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Reckoning With the Advent Police

Reckoning With the Advent Police

I have long held off on writing an anathema against the Advent Police. Mostly because I know and love so many of them. I’ve kept silent about these well-meaning liturgical lawyers because I love the season of Christmas just as much as the next seminary nerd devout Christian. I love the anticipation, the colors, the music, and the theology.

Also, (and I know the liturgical lawyers might not readily cop to this feeling), Advent is wonderful because it is that rare time of year when we get to feel superior to all of those Christians/people who don’t know what Advent is. They…

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And I Mean to Be One, Too

And I Mean to Be One, Too

We’re approaching All Saints’ Sunday, which is the anniversary of both of my sons’ baptisms. We baptized them as infants, placing their entire bodies carefully and lovingly into water prayed over by my husband. After he washed them in the holy water to baptize them, he anointed their heads with oil and marked them as Christ’s own forever. I cannot even think about those baptized babies without getting weepy, not out of sentimentality, but for the sheer power of the words spoken over them that day, and for the promises we made on their behalf.

Why did we choose All Saints’…

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God as a Magnifying Mirror of Me: On American Folk Religion

God as a Magnifying Mirror of Me: On American Folk Religion

At the end of August, I shared a quote from sociologist Zygmunt Bauman in which he described social media networks and various communities in our day as reflections of the individual. That is, we contemporary Americans tend to seek out communities and people that help express our inner selves more visibly to the wider world. Like my new iPhone 7, J.Crew shirt, and selvedge denim jeans reveal something about their owner, so in much the same way are my networks and circle of friends an extension of my inner ego. And if Bauman is correct in that observation, then might it be that God is…

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Parish Retreat at Buc-ee’s: Grace in Unlikely Places

Parish Retreat at Buc-ee’s: Grace in Unlikely Places

This past weekend, our church held its annual retreat. Due to the hellacious nature of traffic in our area, families arrived at the conference center at different times throughout the afternoon and evening, depending on their route and whether the traffic gods were smiling on them. This year, our family arrived pretty early in the evening (#grateful more than #blessed). After we unloaded our car, we were sitting around the campsite, and phones began to ding around us. It seemed that some of our church friends were stranded after a nasty car accident on their way to the retreat. Could someone…

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The Prayers of the Red Light District

The Prayers of the Red Light District

Another gem from Margaret Pope. 

I am very slowly working my way through Eric Metaxas’s biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who adamantly opposed Hitler’s Third Reich and helped plot Hitler’s assassination. As I read this weekend, one section of the book stood out to me. Bonhoeffer is recounting attending a church in Paris, wherein he is given a picture of grace:

On Sunday afternoon I attended an extremely festive high mass in Sacré Coeur. The people in church were almost exclusively from Montmartre; prostitutes and their men went to mass, submitted to all the ceremonies; it was an enormously impressive picture, and once again…

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PZ’s Podcast: The Sacraments… Walk in the Room

PZ’s Podcast: The Sacraments… Walk in the Room

EPISODE 225: The Sacraments… Walk in the Room

A forthcoming book on the sacraments, edited by Justin Holcomb and David A. Johnson, has got me thinking about the “means of grace” — or rather, how do we know and recognize God’s grace in our actual personal lives. The history of the Christian Church could almost be reduced to a long timeline of disagreement over the sacraments as means of grace, and in particular, the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist.

In order to think about this today, I’ve had to travel back to basics: which is Jackie DeShannon, and a song she wrote, and performed and…

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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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