The Weekend Wanderer: 19 November 2022

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, 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.


Landscape“The Roof Always Caves In: Why there is nothing wrong with being doomed.” – Kate Bowler in Comment: “It was in the cowboy days of subprime mortgage lending and a bank was dumb enough to give me money to purchase a bungalow in Durham, North Carolina. I was a twenty-five-year-old graduate student in religion, and my husband and I had recently moved from Canada, where our credit scores were purely hypothetical and the meagre stipend that I received for teaching, researching, and correctly pronouncing Kierkegaard’s name to my classmates (no, look, it’s more like Kierkegore) had really only furnished us with friend-making stories about the time we got vitamin deficiencies and all the skin on my husband’s hands inexplicably peeled off. But we had a house we couldn’t afford, which was still a treat, and the previous owner had left not only a bright green mini-golf carpet in the living room but an entire Elvis Presley tribute in what later would become our guest room. There was a shed in the backyard with all kinds of promise—a simple peaked structure that was two floors high and lined with thick white oak. It had been a carpenter’s workshop for the owner who had built the main house and even bothered to line the edges of the property with elegant masonry quarried from the same blueish gray stone that makes Duke University look like Duke University. But the problem with the shed was the crater, where the roof had sunk so low that termites and wet wood were threatening to pull the whole thing down. We tried to prop it up as best we could—beams here, brackets there—but the only real solution would be a religious one.”


Makoto Fujimura“Makoto Fujimura Awarded Kuyper Prize” – Emily Belz at Christianity Today: “Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary named artist Makoto Fujimuraas its 2023 Kuyper Prize winner, which is named for Reformed theologian Abraham Kuyper, who argued that art was vital to renewing God’s world. Fujimura is the first visual artist to receive the prize, which Calvin has given out annually since 1998. On Tuesday when Calvin announced the prize, Fujimura was in the middle of a private meeting with Pope Francis. A Japanese American and Christian, Fujimura has always related Reformed theology about renewal to his work. He practices kintsugi, taking broken pottery and restoring it with precious metals. He also practices the Japanese technique of nihonga, painting with pulverized minerals that in his work symbolize brokenness and renewal. He has long talked about a framework of ‘culture care’ as opposed to ‘culture wars.’ ‘As Christ followers, we are called to the work of renewal,’ said Jul Medenblik, president of Calvin Theological Seminary in a statement about the prize. ‘What Fujimura is doing through his work is reminding us of the Kuyperian perspective that “The final outcome of the future … is not the merely spiritual existence of saved souls, but the restoration of the entire cosmos, when God will be all in all in the renewed heaven on the renewed earth.”‘”


ddaba2f3-3fb6-4b58-a5c7-c533973e7d2e-AP_Immigration_Border_Crossings“Evangelical voters want the broken immigration system fixed. Will GOP leaders listen?” – Daniel Darling in USA Today: “A record number of migrants – border agents recorded 2.4 million encounters – crossed the U.S.-Mexican border illegally in fiscal year 2022, which ended Sept. 30. Americans are increasingly frustrated with the Biden administration’s hapless border policy. It’s a top issue as voters go to the polls Tuesday in the midterm elections. Evangelicals are among the most influential of those voters and, in new data from Lifeway Research, they told pollsters that they’d like the nation’s leaders to stop posturing and start acting to fix a clearly broken system. Among the evangelicals polled, 71% said it is imperative for Congress to pass immigration reform. What do evangelicals want in a reform package?

►92% demand legislation that supports the rule of law.

►90% say policy should ensure secure national borders.

►94% say it should be fair to taxpayers.

►78% would support legislation that would both increase border security and establish a rigorous process to earn legal status and apply for citizenship.”


