The Weekend Wanderer: 21 May 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.


womanpaintembed“In the Shoes of the Woman Considering Abortion” – Kirsten Sanders in Plough: “Both these narratives rely on the idea that life exists to self-actualize, that the goal of being alive is to enjoy as many positive experiences as possible and ‘make something of yourself.’ Pro-choice individuals argue that women need the opportunity to self-actualize in the form of career success and personal pleasure; pro-life individuals argue that those in the womb deserve such opportunities. The Christian life, however, is not about making the most of yourself, about removing impediments to pleasure and opportunity. To argue that those in the womb deserve life in this sense is simply to move the language of rights from the mother to the child. It is to decide who deserves to suffer. If life is simply about opportunity, abortion politics becomes a very real calculation of whose opportunity can be terminated. Christian teaching tells us that the things that are real are given by God, and therefore that all life given by God is good. But it also tells us that life is deeply fragile and marked by sorrow. It promises that the goodness in life is not in what we make of it or how much we enjoy it – the goodness of life is that it is given. Its givenness is what makes it real, what makes it good. It is not, then, in self-optimization, in building institutions, or in bringing our creativity to expression that we are living our best lives. It is, I believe, more likely to be found in parenting, where we are given life and must give our lives.”


Bono Surrender“Bono to release memoir about ‘the people, places and possibilities’ of his life” – Lucy Knight in The Guardian: “The first memoir by Bono will be released this year, publisher Penguin Random House has announced. While the U2 frontman’s career has been written about extensively, this will mark the first time Bono has written about it himself. Titled Surrender, the autobiography will span the singer’s early days growing up in Dublin, including the sudden loss of his mother when he was 14, the success of U2 and his activist work fighting against Aids and poverty. Surrender will contain 40 chapters, each named after a U2 song. Bono has also created 40 original drawings for the book. A video, in which Bono narrates an extract from the memoir, has been released across U2’s digital platforms. It uses animations based on Bono’s drawings to illustrate an extract from the Out of Control chapter, which is about how he wrote U2’s first single on his 18th birthday, exactly 44 years ago today. Bono said his intention was that the book would ‘draw in detail what [he’d] previously only sketched in songs. The people, places and possibilities in my life.’ He said he chose the title because, having grown up in Ireland in the 1970s, the act of surrendering was not a natural concept to him. Bono, whose lyrics have frequently been inspired by his Christian beliefs, said that /surrender’ was ‘a word I only circled until I gathered my thoughts for the book.'”


alan jacobs“The Speed of God” – Alan Jacobs at his blog, Snakes and Ladders, reflecting on aspects of Andy Crouch’s new book, The Life We’re Looking For : “Many of the key ideas in Andy Crouch’s new book The Life We Are Looking For emerge from his definition of the human person, which he derives from the Shema of Deuteronomy 6, as adapted by Jesus in Mark 12 (keywords emphasized):

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Thus Andy: “Every human person is a heart-soul-mind-strength complex designed for love.” Simple and direct; but the more you think about it the more complex and generative a definition it is.”


Changing the World?“The Monthly Salon (May): Changing the World vs living with it” – Paul Kingsnorth at The Abbey of Misrule: “I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the notion of ‘changing the world’, and how it represents a kind of post-religious religious impulse. I’ll be writing in my next essay about the teleology of Progress, but a good question to ask of any culture, and of any person, is: what god do you worship? It’s a question that would have been easy enough to respond to in any previous time, and still is to most people worldwide. But to those of us raised by the Machine it’s inadmissable. We do worship gods, of course, but we don’t call them gods, because gods are superstitious things that our ignorant ancestors dealt in, whereas we, being grown-ups, deal in reason and facts and The Science. Of course, we don’t really do anything of the sort, and the notion of ‘changing the world’ illustrates it. Progress is our God, and ‘changing the world’ is its liturgy. It’s a phrase I used to use all the time, but now I’m almost embarrassed even to look at it. Changing the world. Changing the world. Changing the world. It’s such an astonishing concept: that we have, or could ever have, the agency, ability or knowledge to change the nature of a vast, complex planet we barely understand, when most of us can’t even change ourselves. And that we imagine the results would be good if we did. What could be more superstitious?”


