About Mockingbird

Mockingbird is devoted to connecting the Christian message with the realities of everyday life in fresh and down-to-earth ways.


Author Archive

    The Tune Stuck in Luther’s Head

    A great passage from Steven Paulson’s Luther for Armchair Theologians

    Luther said “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. “Bound by the Scriptures” with a conscience “captive to the Word of God” hardly sounds like freedom. But scripture’s freedom has never been an isolated, individualistic, lonely and ultimately death-dealing notion like the ones that capture our imagination today. True freedom is being captivated by Christ’s promise for forgiveness of sins. It is like getting a tune stuck in your head that you can’t get rid of, only this time instead of a legal refrain, “Have you done enough?” it repeats a promise: “God is pleased with you, on account of Christ.”

    The Lame Shall Enter First: Grace and Weakness in Flannery O’Connor

    Getting close to the end of our video rollout. This one comes from the incomparable Mr. McD:

    The Lame Shall Enter First: Grace and Weakness in Flannery O’Connor – Will McDavid from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

    Hopelessly Devoted: Exodus Chapter Fourteen Verses Twenty One and Twenty Two

    This morning’s devotion comes from the one and only Justin Holcomb.

    Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. (Exodus 14:21-22, NIV)

    This passage is about God showing up in the middle of insecurity and confusion. The Exodus and subsequent journey to the Promised Land are the great moments of deliverance in Jewish history. bible-archeology-red-sea-crossingAs it is written in the Psalms, “Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf! He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot—come, let us rejoice in him” (66:5-6). For thousands of years now, Jews remember and celebrate that God took them from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. At the last minute, on their way out of Egypt and to the Promised Land, God divided the Red Sea—had God not provided, they would have died.

    To Christians, the Exodus foreshadows the ultimate story of deliverance. It points to the cross—the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as “the work of God on our behalf.” The Exodus and the ministry of Jesus both tell us that God provides for those in need, and that God causes life and flourishing where death and destruction try to reign. The Exodus and the cross tell us that God’s operative principle is rescue. God comes near to us—down here in the thick of it—to rescue us.

    There is no work we can do in exchange for this rescue: it is undeserved and unearned. As the psalmist highlights the mighty works of God on our behalf, so we see this fulfilled in Christ. Jesus, who came to “fulfill the law,” did the work we couldn’t do, on our behalf. We could never be good enough. We could never fulfill the righteousness required by the Law. God, in the person of Jesus, did the work we couldn’t do for ourselves, and so God attributes Jesus’ work as our work. God exchanges our sin for Jesus’ righteousness. The work of God on our behalf is the best news possible to those in need of rescue.

    Running For Cover: The Unbearable Weight of Goodness in Broadchurch

    Running For Cover: The Unbearable Weight of Goodness in Broadchurch

    This one comes to us from Nick Rynerson:

    Before we get into it, let’s have a quick chat. Nick here. Hey. If you haven’t watched the first season of Broadchurch don’t read this yet. Seriously. Stop. The show is on Netflix right now. Borrow your friend’s password and binge-watch it! It’s only eight episodes. Go on! Get! It’s not that I don’t want you to read this. It’s just that I’m pretty much going to ruin the ending of season one, and it’s a doozy.

    Sometimes I wonder why I write. I usually feel guilty after I write something for publications that…

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    These Are a Few of My Favorite Atheists: Friedrich Nietzsche

    These Are a Few of My Favorite Atheists: Friedrich Nietzsche

    Rounding out Michael Nicholson’s favorite atheists series (read Thomas Nagel here and Camus/series intro here), we have a reflection on the notorious Prussian artilleryman:

    Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900)

    Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart, in The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth, has called Nietzsche’s scathing and relentless critique of Christianity a “great camera obscura” which drew into sharp focus the scandal of Christianity’s origins and especially Christianity’s God: a God “who apparels himself in common human nature, in the form of a servant… who dies like a slave and outcast.” Hart considers Nietzsche’s critique “a most beautiful gift”, bequeathed to Christianity;…

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    SPRING CONFERENCE in NYC: Theme and Details



    April 16-18, 2015

    St George’s Church, New York City


    “Pardon’s the word to all” – W. Shakespeare

    A fresh start. A free pass. An expunged record. To be let off the hook, and not just in theory—that is what it means to be absolved of sin, and it is the life-saving heart of the Christian message. It’s what it is all about.

