practices from King. “The preaching of Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t merely inspire a congregation, which would be no small task; it inspired a massive movement. It wouldn’t be a stretch to assert that King’s preaching was the primary, if not sole, initiator of social transformation in America through the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s.”


Music: John Mark McMillan ft. Kim Walker-Smith, “How He Loves” (Live)

[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.]

Preaching on Sexuality: A Theological Framework

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Last week I had the privilege of joining Matt Woodley of Preaching Today to talk about “Preaching on Sexuality: A Theological Framework” as part of the Monday Morning Preacher podcast. We talked about the the challenges and opportunities of preaching on sexuality, gender, love, and the body.  A good deal of the conversation is a reflection of a series from this past November at Eastbrook Church, “Love – Sex – Body: Toward a Theology of Embodied Sexuality.” Another resource that you could look at is the bibliography for that series here.

How do we give a theological framework for thinking about specific sexual issues? Matt Woodley talks to Matt Erickson, Senior Pastor at Eastbrook Church about his experience with preaching on sexuality. His church took the concept of the four chapter gospel: creation (the original goodness of sexuality), fall (how sin, evil and brokenness impact our love), redemption (Jesus redeeming work is significant for love, and our life in our bodies) and restoration (points to the new heaven and the new earth). He challenged people to think about how their love, conception of the body, and sexuality fit together in that big story of God. As a result, the church can then engage with issues like adultery, pornography, homosexuality, gender dysphoria etc…

Check out what was referenced on the podcast:

Matt Woodley serves as the Editor for PreachingToday.com and the Pastor of Compassion Ministries at Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois. He is also the author of God With Us: The Gospel of Matthew (IVP).

The Weekend Wanderer: 21 December 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.

President Trump“Trump Should Be Removed from Office” – Christianity Today, the flagship publication for evangelicalism, broke the internet on Thursday when this article was released by its editor-in-chief, Mark Galli. While admitting that the opposing political party has had it in for President Trump since his election, CT is unequivocal: “But the facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.” This is consistent with CT‘s earlier critique of both Presidents Nixon and Clinton during times of crisis. Galli was interviewed about the Op Ed by CNN (“Christianity Today calls for Trump’s Removal from Office“) and Emma Green in The Atlantic (“How Trump Lost an Evangelical Stalwart“).  Rod Dreher at The American Conservative also weighed in (“Christianity Today Anathematizes Trump“). 

 

_110191848_mediaitem110191845“Citizenship Amendment Act: India PM Modi appeals for calm as protests grow” – In the midst of our own political turmoil in the United States, it may be hard to pay attention to other areas, but let me urge some attention to the situation in India. There, Prime Minister Modi’z government has put forward a citizenship amendment which “allows non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, who entered India illegally, to become citizens,” but restricts this for those of Muslim background. The religious aspects of this amendment have led to fierce uprisings and international outcry about persecution of religious minorities. While different in politics and context, this echoes concerns that have arisen over China’s treatment of religious minorities as well.

 

featured640px“The Digital Pulpit: A Nationwide Analysis of Online Sermons” – The Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life released a “computational analysis of nearly 50,000 sermons…across major Christian traditions” from churches’ online presences this past week. “The median sermon scraped from congregational websites is 37 minutes long. But there are striking differences in the typical length of a sermon in each of the four major Christian traditions analyzed in this report: Catholic, evangelical Protestant, mainline Protestant and historically black Protestant.” As the primary preacher for four weekend services each weekend, with the goal of 35 minutes per message, I found this analysis fascinating. A summary of news report on the Pew Research Center’s analysis is found in “How long is the sermon? Study ranks Christian churches.”

 

Pope Francis“Pope lifts ‘pontifical secret’ rule in sex abuse cases” – One of the biggest global crises of the last decade in ecclesial discussions has to be the sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Roman Catholic Church, as well as others. This has left craters of pain and echoes of hypocrisy in individual churches, as well as church fellowships throughout various nations. In many cases, investigation of these cases has been limited by pontifical secrecy, a concept established to protect sensitive information that was broadened to shield information in judicial circumstances. Pope Francis’ declaration this past Tuesday removed such shielding so that appropriate information sharing can allow investigations to move forward. “‘Certain jurisdictions would have easily quoted the pontifical secret … to say that they could not, and that they were not, authorised to share information with either state authorities or the victims,’ Archbishop Scicluna said. ‘Now that impediment, we might call it that way, has been lifted, and the pontifical secret is no more an excuse.'”

 

Interior St Margaret Mary Catholic Church“Millennials Are Leaving Religion And Not Coming Back” – There has been a tremendous amount of discussion around the shifting landscape in North America in relation to religion and emerging generations. Particularly in regards to millennials (those between ages 23 and 38), there is a recognition that increasingly percentages affiliate with no religion (“religious nones” – although some dispute this phrase) versus specific religious affiliation, whether Christianity or something else. One driving assumption that has given religious leaders comfort is the idea that one day these irreligious folks will return to church when the time is right or the need arises; often connected to when they have children. However, this comforting idea does not seem to be. As this article shared by a friend suggests, “there’s mounting evidence that today’s younger generations may be leaving religion for good.”

