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


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    2017 DC Conference Recordings

    Thank you again to everyone who helped put on the “500 Years of Grace” event two weeks ago in DC, especially our friends at All Saints Chevy Chase! What a truly special time it was.

    The audio from the event is now available on The Mockingcast feed and our Recordings page. As per usual, we are making the recordings available for free; we only ask that those who were not able to be there consider making a donation to help cover the cost of the event. Individual links are as follows:

    Watch this space over the coming weeks for the video.

    Major thanks go to Meaghan Ritchey, Nate Lee, Ed Kelaher, Liz McReady, and James Villarreal for going so far above and beyond the call of duty. Thanks also goes to Wole Akpose and Jeff Dillenbeck for capturing it all on camera! A few highlights below:

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

    ALSO, earlybird pre-registration for our Spring Conference in NYC (April 26-28, 2018) is now open! Just click here. More details coming soon.

    p.s. Registration for our 4th annual conference in Tyler, TX (Feb 23&24, 2018) opens next week at

    Waiting At the Altar (No Longer!): Bob Dylan's Gospel Years

    Waiting At the Altar (No Longer!): Bob Dylan’s Gospel Years

    As promised, a review of the long-awaited Trouble No More boxed set documenting Bob Dylan’s gospel years, courtesy of resident Dylanologist Ken Wilson, who’ll be seeing his 55th (!) show on Friday.

    In a career full of surprises, the most amazing is still the “born again” period. Sure Bob Dylan had shocked his folkie fans, and enraged Peter Seeger (or so the legend goes), by going electric, i.e. commercial, at Newport. Sure, he’d retreated from public view and been rumored dead in the wake of a serious motorcycle accident, rhymed “moon and spoon” and crooned with Johnny Cash, and toured…

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    Four Points About Martin Luther on 31 October 2017

    Prof. Simeon Zahl weighs in:

    I’ve spent so much of the past ten years reading, thinking with, and writing about Martin Luther’s theology, and teaching his thought at three universities. But I confess at this point I have very little interest in the idea of Luther, or in hagiography, or in his specific denominational legacy, or in his personality, or in his politics, or in his insults or his beer or whatever. And I disagree with quite a few of his main insights, and that’s before we even get to the hateful stuff.

    But there remains no theologian I learn more from or I am more keen to teach. In the end if I am honest I am interested in Luther as a kind of artist who at his best transmuted his personal sufferings into theological ideas that can inform an utterly compassionate vision of Christianity as a religion of honesty and mercy for suffering and screwed up human beings. At his best – and he was very often not at his best – Luther remains unsurpassed here.

    If I wanted to boil what I think has been most worthwhile for me down to a few points, on this quincentennial day, they would be these:

    1. As a theologian, I return again and again to Luther’s theological method, especially his highly dynamic and creative way of transmuting his own sufferings and experiences into theological insight on behalf of others, in dialogue with Scripture. In this again I think he is usefully understood as a kind of artist or poet rather than simply as a thinker or exegete, and I think this is part of what Kierkegaard meant in his journals when he called Luther an ‘extremely important patient for Christianity’. As Luther puts it, ‘in tribulation [the exegete] learns many things which he did not know before; [likewise,] many things he already knew in theory he grasps more firmly through experience’ (WA 3:44; LW 10:49). We can seek to follow this method without having to agree with what Luther actually concluded at any given point. And I do personally think that a dose of this kind of experientialism, done well, is what theology today needs more than anything.

    2. Luther’s account of the persistence of sin in the Christian in the later parts of Against Latomus is probably the darkest such account we have anywhere in the tradition, and in this it is enduringly profound. ‘[T]he motion of anger and evil is exactly the same in the godly and the godless, the same before grace and after grace’ (WA 8:91; LW 32:207). Luther argues at one point here that the way that sin persists in Christians is quite precisely analogous to the way that physical death persists: its ‘reality’ and ‘substance’ is unchanged, but its ‘sting’ is taken away. In this he is taking a major strand of Christian tradition and turning it up to eleven. In practice, the account in Against Latomus can and should function as a kind of firewall of divine mercy for Christians who feel like failures; there is no circumstance it cannot encompass. These bits of Against Latomus are not all that Luther had to say on the subject of the Christian life but they are the parts that have stood out the most to me over the years.

