The Weekend Wanderer: 15 January 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 the articles


webRNS-Eastbrook-Refugees4-011022-1536x982“At Milwaukee church, refugees find welcome from a less suspicious time” – Here is Bob Smietana at Religion News Service with a feature on the church where I serve, Eastbrook Church: “Asher Imtiaz is the kind of person who always seems to be wandering into a great story. Like the time in 2017, when the Pakistani American computer scientist and documentary photographer walked into a Target in Nebraska and ended up being invited to a wedding thrown by Yazidi refugees from the Middle East. Imtiaz had gone to Nebraska to shoot pictures of life in small-town America in the age of Trump, far from the country’s urban centers. Among his portfolio from the time is another Yazidi family, dressed in patriotic garb and heading to a Fourth of July picnic. ‘I went to see America and found these new Americans,’ said Imtiaz at a coffee shop on the north side of Milwaukee last year. Imtiaz fits right in at Eastbrook Church, a multi-ethnic congregation where he serves as a volunteer leader at an outreach ministry for international students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus nearby.”


PAKISTAN-RELIGION-CHRISTMAS

“Pakistan’s top court grants bail to Christian facing blasphemy charge” – In Light for the Voiceless News: “The Supreme Court of Pakistan’s decision to grant bail to a Christian accused of blasphemy should give hope to others facing the charge, according to a prominent lawyer. Saif ul Malook welcomed the court’s ruling on Jan. 6 that Nadeem Samson should be released on bail. ‘It is a very important ruling, the first in the judicial history of Pakistan,’ the lawyer said in a video call reported by the Jubilee Campaign, a nonprofit promoting human rights. Samson, identified as a Catholic by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), was arrested in 2017 and imprisoned in Lahore, Pakistan’s second-largest city, after a property dispute. He was charged with insulting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code. The 42-year-old’s supporters believe that he was falsely accused of the crime, which is punishable by death in Pakistan, an Islamic republic in South Asia with a population of almost 227 million people. Malook, who represented Asia Bibi, a Catholic mother acquitted of blasphemy in 2018, petitioned the Supreme Court at a hearing on Jan. 5 to break with the practice of denying bail to people accused of blasphemy.”


3326“From respair to cacklefart – the joy of reclaiming long-lost positive words” – Susie Dent in The Guardian: “‘Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them’: words of positivity from the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. But how many of us really dwell on the upside of life, as opposed to its mad, bad, seamy side? It’s unsurprising that we have lost some of our joie de vivre in the past few years – finding sparkle amid the grey has become distinctly difficult. But a riffle through a historical dictionary suggests that it’s always been this way, and at heart we’ve long been a pessimistic lot. Linguistically, as in life, our glass is usually half-empty. Usually – but not always. In recent times I’ve made it a mission to highlight a category of English that linguists fondly call “orphaned negatives”. These are the words that inexplicably lost their mojo at some point in the past, becoming a sorry crew of adjectives that includes unkempt, unruly, disgruntled, unwieldy and inept. Yet previous generations had the potential to be kempt, ruly, wieldy, ept and – most recently thanks to PG Wodehouse – gruntled. Some were even full of ruth (compassion), feck (initiative) and gorm (due care and attention). Now is surely the time to reunite these long-lost couples. It may not work for everything – there is no entry (yet) for ‘shevelled’ or ‘combobulated’, but Mitchell airport in Milwaukee has gloriously provided its passengers with a ‘recombobulation area’ in which to release some of the tension of air travel.”


alan jacobs“formation and martyrdom” – Alan Jacobs at his blog, Snakes and Ladders: “The question then is: How to form Christians in such a way that they are capable of undergoing martyrdom? (In any of its forms: red, green, or white.) I am convinced that this is indeed a matter of cultivating the proper practices – which include words and deeds alike, by the way, or rather speech and writing understood asdeeds: as Newbigin goes on to say, the fact that the witness of the martyrs was so exceptionally powerful does not abrogate the need for faithful preaching – indeed, faithful preaching was surely one of the means by which the martyrs were formed: ‘The central reality is neither word nor act, but the total life of a community enabled by the Spirit to live in Christ, sharing his passion and the power of his resurrection. Both the words and the acts of that community may at any time provide the occasion through which the living Christ challenges the ruling powers. Sometimes it is a word that pierces through layers of custom and opens up a new vision. Sometimes it is a deed which shakes a whole traditional plausibility structure. They mutually reinforce and interpret one another. The words explain the deeds, and the deeds validate the words.’  Preaching and praise, fasting and penitence, reading and serving – all are core practices of the Church.”