wendellberrysocial2“Media-Friendly Sins of Other People” – Jeffrey Bilbro in Plough: “Wendell Berry’s new book The Need to Be Whole: Patriotism and the History of Prejudice covers many topics: family history, the Civil War, racism, the nature of good work. But, odd though it may seem, at its heart is an entire chapter about sin. Berry suggests that beneath all the political vitriol and public condemnation of people who don’t share our views lies a distorted understanding of sin. He offers an older, broader conception of sin that might enable us to debate contentious public questions honestly while still loving those with whom we strenuously disagree. The public certainly retains a keen sense that some actions and attitudes are wrong, and public figures often condemn particular offenses with totalizing ferocity. As Berry notes, the ‘old opposition to sin’ remains, but he worries we have narrowed the acts that count as sin. He warns that ‘nothing more reveals our incompleteness and brokenness as a public people than our self-comforting small selection of public sins.’ There are a few egregious ‘media-friendly sins’ that provoke ‘vehement public antipathy,’ but as long as we manage to refrain from committing one of those, we can feel pretty good about ourselves. Different political or cultural groups might have different lists of unforgivable sins, but the narrowness of the list – and the resulting self-congratulatory feeling most of us maintain – is widespread. Sure, we may be guilty of run-of-the-mill venial sins that everyone slips into, but we’ve avoided thosemortal sins: we haven’t said the n-word or applied blackface or had an abortion or sexually harassed someone.”


Cancel Luther Calvin“Should We Cancel Luther and Calvin?” – N. T. Wright in Christianity Today: “Cancel culture knows no bounds, even historical ones. Based on some un-Christlike writings by Protestant reformers John Calvin and Martin Luther—along the lines of burning heretics—there have been some recent discussions about “cancelingthese paragons of church history. The debates sound similar to conversations we’ve had about secular historical figures being canceled for owning slaves, for example. Unfortunately, it seems every generation of Christian leaders and teachers has had its own problems and blind spots. We should seize these opportunities for self-reflection, to determine if we ourselves might have similar weaknesses. In 200 or 300 years (if there are still 200 or 300 years of history left ahead of us!), what are we going to look back on as seriously problematic? It’s only recently that most Christians I know have given up smoking, for instance. There have been great social changes since the 16th century, a time when most Christian leaders considered burning heretics an acceptable practice. In their view, heresy on key issues of the faith was such a serious problem that genuine apostates could not be allowed to live and had to be put to death as a lesson to others. I live in the middle of Oxford, a few hundred yards down the street from the Memorial to the Martyrs Ridley and Latimer, who were burned at the stake in the 1550s. Those were terrible times. We look back and say, ‘How could they possibly have done that out of misplaced zeal and loyalty to God and the gospel? What was that about?'”


TASS_20426370“How Russia’s War in Ukraine Has Impacted its Christian Image” – Ryan Bauer in The Moscow Times: “Over the past decade, the Russian government has taken pains to present itself as a bastion of Christianity and traditional values. The Kremlin has used this image of religiosity and its close relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church as a mechanism to promote its interests domestically, as well as cultivate ties with similarly fundamentalist-minded supporters abroad. Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, however, there have been noticeable cracks in the receptivity of this messaging strategy. Traditional religious allies of Russia in the West have begun speaking out against the war and, in particular, the Russian Orthodox Church’s support of it. This recent trend of criticism, and declining global support for both Moscow and the Church, presents a significant and under-appreciated challenge for Russia’s ability to promote its interests and influence. In the U.S., Russia has long garnered support from various groups and figures in America’s conservative Christian communities. In these communities, Putin and the Church have successfully cast themselves as champions of Christian values, willing to do battle with what many parishioners perceive as a moral decay in the West. Russian propaganda has bolstered this perception, as well as the supposed danger of liberalism pushed by Western governments, which Russia portrays as a threat to conservative ideals.”


Music: U2, “Grace,” from All That You Can’t Leave Behind

The Power of Forgiveness in the Cross of Christ

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) 

Jesus – hanging on the Cross. 

A few days before, He forewarned His friends over a final Passover meal together. Feeling the weight of what lay ahead, He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane to His Father that the cup might pass from Him. Then, betrayed by Judas with a kiss, He is arrested by religious authorities. In a frenzy of cast-off justice, He fades all manner of false charges before the Jewish High Priest. Finally, accused of blasphemy and fomenting revolution, He is interviewed by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. With no basis for their accusations, the crowd clamors with demands for His crucifixion. He is chosen for execution while Barabbas, a revolutionary murderer is set free. Brutally scourged by the Romans, Jesus loses flesh and blood. His hands and arms spread wide and affixed to a crossbeam, He is roughly lifted and dropped into place, with His feet painfully nailed to the upright. Two criminals join Him, one on either side. Jesus: a public spectacle as busy people pass by outside Jerusalem.

The crucifixion has begun. Jesus, dangling there in excruciating pain, says: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). 

