Without the numbers

esvI’ve been reading in the ESV Readers Bible, and I am somewhere in Luke — not exactly sure where (that’s the point, right?). Anyway, John the baptizer has just sent two of his disciples to try to find out whether Jesus is, in fact, the Messiah (since he has been doing all sorts of amazing things).

John’s disciples say: “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” The text says that

In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. And he answered them,

Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.

Notice this — there are six types of people in distress: “blind,” “lame,” “lepers,” “deaf,” “dead” (“distressed” might not be the best word for dead people), and “poor.” The first five are given what we would expect a true miracle worker to give:

    • the blind receive their sight,
    • the lame walk,
    • lepers are cleansed,
    • the deaf hear,

and

    • the dead are raised up

But the sixth receives something quite unexpected — it is not “and the poor are given food,” or “the poor are given money,” or even “the needs of the poor are met.” Instead, Jesus says

the poor have good news [the word is “gospel”] preached to them.

Only one who is authoritatively the Messiah* would be so bold as to give something of eternal value where there are more “immediate” needs.

I draw two conclusions:

  1. Even in this time of crisis, we need to give “good news” to those in distress, even as we need those immediate needs.
  2. We need to remember that life is more than what we consume.**

 


*The numbers and the cross-references can have great value, of course, as they help us keep track of what we learn — if you can find Isaiah 26:19; 29:18-19; 35:5-6; and 61:1, you will see that these acts are part of the redemption that the Lord promises to bring about.

**I’m pretty sure I read that second point about a fourth of the way through Matthew, but I can’t find it now.

Jesu juva

Andrew Peterson, Adorning the Dark: Thought on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making (2019) [link]. Adorning the Dark

This is an absolutely marvelous book if you (1) are a fan of Andrew Peterson, (2) are interested in Christians in the arts, or (3) read books. (Okay, I threw the last one in, because I think this could have very broad appeal.)  Peterson, of course is a singer-songwriter living near Nashville who is also involved the lives of a number of creative Christians in an online community called The Rabbit Room.*

You likely know Peterson as a thoughtful singer-songwriter and (perhaps) a gleeful author — mostly of fantasy novels — but in this case his thoughtful faith plays out in a string of reflections and personal anecdotes about the faith and the creative calling. Adorning the Dark is memoir and (in the best sense) sermon.

There are many delightful anecdotes referencing the influences on his thought, including some usual suspects (C.S. Lewis, Rich Mullins, Wendell Berry) and some decidedly unusual suspects (The Dragonlance novels, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor). Tolkien and Dylan were relatively late additions. By far, though, it is friends and fellow believers who seem to have built themselves into Peterson’s life. Continue reading Jesu juva

Every Moment Holy

Block printI was not aware of Every Moment Holy until a few days ago, but would like to do my belated part to praise what is praiseworthy. Douglas McKelvey has written some very nice liturgies which the low church among us can experience as poems and prayers,* and published them as an illustrated book. The illustrations, including the one at right, are by Ned Bustard.

This one seems particularly appropriate, though I will quote only part:

In a world so wired and interconnected,
our anxious hearts are pummeled by
an endless barrage of troubling news.
We are daily aware of more grief, O Lord,
than we can rightly consider,
of more suffering and scandal
than we can respond to, of more
hostility, hatred, horror, and injustice
than we can engage with compassion.

But you, O Jesus, are not disquieted
by such news of cruelty and terror and war.
You are neither anxious nor overwhelmed.
You carried the full weight of the suffering
of a broken world when you hung upon
the cross, and you carry it still.

From “A Liturgy for those Flooded by Too Much Information” Several, including “LfTFbTMI” are available for free download. [link]. Why download them? Because they are beautifully designed (and we all read better on paper).


*The book seems very beautiful, and you can read more about the author, illustrator and background at everymomentholy.com.

Selah

current reading 2This is a time in which it is particularly hard to know whether reading on the internet is going to do us any good, after we get the basic information. On the assumption that each of us will read some things, here are some suggestions:

First, from The Rabbit Room:

O Christ Our Healer,

There is no end to malady, sickness,
injury, and disease in this broken world,
so there is no end to the line of hurting
people who daily need my tending.

Therefore give me grace, O God,
that I might be generous with my kindness,
and that in this healing and care-taking vocation
my hands might become an extension of your
hands, and my service a conduit for your mercy . . . .

Excerpt from Doug McKelvey, “A Liturgy for Medical Providers,”  Every Moment Holy (posted on The Rabbit Room, March 13, 2020) [link].


The COVID-19 disease has uncovered all sorts of weaknesses and problems in our country and our public discourse, including those of epistemology (how we know what we know). Not surprisingly, Alan Jacobs has a thoughtful pair of pieces on Snakes and Ladders:

Rush Limbaugh says, “Yeah, I’m dead right on this. The coronavirus is the common cold, folks.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says, “I mean, people always say, well, the flu, you know, the flu does this, the flu does that. The flu has a mortality of 0.1 percent. This is ten times that.” (He could have said “at least ten times that.”)