    3. Luther’s distinction between Law and Gospel, loosely held and experientially/affectively understood, remains one of the most powerful diagnostic tools for making sense of what people I see around me actually do in their lives – all the anxious striving – and why it so rarely feels like ‘enough’, and for explaining the power of Christianity as a clear-eyed but utterly compassionate response to this. It is a shame that this aspect of his thought which pastorally-speaking has dated so little in 500 years (in our cultural moment of performancism and overwork) has been so misunderstood in recent theology.

    4. The theology of the cross, as expressed with such simplicity and depth in the Heidelberg Disputation, seems to me to match the reality of life as it is very often experienced by human beings in the world, better than any other such category I have come across. ‘God can be found only in suffering and the cross’ (proof of thesis 21). Whatever their tradition (or anti-tradition), students always respond to this extraordinary text, which (with the Disp. Against Scholastic Theology) is I think the paradigmatic example of Luther’s art.

    Other people can talk about his theology of the Bible, his view of the sacraments, his relationship to modernity and authority and all the rest, but for me these are the reasons I continue to be interested in the legacy of Martin Luther in 2017.

    Hiding in Plain Sight: The Lost Doctrine of Sin ~ Simeon Zahl from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

    Announcing a Mockingbird Take on Hamilton!

    We are excited to announce an ebook titled Never Satisfied Until Satisfied in Thee: Finding Grace in Hamilton—which drops on November 1!

    America needed Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical as 2016 left us with unprecedented division and cynicism about our national values. Fortunately, Hamilton modeled grace to America and its people, past and present in its hip-hop, sung-through presentation of the life of our “ten-dollar founding father without a father,” Alexander Hamilton.

    Never Satisfied Until Satisfied in Thee, edited by Tim Peoples and Cort Gatliff, explores the many ways that grace shows itself in Miranda’s musical: Cort Gatliff, Michael Sansbury, Matthew Linder, and Amanda McClendon each contribute essays on how Hamilton strove for more in this world but only found moments of peace in failure and death. Margaret Pope wonders whether it is better to be ruled by God or King George. Stephanie Phillips and Lauren R.E. Larkin explore their Hamilton­-character spirit animals—respectively, Aaron Burr and Angelica Schuyler. Tim Peoples closes the collection with thoughts on first and final drafts composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Creator of the Universe.

    We are pleased to bring this chorus of voices to you on November 1! Click here to pre-order from Amazon.

    This Weekend in DC: Talk Titles and Lineup! (T-Minus 4 Days and Counting)

    For those who haven’t yet been wooed, take a look at the unbelievable lineup for our event this weekend in DC. Things kick off on Friday evening with a talk from Nick Lannon, dinner courtesy of Broad Branch Market (with Starr Hill beer & wine from Keswick Vineyards), and music by Mark Miller. The party continues Saturday morning with with coffee sponsored by our friends at Anchor Coffee Roasters, followed by talks from Jacob Smith, Sarah Condon, Daryl Davis (of Accidental Courtesy fame), and, post-lunch, David Zahl. We’ll have books for sale and cheer aplenty.

    Pre-registration closes this Wednesday. Last minute walk-ins are more than welcome; we just can’t guarantee food. Oh and there’s still some limited scholarship funds available – hit us up at if that’d be a help. Hope to see you there!

    Friday, October 27

    5:30pm  —  Registration
    6:30pm  —  Welcome Worship Service
    7:00pm  —  “No, Actually, I Don’t Work Out: Good News for Unwilling Hearts” – Nick Lannon
    7:30pm  —  Dinner catered by Broad Branch Market & Music with Mark Miller

    Saturday, October 28

    8:00am  —  Coffee (courtesy of our friends at Anchor Coffee Roasters!)
    9:00am  —  Morning Talks

    • “Robert Barnes and 500 Years of Justification by Grace Alone” – Jacob Smith
    • “When Katie Met Luther: A New Kind of Love” – Sarah Condon

    10:45am  —  Daryl Davis speaks on Race and Grace
    12:00pm  —  Lunch courtesy of Broad Branch Market
    1:15pm  —  “Can’t Stop the Signal: Enduring Hope in Divided Times” – David Zahl
    2:00pm  —  Mockingbird Panel Q&A and Closing Communion Service
    3:30pm  —  Book table closes

    Sunday, October 29 (Post-Conference)

    7:45am, 9am, & 11am — DZ preaches at all three Reformation Sunday worship services at All Saints


    Stewards of Our Scars

    Stewards of Our Scars

    The following excerpt comes from Chapter 9, “Stewards of Our Scars,” in Chad Bird’s new book Night Driving: Notes from a Prodigal Soul.