Sagittarius A*“Black hole: First picture of Milky Way monster” – Jonathan Amos at The BBC: “This is the gargantuan black hole that lives at the centre of our galaxy, pictured for the very first time. Known as Sagittarius A*, the object is a staggering four million times the mass of our Sun. What you see is a central dark region where the hole resides, circled by the light coming from super-heated gas accelerated by immense gravitational forces. For scale, the ring is roughly the size of Mercury’s orbit around our star. That’s about 60 million km, or 40 million miles, across. Fortunately, this monster is a long, long way away – some 26,000 light-years in the distance – so there’s no possibility of us ever coming to any danger. The image was produced by an international team called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration.”


03.27-2-Men-Fishing“The New Testament Picture of Discipleship” – Dallas Willard at Renovare: “Evangelicalism always looks to the Bible as the point of reference from which concepts are defined, practices legitimated, and principles adopted. So we must ask what can be made of discipleship and of the disciple of Jesus as seen in the life of the New Testament. Indeed, as it turns out, the New Testament ​disciple’ is by no means a peculiarly ​’Christian’ innovation. The disciple is one aspect of the progressive and massive decentralization of Judaism that began with the destruction of the first Temple (588 BC) and the Babylonian exile, and proceeds through the dispersal of the Jewish people among the nations that followed the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. During this period the synagogue emerges as the center of the local Jewish communities, devotion to the Torah becomes the focus of the synagogue, and the rabbi or ​’great one’ stood forth in the role of interpreter of Torah: ‘By degrees, attachment to the law sank deeper and deeper into the national character…. Hence the law became a deep and intricate study. Certain men rose to acknowledged eminence for their ingenuity in explaining, their readiness in applying, their facility in quoting, and their clearness in offering solutions of, the difficult passages of the written statutes.'”


Music: Charlie Peacock, “Psalm 51,” from West Coast Diaries, Vol. 2

Opening the Book on Prayer: Learning to Pray with the Psalms

This past Monday night for our quarterly Leadership Community gathering at Eastbrook Church, I led us in an interactive seminar on learning to pray with the psalms. A few people asked if I could upload the slide deck from the night, so I’m including that as a PDF here.

I led us in three songs, which were:

I also shared a bibliography of additional resources on the psalms, which I’m including below.


Further Reading on the Psalms

Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Life Together and The Prayerbook of the Bible. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works Volume 5. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1996.

Nancy deClaisse-Walford, Rolf A. Jacobson, and Beth LaNeel Tanner. The Book of Psalms. NICOT. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2014.

Timothy and Kathy Keller. The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms. New York: Viking, 2015.

Derek Kidner. Psalms 1-72. Kidner Classic Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014.

________. Psalms 73-150. Kidner Classic Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014.

C. S. Lewis. Reflections on the Psalms. New York: Harper, 1958.

Eugene H. Peterson. Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer. New York: Harper Collins, 1989.

W. David O. Taylor. Open and Unafraid: The Psalms as a Guide to Life. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2020. 

N. T. Wright. The Case for the Psalms. New York: HarperCollins, 2013.

Two resources from the Bible Project (https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/psalms/) are: 

What are 5 things you’re thankful for this year?

We all have reasons to be thankful. Throughout Scripture, we are encouraged to remember and rehearse together the reasons we have to give thanks to God. The Psalms reverberate with this charge:

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. (Psalm 106:1)

The Apostle Paul encourages believers in local churches to do this together:

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

He also reminds us that our ultimate reason for giving thanks is found in Jesus Christ, who lived, died, and rose in victory over sin and death for us:

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Even though we should give thanks at any time, it helps to have a season of year where we give special attention to remembering and rehearsing with others the reasons we are thankful.

One of our practices as a family is to give thanks for five things everyday together. So, what are five things you are thankful for today or this year?