What is at the forefront of our minds in times of trouble? Often, we express our thoughts with intense exclamations, like “why is this happening to me?!” or “When will this all be over?!” But not Jesus. For Him, it is: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

First, Jesus says, “Father.” Jesus’ relationship with God the Father is more real and present to Him than anything else, even His own suffering. He once said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Earlier, when He was twelve, Jesus lingered in the Jerusalem Temple, talking with the teachers of the Law. When Joseph and Mary found Him, Jesus said, “Didn’t you know I had to be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). And now here He is on the Cross…fulfilling His Father’s business.

Next, He says, “Father, forgive.” With gasping breaths, Jesus asks His Father for one thing: forgiveness for others. We know from other episodes in Scripture that Jesus had unique, divine authority to forgive. When asked, “who can forgive sins but God alone?”, Jesus responded by not only speaking forgiveness of sins over a paralyzed man, but also healing him as a proof of divine authority. Now, on the Cross, Jesus sees with stark clarity the real human need for forgiveness. He has seen that need for forgiveness in the disappearance of His friends and the cohorts of soldiers approaching Him. He has felt it in the moisture of a kiss and the scourges ripping into His flesh. He has heard it in the leaders’ mockery and the cry of the crowds. Yet, God’s desire and nature to forgive is most vibrantly real to Jesus.

He says, “Father, forgive them.” Forgive them – the Roman authorities who scourged Him, mocked Him, crucified Him. Forgive them – the Jewish leaders, who, out of envy and self-interest, intentionally victimized Jesus to preserve their own position and protect their own version of religion. Forgive them – the crowd who alternately admired and condemned Jesus, who hailed Him as King when he entered Jerusalem, and now, were crying out, “Crucify Him.” Forgive them – the followers who had voiced their stubborn commitment to never leave Jesus’ side, yet now had mostly disappeared like dust blown away by the wind.Father, forgive them – us today, still yet to come at that moment many years ago. We stumble around in life, trying our best. At times we unintentionally wrong others through ignorance or prejudice. But even worse, at other times we intentionally wrong others with cutting words, angry actions, misguided deeds, or holding onto bitterness as the soil in which evil grows. Though we may feel so far away from that moment two-thousand years ago at the Cross, yet, even for us, Jesus says, “Father, forgive them”

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Ignorance abounds in Jesus’ crucifixion: ignorance of His identity, ignorance of His power, ignorance of the fading power of evil, ignorance of God’s greater plans for humanity through the Christ. But even ignorance is not an excuse. It’s not enough to plead ignorance in the taking of a life, the misguided exclusion, or the failures of responsibility. Even ignorant wrong calls for justice and requires forgiveness.

If that is true, how much more do the intentional wrongs we inflict on others and God through our willful rebellion and self-centered intentions call for change and the need forgiveness?

Jesus – in all the agony of the Cross – was most mindful of talking with His Father about the forgiveness needed for the humanity He had come to rescue.

Scripture tells us that human beings are made in the image of God, and that we are the pinnacle of creation. Because of this, underlying every wrong toward another person is an ultimate wrong against God who has made us in His image. Now if that ultimate wrong against God underlies all the shadows of condemnation that cover us, then we cannot truly make things right with one another, the world, or God on our own. It requires something different.

It would require God standing not only as the One who is wronged, but also the One who takes the weight of that wrong upon Himself; to redirect it, to reframe it, and forgive it. 

God must not only be wronged but also receive the relational and cosmic impact of wrongs upon Himself. Only God has the power to name wrong for what it is but also to deal with the condemnation of wrong. 

And so, Jesus enters our world and our lives as fully God and fully man. He identifies and names the shadows of wrong touching every human life and aspect of our creation. And He enters the shadows of that wrong, ultimately at the Cross.

There, fixed at the crossroads of humanity and divinity, of wrong’s condemnation and wrong’s reparation, Jesus speaks with all authority and all compassion the word we all most need to hear, but could never utter ourselves: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

I believe in the forgiveness of sins

This past weekend at Eastbrook, we celebrated Eastbrook Outdoors and also continued our preaching series entitled “Living the Creed: Connecting Life and Faith in the Apostles’ Creed.” This series walks through the Apostles Creed as a basic summary of our faith but also as a way to live our faith out with God in the world. Each weekend of this series will explore the biblical and theological roots of the Apostles Creed, while also providing specific spiritual practices and approaches to living out what we know as we ‘proclaim and embody’ the Creed in our daily lives.