    In a Bible full of bizarre stories with bizarre endings, the account of Jacob wrestling the angel ranks among the more unusual. At the end of the narrative, we are given an odd little detail about the enduring legacy of Jacob’s struggle. Jacob was “limping because of his hip.” “Therefore,” the text adds, “to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the…

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    Richard Wilbur – Ecclesiastes 11:1

    R.I.P. to the man Alan Jacobs said is “the best American poet since WW2.” Stay tuned for a fuller in memoriam…

    We must cast our bread
    Upon the waters, as the
    Ancient preacher said,

    Trusting that it may
    Amply be restored to us
    After many a day.

    That old metaphor,
    Drawn from rice farming on the
    River’s flooded shore,

    Helps us to believe
    That it’s no great sin to give,
    Hoping to receive.

    Therefore I shall throw
    Broken bread, this sullen day,
    Out across the snow,

    Betting crust and crumb
    That birds will gather, and that
    One more spring will come.

    PZ's Podcast: Psychosis & One Monkey

    PZ’s Podcast: Psychosis & One Monkey

    EPISODE 236: Psychosis

    “Psychosis” is a very strong word for a cultural phenomenon. But it allows us to speak of a fissure over against reality, when groups of people see things around them in a way that is divorced from the facts.

    You can apply the phenomenon of group fissure from reality, to anything you like. I can see it in the way a very specific historical reality, the Anglican Church as the English expression of legal and official Protestantism, has been so completely buried by a different “narrative” that it is as if the reality never was and never existed.

    So completely,…

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    Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Twenty-One Verses Thirty-Three Through Forty-Two

    Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Twenty-One Verses Thirty-Three Through Forty-Two

    The following sermon was preached yesterday by our friend Dave Johnson at Christ Church in Valdosta, GA.

    In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    You are in fifth grade and whenever you are hanging out in your bedroom your radio is tuned into the local Top 40 hit station.  It is a beautiful spring evening and your window is open, an occasional cool breeze enters your room with the scent of freshly mown grass and that sense of hope that accompanies spring reawakens in your heart.  A song comes on the radio that immediately grabs your attention, immediately resonates with…

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    Liars, Madmen, and You: The Art of Narrative ~ CJ Green

    Taylor Swift, Mary Karr, and the art of telling your life story…ready for it? From our conference in NYC this past April.

    Liars, Madmen, and You: The Art of Narrative ~ CJ Green from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

    Art and Death in A Ghost Story: An Interview with David Lowery

    Art and Death in A Ghost Story: An Interview with David Lowery

    This interview was conducted by Daniel Melvill Jones. A Ghost Story is available for rent on iTunes and other outlets as of today Tuesday, October 3.

    Director David Lowery burst onto the filmmaking scene with his breakout indie hit, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. This led to Disney entrusting him with last year’s remake of Pete’s Dragon, a critical success praised for its personal vision. But nothing prepared critics for this year’s Sundance hit, A Ghost Story. Wholly unique, this small film has a scope at once cosmic and contained. It elegantly expresses questions of loss, death, creativity, and the permanence of…

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    Is There Any Comfort? Remembering the Reformation 500 Years Later

    Is There Any Comfort? Remembering the Reformation 500 Years Later

    We are now less than a month out from our upcoming conference in D.C.! Come celebrate 500 years of grace with us, October 27-29—you can register here.

    With the Reformation on the brain, here is a fantastic piece written by our friend, Jonathan A. Linebaugh.

    In 1519, Thomas Bilney sat in a small Cambridge college with a book in his hands. It had been two years since a German monk named Martin Luther was said to have nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door in Wittenberg—hammer blows that were later remembered as the start of the Reformation and were rumored to have shaken…

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