    Yet we seldom experience absolution, in church or any other context. When is the last time you were forgiven for something you had done and it wasn’t surrounded by implicit expectations for the future? What would it look like if we truly believed that God does not hold our past against us? Nor our complicated present, for that matter.

    Join us in April as we delve into this most hopeful of subjects. To help, we’ve enlisted Nadia Bolz-Weber (author of Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint), Jamin Warren (editor of Kill Screen Magazine), and a host of Mockingbirds, including Sarah Condon, Will McDavid, Ethan Richardson, Jacob Smith, and John & David Zahl. Our chaplain will be Jim Munroe, and we’ve got a number of special guests in the works that we hope to announce very soon.

    In addition to the main presentations, there will be breakout sessions on a wide range of topics, from theology and religion, to movies and music, children and relationships, to philosophy and psychology. If the past eight years are anything to go by, the conference is sure to be a time of warmth, laughter, delicious food, and maybe even a little freedom. We hope you can join us!

    Full schedule will be announced Feb 1st.

    The event is open to all, and we guarantee there will be something for everyone. Just be sure to pre-register ASAP, as space is limited.


    Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Judas: A Biblical Take on FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) – Ethan Richardson

    Here it comes, ladies and gents, Dr. Richardson’s wonderful session from Houston. No more missing out!

    As a reminder, the last day to take advantage of earlybird pre-registration for our New York Conference (4/16-18) is this Friday!

    How I Learned To Love Gravedigging in Marriage – Matt and Megan Magill

    And…. we’re back! A handful more videos from the Fall Conference to share, the first of which captures, beautifully, what happens when vulnerability, truth, and amazing harmonies come together:

    Cause This is Thriller: How I Learned to Love Grave Digging (in Marriage) – Matt and Megan Magill from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

    From the Magazine: The Message of Mercy in Children’s Books

    From the Magazine: The Message of Mercy in Children’s Books

    This list can be found in Issue 3 of the magazine. It comes from the inimitable Rev. Matt Schneider.

    I’m picky about children’s books. There’s a lot of pablum out there, but once in a while my wife and I will find a surprisingly good book for our daughters. The standouts usually have an intangible quality to them, often corresponding with paradoxical acts of mercy between one character and another (and the positive effects). This is an incomplete list of some favorite books that you might consider picking up for your child, niece, godson, grandchild, or maybe even for yourself.

    The Pout-Pout…

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    “You Descended from the Stars”: Christmas and Salvation from the Stars

    “You Descended from the Stars”: Christmas and Salvation from the Stars

    Another great post from Michael Nicholson, looking at the far reaches of the stars and the farther reaches of God through the lens of sci-fi film. Enjoy!

    You descended from the stars,
    O king of heaven,
    and came to a cave,
    in the frosty cold.

    ~ Tu scendi dalle stelle, 18th cent. Italian Christmas carol

    In the first golden age of science fiction film, in the 1950s, the standard, nearly universal paradigm for depicting alien visitors from the solar system and the stars was that they were implacably hostile to humanity. The classic film in this genre was the original War of the Worlds (1953),…

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    Hopelessly Devoted: Genesis Chapter Two Verse Seven

    Hopelessly Devoted: Genesis Chapter Two Verse Seven

    A resolution-savvy devotion is yesterday’s by Ethan Richardson from The Mockingbird Devotional.

    And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7, KJV)

    At the foundation of human life lies neediness. A Golden Smog song called “Think About Yourself” (from Another Fine Day) goes:

    Every night you close your eyes / Your head is filled with alibis and rules to play,

    Everywhere I turn I see the bridges / That you’ve burned just to be free again.

    This is so obviously a bitter-love breakup…

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    Mockingbird Update: What’s in Store for 2015 and How You Can Help

    Mockingbird Update: What’s in Store for 2015 and How You Can Help

    Before the clock strikes 2015, we wanted to give you a brief update about all that’s going on with Mockingbird. 2014 was quite a year for our little organization. In addition to keeping the website humming with fresh content, we hosted two conferences (New York and Houston), produced a pair of publications (Eden and Afterward and A Mess of Help), and launched our biggest project yet, the quarterly print magazine The Mockingbird, which Daniel Jones of The NY Times called “a beautiful, thoughtful, and utterly contemporary publication, with a quality matching that of the best literary journals.”

    Meanwhile, our online audience…

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