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PZ’s Podcast: Centennial and Circle for a Landing

PZ’s Podcast: Centennial and Circle for a Landing

EPISODE 221: Centennial

Healing, one’s healing, doesn’t come from fiat, i.e., from declaration. Nor does it come from deletion, i.e., from living as if events in your past never took place.

Healing comes from abreaction and merger, from engagement, even the ‘clash by night’, with the past and with your hurt, rejection and pain.

I saw this recently “up close and personal” during a visit to my old college.

It was the centennial of my final club (i.e., fraternity), and the whole world had returned to show good faith and loyalty. Suddenly I became witness to an ancient institution that is throbbing with life….

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On Hoping The World Rejects The Gospel

On Hoping The World Rejects The Gospel

“Jesus is lord, and everything else is bullshit.”

That’s the gospel according to Stanley Hauerwas. It’s a brisk summary of what Paul says in Philippians 3:8-11. Jesus is the end-game and everything else is rubbish (Greek: Σκύβαλον; skubalon; animal feces).

So what Hauerwas says is true, but it’s not the whole gospel truth.

In a 2011 interview with the defunct Greater Than Magazine, Brian McLaren said that the gospel is that the Kingdom of God is at hand and that we can be part of it. He added that God has a dream for the world and that we have an important role…

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Everyone Is Still Awkward and the Gospel Is Still Strong: The 40th Anniversary of Women’s Ordination in the Episcopal Church

Everyone Is Still Awkward and the Gospel Is Still Strong: The 40th Anniversary of Women’s Ordination in the Episcopal Church

Last week marked the 40th anniversary of ordaining women to the Episcopal priesthood. While we have come so far, we have quite a way to go. No, I do not mean we need more women bishops. And no, I am not talking about how few women we see leading major churches. The church still has to adjust to women leading it, and women themselves are only at the beginning of navigating what it means to lead the church.

I laugh, heartily, when people suggest to me that the Episcopal Church is accepting and welcoming of women’s ordination. Instead I would say…

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Tough Love Lessons in a Year of Jail Ministry

Tough Love Lessons in a Year of Jail Ministry

Before even beginning this post, you probably noticed the one giant, smug asterisk that naturally attached itself to the title: *Oh goodness, that’s right. Can’t believe I forgot to tell you! I do jail ministry. NBD. I’d love to, you know, grab a beer and tell you more about it sometime…

Let me alleviate any forespoken superiority with a quick rejoinder: God did not equip me with enough confidence to throw “successful tips” out about much, and definitely not about doing jail Bible studies. I do not have tips. I am a “sensitive” guy, which does not exactly disqualify me from…

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Holy Forgetfulness

Holy Forgetfulness

I used to have a really great memory. It wasn’t the kind of memory that was featured on Dateline NBC, where people with photographic memory can recall very specific details of very specific dates in their lives. But I can remember details of very early events in my life, and my memory came in handy when I had to memorize facts and dates for tests in school. For as long as I can remember (heh), I knew that this kind of memory was a mixed bag – a blessing and a curse. I could memorize the multiplication table with very…

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A Review of A Woman’s Place [From a Man’s Perspective]

A Review of A Woman’s Place [From a Man’s Perspective]

Oftentimes evangelicalism, from the average parishioner’s perspective, is not so much a steady worldview as a collection of silently predetermined ideas. One of the more pernicious assumptions that many (though certainly not all) evangelicals share is that women are…limited? It’s really tough to nail down, partly because it is not universal. My first thought is Mark Gungor’s obnoxious video series Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage, in which he ascribes disproportionate men in leadership positions to women’s “spaghetti brains” and uses a high-pitched whine to portray the female side of a conversation. Or the offhand references to Love and Respect,…

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The Most Foolish Job in the World: Planting a Grace-Centered Church – Curt Benham

Sad to say, we’re nearing the end of our NYC Conference videos. Before we get there, though, here’s a great one from the inestimable Rev. Benham, who serves at (the wonderful) Village Church in Atlanta:

The Most Foolish Job in the World: Planting a Grace-Centered Church – Curt Benham from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Church of the Deconstruction

Church of the Deconstruction

This piece was featured in Issue 7 of The Mockingbird: The Church Issue. Issue 8 is well underway!

