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Theology/Religion

You, Too, Might Find God in a Jar of Queso

You, Too, Might Find God in a Jar of Queso

This reflection comes to us from Mimi Montgomery.

“When I want to take God at his word exactly, I take a peep out the window at Creation. Because that, darling, He makes fresh for us every day, without a lot of dubious middle managers.” – Barbara Kingsolver

“Father Sullivan hoped to elevate the present to a state of divine. It seemed from this moment of repose that God may well have been life itself. God may have been the baseball games, the beautiful cigarette he smoked alone after checking to see that all the bats had been put back behind the closet door…How…

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An Un-Earnable Love and the Tragic Death of Performance: “Emotional Stuff” on 3 Mics

An Un-Earnable Love and the Tragic Death of Performance: “Emotional Stuff” on 3 Mics

This reflection comes from Julian Brooks.

Lately I’ve been on a standup comedy binge thanks to the power of Netflix, and I recently stumbled upon Neal Brennan’s special, 3 Mics. For those of you that don’t know, Neal Brennan was the co-writer of Chappelle’s Show oh too many years ago and has since been quietly writing behind the scenes for several other comedy shows.

The special is fantastic in its own right. As the title suggests, there are three mics set up on stage for Neal when the show opens. Each mic represents a different part of the show. One mic for witty one-liners…

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Finding Hope After 13 Reasons Why

Finding Hope After 13 Reasons Why

This post comes to us from Heather Strong Moore. 

What was your worst day? In what ways do you still think about it? How does it still effect you now? We all carry around our own personal blend of wounds and disappointments. This may be a factor in the show 13 Reasons Why becoming such a phenomenon among young people. A Netflix original, it has only been out for a couple of weeks and already is one of the most viewed series they’ve created.

Based on a book by the same title from author Jay Asher, this show follows a teenage girl named Hannah Baker. You…

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The Law, the Gospel, and Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints)

The Law, the Gospel, and Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints)

I probably heard the gospel many times during my childhood, but it didn’t register until I was a junior in college. When it finally grabbed my attention one fall night outside Gorin’s ice cream shop in the Five Points South neighborhood of Birmingham, Alabama, I saw my need to be rescued from my sin. I was with a friend who was a Christian when all of the puzzle pieces fit together. She prayed for me and with me after I acknowledged the fact that my efforts to perform and get my act together would never meet God’s expectations of holiness….

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Retreat, Not Advance (or How I Made It to New York Without a Wallet)

Retreat, Not Advance (or How I Made It to New York Without a Wallet)

A wonderful post from Connor Gwin:

“It is called a ‘retreat,’ not an ‘advance.’”

That was the advice given to me by a Brother from the Society of St. John the Evangelist before my first week-long retreat.

This is not what I wanted to hear.

Think of all the books I could read with a week of silence. Think of all the writing I could do.

You should know that I am big on plans. I make plans in my head for pretty much everything. I plan how my day will go. I plan how phone conversations will turn out. I plan the shape of…

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All the Grief We Can’t Relieve: A Meditation on Pearl Jam and Holy Saturday

All the Grief We Can’t Relieve: A Meditation on Pearl Jam and Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday may have come and gone, but its meaning and importance remain ever with us. This moving piece was written by John Alexander.

My friend Dave died in a car accident in 2007. The ten-year anniversary of his death roughly coincides with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction of Pearl Jam, a band that is inseparable from Dave’s life and times. Their debut album Ten recently turned 25 years old (the Hall of Fame’s minimum age requirement for a band’s nomination), which was Dave’s age when he died. Their induction ceremony was held in Brooklyn last weekend, on…

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The Beautiful Truth of Collateral Beauty

The Beautiful Truth of Collateral Beauty

In the Gospel reading appointed for Good Friday, Pilate asks Jesus, “What is truth?” He seems to really want to know. He seems to be searching for an answer to explain this bruised and beaten Jew standing before him and the chaotic scene outside in his courtyard. And the truth is what we come to church seeking each Good Friday. With Pilate we ask, “What is truth?” We show up before God on the day commemorating Christ’s death for us, asking such questions as, Why was this necessary? Why did God have to die for us? Why would God die for…

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Easter is God’s Great Yes to Earth

Easter is God’s Great Yes to Earth

This Easter Monday reflection comes to us from our friend Chad Bird.

This is the annual time of year some Christians roll their eyes as they tsk-tsk over eggs and bunnies smothering the real meaning of Easter.

I beg to differ. If anyone needs to roll his eyes, it’s God as he sees some of his followers more interested in heaven than he is.

