The Weekend Wanderer: 1 May 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.


“Died: C. René Padilla, Father of Integral Mission” – Here is David C. Kirkpatrick at Christianity Today remembering a leading missiologist of the last century: “C. René Padilla, theologian, pastor, publisher, and longtime staff member with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, died Tuesday, April 27, at the age of 88. Padilla was best known as the father of integral mission, a theological framework that has been adopted by over 500 Christian missions and relief organizations, including Compassion International and World Vision. Integral mission pushed evangelicals around the world to widen their Christian mission, arguing that social action and evangelism were essential and indivisible components—in Padilla’s words, ‘two wings of a plane.'” You may also appreciate the further article: “Leaders and Friends Remember C. René Padilla.”


“Despite multiracial congregation boom, some Black congregants report prejudice” – Adelle M. Banks at Religion News Service reporting on a recent study by Barna and the Racial Justice and Unity Center: “Most practicing Christians believe the church can enhance race relations in this country by welcoming people of all races and ethnicities, new research finds. But 29% of Black practicing Christians say they have experienced racial prejudice in multiracial congregations, compared to about a tenth who report such an experience in monoracial Black churches. And a third of Black Christians say it is hard to gain leadership positions in a multiracial congregation. The new report, released Wednesday (April 28) by Barna Group and the Racial Justice and Unity Center, examines the views of what researchers call ‘practicing Christians,’ people who self-identify as Christians, say their faith is very important to them and say they attended worship in the past month.”


“How Quebec went from one of the most religious societies to one of the least”– Church historian Philip Jenkins in The Christian Century: “Religious Americans sometimes look nervously at the rapid secularization of European nations and wonder if something similar could happen to them. The last decade has witnessed a notable drift to the secular in the United States, measured for instance by the substantial rise in nones, those who reject any religious affiliation. Meanwhile, the current pandemic will assuredly have wide-ranging effects on institutions of all kinds. But we don’t have to look as far away as Europe for an example of a quite sudden and irrevocable decline of religious faith and practice and the general re­placement of old congregations by new populations. To see just how speedily an old religious order can collapse, look no further than the Canadian province of Quebec.”


pastors read“Why Pastors Should Read Literature” –  Karen Swallow Prior at The Center for Pastor Theologians: “It’s always seemed strange to me that reading good literary works—poetry, drama, short stories, novels—is something that needs defending, particularly among Christians. After all, most people seem to understand (even if we don’t make time to do it often) why we visit art galleries, attend symphonies, and go to plays….But the truth is that we are made of words, by words, and for words. Immersing ourselves in beautiful words (even if only for a few precious minutes most or a few days) is like getting a burst of oxygen in air-deprived lungs. Most of us live and work in polluted environments. We are surrounded by words of anguish, anger, anxiety, and—most of all—efficiency. Literary language, on the other hand, is evocative, rich, resonant, and inviting.”


“A Law of Deceleration: How I dumped the internet and learned to love technology again”  – Paul McDonnold at Plough: “The monster had taken over my work life, home life, and many of the spaces in between. My one-time enchantment was now disgust, and in 2019 I decided to disconnect, or at least pull way back. As much as possible, I began reading and writing with paper and pen instead of pixels. I dropped my home broadband service. My only personal internet came from a smartphone, which had a 3-gigabyte monthly limit. Beyond that, I used public wi-fi at the library. Email became a once-a-day thing, and I stopped scanning Google News. I let my Facebook page languish for weeks, then months. Then I deleted it. My life decelerated, and time seemed to expand. I was able to do more, read more, and think more. And I felt better. But with so many people still paying near-constant obeisance to digital screens, I also began to feel like I was in a science fiction movie – the only human who had snapped out of the monster’s malevolent hypnosis. Then Covid-19 hit, and I had to make some concessions to the monster.”


friendship“Friendship is a place of sacrifice—and sanctification” – Eve Tushnet at America reviews a recent book on friendship: “There is a way of praising friendships that unintentionally undermines them. We often picture friendship as our refuge—romantic relationships bring drama, work brings hassle, family is chaos, but with friends you can relax. You’re understood. Friendship is ‘The Golden Girls,’ where every tiny comic tiff is resolved by the end of the half-hour. Friendship is sweet because friendship is easy. Friendship is safe, because friendship is too small to really hurt you. This is not the only Christian model for friendship. It isn’t even the most obvious Christian model. The greatest friendships in the Bible are sites of sacrifice. Jonathan, having made a covenant of friendship with David, gladly sacrifices personal safety, his relationship with his father and the kingship. Jesus identifies friendship with discipleship and with his own sacrifice for us on the cross, in Jn 15:13-15 (of course it’s in John, the Gospel of the “beloved disciple”): ‘No one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.’ That model, in which friendship can be the site of our sanctification because it is a site of sacrifice, animates much of St. Aelred’s dialogues, Spiritual Friendship.”


