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Hopelessly Devoted: John Chapter Five Verses Twenty-Two Through Twenty-Seven

Hopelessly Devoted: John Chapter Five Verses Twenty-Two Through Twenty-Seven

This morning’s devotion was written by John Zahl. 

The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life. “Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice…

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A Message from Christ Church in Charlottesville

A Message from Christ Church in Charlottesville

As a follow-up to his recent sermon, here is the message Rector Paul Walker sent to his parishioners at Christ Church in Charlottesville—relevant for all of us left shocked and dismayed by the events of last Saturday.

Dear Friends,

Evil is not a word to be used lightly. But it is a word that is squarely within the canons of Christian scripture, theology, and tradition. If you have participated in one of the many baptisms at Christ Church, you will have heard  the minister ask the following question to the parents and godparents of the baptismal candidate. “Do you renounce the evil…

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Architects, Madmen and Ernest Becker's The Denial of Death

Architects, Madmen and Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death

Freud, Kierkegaard, and the drug lord Heisenberg…A free peek into the Love & Death Issue, which people continue to tell us is their favorite issue thus far. Here is Ethan’s piece on the classic, Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death. If you subscribe to the magazine, and add the code JESSEPINKMAN in the notes section of your order, we’ll send a free copy to a friend of your choosing.

And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone…

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From the Archives: God Is Not The Archives

From the Archives: God Is Not The Archives

A throwback from Adam Morton. 

One great benefit of regularly preaching and teaching from the Bible in exchange for money, aside from the money itself (fine, not spectacular), is that it forces me into confrontation with portions of scripture that would otherwise escape notice. My spiritual discipline is inadequate to compel this in any other way. Take that under advisement as you read. By the call of God I have a certain limited authority, and by sheer divine grace expressed through good genes I have fair powers of recall–nevertheless, my knowledge of chapter and verse would not impress anyone who has long made…

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This Is Babylon

This Is Babylon

A moving piece by Jay Wamsted:

I leave my room and head downstairs, paperwork in hand. Today is my first day back from an extended absence, and I have to get my principal to sign a form stating that I have, indeed, returned to work. He is not in his office, and though I briefly debate taking off for other errands, I decide to hang out in the lobby of the high school where I teach, catching up with a couple of colleagues I have not seen in some weeks. Our conversation is interrupted, however, when across the atrium I see…

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Theology Lessons from a Ghetto Star

Theology Lessons from a Ghetto Star

Another amazing one from our friend Chad Bird. 

When the phone rang at his friend’s house, Tommy Shakur Ross picked up the receiver. And into his ears fell razor-sharp words that would keep falling and falling, shredding his insides in their violent descent…

Tommy—who goes by Shakur—was a member of the L.A. gang, the Eight Trays. Raised by a minister father and church-going mother, Shakur discovered within the gang a new identity, a new culture, new aspirations. He even received a new name; he became Joker.

But despite his moniker, Joker was dead serious. He was out to earn a reputation, score points,…

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The Celebration Department

The Celebration Department

I want to be clear about something from the very start: I adore my cell phone. From the very first time I found myself in the grocery store, not knowing if my wife wanted tuna fish packed in water or in oil and I was actually able to call and find out, I was in love. I like social media, being able to keep up with my friends…GPS maps…weather prediction…google at my fingertips…it’s all incredible. I do admit, though, to a certain disturbing compulsion with the phone. Whenever there’s a moment in which nothing else is going on, I feel…

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When God Leaves It Unresolved

When God Leaves It Unresolved

As it goes when its 90-plus outside and no body of water is cold enough to cool you off, much of my time the past few weeks has been spent on the couch, in the air conditioning, streaming television. Lately, Hannah and I were recommended the crooked-cop show, Line of Duty, and in the past couple weeks we have sped through three seasons. It’s a terrific show, the best kind of cop show, where the dialogue is smart and the plot twists are both conceivable and completely unforeseeable. As expected, we start with one episode in mind and, bleary-eyed and…

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The God of Order and the God of Cabbage Hill

The God of Order and the God of Cabbage Hill

Most Sundays you can find me in the pulpit of an imposing brick church on the western edge of downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania. One-way streets join in odd angles and strange numbers before its disused front doors; Cabbage Hill at once rises and descends behind it into a labyrinth of narrow alleys, overhead power lines, and crumbling Edwardian row houses. Not a hundred feet out of sight is our parking lot, one of very few in that corner of the city, but woe to the one who seeks it without aid of GPS. I have on occasion suggested a sign for…

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Freedom in Christ, or, How Can We Do What You Do…On The Dance Floor ~ Drew Rollins

A timely meditation from the best dancer hands down at this year’s EpiscoDisco, Drew Rollins. From our recent conference in NYC:

Devotion: Freedom in Christ or How Can We Do What You Do…On The Dance Floor ~ Drew Rollins from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Twenty Verses One Through Sixteen

“…Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:1-16, NRSV)

We humans are in love with justice. It is probably one of the most recurring themes in cultural expression since the Stone Age. Today, it’s not just that we have our Judge Judy and Law & Order courtroom obsessions—we also just love the narrative of justice served. This is Quentin Tarantino’s shtick (Kill Bill and, more recently, Django Unchained), and this is why his movies are so critically successful. They playfully enter into a long line of comeuppances and vengeance stories that people have loved since their dawn-of-time inception.

More than just the retributive brand of justice—of bad guys getting what’s coming to them—we are also fascinated with the restorative form. Politicians, policy-makers, and administrators all use words like “social justice” and “the common good” and “equality” to talk about defending the defenseless and bringing up the lowly. This is a very good and true thing—the Bible itself speaks highly of advocacy for the poor.

But it seems that we only want this kind of advocacy for others so long as it is expressed in terms of “deserving.” One of the most glaring examples of this is the feel-good era of reality television, like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. We’ve all seen it: Ty Pennington yells aloud, “Move that bus!” and a disadvantaged family is captured, mouths agape, before their brand new house, their excessively nice cars, their new full-size basketball court. For a moment, it feels like the cosmos has been generously righted, but in truth, this kind of generosity is only warranted for the “right” kind of poor. These programs—and people in general—are comfortable with generosity only as a leg up for the hardworking, stand-up variety of unfortunates. Generosity for us does not mean blind “handouts,” but trustworthy “investments” with reimbursements. (I wonder how long these shows would last if the same generosity landed upon chronic gamblers, crooks, and sexual deviants?)

This is what Jesus is saying about the human brand of justice in relation to God’s. As Feist sang, “There’s a limit to your love.” The kind of deep generosity we may accept for ourselves runs counter to the deep judgment we hope others get. This parable gives a new—and too-often revolting—take on equality: everyone gets this generosity, without repayment plans, starting with those who deserve it least.

Couldn’t Never Figure Out How to Love: When a Rebel Breaks the Chain

Couldn’t Never Figure Out How to Love: When a Rebel Breaks the Chain

In the town where I live, I’ve noticed the word “LOVE” cropping up in sneaky places, spray-painted on highway signs and under bridges. Under one particular bridge, it’s repeated over and over, almost urgently: LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE, as if it were—and I think it is—the key to life.

What makes Jesus one of the great moral teachers, right up there with Gandhi and MLK, even to atheists and agnostics, is that love was of utmost importance to him. On the night of his betrayal, he spoke to a small group of his most trusted followers: “A new commandment I…

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