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Another Week Ends: Exotic Magi, Histories of Christmas, More Elves on Shelves, Rand Reviews Children’s Movies, and More Messes of Help

Another Week Ends: Exotic Magi, Histories of Christmas, More Elves on Shelves, Rand Reviews Children’s Movies, and More Messes of Help

Housekeeping thing: a few copies of A Mess of Help sent out had lots of 5s in their tables of contents. Let us know if you got one of those, and we’ll send a new one.

1. As we’re getting into the Christmas spirit, The Economist makes a surprising contribution with a survey of the Magi’s reception history. Apparently the men were likely astrologers/sages of some sort, but people found kings more appealing. In medieval times, some strange theologians talk about massive royal retinues encamped outside Bethlehem, etc. And in other strains of the tradition, they were bumbling traveler types, something in between the…

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A Real Advent Hero: St. Peter, The All-Reminding Forgetter

A Real Advent Hero: St. Peter, The All-Reminding Forgetter

The Advent reading this morning in the Daily Office Lectionary is a zinger, the way it’s laid out. (Don’t get any ideas—this isn’t something I do with any regularity.) First off, we’re given the Old Testament reading, the Lord’s promise through the prophet Isaiah, that a child will come, and that through him the heavy burdens of the “people in darkness” will finally see light: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light…

An Imaginative Festival of Lessons and Carols

An Imaginative Festival of Lessons and Carols

A yearly Christmas pleasure is King’s College at Cambridge’s famous Festival of Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve, nine lessons and nine carols with a beautiful choir and traditional music. For those who just can’t wait, here’s a bit of the rationale of the King’s College service, followed by an Mbird-friendly, fresh and down-to-earth spinoff to tide you over:

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was first held on Christmas Eve 1918. It was planned by Eric Milner-White, who, at the age of thirty-four, had just been appointed Dean of King’s after experience as an army chaplain which had convinced him that…

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Idols of Nostalgia and the Downfall of Doc Huxtable

Idols of Nostalgia and the Downfall of Doc Huxtable

It’s hard to cross the Internet these days without reading an update on Bill Cosby’s falling star. As of this writing, a planned NBC comeback sitcom has been cancelled, and other new initiatives (like an ill-conceived social media meme push) have been met with anger and sarcasm. Perhaps most salient: TV Land has quietly stopped airing reruns of The Cosby Show, the sitcom that rocketed Bill Cosby to the national spotlight in the 80s. I missed the golden years of Dr. Huxtable and clan on The Cosby Show, so I’ve been discovering in tandem the tremendous legacy of hope that was Cosby’s acting work…

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Hopelessly Devoted: First Timothy Chapter Four Verses Eleven through Sixteen

Just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday (and a much-needed reprieve for our office!) comes this devotion in today’s spot, from Jonathan Mumme–a reminder of the gift we have that holds the whole thing together.

Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift [charisma] you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:11-16, ESV)

como-acabar-con-tu-jefe-04Poor Timothy—what a load! Paul, his “father in the faith,” has left town, sticking him with quite the laundry list. And yet that sounds an awful lot like typical Christianity, doesn’t it? Taking the burden from your shoulders and laying a dozen in its place. Hit atonement like a drive-thru, and with that bag in hand, speed off to the highway of “the Christian life” of moral responsibility, Scripture reading, character-building. Christianity somehow became a life of holy burdens.

There in the middle of all that is given him to do, though, is that which is given to him wholly and fully. The sine qua non—neglect it and it will all fall apart—is the charisma (gift) in him.

The certainty with which Paul approaches the ministry is the same certainty under which Timothy gets to operate: if the Lord has put him to it, the Lord himself will do it, and the Lord has certainly put him to it. Is Timothy the one saving or preserving himself and his hearers, or is God Himself the Savior of all, including Timothy and his hearers? Paul says it is not an either/or: God saves, and Timothy is responsible for the saving where he has been placed. It is not God without Timothy, nor is it God x% and Timothy x%, but God fully and Timothy fully. Whatever saving Timothy is set to be doing, it will be the Lord doing it, and that goes for the ordering, reading, preaching, teaching and the rest of this grand, long list of things given to do along with the gift given.

Where do you feel you and God are working 50-50? Where does God feel absent or dormant? Where does his presence feel all too present?

What is to be done in the Church is what God himself gives to be done. Toward that doing He gives gifts. Tasks given, gift given, to Paul and Timothy and others who are surely put in place; it is the Lord, the Savior, seeing to the whole show.

