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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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    Three Responses to the Law, from Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (And Saints)

    Three Responses to the Law, from Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (And Saints)

    Check out the “Interlude” from Mockingbird’s latest resource, Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints), available here!

    The Law, on most every occasion, draws a line of distinction between the is of life and the ought. The Law is the demarcation of the life we should have—the life we long for—and our own obstructions preventing us from getting there. It is for this reason that our response to the Law is almost always counterproductive.[1]

    Imagine you are twelve years old again, and you love baseball. All your heroes are baseball players, all your extracurricular time is spent either with a ballglove…

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    Atticus Finch Did Not Die for Your Sins

    Atticus Finch Did Not Die for Your Sins

    From our friend Jeff Dean, another Alabamian who knows a thing or two about procrastination. Zing!  

    [Some spoilers below]

    You probably shouldn’t read Harper Lee’s “new” novel, Go Set a Watchman.

    If the book interests you as a “sequel” to her iconic To Kill a Mockingbird, you’re apt to be profoundly disappointed: the characters seem almost entirely disconnected from their past selves, and the narrative collapses by the end into little more than a recitation of bizarre and esoteric arguments concerning Civil Rights. But the text is short, the font is large, and the spacing is liberal; so the short story…

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    PZ’s Eight Easy Ways To Shrink Your Church

    The strangest thing happened. The other day, just after penning his “Ten Ways to Grow Your Church”, PZ was looking through an old box of letters and found a sealed envelope he’d never seen before. The return address read only “Screwtape”. He was so surprised and bedazzled by its contents (reprinted below) that he almost missed the subheading on the envelope, “Do not open until 2015″

    Eight Easy Ways to Shrink Your Church

    Just in case you’re not yet part of the program, there is still time. Here is how:

    server1) Preach to your congregation not as individuals but as a “worshiping community”. This way, no individual sufferer will get the idea that God has a word for him or her concretely.

    2) Try to schedule a Public Baptism at every main Sunday service. This works well over time, because (a) the people who only came for the Public Baptism won’t come back anyway; and (b) the individual seeker whose personal need drew him to church that Sunday will feel completely out of things and also never come back. A major advantage of having Public Baptisms at the main Sunday service is that it prevents the preacher from giving a serious, sustained message. This is key.

    3) Schedule as many possible Sunday morning awards ceremonies for your young people’s choirs. This way you can guarantee interminable rounds of applause for individuals whom a visitor has never met, in connection with an activity of which a newcomer can scarcely conceive. Schedule at least four of these per year, though six is better.

    4) Get your congregation to stand as long as possible and as much as possible during the service. This helps make newcomers and seekers feel uncomfortable psychologically and physically. It has the excellent corollary of discouraging an attitude of repentance and remorse. Since newcomers and visitors often come with a burdened heart and brain, you want to deprive them, if you can, of relief from the very thing that drew them to church. Especially get your congregation to stand during the penitential parts of the service. Better yet, delete those parts.

    7c249490529ac511ec31b95ff6bead0fad257dcb5) Emphasize and re-emphasize that the main reason people come to church is their “hunger for community”. See your listeners primarily as social animals who have constructed themselves as collective beings rather than troubled, anxious souls. This way you will miss the reason they come to church. Focus on community long enough as an end in itself, and you can probably drive away even the most loyal member of your parish. This method takes about four years to work completely.

    6) Make sure your sermons have no compelling illustrations. This means that no one will remember a thing you said and they can go home without needing to think about what happened in church. Make religious assertions — orthodox assertions are fine, too — but don’t apply them to individual pain. Over about three years this method can thin your numbers nicely.

    7) Constantly remind your congregation to do more in the way of social justice. This works especially well when you have 20 or so stalwarts left in the congregation and they’re not exhausted enough yet to stop coming on Sundays. Always “up the ante” of demand as your numbers go down. This speeds things up beautifully.