This weekend I continued preaching on the third article of the creed: “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”

You can find the message outline and video below. You can also view the entire series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

The Reality of Our Need

The human history of sin (Genesis 3)

The human experience of sin (Romans 3:23)

The Reality of God’s Intervention

The history of God’s intervention (John 3:16-17)

The human experience of God’s intervention (Romans 6:23)

A Picture of God’s Intervening Forgiveness (John 8:1-11)

Apparent sin in this story

Less apparent sin in this story

The equalizing human experience of sin

The liberating divine gift of forgiveness

Living Out Our Belief in the Forgiveness of Sins

Finding forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ

Taking the step of baptism as a response of faith

Receiving forgiveness again in our lives

Experiencing the release of forgiving others


Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper in one or more of the following ways:

Bringing Our Sins to the Cross :: Theodore Prescott, “All My Sins”

all-my-sins.jpg
Theodore Prescott, All My Sins; Cherry, lead, hand-blown glass, paper ash, and silicon; 1996.

When I was a new believer, I hungered for a deeper relationship with God. I followed the example of a mentor in my life who had taken a focused time to work his way through past sins as a means for drawing near to God, confessing them one by one, category by category. Over the course of several days in a summer vacation, I brought my sins to the foot of the Cross in the presence of the Lord. I started this process with excitement, eager to draw near in vulnerability to God, but over time I slowly grew overwhelmed by the multitude of ways I had turned away from God in the course of my life. When I finally completed the process of confessing sin over those days, I needed to read and re-read portions of Scripture about the forgiveness assured to me by faith in Jesus Christ. Certain verses struck me as incredibly powerful: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21) and “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). In his work of art, All My Sin, Ted Prescott relies heavily on process to create the final piece. In this work, Prescott first took a month to write all his sins that he could remember on paper (“a creepy and depressing list,” he writes). After shredding that paper, he inserted the bits into four open forms of glass that were heated up, sealed, and then cooled over the course of a day. The paper turned to ash and blackened the glass from the inside. The final work reflects the process of confession but also the process of Jesus’ work on the Cross. Jesus took upon Himself our sin and entered into the darkness of what sin does to us, in death and separation from the Father. Jesus did this so that we might have life to the full (John 10:10). Lent reminds us that when we bring our sins to the Cross of Christ, our creepy and depressing list of wrongs can be transformed by Christ, leading us into life, love, and forgiveness. One portion of Scripture I have never forgotten from that extended season of confession I mentioned earlier is a verse which we all might benefit from committing to memory: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Returning to God :: Rembrandt van Rijn, “The Return of the Prodigal Son”

Rembrandt - Return of the Prodigal Son.jpg
Rembrandt van Rijn, The Return of the Prodigal Son, Oil on canvas; 1668.

One of the strangest things about us as people is how much we want to be close to people and also how easily we run away from relationships with others. Why is it that we both want to be known but also want to be free from being known? We are relational beings made in the image of our God who is a relational God (see Genesis 1:26-27). But Scripture tells the story of how human willfulness chose against God’s guidance (sin), resulting in ruptured relationship with God and others due at least in part to the influence of shame. Shame is that little voice telling us we are not enough, a deep sense in our selves that there is something wrong with us. Shame leads us to hide from God and others. We see this in Adam and Eve after they disobeyed God: “the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8). Just as God called out to them to be vulnerable and reenter relationship, so God continues to call out to all of us. In Luke 15, Jesus tells three stories about lostness and hiddenness. The third, and most detailed, of these stories is about a father with two sons, one of whom leaves home and loses his way in life (Luke 15:11-32). Squandering his money, dishonoring his family name, and leaving like a beggar, he finally decides it would be better to return home in disgrace than to live the meaningless way he now lives. When he finally gets up the gumption to return home, his father sees him in the distance and rushes to embrace him. It is a fantastic picture of the astounding grace and love of God that overcomes our shame. Rembrandt’s beloved painting based in this story depicts the lavish embrace of the father, whose hands hold the son with a quiet stillness seeming to reverberate through time. The younger son is a tired train-wreck, his tattered robe in shambles and worn out shoes crumbling off his feet. In the shadows on the right, the older son looks down on this embrace, bitterly resenting both his father and brother in this moment. He’s maintained such faithful service to his father and thinks he deserves so much more than this faithless, shameful brother. The painting and the parable leave us wondering: “Where am I in this story and how might I need to return to the Father’s embrace?”