Human-as-Gift-Nick-Spencer-980x551“Human as Gift” – Nick Spencer in Comment: “Admit it, if only quietly and to yourself. You have, in those quieter moments of your life, daydreamed about what people will say of you at your funeral. Or, at least, what you would like them to say. Chances are, you don’t want the priest or next of kin to utter the words, “She managed her portfolio of shares with extreme diligence,” or “He spent long hours in the office but did at least achieve a bit of work-life balance with some amazing holidays in the Caribbean.” You want to be remembered for what matters. We all do. Death mercilessly cuts through the moral fog of living. Few people want to be memorialized for the stuff they had or the leisure they enjoyed, in spite of the fact that we spend so much of our time on earth pursuing these things and then talking about then. We want our funeral eulogy to be positive—obviously—but positive about the right things.”


Tombs of the kings Jerusalem“The Tomb of the Kings in Jerusalem” – Marek Dospěl in Biblical Archaeology Society: “There is no shortage of controversial sites and monuments in Israel. Among the less well known to visitors to Jerusalem is the so-called Tomb of the Kings which remains highly controversial in two aspects: its original purpose and the site’s current ownership. The Tomb of the Kings is an ancient funerary monument located about a half mile north of the Old City walls. The tomb complex, almost entirely carved out of natural rock, consists of a monumental staircase, a spacious courtyard, an imposing portico, and a maze of subterranean passages and chambers that could have held up to 50 burials. There are ancient ritual baths (mikva’ot) at the foot of the staircase. Despite its traditional name, however, the tomb did not serve as the final resting place of the kings of ancient Israel or Judah. The scholarly consensus has long been that the Tomb of the Kings was the family tomb of Queen Helena of Adiabene, a first-century convert to Judaism who moved to Jerusalem from her original home in Adiabene, an ancient kingdom in what is today northern Iraq.”


Music: U2, “White as Snow,” No Line on the Horizon

The Messiah and Satan

This past weekend at Eastbrook, I continued our series entitled “The Messiah’s Mission,” by looking at Matthew 12:22-37. Here, Jesus is accused of casting out demons by the power of Satan, but offers a stern rebuke of this and some words about what has come to be known as the unforgivable sin. I explored what that unforgivable sin really is, and also the significance of our words in showing forth who we really are.

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


“Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” (Matthew 12:25)

Jesus’ Power Over Demons

The reality of demonic powers and Satan’s kingdom

  • the effects upon this man (12:22)
  • the reality of Satan’s kingdom (12:26)

The work of Jesus in relation to these powers

  • healing (12:22)
  • driving out demons (12:27)
  • kingdom of God breaking in (12:28)
  • tying up the strong man and restoring house (12:29)

Jesus’ Power and the Unforgiveable Sin

  • Jesus delivers by the power of God’s Spirit (12:28)
  • Jesus’ deliverance divides humanity (12:30)
  • Jesus’ work and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (12:31-32)

Jesus and the Significance of Words

  • Our words come from within (12:33-35)
  • Our words reflect who we are (12:35)
  • Our words define whose we are (12:36-37)

Making It Real

  1. Acknowledge Jesus as Lord over all, including demonic powers.
  2. Trust in the victory of Jesus and the Cross.
  3. Be aware of and beware the power of our words.

Dig Deeper:

This week dig deeper into Jesus’ power and authority over all things, including the spiritual, in one or more of the following ways:

The Double-Guarding of Our Mouths

Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;
    keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil
    so that I take part in wicked deeds
along with those who are evildoers;
    do not let me eat their delicacies. (Psalm 141:3-4)

The psalmist asks God to place a guard over his mouth. On the one hand, this guard is to watch over what may come out of the mouth: words that can be either good or vile. The Apostle James once described the tongues as “a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body” (James 3:6). Elsewhere he writes, “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless” (1:26). We need a guard over our mouths so that our words might not set a destructive fire but instead might bring a soothing balm and instructive guidance to others.

One the other hand, this guard over our mouths also protects us from what might come into us. When the psalmist later writes, “do not let me eat their delicacies,” he is not writing about physical food but something else. He describes the wicked deeds and the ways of evildoers as something sweet and attractive that could overcome him. Feeding on them would lead to change on the inside so that his being might be corrupted by savoring what is wrong. This is similar to Jesus’ words:

The things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. (Matthew 15:18-19)

In a sense, then, we need a guard over our mouths spiritually so that our hearts might not be corrupted by what we take in and savor in our souls.

Lord, search through me in regard to this double-guarding of my mouth. First, reveal to me any way that my words need to be not only filtered but refined. May my words spoken reflect You and Your truth. Second, reveal to me any way that what I take in and savor in my heart must be purified or refined. “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

“In Everything”: the comprehensive call to love our neighbor

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

Now, even though it could feel like Jesus’ summary statement in Matthew 7:12 is the sort of thing you would find in All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, there is one little phrase that makes that impossible. It’s this phrase: “in everything…” This little phrase, just one word in Greek, captures so much.