In a recent visit to Mexico, Pope Francis spoke to a congregation of Mexican bishops and clergy. His words were harsh, to say the least. Instead of decrying the social and political upheaval of the country, or its history of human trafficking and drug violence, the pontiff pointed the finger at his subordinates, warning them of their seduction by religious power:

Do not allow yourselves to be corrupted by trivial materialism or by the seductive illusion of underhanded agreements; do not place your faith…

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The Secret to Long-Term Relationships: Insanity?

The Secret to Long-Term Relationships: Insanity?

We’ve all been there. You say something to a friend or family member or spouse that seems innocuous. “Have you seen my sunglasses?”. “I may have to postpone our lunch.” Or maybe you do something thoughtless but minor. You forget to return an email. You borrow a piece of clothing without asking. The response you get is vicious–way out of proportion with whatever you’ve said or done.

This happens with alarming frequency in relationships, especially romantic ones. Soon both parties have shifted into “combat mode” and the conflict has escalated to painful heights. Your action or comment has triggered something significant in the other party, what psychologists…

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The Individual Sufferer and Preaching like a Bad Kid

The Individual Sufferer and Preaching like a Bad Kid

This one comes to us from our friend, Cody Gainous.

I get tasked with the Sunday morning sermon pretty regularly at the parish I serve, even though I’m only the Youth Minister. I’m always grateful for the invitation, and I’m always humbled by the opportunity. Beloved Father Capon says in his excellent The Foolishness of Preaching that “Good preachers should be like bad kids. They ought to be naughty enough to tiptoe up on dozing congregations, steal their bottles of religion pills, spirituality pills, and morality pills and flush them all down the drain.” Well and good, but a bit intimidating…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Thirteen Verses Forty Four Through Forty Six

This morning’s devotion comes from the great magician, Jim McNeely III. 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46, NASB)

pearlHere we have two very distinct parables with two very distinct messages: the “Treasure in the Field” and the “Pearl of Great Price.” Let’s start by getting our actors straight. In the first parable, the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, and you and I are the man. In the second parable the kingdom of heaven is like the merchant, and you and I are the pearl. The simple observation that the kingdom of heaven is said to be like the merchant, not like the pearl, ends up being very significant, as you will see.

After years of thinking and writing about it, I am more convinced than ever that the message of the parable of the treasure hidden in the field is critical for us. It is because there was a treasure that the man sacrifices all. It is from joy that he sells all that he has. It is from a great and a true desire that he acts. The Gospel is not simply doctrinal correctness or sound theology—it is a great treasure, and once we perceive its surpassing value hidden in the scrubby field of the church, it engages our desire powerfully. We drop our self-justification projects with joy, because we have found a treasure of much greater worth. We are released from all care and worry, and we have become impossibly and eternally rich and taken care of. Of all the people on earth, we have found our way and have obtained our fortune—we are spiritual gazillionaires.

I am even more convinced that the message of the Pearl of Great Value is critical for us. The heart of the message of the Gospel is that God truly wants us. He is greedy and jealous for us. He has sold all that He had, to obtain us:

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:10-11, NASB)

Why do we call Christ’s death on the cross the “Passion?” I haven’t researched it at all and I have no idea why we call it that. But I know what passion means—it means extreme desire, reckless love, fierce devotion to the point of obsession. It means laser-like focus born of strong wanting. How does this word relate to Jesus’ death on the cross?

His love for us is an absolutely reckless and dangerous love. It is abandon-everything-else desire. It is the pearl merchant selling all he had to get that one perfect pearl. It is passion for us that led to such sacrifice. He wanted us. Badly. Enough to do this.

God is love. Not just any love. Not just idle affection. Not the gentle, detached love of a grandmother. That is a wonderful kind of love, but it is not this love. His is a passionate, reckless, die-for-you love. His is a throw-away-every-other-option love. We are His obsession. We are not His obligation, we are His joy (Heb 12:2). This is the God who is love—the God who would go to such shocking lengths on our behalf.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. Amen.

Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (Son, and Holy Ghost, Amen)

Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (Son, and Holy Ghost, Amen)

In the late 1980s and early 1990s I went to an Episcopal church camp in Northern Wisconsin. It was called Camp Horstick, named after a late bishop, but due to the unfortunate pronunciation of that name, most people called it by the name of the Victorian house on the grounds of the camp: Bundy Hall, or even just “Bundy” for short. My older sisters went there first, and they had so much fun that I counted down the days until I was old enough to go. My mom also went as a volunteer for a few sessions before I was…

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