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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.


Author Archive
    Seeing Tares

    Seeing Tares

    Grateful for this one by Jay Wamsted.

    I could hear the trouble outside through my door. I taught ninth graders that year—a challenge even on the best day—and I should have been posted up in the hallway before my students returned from lunch, should have been using their inertia to usher them straight into class. Instead I was just a little late crossing the room from my desk, panicking as I unlocked the door. Though I was able to watch the tail end of an argument between two of my students—they were squared off in the shadow of my doorway, foot…

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    PZ's Podcast: Turning Point & The Year We Make Contact

    PZ’s Podcast: Turning Point & The Year We Make Contact

    EPISODE 234: Turning Point

    This theme of the insuperability of at least one problem in your life continues to absorb me — and in the light of hope and hopefulness.

    I tell the story of a woman who recently attended a meeting of church executives, almost all of whom are absorbed by current issues and questions of identity in political terms. This person said to me afterwards, “It seemed like a voice spoke to me, as I listened to the virtue-signalling: ‘This form of Christianity has no future.’ ” What she meant was that there was no SAVING being proffered, nothing related…

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    Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Eighteen Verses Twenty-One Through Thirty-Five

    This morning’s devotion, inspired by yesterday’s Gospel passage, was written by Kris McInnes.

    …Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-35, NRSV)

    Forgiveness is hard, and the forgiveness God demands is impossible. Jesus tells a story of a man who was forgiven much and then refused to forgive one who owed him little. This unforgiving man was tortured until he paid back all he owed, an amount so staggering that it would have been impossible for him to recover.

    We often assume the point of the parable is simple, that we should forgive others and not hold grudges, but that end is impossible to attain. If we walk away from the parable thinking that this is something we can live up to, or worse, something we are living up to, then we are lost. The parable can only help us if through it we hear what we are supposed to do and realize that we are not doing it. And this should come naturally—it won’t take long to think about how unforgiving we are: think about the last time you heard someone sing the national anthem, the last time you watched Access Hollywood, the last time you sized someone up in the grocery store, the latest gossip you heard.

    These are our shortcomings before the Law of Forgiveness. We may like that Jesus forgives, we may even like the idea of forgiving others, but we cannot do it ourselves. Like any other, this law can only assist us in illuminating our death before it and our need for an external forgiver. Thankfully, on the other side of this death is the new life in a forgiving and loving God, who sent his son Jesus to show us how it’s done.

    From the cross Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” and that is exactly what God does. He doesn’t even wait for us to ask. Before we go looking for it or even realize we need help, we are forgiven. Before our mouths can even form the words “I’m sorry,” we are forgiven.

    Exploring the Oddball World of Leftfield Christian Music, Pt 2 (1973-1987) – John Zahl

    At last, the one we’ve all been waiting for! Firefighters not included unfortunately… But you can check out the initial installment here:

    Exploring the Oddball World of Leftfield Christian Music, Part 2 ~ John Zahl from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

    JAZ was also kind enough to furnish us with a recording of the first two hours of his set at this year’s Episcodisco. Stream below or download here:

    Still Learning

    Still Learning

    Grateful for this piece—11 vignettes of 100 words each—by Andrew Taylor-Troutman.

    “It is a hard time to be human. / We know too much / and too little.” Ellen Bass


    Newly minted with my Masters of Divinity degree, I stepped into a pulpit before a dozen black faces. After reading from Romans, I launched into my six-page lecture sprinkled more liberally with Shelley and Keats than the Apostle Paul, and I’d not hit even the third sentence when an elderly woman, small and dark like a raisin, sounded out from the back pew like ringing a bell:

    —Lord, hep him! Hep him, Jesus!


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    Villains, Saints, and Queens of the Stone Age

    Villains, Saints, and Queens of the Stone Age

    This one comes to us from Caleb Stallings.

    “Oh villain! Thou art condemned into everlasting redemption.”
    William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

    My friends always laugh whenever I say, “That’s it! I’m quitting Twitter. I’m quitting social media. I’m quitting smartphones. I’m quitting it all!” I’ve melodramatically announced this countless times in the past few years, and I’ve followed through with it just a few. And, of course, I always end up coming back. It all starts as a desperate measure: the weight of the hoi polloi becomes unbearable, and so I look to cast off the fetters of our moral-outrage-of-the-week culture. The…

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    PZ's Podcast: Question (LIVE), On the Road to Love & Easier Said Than Done

    PZ’s Podcast: Question (LIVE), On the Road to Love & Easier Said Than Done

    EPISODE 230: Question (LIVE)

    The fact that the mainstream churches are hiding their Light under a bushel is the primary reason for their atrophy. The fact that most of our churches are “missing in action” when it comes to the seemingly insuperable pain of living that we bring to them and to their representatives — well, that, I believe, is the main cause of their numerical decline.