Question: Why does Rush Limbaugh think he knows better than Fauci?

Excerpt from “who you gonna believe?” [link]. On a narrower point, he laments generational Schadenfreude in “a sad bit of fair play” [link].


Some of those weaknesses and problems are not at all new:

Jesus didn’t live during a time of pandemic flu, but he had a lot to say about worrying for the future. He admonished people not to store up treasure on earth, not to worry about tomorrow, and not to wonder where their next meal would come from or whether they’d have a face mask to protect themselves. He told a parable about a foolish rich man who stockpiled his abundant harvest, only to unexpectedly die. While it might seem that worrying for the future could actually prolong our life, Jesus says otherwise. He commends to his disciples a reckless disinterest in the concern for their future wellbeing. Instead of self-preservation, he demands the preservation of others, foregoing our future needs to care for the sick, the helpless, and the needy.

Todd Brewer, “Hoarding in a Crisis, Stealing from Your Neighbor,” Mockingbird (Mar. 13, 2020) [link].


Finally, go back to the Word, maybe especially the Psalms:

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

Selah

Psalm 46:1-3.

Worth reading this week:current reading 2

Most of this article is actually pretty funny, but the conclusion is one of those Mockingbird-esque kickers, which I will give away (even as I suggest you read the whole thing.)

If the Super Bowl is the last great community event holding America together and we put it on a shrink’s couch for psychological analysis, here’s what we have. While it’s true that we all likely had some sort of representation through the carousel of celebrities shilling us premium brands, it turns out we’re all afraid of getting older and dying. We’re grasping at straws to find some sort of common bond that holds us all together. We’d all love some way to atone for the wrongs we have done, and if we can’t fix the things in our world that are broken, we’ll probably just distance ourselves from them and wash our hands of responsibility. And maybe, just maybe, there’s the hope of agape, the hope of a love that will act on us when we cannot achieve it ourselves.

Bryan J., “Super Bowl Psychology: What This Year’s Commercials Tell Us About Ourselves” Mockingbird (Feb. 3, 2020) [link].


Alan Jacobs is no longer doing much at Snakes and Ladders (subscribe to his newsletter, instead), but this was a nice piece of anachronism (in two senses):

The Devil chooses to deceive some people in the following way. He will marvelously inflame their brains with the desire to uphold God’s law and destroy sin in everyone else. He will never tempt them with anything that is manifestly evil. He makes them like anxious prelates watching over the lives of Christian people of all ranks, as an abbot does over his monks. They will rebuke everyone for their faults, just as if they had their souls in their care; and it seems to them that they dare not do otherwise for God’s sake. They tell them of the faults they see, claiming to be impelled to do so by the fire of charity and the love of God in their hearts; but in truth they are lying, for it is by the fire of hell surging in their brains and their imaginations.

Alan Jacobs, “understanding Christians (and others) on social media” Snakes and Ladders (Feb. 2, 2020) [link] (quoting from the 14th-century Cloud of Unknowing) [link].

Not that we know anyone like that.


And, just in time to fend off the sportsfans who want baseball to be more like football (I’m looking at you, Hank), Kirk Goldsberry and Katherine Rowe point out that football has even less “action” than baseball: “How Much Football Is Even In A Football Broadcast?” FiveThirtyEight (Jan. 31, 2020) [link]:

Our findings reveal that while different sports produce wildly different broadcast experiences, NFL broadcasts are among the most interrupted and least action-packed broadcasts of any sport. Simply put, there’s not a lot of actual football in a football game.

The numbers are startling. An average NFL broadcast lasts well over three hours, yet it delivers a total of only 18 minutes of football action.

That’s no problem. Until Sunday it was football, but baseball’s coming.

 

Myths

Sam Allberry (@SamAllberry) has written a slender book called 7 Myths about Singleness (Crossway 2019) [amazon], and the only thing I didn’t like about it was the cover.

7 mythsAllberry, a single pastor and speaker at RZIM, deals winsomely about the church’s various misconceptions about singleness (not all of which are consistent with each other): 1. Singleness is too hard; 2. Singleness requires a special calling; 3. Singleness means no intimacy; 4. Singleness means no family; 5. Singleness hinders ministry; 6. Singleness wastes your sexuality; and 7. Singleness is easy.

What I liked most about this book was that it wasn’t particularly directed at single people. The target audience is believers who want to think about biblical teaching on the subject and includes married and unmarried believers. It would seem to me that the topic is pretty relevant to readers of the New Testament given that Jesus (certainly) and Paul (probably) were single. How can we be so quick to see marriage as a virtual requirement for ministers and the “highest calling” for others?

Allberry says, in his conclusion:

When I started this project, my initial aim was to write about the goodness of singleness . . . . But through it all I have been increasingly preoccupied with something else – not the goodness of singleness but the goodness of God. The issue is not whether this path or that path is better, whether singleness or marriage would bring me more good. The issue is God and whether I will plunge myself into him, trusting him every day.

P. 149. If that’s not relevant to us all, I don’t know what is.

Highly recommended.