Risky Business: Jesus Meets a Control Freak – RJ Heijmen

The second of our Fall Conference videos is here!

Risky Business: Jesus Meets a Control Freak – RJ Heijmen from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Mockingbird: Bringing You the Gospel (pt 40)

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Where can I go from your Spirit?
     Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
     if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
     if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
     your right hand will hold me fast.

-Psalm 139, verses 7-10

Hopelessly Devoted: Philippians Chapter Three Verse Twenty

This morning’s devotion comes from Kate Norris.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20, ESV)

a_560x375When I was an infant, my mother tells me, I suffered regularly from ear infections. A particularly painful infection reduced me to a fit, and my mother, who tells me she was completely undone by my screams, took me to the doctor in panic. New decibel levels ricocheted against the linoleum floor and the high gloss wall-paint in the examination room. Frazzled, she couldn’t help the doctor; I obviously couldn’t either. The doctor took me in his arms and laid me down on the table. Gently he held me securely down and stilled my head with one large hand, and with the other he examined my ear.

We enter the world like this, as babies raging against the world, and we live our lives in much the same way onward—though perhaps sometimes a bit more socialized. And yet sometimes, the more we rage against our various illnesses, the worse things seem to get.

As Delirious sings, “Love will find a way to break through.” This is the hope of the Christian faith. God broke through as this Love in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus forgave all those who raged against God; he made the sick well. His promise is that we will realize the full scope of what he did for us when he comes again; he will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body. He has the power to overcome our worst tantrums and even our death. Perhaps today something is hanging over us: a fear, a regret, a loss, an addiction. He knows our problem more than we do, and he will subject that thing—even the big thing in our lives—to himself for healing.

Serial, Contradictions, and the Jesus Stories

Serial, Contradictions, and the Jesus Stories

The Gospels are full of contradictions. There, I said it. Take, for example, the differing accounts of the resurrection. In Matthew, the two Marys – Magdelene and Jesus’ mom – are at the empty tomb, greeted by an earthquake and an angel. In Luke, Joanna and other unnamed females are added to the mix, and they see two angels, rather than one. According to John, it is Mary Magdelene only, and after running to fetch Peter and John (the author), she sees Jesus, although she mistakes him at first for a gardener. Mark ends most strangely, with the two Marys and someone…

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“I Can Feel It Coming in the Air Tonight, Oh Lord”: Frank Darabont’s The Mist (2007)

“I Can Feel It Coming in the Air Tonight, Oh Lord”: Frank Darabont’s The Mist (2007)

The fourth and final installment of Ian Olson & I’s Halloween series for Mbird focuses on Frank Darabont’s 2007 adaptation of a Stephen King novella, The Mist—which has been spoken about briefly before. The film stars Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden & Andre Braugher.

Blake:

The Mist is a throwback 60’s style creature flick where a group of people are trapped in a grocery store surrounded by a strange, dense mist that came in after an intense storm the night before. If that was not weird enough for the poor captives, those who try to escape the store into the mist seem…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Second Corinthians Chapter Twelve Verse Nine

This morning’s jolt of java comes from the one and only John Zahl.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV)

You want to be in control, but you are not. Because of this, the heart-felt experience of faith will always entail a kind of personal deconstruction, rather than some kind of building up. The more you get to know the God who loves sinners, the more you will see your own need for Him.

Sometimes people ask God to build in them all the things that they think they need in order to face life successfully. He will do no such thing! Why would He turn you into a vessel that has no need for Him? Faith means trusting Him to be all the things you need Him to be, despite your own inadequacies, and, for that matter, in light of the fact that you don’t actually know what you need or what success actually looks like. He won’t give you strength; He will be your strength. God deconstructs. God intervenes. God prevents.

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Hopelessly Devoted: Second Corinthians Chapter One Verse Nineteen and Twenty

Hopelessly Devoted: Second Corinthians Chapter One Verse Nineteen and Twenty

Back from Texas, here’s yesterday morning’s devotion, just a day late. It comes from Paul Walker.

For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him. (2 Corinthians 1:19-20, ESV)

“Yes” is a gracious word. Yes, please come in. Yes, please stay for dinner. Yes, I would love to go with you. Yes, of course, take all the time you need.

“No” is a forbidding word. No, you may not come. No, there isn’t room for you. No, I’m too busy. No, it was due yesterday.

Human beings are both Yes and No. Most children learn to nod “yes” and shake their…

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