    Today I want to posit an alternative to this almost willful but in fact mostly unconscious suppression of the Primary (i.e, the Gospel Word) in favor of the secondary (i.e., “issues” of the day) and…

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    Gethsemane Hospital: Our Interview with Ray Barfield

    Gethsemane Hospital: Our Interview with Ray Barfield

    Another glimpse into the Love & Death Issue, our interview with pediatric palliative care oncologist, Ray Barfield. Ray also teaches philosophical theology at Duke Divinity School. Tissues at the ready…

    When you think of modern healthcare, what comes to mind? White hallways, beeping monitors, lots of nervous energy, little laughter? Whether or not you’ve had positive experiences there, it’s hard to deny that the hospital often feels far from home. Part of this is unavoidable—CAT scans and physical exams will always be intrusive. But, as Atul Gawande noted in his groundbreaking bestseller, Being Mortal, much of what makes medicine scary is…

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    Greetings from the Upside-Down ~ Stephanie Phillips

    Here’s a fantastic breakout session from our recent conference in NYC. Mockingbird writer Stephanie Phillips discusses the ups and downs of moving across the world (not to mention a stellar intro by the one and only Mark Babikow).

    Greetings from the Upside Down ~ Stephanie Phillips from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

    Lust, Love, and the Gospel According to Kendrick Lamar

    Lust, Love, and the Gospel According to Kendrick Lamar

    A standout at this year’s turbulent VMAs, Kendrick Lamar performed a moving show and won several prestigious awards. Here’s a reflection on his latest album, written by Mocking-friend Sam Guthrie. 

    Turning on Kendrick Lamar’s most recent album DAMN. is like tuning into a boxing match. You don’t just listen to single songs; you experience the different rounds of a fight where Kendrick and his demons pummel each other.

    One of the most compelling bouts on DAMN. is between “Lust” and “Love”. “Lust” begins with a tired, end of the road Kendrick on the verge of falling prey to lust: “I need…

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    Help for Houston

    Distraught by the many reports coming from our friends and contributors struggling to weather the terrible storm in Houston. There are a number of organizations that are already hard at work organizing the relief (Red Cross, Salvation Army, Episcopal Relief & Development, WorldVision, etc) but any readers interested in more specific ways of helping, here are two on-the-ground opportunities:

    1. Submerged St Thomas in Houston. Water has risen substantially since these were taken.

      St. Thomas Episcopal Church and School in Houston, the site of our 2014 conference (rector David Browder is a dear friend and former Mboard member), has been hit particularly hard, as has the neighborhood surrounding. To donate to their relief effort, click here.

    2. Holy Spirit Episcopal Church where Josh Condon (husband of Sarah) serves, has also suffered quite a bit of damage, especially in their immediate community and congregation. You can give here.

    PZ’s Podcast: I Live on a Battlefield

    He’s back!! Sincerest apologies to all the faithful PZP listeners who noticed that the cast had disappeared from iTunes this summer. We’ve had some technical issues which have now been resolved, ptL. Older episodes (pre-210) should be back on iTunes soon. For now, though, we have a brand new one for you:

    EPISODE 229: I Live on a Battlefield

    A penetrating comment recently from a friend set up a chain reaction inside me that’s resulted in this new cast. After a long hiatus and with the support of Mockingbird, I’m starting back up and hope these new episodes may speak.

    My friend, who is about my age, observed that everyone we know, without exception — that’s the “hard” part of the saying — has suffered some arresting impasse or insuperable loss, some decisive disappointment or unconquerable conflict, which they simply cannot get over.

    I agree with my friend.

    Moreover, people in situations of undeniable blockage often turn to God, or whatever/wherever they think God may be. And it is there, at this conscious point of need, that churches “come out” as being out of their depth and shockingly irrelevant to human suffering. Sadly, I know — Mary and I know.

    In points of distress since 2007 we have tried so many parishes and churches. We have crawled on our knees to hoped-for altars of comfort and hope, and received… nothing. I mean, nothing! There are exceptions, such as All Saints, Winter Park (FL) and Calvary/St. George in New York City. And there are others. But for the most part, you abase yourself in search of a word of hope and grace, and you get a junior-choir awards ceremony; or a sermon consisting wholly of platitudes without a single illustration; or an exhausting summons to a social cause; or a public baptism of perfect strangers who are actually strangers to the parish but can fill up some pews on a given Sunday. “It’s like a jungle sometimes/It makes me wonder/How I keep from goin’ under” (Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, 1982)

    So I’m talking today about the universal in-reach of pain, and some of the resources I have found in recent months to stanch it. And I promise you, this is “Only the Beginning” (Chicago, 1969)…