The Weekend Wanderer: 13 November 2021

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 the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


Pakistan psalms“Special Psalms Help Pakistani Christians with Persecution, Pandemic, and Disunity” – Yousaf Sadiq in Christianity Today: “As Christians observe the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) this month, many will place high on their prayer list the nation of Pakistan, ranked the fifth most difficult place in the world to follow Jesus. Yet amid the prejudice, discrimination, and persecution faced by believers there, many Pakistani Christians have a unique resource to draw upon at the heart of their worship: contextualized psalms. A century ago, the Book of Psalms was translated into Pakistan’s predominant language, Punjabi, in versified form. Commonly referred to as the Punjabi Zabur, these poetic metrical songs can unequivocally be regarded as the most accustomed, read, sung, recited, and memorized part of Scripture by the body of Christ in Pakistan. Corporate worship within Pakistani churches (which are overwhelmingly ethnically Punjabi) is considered incomplete if the Zabur are excluded. As the deepest expression of indigenous Christianity, they can rightly be viewed as the heart of Christian worship in Pakistan and have given its believers an unrivaled familiarity with the Book of Psalms.”


Beth-Moore-2“Beth Moore: What Galatians Tells Us About How to Confront Church Leaders” – Jessica Lea at Church Leaders: “Challenging other church leaders, says author and Bible teacher Beth Moore, can be grief-inducing and painful, but Scripture shows us that there are times to do so. ‘I don’t like being at odds with people that I love so much, those that have been my peers, my co-laborers,’ said Moore. ‘I hate that. I hate it. But there are times when leaders do have to say to other leaders, “Wait, this doesn’t seem in step with the gospel.”‘ In January, Beth Moore released Now That Faith Has Come: A Study of Galatians, which she co-authored with her daughter, Melissa. In an interview on the Stetzer ChurchLeaders Podcast, Moore shared how the book of Galatians provides a framework for some decisions she has made recently, including her choice to leave the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)….In March 2021, Beth Moore announced that she was leaving the SBC, saying at the time, ‘I love so many Southern Baptist people, so many Southern Baptist churches, but I don’t identify with some of the things in our heritage that haven’t remained in the past.’  Moore explained in the interview that her decision to leave came from ‘facing up to the fact that somehow, I no longer belong. And, you know, it began instantly with speaking out back in the fall of 2016. It was overnight.’ Moore drew criticism in 2016 for calling out Christian leaders who supported former president Donald Trump, even after tapes were leaked in which Trump used lewd language to brag about assaulting women.”


chinachurch0719_hdv“China’s Unrelenting Efforts to Abolish Christianity Continue with Surveillance of Clergy to Ensure Loyalty” – Andrea Morris at CBN News: “A report issued by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) outlines strict measures being taken by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which aims to oppress religious minorities. The measures, which went into effect on May 1, are a part of a series of newly issued regulations that add to the revised 2018 Regulations on Religious Affairs (RRA). Clergy members from all of China’s five state-sanctioned religious groups — Buddhist Association of China, the Chinese Taoist Association, the Islamic Association of China, the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement, and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association — will be subjected to rigorous monitoring and surveillance by CCP. “Article 3 of the Measures requires clergy — among other demands — to support the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) rule, the Chinese socialist political system, and the CCP’s ‘sinicization of religion’ policy, effectively imposing a political test to ensure clergies’ loyalty to the CCP,” the USCIRF report reads. The new regulations also ban government-sanctioned churches from interfering in any concerns with education or the daily activities of citizens.”


temple-lachish-416x275“Hezekiah’s Religious Reform—In the Bible and Archaeology – David Rafael Moulis at Biblical Archaeology Society: “One of the most significant changes in the religious life of ancient Israel occurred during the reign of the Judahite king Hezekiah, in the late eighth century B.C.E. The Hebrew Bible provides us with this image: ‘He removed the high places, broke down the pillars, and cut down the sacred pole (asherah). He broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it’ (2 Kings 18:4). In doing so, explains the Bible, the faithful king Hezekiah simply ‘did what was right in the sight of the Lord.’ But was Hezekiah really motivated only by ‘the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses’? What was his reform like on the ground?”


2992“Gardens of Eden: the church forests of Ethiopia – a photo essay” – Kieran Dodds in The Guardian: “South of the Sahara, and just north of the Great Rift Valley in landlocked Ethiopia, the Blue Nile flows from Lake Tana, the largest lake in the country. Radiating out from the sacred source is a scattering of forest islands, strewn across the dry highlands like a handful of emeralds. At the heart of each circle of forest, hunkered down under the ancient canopy and wrapped in lush vegetation, are saucer-shaped churches – otherworldly structures that almost seem to emit a life force. And in a sense they do. Ethiopia is one of the fastest expanding economies in the world today and the second most populous country in Africa. The vast majority of people live in rural areas, where the expansion of settlements and agriculture is slowly thinning the forest edge by cattle and plough. Over the past century, 90% of Ethiopia’s forests have been lost. In Amhara province, the only remaining native forests are those that surround the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church buildings.”


