Friday roundup: Five things worth paying attention to this week

David and Leann Augsburger are two semi-retired people who co-lead a home base church (Peace Mennonite Church, Claremont, California) and volunteer to welcome, care, and connect people in the San Gabriel valley. 

May, the time when we may experience spring, when we may pick fresh flowers, may kneel and pray as we pull weeds, may enjoy asparagus and may bite into the first corn on the cob, May!

1. The Poetry of Mary Oliver: We need Mary Oliver’s poetry. It is “An Invitation to Wonder” writes Debra Dean Murphy in the April 26 Christian Century. Oliver wrote of poetry that it is “like fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.” Her poems, like “Praying,” or “Gethsemane,” stay with you for days, indeed years. Go buy Thirst, or any of her other collections of poetry, or google her to see what you find.

2. The Benedictine Option, by Rob Dreher: One of the best articles on spirituality and community is the profile, “The Seeker” in the May 1, 2017, edition of The New Yorker. It allows you to walk with prophetic blogger and author Dreher as he moves from Louisiana roots through his love of radical discipleship in the Orthodox Church and his call for a return to the spiritual disciplines of St Benedict.  His depth of insight into community leads him to a moment of epiphany at The Bruderhof community during worship and fellowship around the table. Jacob Hutter had something! Eberhard Arnold did, too. They actually believed the book of Acts might be right.

3. Movie recommendation—“The Dinner”: Lines from this amazing film keep surfacing in other situations. This is the third film made from Herman Koch’s bestselling novel (a Dutch film in 2013, Italian in 2014). Many reviewers pan the film for the very reason we loved it—it brings ethics and the dilemmas  of family loyalties truly alive. Koch walked out on the premier because it had become a moral tale. Others think the earlier versions that won many awards did it better, but this English version raises issues of ethics that are painful and real.

4. Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah: A must read book in times when cynicism has largely replaced true humor—not that Noah is unable to find astoundingly cynical comments to make on current events—but that he can tell self-deprecating stories of his life in a South African poverty and social injustice with such genuine wit and grace. The account of his mother’s indomitable courage and inextinguishable hope is a study in defiant and spunky spirit. If, after reading this memoir, you watch him on The Daily Show, you will see him with new eyes.

5. Sometimes an article is deeply troubling like “A Match Made in Heaven” by Molly Worthen, a UNC Chapel Hill historian. Writing in the May issue of The Atlantic, she asks why conservative evangelicals lined up behind a leader who seems no more Christian than his predecessor was Muslim. Her analysis is startling—it is about power, polity and authority. The practices of authoritarian machismo mirror evangelical pyramidal church structures. They synchronize with an American gospel with roots in the revolutionary era. You can’t stop thinking about some of her observations. We need historians to challenge us today more than ever.

6. Old song, new meaning. At Uncle Victor Richert’s memorial on Saturday May 13, a men’s quartet sang his three favorite songs—“How Great Thou Art,” “Wonderful Grace of Jesus,” and after the pastor said, “we are all wandering pilgrims, waiting to find rest,”  the whole congregation stood and sang “Tumbling Tumbleweeds.” You have to be in Bakersfield, California, to fully appreciate how the giant orbs blow across the road and pile along the fences.  (The seed for the tumbleweeds, they say, was brought from Russia by Mennonites mixed in with the Turkey Red wheat, the winter wheat from the steppes of Russia that turned the American prairies into a bread basket and eventually was carried to California with them.) Afterward people spoke of words taking on new meaning like, “I know when night is gone and a new world’s born at dawn.” The words becoming a witness to the resurrection from an old song sung on the tractor.

Sign up to our newsletter for important updates and news!