Easter is God’s great affirmation of the earth and all it contains. The day when God says Yes to chocolate eggs and white bunnies, little girls’ pretty dresses and elaborate family dinners, trumpeting lilies and bodies of flesh and blood.

Easter…

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Between Death and Resurrection… He Descended Into Hell

Between Death and Resurrection… He Descended Into Hell

Holy Saturday is probably for most Western Christians the most insignificant part of the end of Holy Week. Most churches let it pass without much of a thought. The irony is that this day in between Good Friday and Easter is the day that seems to correspond closest to the everyday experience of the Christian life, which is lived in between the two comings of Christ. To walk by faith and not by sight eagerly awaiting our adoption and “the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:23) is to live between death and resurrection.

I’m told that some Eastern Orthodox Christians spit…

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Sharks in the Water: In the Event of a Failure (on Good Friday)

Sharks in the Water: In the Event of a Failure (on Good Friday)

I come from a pretty competitive family, so it should have been no surprise to find them enjoying the latest season of Shark Tank. Of this show’s many seductions — the edge-of-your-seat deliberations, the outlandish pitches (looking at you, Pinot Meow) — the biggest hook may be the sense of judgment hovering throughout each episode: a trembling entrepreneur stands up and pitches his or her idea before a squad of potential investors — the sharks! — who decide whether or not the business is worth their money.

The show’s producer, Mark Burnett, made an appearance at Unpolished 2015, an entrepreneurship conference described by Mya Frazier in her recent Bloomberg article, “What Would Jesus Disrupt?”…

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Spiritual Podiatry

It’s true: our feet tell the story of where we’ve been. Whether we like it or not, they record the terrain we’ve traversed, from the immediate substances tracked in – mud and dirt and chewing gum – to the deeper battering caused by missteps and accidents and just life. Not surprisingly, our feet are seldom the first thing we show other people. They’re covered, protected, hidden. Unless we’re in flip-flops.

Our feet, in other words, contain our age. One of the most beautiful things about a baby is how soft and pristine their feet are. No callouses or bunions or weird hairs. An adult foot, on the other hand… I remember being so grossed out by my father’s feet as a boy (to say nothing of my grandfather’s). Nowhere on the body was the discrepancy in our ages more pronounced.

There’s something democratizing about feet. The opening paragraph of David Foster Wallace’s Broom of the System has always stayed with me:

“Most really pretty girls have pretty ugly feet, and so does Mindy Metalman, Lenore notices, all of a sudden. They’re long and thin and splay-toed, with buttons of yellow callus on the little toes and a thick stair-step of it on the back of the heel, and a few long black hairs are curling out of the skin at the tops of the feet, and the red nail polish is cracking and peeling in curls and candy-striped with decay.”

You could say that unlike most body parts, feet tend to be a source of commiseration rather than comparison, a body part that places us all on similar, er, footing. It’s no coincidence that Jerry Seinfeld once quipped about one of Elaine’s boyfriends, “He’s not a doctor, he’s a podiatrist.”

How do we deal with our feet? Some of us get really into shoes, I suppose. We spend exorbitant amounts of money on that pair which can most transform the appendage into something attractive or exotic or extra-performative. Come to find out, the shiniest surfaces have a way of suffocating the puppies within.

Of course, many of us simply avoid and ignore our feet. It’s not that tough, since they’re the furthest thing from our face. We all remember the key plot point in Shawshank Redemption: Andy Dufresne is able to escape from jail because people tend not to look at other people’s feet.

On Maundy Thursday, we remember Jesus and his relationship to feet. Remember, we hear next to nothing about his facial features in the New Testament. Yet his feet get a number of mentions (his sandals too). We hear about people sitting at them, we hear about people anointing them–and not anointing them. Ultimately, we read about him showing his disciples “the full extent of his love” by going for–you guessed it–their feet. (John 13)

It’s remarkable, really: he knows the end is near, and this is how he chooses to spend their final moments together. Apparently he’s not interested in what they think makes them presentable, but what doesn’t–that which they’re ignoring or avoiding or covering up, the grime they’ve accumulated, their most unglamorous common aspect.

That’s where he goes to work. Doing for them what they cannot do for themselves. Rinse, absorb, repeat.

Just like Mr. Clean. And just like another Mister we know and love:

Hungry for Religion

Hungry for Religion

As the Church turns its attention to a certain supper, we thought we’d post the closing sermon from the most recent issue (Food and Drink) of The Mockingbird.

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one”… Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse…

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