    8) Make sure your organist or director of music always chooses the hymns for Sunday morning. This way no one will know any of them, especially visitors or newcomers. That’s an advantage in making sure they don’t come back.

    Everyone Else’s Biggest Problem, Pt 4: Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

    Everyone Else’s Biggest Problem, Pt 4: Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

    Welcome to the fourth installment of author Ted Scofield’s series on everybody else’s biggest problem but your own. If you missed one or more of the previous installments, you can find them beginning here. New installments will be posted every two weeks, on Tuesdays.

    Ann is a single, 50 year old entrepreneur. She invented a cost-efficient, biodegradable car battery that will transform the energy industry and measurably slow global warming.

    Tesla’s Elon Musk bought the patent from Ann; from the sale she netted $1 billion in cold, hard cash.

    Ann promptly identified a group of respected, low-overhead charities that help starving children, cancer…

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    Lay Down Your Weary Tune (in NYC) – David Zahl

    The closing talk from our Spring NYC Conference – only loosely related to the talk of the same name given in Tyler:

    Lay Down Your Weary Tune – David Zahl from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

    PZ’s Podcast Episode 200: Catatonia

    PtL! PZ’s Podcast hits quite a milestone today, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t take the opportunity to point newcomers to this guide to PZP world. It doubles as a fond look back. Oh and we’re aware of the difficulties listeners are having with a handful of older episodes. Hoping to have them re-uploaded in the next week or two. Thank you for your patience.

    EPISODE 200

    This is not the Who’s Final Tour. (They always come back.) So maybe it is the Who’s Final Tour.

    Whatever it is, it’s Podcast 200, and that’s a benchmark. Somehow. So I decided to sum up the two core themes of the last… 100 or so casts, and also tell you something that’s blown my mind recently. It’s an instance of catatonia by way of Catalonia.

    Seriously, the two core themes of PZ’s Podcast are the durability and necessity of romantic connection; and the presence of God when a person is at the end of his or her rope. ‘God meets us at our point of need.’

    Gosh, I’ve seen that happen a lot. Not least of all, to me.

    And I know, too, from Mary — ‘Along Comes Mary’ (The Association) — that the boy-girl side of things is paramount. Nothing above it.

    Now, for 23 short minutes, Come Fly With Me.

    Innocent Bystanders, Assemble! The Viewer’s Perspective in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

    Innocent Bystanders, Assemble! The Viewer’s Perspective in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

    This reflection comes to us from Tim Peoples.

    I’m no hero, and that was brought home to me in a three-month binge of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (twelve films and three TV series…thanks very much, Age of Ultron marketing!).

    Several works in the MCU follow a wider cultural trend of the deconstruction of the American male (ht DZ at the Love, Suffering, and Creativity conference), which shows us how low our anthropology should be. For example, the Iron Man trilogy is mostly about Tony Stark’s attempt to atone for war profiteering, and the third installment even provides a post-Iraq/Afghanistan meditation on post-traumatic…

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    Confessions of a Grace Bully

    Confessions of a Grace Bully

    This confession comes to us from Scott Brand.

    Recently, I decided to move from Orlando to St. Louis for school. During the transition, I stopped for a week in Columbus, OH, to stay with my parents in the house in which I grew up. Most of my family still resides in Columbus, and, for the last five years, I haven’t been able to visit home very much. It was a good time to reconnect and catch up with cousins, aunts, and uncles, as well as begin the process of making my nieces not terrified of the bearded monster that insists on…

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    PZ’s Ten Ways to Grow Your Church

    Mockingbird’s roving correspondent has been taking in a lot of church services this Summer, mostly in the Northeast. Some have been excruciating, two have been glorious. Here are ten short reflections on my trip, on how to grow a church in light of what I’ve seen. The most important is the last.