 

92301“Leith Anderson Has Bright Hopes for the Next Decade of Ministry” – The outgoing President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) reflects on major themes of the coming decade of Christian ministry. Some of his reflections are more factual, related to shifting demographics in our country, while others are more optimistic predictions of what lies ahead for the Christian church. Reading this article together with the previous one on religiously unaffiliated offers a healthy dialogue with differing perspectives on similar themes.

 

Music: Robbie Seay Band, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus (Come Thou Fount),” from December, vol 2 – Songs for Advent

[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.]

Recovering the Wonder of Advent: Four pathways for preaching in Advent

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I had the privilege to write an article on preaching in Advent for Preaching Today, which was just recently released. You can read the entire article, “Recovering the Wonder of Advent: Four pathways for preaching in Advent,” at Preaching Today, but here’s a taste of what you will find there.

In my childhood, one of the greatest moments of anticipation was Christmas. I couldn’t wait for the chance to decorate, eat Christmas cookies, and, of course, open presents on Christmas Day. Every Christmas Eve I struggled to go to bed, and was usually the first one up to see what was waiting under the tree. The anticipation and wonder were like adrenaline coursing through my body.

As we grow older, most of us lose some of our wonder. The novelty of Christmas starts to wear off, at least a little bit. Along with that, our anticipation gets trampled down under the weight of responsibilities, the rush of preparations, and, at times, the heaviness that comes on those of us for whom the holidays bring sadness.

There is a remedy for lost wonder and trampled anticipation. That remedy is not getting more expensive presents, having flashier decorations, or inviting the right people to our parties. The remedy is stepping back enough to realize what we have lost it, and then going through a journey of recovery. Like a relationship that has lost its spark or a hobby that has lost our interest, we need to take time and effort to see what’s right in front of us with fresh eyes.

The church has a recovery program of sorts for lost wonder and trampled anticipation leading toward Christmas. That recovery program is called Advent, which means “appearing,” coming from the Latin word adventus. Advent looks back with wonder at Jesus’ birth over two-thousand years ago, while also looking forward with anticipation to his future return at the end of human history.

As preachers, we have a unique opportunity to help our congregations enter into that recovery of anticipation and wonder. My hope in this article is to offer four pathways for preaching in Advent so that our congregations both taste the longing that leads us to cry out, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” and savor the joy that sings, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.”

The Weekend Wanderer: 19 October 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.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed“Ethiopia’s Evangelical Prime Minister Wins Nobel Peace Prize” – In the midst of our political debates, Christians often wonder what their role should be within the public square. H. Richard Niebuhr’s classic work Christ and Culture (1951) outlines a fivefold typology: Christ Against Culture, the Christ of Culture, Christ Above Culture, Christ and Culture in Paradox, and Christ the Transformer of Culture. While you can argue your position, it seems hard to argue against the witness of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia, an evangelical Christian, being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts at making peace with Eritrea.

 

Walter Kim“National Association of Evangelicals names new president, diverse leadership” – Speaking of evangelicals, the National Association of Evangelicals announced on Thursday that Walter Kim will succeed Leith Anderson as President of the NAE. This announcement marks a change toward greater leadership diversity for the NAE, as they simultaneously announced John Jenkins to the office of chair of the NAE board and Jo Anne Lyon to the office of vice chair.

 

92413“The Most Diverse Movement in History – As a pastor of a multiethnic church, I think about what diversity means quite a bit. I wrestle with Christianity’s checkered past and present on certain aspects of what we call diversity, and I hold onto the hope of the dream of God in Revelation 7:9-10. Every once in awhile someone comes along to breathe some fresh wind into my sails on these issues. Rebecca McClaughlin did just that in this essay, which points toward the powerful multiethnic history and reality of Christ’s church.

 

lead_720_405“Why You Never See Your Friends Anymore” – In her strange, but arresting, book, How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell relates the strangely refreshing experience of having dinner with one of her neighbors: ‘Because I hadn’t been in a neighbor’s home since I was a teenager, it was unexpectedly surreal to be inside the house that forms a permanent part of the view from our apartment….For my part, the experience made me realize how similar the life situations of most of my friends are, and how little time I spend in the amazing bizarro world of kids.” Odell’s experience is increasingly rare. In part, that is because of the way that work and our sense of time are being transformed in our current culture. As Judith Schulevitz, author of The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Timeargues in The Atlantic, we may want to do something about it. As those who believe people are made in God’s image, work is worship, and sabbath is theologically and practically significant, we may want to do something about it as well.

 

GerardManleyHopkins“The Poet in the Pulpit: On the Brilliant, Homely Homilies of Gerard Manley Hopkins” – Let me confess it: I am a preacher who loves poetry. Both my undergraduate studies in literature and my love for music gives me great joy in hearing the beauty of poetry read aloud. There is a tradition within Christian pastoral ministry of poet-preachers that includes such well-regarded figures as George Herbert and John Donne, as well as one of my favorite poets, Gerard Manley Hopkins. A recent book of Hopkins’ extant homilies, only 32 total, gives us some insight into Hopkins as a preacher. From the sound of it, both his poetry and his preaching may not have been well appreciated in his lifetime.

 

Music: Cross Worship, featuring Osby Berry, “So Will I (100 Billion X) / Do It Again”

[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.]