The Weekend Wanderer: 23 November 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.

PastorJayandDerrick“A Tale of Two Churches” – I heard about this story from someone who described it as the most powerful story about Christianity so far this year. I wasn’t sure what that meant until I read this piece about two churches that merged together in the midst of great conflict. It is most definitely worth a read, and particularly moving, especially in our divided days.

 

Kidd - Who Is an Evangelical“‘Who Is An Evangelical?’ Looks At History Of Evangelical Christians And The GOP” – I was driving in the car the other day when I caught this piece on NPR on the nature of evangelicalism. I didn’t know who the interviewee was until the end of the piece when NPR’s Audie Cornish thanked Thomas Kidd, professor of history at Baylor University and author of the recent book Who Is an Evangelical?: The History of a Movement in Crisis. Kidd offers a balanced and insightful approach to what is often a simplistic political trope but is really much more diverse and complicated than often thought. You can read a review of his book here.

 

5944.large“How Garbage Collectors Can Refresh Our Theology” – Here’s Gustavo H. R. Santos at Comment helping us reframe vocation: “Our churches are full of both professionals and working-class labourers, so if we want to teach about work from a biblical perspective as part of our discipleship, we need a theology infused with a broader paradigm of labour. The experience of millions from the working class teaches us that being who Christ calls us to be doesn’t depend on the job we have. They remind us that we can’t control our circumstances and that faithfulness is more important than performance. So the question becomes, Are we willing to listen to what their lives are telling us? The ancient story of Ruth the Moabite might help improve our hearing.”

 

113985“Pastors & Burnout: A Personal Reflection” – Every pastor, as well as many others in serving professions, deal with the dangers of burnout. I have, and I have talked to many other pastors who have as well. Scott Nichols offers his perspective as a pastor who has served for over thirty years in three different churches. I appreciate the practicality of Nichols’ list, including things like staying active and cultivating friendships, because, in my experience, pastors have a tendency to over-spiritualize their burnout.  One of the areas I wish he would have addressed was the darker motivations that potentially lead us as pastors toward burnout, but this article is still worth the read.

 

Richard-Mouw-Missiology-Lecture“A ‘Middle Way’: Lessons for Faithfulness in the Public Square” – It is difficult to ignore all the noise in the political world these days, and it can leave us either wanting to retreat entirely or to becoming so sucked into it that little else receives attention. What does it mean as Christians to engage in the public square? Well, right on time, Richard Mouw, former President of Fuller Seminary, offers a suggestion about a “middle way” on this.

 

Screen Shot 2019-11-22 at 12.28.19 PM“Vexed and Troubled Englishmen: How should we remember the Puritans?” – The name “puritan” has received such a bad name in recent days, largely because of misunderstandings of what the name means and what the original intent of the Puritans as a group truly was. Andrew Delbanco reviews Daniel T. Rodger’s book, As a City on a Hill: The Story of America’s Most Famous Lay Sermon, which focuses on John Winthrop’s speech “A Model of Christian Charity.” “Rodgers’s book is not only a close reading of the reception and history of Winthrop’s speech but also a rescue operation for Puritanism itself.”

 

Music: DJ Shadow featuring Nils Frahm, “Scars,” from Ghost in the Shell (Music Inspired By the Motion Picture)

[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.]

All Saints’ Day: A Celebration

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.

God in Unexpected Outcomes (discussion questions)

Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “God in Unexpected Outcomes,” at Eastbrook Church this past weekend from Ruth 4:13-22.

Discussion Questions:

  1. This week we bring our series on Ruth, “Unexpected,” to a close. Whether you are on your own or in a small group, take time to read Ruth 4:13-22 aloud.
  2. These last verses in Ruth bring together many themes and loose ends from the book. The first theme relates to God’s provision for Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 4:13). Compare the end of Ruth and Boaz’s story to their beginnings (Ruth 1:3-58-916-182:1-28-1219-203:9-13). How do you see God at work in their story?
  3. A second theme relates to God’s restoration for Naomi, moving her from emptiness to fullness. How has God been at work in Naomi’s life? Look specifically at Ruth 1:1-519-212:20-223:1-516-18;4:14-16.
  4. Naomi’s restoration does not necessarily bring answers to all of her suffering. Part of her restorationRead More »

God in Unexpected Outcomes (Ruth 4b)

This week at Eastbrook, I concluded our series on Ruth called “Unexpected” with a message from Ruth 4: 13-22 entitled “God in Unexpected Outcomes.” I built message around two core truths:

1) God is always at work in around us, and

2) As we live faithfully to God, God will bring unexpected outcomes from our lives.

You can listen to my message online at the Eastbrook web-site here. You can also follow Eastbrook Church on Twitter. I’ve included the outline for the message below:

Read More »

God in Unexpected Joy (discussion questions)

Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “God in Unexpected Joy,” at Eastbrook Church this past weekend from Ruth 4:1-12.

Discussion Questions:

  1. As we continue our series on Ruth entitled “Unexpected,” This week we continue our series, “Unexpected,” on Ruth by looking at Ruth 4:1-12. Whether you are on your own or in a small group, take time to read the chapter out loud.
  2. As mentioned last week, it is important to understand Bible backgrounds on the ‘guardian-redeemer’ or ‘kinsman-redeemer’, so read through Deuteronomy 25:5-10 and Leviticus 25:25-55.
  3. Boaz brings together the first guardian-redeemer in line and introduces the situation by referencing the land specifically. Why do you think that Boaz starts the discussion with the land and doesn’t mention Ruth until later?
  4. What do you think that Boaz’s words in 4:4, which echo 3:12-13, say about what sort of person he is and his view of God?Read More »

God in Unexpected Joy (Ruth 4a)

This week at Eastbrook, I continued our series on Ruth called “Unexpected” with a message from Ruth 4:1-12 entitled “God in Unexpected Joy.” The main point of my message is that God brings unexpected in the middle of our lives, even in empty places.

You can listen to my message online at the Eastbrook web-site here. You can also follow Eastbrook Church on Twitter. I’ve included the outline for the message below:

Read More »

God in Unexpected Risks (discussion questions)

Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message at Eastbrook Church this past weekend from Ruth 3 entitled “God in Unexpected Risks.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. As we continue our series on Ruth entitled “Unexpected,” this week we will look at chapter 3.  Whether you are on your own or in a small group, take time to read the chapter out loud.
  2. Verses 1-5 set the stage of the action that will happen in this chapter. Compare Naomi now with Naomi at the end of chapter 1 and beginning of chapter 2. What has happened with her? Also, take some time to notice Naomi’s original hope for her daughters-in-law (Ruth 1:8-9) with her plans here.Read More »