The Weekend Wanderer: 5 September 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.


Chadwick Boseman“Chadwick Boseman: Man of faith in real life, ‘Black Panther’ on screen” – This past week brought news of Chadwick Boseman’s passing after a four-year battle with colon cancer. Boseman, best known for his portrayal of the title character of Marvel’s Black Panther, also portrayed Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall in feature films. “From the impression he left on a pastor of his youth to his own words at the 2018 commencement of Howard University, his alma mater, Boseman demonstrated a Christian life that included service, overcoming stereotypes and a desire to depict strong characters.”


Elon Musk Neuralink pig“Human Interests and Technological Systems” – What happens when human life serves technology more than technology serves human life? L. M. Sacasas critiques a recent display of apparent technological ingenuity by Elon Musk to raise significant questions about human life and technology. “Who is being plugged in to what? Or, to put it another way, who is the dominant partner, the computer or the brain? Are we plugging into a system that will serve our ends, or are we being better fitted to serve the interests of the technological system.”


Congregation at church praying

“1 in 5 churches facing permanent closure within 18 months due to COVID-19 shutdowns: Barna president” – Many churches have been detrimentally impacted by COVID-19, whether in the loss of church members, the inability to meet in person, or financial difficulties. In an interview with NPR, David Kinnaman, President of the Barna Group, predicts that 1 in 5 churches could face permanent closure in the next year and a half because of shutdowns related to COVID-19.


vocation“Vocation in a Time of Precedented Uncertainty” – Here’s Noah Toly speaking about vocation in Comment:  “Even if ‘unprecedented’ is overused, the novel coronavirus, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the containment and mitigation measures put in place to check the spread of the disease have been extraordinarily disruptive, destroying lives, upending livelihoods, and clouding the future with uncertainty. Among the many casualties of these current risks and future uncertainties is sure-footed conviction about our vocations. Why would we continue to invest time and attention in the same things that captured our imaginations before the pandemic? Where does our work fit into questions about the future of the global economy, the possibility of environmental integrity, the pace of scientific discovery, or the scale of global charitable giving?


iran“Researchers Find Christians in Iran Approaching 1 Million” – While not the first to report the news of the growth of Christianity in Iran, what is perhaps most interesting is that this latest research about the growth of christianity in Iran is from a non-faith-based perspective. With government statistics showing the traditional Armenian and Assyrian Christians in Iran number 117,700, ” a new survey of 50,000 Iranians—90 percent residing in Iran—by GAMAAN, a Netherlands-based research group, 1.5 percent identified as Christian.” This data extrapolates out to over 750,000 people in the total population of Iran.


Music: Max Richter, “Mercy,” from Voices.

[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.]

Following the Spirit and not our Feelings: Evelyn Underhill on Calling and Desire

Evelyn UnderhillJust a few days ago, I came across this extended quotation from Evelyn Underhill from her fine little book, The Spiritual Life. Underhill speaks to the interface of our calling and our desires, and the challenge our feelings can bring to truly following God’s call upon us. I had originally read these words about three years ago while on sabbatical, but reading them again was incredibly helpful for me. I hope you benefit from her words as well, regardless of where God has you stationed right now.

So those who imagine that they are called to contemplation because they are attracted by contemplation, when the common duties of existence steadily block this path, do well to realise that our own feelings and preferences are very poor guides when it comes to the robust realities and stern demands of the Spirit.

St. Paul did not want to be an apostle to the Gentiles. He wanted to be a clever and appreciated young Jewish scholar, and kicked against the pricks. St. Ambrose and St. Augustine did not want to be overworked and worried bishops. Nothing was farther from their intention. St. Cuthbert wanted the solitude and freedom of his hermitage on the Farne, but he did not often get there. St. Francis Xavier’s preference was for an ordered life close to his beloved master, St. Ignatius. At a few hours’ notice he was sent out to be the Apostle of the Indies and never returned to Europe again. Henry Martyn, the fragile and exquisite scholar, was compelled to sacrifice the intellectual life to which he was so perfectly fitted for the missionary life to which he was decisively called. In all of these, a power beyond themselves decided the direction of life. Yet in all we recognise not frustration, but the highest of all types of achievement. Things like this – and they are constantly happening – gradually convince us that the over-ruling reality of life is the Will and Choice of a Spirit acting not in a mechanical but in a living and personal way; and that the spiritual life does not consist in mere individual betterment, or assiduous attention to one’s own soul, but in a free and unconditional response to that Spirit’s pressure and call, whatever the cost may be.

[Evelyn Underhill, The Spiritual Life (Atlanta: Ariel Press, 1937, reprint 2000), 23-25.]

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.]

Glory in the Ordinary

Red_vineyardsThere is a beautifully striking painting by Vincent van Gogh entitled “The Red Vineyard.” This painting was the only official purchase of a van Gogh painting within the artist’s lifetime. Building on the work of Millet before him, van Gogh paints a group of common peasants working diligently in the vineyard, bathed in the warm light of the setting sun. The scene is both commonplace and lofty, everyday and exalted: ordinary people doing their ordinary work, yet splashed with the sun’s glory as they do it.

Surely, this is a picture of how we work with God in our everyday venues of work: ordinary people doing their ordinary work, yet splashed with the glory of Christ as we do our work as unto the Lord (Col 3:22-24).

Opportunities at Work (discussion questions)

God at Work Series Gfx_ThumbHere are the discussion questions that accompany the message I delivered this past weekend at Eastbrook Church, “Opportunities at Work.” This was the fourth and final part of our series, “God at Work.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is one example of your best serving moments at work and one of your worst serving moments at work?
  1. This weekend we conclude our series, “God at Work,” by looking at how the Gospel transforms our opportunity with work. Before starting this study, ask God to clearly speak to you in meaningful ways. Then, whether you are alone or with others, read Colossians 3:22-24 aloud.
  1. Background: In Colossians chapter 3 we see the Apostle Paul addressing everyday situations in early believers’ lives with the truth found in Christ. He literally brings it home by addressing key household relationships in the typical Greco-Roman household: wives and husbands, children and parents, household servants and masters of the house.
  1. Verse 22 begins by addressing the Christian ‘slaves’ or ‘servants’. Paul’s letters were read aloud in the public gatherings of the early churches. What do you think the significance might be in Paul addressing slaves or servants directly in this letter read aloud to the entire Christian community?
  1. What sort of attitude does Paul hold up for the believers who work as household servants in verse 22?
  1. Many times, we work to visibly please our bosses in the workplace, but our hearts are not in the work. What would it look like for Christians to take Paul’s instruction in verse 22 seriously?
  1. Each of these three verses connects our work with ‘the Lord’ in one way or another. What phrases does Paul use to connect our work with the Lord in each verse?
  1. What is one specific way you could work for the Lord and not for human masters in your workplace this week (vs 23), no matter the place or type of work is?
  1. What sort of external motivation does Paul set before the Christ-following worker in verse 24?
  1. In this series, we have been exploring how our work and faith come together because of the creation plan of God and the gospel redemption in Jesus Christ. How has your thinking about faith and work changed through this series? What is one practical way God is speaking to you about approaching your life at work differently as you walk forward? If you are with a small group, discuss that with one another and pray about these things together. If you are studying on your own, write it down, pray about it, and share this with someone during the next few days.