About 8 year ago, when I was coaching our son’s 13 year old rec basketball team, we had a kid, Jessup, on the team who had obviously never played basketball. Worse, his body language told me that he had no interest in playing basketball. I judged the kid quickly, and harshly. As a coach, I was required to play everyone a minimum of two full, uninterrupted quarters (at least half the game). So, every game, in the first and third quarter, I would put Jessup in and hold my breath. We played an aggressive, press defense, and it required that…
I haven’t read Sherwin Nuland’s How We Die: Reflections of Life’s Final Chapter, but everyone I know who’s done a stint in a hospital–doctor, nurse, chaplain, volunteer–tells me it’s a ubiquitous find in the ICU. Descriptions of its contents tend to invoke the word “humanistic”, so I suppose I chalked its popularity up to Nuland having channelled secularist feelings about death in a smart, accessible way, i.e. without being a complete downer. Anyway, the other day someone forwarded me an excerpt of an interview he did with Krista Tippett back in 2009 (I think–Nuland died in 2014), and while some…
So much has been written — I mean, SO MUCH — concerning the so-called Historical Jesus: a welter of books and “Untersuchungen”. I’ve spent most of my career reading these books, and writing a few, too.
Then Pope Francis came along and put them all in a cocked hat. This is because if you want to see with your own eyes how Jesus operated in the New Testament — how he acted, how he spoke, how he was desired, and how he was received — all you need to do is watch Francis. Phrancis.
The way Christ was with Zacchaeus, Bartimaeus,…
We were heading in the same direction, an awkward number of steps apart, close enough that we might as well have been walking together. He was maybe ten years older than me, well put-together, kind face and a slightly outdoorsy demeanor. I think I’d seen him around the conference, family in tow, but we hadn’t spoken.
I was about to fall back and let him go ahead when he asked, “You heading to a session?” I was, I replied, the one on technology. It was just up ahead. “Hmm… Not much of technology guy myself – do you know where the Bible one is?”…
A few months ago, I wrote a brief piece entitled “When John Locke Turned Gospel into Law”, one that I considered to be true to the classic Mockingbird message: the unmistakably clear articulation of grace. Trying to connect that message with the philosopher John Locke’s vision of Christianity, I challenged his version of “the covenant of faith” as a false articulation of grace [a kind of afterthought]. Yet to my surprise, the post met with some pushback, and the comments, I must admit, did make a point: Does not Christianity shore up a positive vision of life, and thus an ethic?…
This one comes to us from Scott Larousse.
Last spring I was sitting in on a seminar on marriage at a prominent California university. The professor put forth a hypothetical about whether the state should recognize an intimate relationship based on a shared love of muscle-cars (rather than sex). Like a sort of intimate muscle-car form of romance. Although the bulk of students would’ve likely described themselves as liberal, it seemed like the hypothetical stretched them some. The appreciation in the room was palpable, like when you’ve been looking at a rabbit for several seconds but finally, you see the duck.
Today’s entry in The Mockingbird Devotional comes to us from Dylan Potter:
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 15:7, NIV)
The topic of Romans 14:1-15:13 is love and Christian liberty. Those who are “strong,” Paul says, tend to look down upon the “weak,” and their attitude is counterproductive to genuine Christian community. It’s certainly no less tempting now to gauge others: in the work place or in church Bible studies, the everyday appraisals are everywhere. In the previous chapter, Paul reminds the church in Rome not to allow their familiarity with grace to become a “stumbling block” to other believers— I shudder to think that he is writing about me.
Acceptance is a word we value in principle, but we’d rather not act on it. Acceptance simply goes too far for our tastes: we talk about “tolerance” or “hospitality,” but to think of acceptance in terms of Christ’s self-emptying kind of acceptance is veritably repulsive. At every corner we are inclined to say we have earned our stripes, that we have merited the privileges we so quickly withhold from those around us. A pastor once told me we only invite presumption and promote despair when we impose metrics upon others. He is correct because the word “accept” in 15:7 seems as if God is asking me to accept others as I’ve been accepted, and that acceptance isn’t one of my character traits.
The New Testament records numerous accounts when the early believers stumbled over this very same stone: Jew and Greek, male and female, slave and free. In fact this section is essentially Paul’s call for the Jewish believers in Rome to accept their Gentile counterparts, not as interlopers, but as brothers and sisters. The curious thing is that there is something about accepting the other that brings praise to God, perhaps because it best summarizes the condescension of Christ—to accept the other in Christ is to tell another person that we are just as shocked that God would welcome us. To view ourselves as Gentiles—this is still our stumbling stone! But most importantly, who knew that his resurrection was itself the confirmation that we are accepted by the Father every bit as much as he is accepted?
From Prayers of Life. This section sounds like a modern mixture of Jesus calming the storm (Mt 8) and the psalmist’s cry in the night (Ps 6). Quoist then gives us God’s response.
I’m at the end of my rope, Lord.
I am shattered.
I am broken.
Since this morning I have been struggling to escape temptation, which, now wary, now persuasive, now tender, now sensuous, dances before me like a seductive girl at a fair.
I don’t know what to do.
I don’t know where to go.
It spies on me, follows me, engulfs me.
When I leave a room I find it seated and waiting for…
However much attention it once received, “Pascal’s Wager” doesn’t seem to get much traction in today’s God debate/discourse. I’m referring to the idea put forth by the 18th century Jansenist sage Blaise Pascal that belief in God is a good “bet”–there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain from taking the leap of faith. In other words, the real question is not why a person should believe in God so much as why not. I can only presume the argument was more captivating in a pre-digital age than it is now.
If I were to theorize about the reasons for the…
Not that I’m a 300-pound drunk biker guy covered with tattoos ode to my mother, but my favorite thing to yell at any live show is “FREEBIRD!!” I know, I’m like the cliché bar-scene from every movie you’ve ever seen.
But seriously, no matter the cliché, I love this song. It makes me feel…free. Like stop-shaving-wave-a-lighter-in-the-air free.
Freedom is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. I wish I could say it’s because of the refugees pouring into Europe right now, fleeing the brutal tyranny in their home countries. Or because I’ve been so deeply inspired by the Pope’s visit to…
Did you cry at any point as you watched Pope Francis in action during his visit? If you did, when was it? What made you cry?
Now it wasn’t just John Boehner! I noticed as I watched the Pope inter-acting with individuals, and especially with individuals in acute need or distress, that it was those encounters that touched me personally. (I was abreacting all over the place.)
I don’t have spina bifida. I’m not in a wheelchair. I’m not six years old, nor…
This week I’ve waded deep into the world of Patrick Melrose. He’s from the upper crust in Britain, and if his world of ten thousand dollar weekend splurges in NYC and posh dinner parties in the English countryside aren’t quite applicable to my life, the pressure he feels to interpret and weave together his threads of experience into a meaningful story (and an ugly form of self-absorption that only serves to breed dread and guilt) most definitely are.
Edward St. Aubyn’s acclaimed series of novels pick up with Patrick at the age of five and carries him through an abusive relationship…