Music: U2, “The Troubles,” Songs of Innocence

A Prayer inspired by Hebrews 10:19-39

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Throughout our new series “The Final Word: Knowing Christ through Hebrews,” I am writing prayers related to the text on which we are preaching each week. This prayer is drawn from Hebrews 10:19-39. The complete list of prayers inspired by Hebrews is included at the bottom of this post. You can also view the message Pastor Dan Ryan preached drawn from this passage “Persevere,” here.

We draw near to You, God, because of Jesus,
the One who washes us clean and makes free.
We approach you with our hearts that are real
and deep conviction that You are for us.

We admit to You, God, that we
are wishy-washy in our commitment.
As the old hymn says, “prone to wander”—
Lord, we feel it.

Change us from the inside out that we
might persevere in our life of faith
even when troubles surround and trials rise up
may we continue to seek You and live for You.

Unchanging God, You are our hope
and we fix our faith-filled eyes on You,
until the day when we see You face to face,
we pray in Your name, Triune God,
Amen.


Prayers from Hebrews:

Living in the Waves

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One of the most well-known stories in the New Testament must be when Jesus invites Peter to walk on water in Matthew 14:22-33. Peter is often held up as either an example of bold faith in stepping out of the boat or faltering faith in sinking into the waves.

However, there is another part of the story that captures my attention and it has to do with the waves. When this memorable episode from the life of Jesus and the life of Peter takes place, it is surrounded by waves of challenge.

The first type of waves is the waves of people. Immediately before this, Jesus miraculously feeds a crowd of more than five thousand people. This crowd was pressing in around Jesus. Jesus dismissed them, but, even after the walking on water episode, they hunted Him down and asked for more. It is likely, from what we read in parallel accounts, that the crowds actually hoped to make Jesus king. The waves of people surrounded Him.

Along with the waves of people came the waves of emotions. After an exciting yet stressful ministry day with people, the disciples were exhausted. They seem not only exhausted by the work they were doing with Jesus, but also by the fact that Jesus Himself was difficult to understand. This led to a sort of emotional exhaustion and anticipation that always kept the disciples on their toes. They needed to get away.  It seems that Jesus also needed to get away. The pressures on Him to live into a human-defined image of Messiah-ship, yet pushing against that in obedience to the Father, lead Him to want to draw away with the Father again.

Of course, along with these waves of human pressure and emotional pressure come a third type: the waves of natural life. The literal winds and waves that beat against the boat threaten everyone in this situation. The natural order was not on their side and could not be easily controlled. This heightened physical circumstance augments the other more subtle waves around Jesus and His disciples.

Attention to the waves in this situation tells me one important thing to keep in focus. The waves – the challenges we face – are a normal part of life.

I want to draw this out because so many of us are waiting for “someday.” We all do this at times. We have that tendency to wait for a day when we believe that everything will become calm or everything will be at perfect peaceful. If not that, many of us are simply looking for the day when everything feels “normal,” even if we have never defined what that is.

When that normal day comes, many of us say, we will then be ready to follow Christ or take some dramatic step of faith. Until then, we are on hold in fear or confusion.

However, the very setting in which Peter makes his bold step of faith is in the waves. This is important to pay attention to because the Lord is reminding us through the context of this story that waves are normal.

The challenges of people and relationships that Jesus and the apostles faced are similar to the waves with people that we face.  The challenges of emotions and pressures that Jesus and the apostles faced are similar to the emotional waves that we face. The challenges of the natural things that happen – natural life changes, natural aging, natural circumstances of the environment – are similar to the natural waves that we face.

And this is what strikes me today: these waves are the normal setting in which faith rises up. Because of this, we don’t need to wait for someday.  Someday will not come because it does not exist. The waves in which we find ourselves are the setting in which we must take a step of faith.