Now, think with me about what it would look like for all of our actions to reflect this:

  • what actions would we take in order to love others: our spouses, our colleagues, our children, our parents, total strangers, those in need?
  • what actions would we hold back from in order to truly love and serve others?

Consider what it would look like for all of our words to reflect Jesus’ guidance:

  • what words would we speak in order to truly love and serve others?
  • what words would never cross our lips in order to truly love and serve others?

And then there are our thoughts, our inner meditations. Jesus once said,

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45)

We often talk about having a filter on what we say or do. It is good to have a filter, but what would it look like to let our thoughts and inner, unexpressed desires reflect Jesus’ teaching about treating others the way we would want to be treated. Consider with me:

  • what do our inner thoughts say about how much we truly love others?
  • what do we say in private about others that we would never speak in public? Why is there a difference?

And what about one more category that may seem strange. What about our non-thoughts; the ways we naturally see and evaluate people and situations without even thinking about it? What do our non-thoughts—our prejudices, assumptions, and non-cognitive ways of assessing people—say about our love or lack of love for others? How might our lives and interactions with others be transformed as we let God reach into and transform our non-thoughts?

Jesus tells us:

“In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

From top to bottom, from the inside to the outside,Jesus’ disciples live in God’s love and live with God’s love for others.

The Weekend Wanderer: 8 February 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.

The Course - Jessica Bruah“The Cancer Chair: Is suffering meaningless?” – Christian Wiman, American poet and Professor of the Practice of Religion and Literature at Yale Divinity School, writes about his journey with cancer and questions about the meaning of suffering. Always an astute craftsman of words (if you haven’t read My Bright Abyss, do yourself a favor and read it sometime soon!), Wiman brings together reflections on his own cancer, the book of Job, Friedrich Nietzsche, Simone Weil, Albert Camus, and the Cross of Christ.

 

0_DydTubCNbDSFL-mb“From the Abundance of the Heart” – Alan Jacobs shares an essay on a topic that more of us should think about, particularly in the social media era: the power of our words. Relating an experience of giving a lecture based on an essay he had written but not yet published, Jacobs encountered the sourness of his words as they came out of his mouth, bringing a sense of conviction about the fact that these were both his words and words of which he did not approve at the same. There are some interesting insights here about the words of Jesus: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

 

Vector picture of Human Evolution“What If We Don’t Have to Choose Between Evolution and Adam and Eve?” – When I was working as a college pastor in the early 2000s, we conducted a teaching series called “Hot Topics,” where we engaged with controversial issues facing students in relation to faith. One of those topics that continues to be hotly debated in certain circles is the relationship between creation and evolution. Just this past year, S. Joshua Swamidass, a computational biologist at Washington University in St. Louis, published The Genealogical Adam and Eve: The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry in an attempt to change the terms of the debate. His book is up for a Reader’s Choice Award at InterVarsity Press. Here’s an interview with Swamidass about his book and his thought-provoking claims.

 

Dorothy Sayer mystery“‘No Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition or Mumbo Jumbo’: Dorothy L Sayers and the Detection Club” – Dorothy Sayers, one of the most incisive writers and thinkers of her era, is perhaps known best today for her connection to the Inklings, a group of writer including J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Christians may know her for her radio play, The Man Born to Be King, or The Mind of the Maker, but Sayers was well-known for her mystery-writing with the Lord Peter Wimsey novels. Sayers founded the Detection Club to support mystery writing, and it apparently still exists today. Who knew?

 

rohr_edit“Richard Rohr Reorders the Universe” – These days I cannot seem to take more than a few steps within Christian circles without someone mentioning Richard Rohr. He is one of those authors whose influence looms large for those who are seeking to reengage with faith and spirituality in an ecclesially disillusioned age. There are certain impulses about Rohr that I appreciate, some theological moves that deeply concern me, and a few other things about him that just drive me nuts. Love him or hate him, you have to reckon with Richard Rohr in discussions of faith today. Back in July, I shared Matthew Milliner’s helpful “field guide” to Rohr, and just this week Eliza Griswold offered a more personal look Rohr and his influence in North America today.

 

Steve Gillen“Willow Creek’s interim pastor to step down as church drops top candidates to fill Hybels’ shoes” – Speaking of ecclesial disillusionment, Willow Creek continues to reel after the leadership crisis surrounding misconduct accusations against former Senior Pastor Bill Hybels. After the top two candidates for filling the Senior Pastor role were released by Willow Creek, Steve Gillen, Willow’s acting senior pastor, tendered his resignation effective March 17 because of the protracted nature of the search. Looming in the background are recent accusations that Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, an influential founder of Willow Creek and mentor to Bill Hybels, has also been accused of sexual harassment and misconduct both at Willow Creek and during his time at Wheaton College. May God purify His church and have mercy upon His people.

 

Music: Asgeir, “Until Daybreak,” from Bury the Moon

[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.]