    1. Begin by watching and studying every minute of Red Beard (1965) by Akira Kurosawa. The main character, a physician, played by Toshiro Mifune, is the ideal parish minister. Everything he does is perceptive, right, and plenum gratiae.
    2. Only ever preach one sermon, which is the forgiveness of sins, the absolution of every human “as is”, through the suffering and Passion of the Christ.
    3. Make sure every sermon has at least one arresting emotional illustration.
    4. green+rayRead, mark, learn, and inwardly digest each incident in Theophilus North (1973), the final novel of Thornton Wilder. Theophilus North is the all time handbook for intrepid, effective pastoral evangelism.
    5. Abolish all rules concerning weddings, and also baptisms, and say yes to every request you get. But don’t schedule baptisms, unless they are “in house” cases such as your child’s, for the main Sunday service. Do them privately Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon – the Jane Austen way.
    6. Focus monomaniacally on the casual visitor and seeker, but don’t let them know that. Just visit them or call them (personally) the Sunday afternoon of their visit. But call them after your nap.
    7. Only choose old and familiar hymns for Sunday mornings and make sure you do the choosing, not whoever is the organist.
    8. Never miss a chance to write a thank-you note. It should be an apt postcard from the Morgan Library or some place like that.
    9. Try to visit everyone in their home, even if they seem to resist it at first. Also visit everyone who gets sick when they are in the hospital. This has become one of the hardest tasks of parish ministry, partly because hospital parking lots have become more complicated and partly because hospital security no longer favors members of the clergy. It can still be done, however.
    10. Watch and study every minute, especially the last 15, of The Green Ray (1986) by Eric Rohmer. That movie is a testament to the reality that anyone can be saved, and there’s how it happens.

    Coming Soon: PZ’s Eight Easy Ways to Shrink Your Church!

    Hopelessly Devoted: John Chapter Three Verse Thirty

    This morning’s devotion comes from Keith Pozzuto.

    He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30, ESV)

    I grew up thinking that “sanctification” was all about me. I thought that I was saved by Jesus, but then it was up to me—in my cooperation with the Holy Spirit—to become a holy person, a good person. In my mind, my obedience and disciplines were what sanctified me, what helped me climb the ladder to glory. Sanctification is the word used to describe the life between “being saved” and going on up into God’s glory. “Sanctification is a process,” I had been told.

    Now I have a new vision of sanctification—and it really is a vision. It’s not based on merit, but on reality. It kind of looks like this:

    I am standing in front of a gravestone. It is grey and wet, predawn, and the breeze is brisk at first. I have a shovel in my hand and I am digging. The digging is easy for a while, but then, about a foot down, I hit clay and the digging becomes harder. After a while I’m completely covered in red mire, this refuse of years of decay. Then dawn breaks. The sun rises over the cruciform headstone, and its shadow passes over me. Not long after, I am completely under its shadow. I cannot escape the depths of digging, but I cannot escape the morning shadow of the cross, either. The sunlight seems to filter around the cold stone, heaven a cross-shaped keyhole through the pit that I have dug for myself.

    To me, this is a more insightful vision of sanctification. The deeper we dig, the more we realize Christ’s boundless depth of love.

    From the NYC Conference: Absolution Is Just

    This from our Calvary-St. George’s host, the one and only Rev. Jacob Smith

    Absolution is Just – Jacob Smith from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

    From the Forgiveness Issue: 11 Special Portraits of Forgiveness in Film

    From the Forgiveness Issue: 11 Special Portraits of Forgiveness in Film

    This list, from the Rev. JAZ, is our first free peek at our summer issue. If you’d like to order a copy, check them out here. 

    Les Miserables In any version, this is the gold standard. You know the scene: Jean Valjean steals the Bishop’s silver in the middle of the night. When the police bring him back to the Bishop’s house to answer for his stash, the Bishop adds two silver candlesticks to the bag full of stolen property, and then dismisses the police. “Today I bought your soul.”

    The September Issue (2009) A fine documentary about the ins and outs…

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