Petrusich-WendellBerry-2“Out of Your Car, Off Your Horse: Twenty-seven propositions about global thinking and the sustainability of cities” – This is a throwback to 1991 from Wendell Berry in The Atlantic: “The question before us, then, is an extremely difficult one: How do we begin to remake, or to make, a local culture that will preserve our part of the world while we use it? We are talking here not just about a kind of knowledge that involves affection but also about a kind of knowledge that comes from or with affection—knowledge that is unavailable to the unaffectionate, and that is unavailable to anyone as what is called information….What, for a start, might be the economic result of local affection? We don’t know. Moreover, we are probably never going to know in any way that would satisfy the average dean or corporate executive. The ways of love tend to be secretive and, even to the lovers themselves, somewhat inscrutable.”



Music: Interim, “Breathe.”

Scott Cairns, “Idiot Psalms” [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.

Here is Scott Cairns’ poem “Idiot Psalms.” Scott Cairns is a contemporary American poet with nine poetry collections, who also is a librettist, memoirist, and translator. Cairns is the program director of Seattle Pacific University’s MFA in Creative Writing program.


1   

A psalm of Isaak, accompanied by Jew’s harp.

O God Belovéd if obliquely so, 
                     dimly apprehended in the midst 
                     of this, the fraught obscuring fog   
                     of my insufficiently capacious ken,   
                     Ostensible Lover of our kind—while 
                     apparently aloof—allow 
                     that I might glimpse once more 
                     Your shadow in the land, avail 
                     for me, a second time, the sense 
                     of dire Presence in the pulsing 
                     hollow near the heart.   
Once more, O Lord, from Your enormity incline 
                     your Face to shine upon Your servant, shy 
                     of immolation, if You will. 

                                     2   

A psalm of Isaak, accompanied by baying hounds.

O Shaper of varicolored clay and cellulose, O Keeper 
                     of same, O Subtle Tweaker, Agent 
                     of energies both appalling and unobserved,   
                     do not allow Your servant’s limbs to stiffen 
                     or to ossify unduly, do not compel Your servant   
                     to go brittle, neither cramping at the heart,   
                     nor narrowing his affective sympathies 
                     neither of the flesh nor of the alleged soul. 
Keep me sufficiently limber that I might continue 
                     to enjoy my morning run among the lilies   
                     and the rowdy waterfowl, that I might 
                     delight in this and every evening’s intercourse   
                     with the woman you have set beside me. 
Make me to awaken daily with a willingness 
                     to roll out readily, accompanied 
                     by grateful smirk, a giddy joy,   
                     the idiot’s undying expectation,   
                     despite the evidence. 

                                     3 

A psalm of Isaak, whispered mid the Philistines, beneath the breath.

Master both invisible and notoriously   
                     slow to act, should You incline to fix   
                     Your generous attentions for the moment 
                     to the narrow scene of this our appointed 
                     tedium, should You—once our kindly 
                     secretary has duly noted which of us 
                     is feigning presence, and which excused, which unexcused, 
                     You may be entertained to hear how much we find to say 
                     about so little. Among these other mediocrities, 
                     Your mediocre servant gets a glimpse of how 
                     his slow and meager worship might appear 
                     from where You endlessly attend our dreariness. 
Holy One, forgive, forgo and, if You will, fend off   
                     from this my heart the sense that I am drowning here   
                     amid the motions, the discussions, the several 
                     questions endlessly recast, our paper ballots. 

                                     4   

Isaak’s penitential psalm, unaccompanied.

Again, and yes again, O Ceaseless Tolerator 
                     of our bleaking recurrences, O Forever Forgoing   
                     Foregone (sans conclusion), O Inexhaustible, 
                     I find my face against the floor, and yet again 
                     my plea escapes from unclean lips, and from a heart 
                     caked in and constricted by its own soiled residue. 
You are forever, and forever blessed, and I aspire 
                     one day to slip my knot and change things up, 
                     to manage at least one late season sinlessly, 
                     to bow before you yet one time without chagrin.


Previous poems in this series: