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Tom Petty, Three Chords, and the Church of Free Falling

Tom Petty, Three Chords, and the Church of Free Falling

This piece was written by Andrew Johnson. 

My mom texts me Monday morning to let me know that Tom Petty had been hospitalized after a cardiac arrest. I follow the news off and on the rest of the day, seeing conflicting reports over whether or not he had died. This confusion over Petty’s death, especially following Sunday’s news of 59 people killed in Las Vegas, leaves me feeling particularly helpless and disillusioned with how quickly we as a nation can share bits of information but somehow fail to find shared meaning.

So I leave work a bit early, walk half a mile…

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Is There Any Comfort? Remembering the Reformation 500 Years Later

Is There Any Comfort? Remembering the Reformation 500 Years Later

We are now less than a month out from our upcoming conference in D.C.! Come celebrate 500 years of grace with us, October 27-29—you can register here.

With the Reformation on the brain, here is a fantastic piece written by our friend, Jonathan A. Linebaugh.

In 1519, Thomas Bilney sat in a small Cambridge college with a book in his hands. It had been two years since a German monk named Martin Luther was said to have nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door in Wittenberg—hammer blows that were later remembered as the start of the Reformation and were rumored to have shaken…

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PZ's Podcast: Question (LIVE), On the Road to Love & Easier Said Than Done

PZ’s Podcast: Question (LIVE), On the Road to Love & Easier Said Than Done

EPISODE 230: Question (LIVE)

The fact that the mainstream churches are hiding their Light under a bushel is the primary reason for their atrophy. The fact that most of our churches are “missing in action” when it comes to the seemingly insuperable pain of living that we bring to them and to their representatives — well, that, I believe, is the main cause of their numerical decline.

Today I want to posit an alternative to this almost willful but in fact mostly unconscious suppression of the Primary (i.e, the Gospel Word) in favor of the secondary (i.e., “issues” of the day) and…

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PZ’s Podcast: I Live on a Battlefield

He’s back!! Sincerest apologies to all the faithful PZP listeners who noticed that the cast had disappeared from iTunes this summer. We’ve had some technical issues which have now been resolved, ptL. Older episodes (pre-210) should be back on iTunes soon. For now, though, we have a brand new one for you:

EPISODE 229: I Live on a Battlefield

A penetrating comment recently from a friend set up a chain reaction inside me that’s resulted in this new cast. After a long hiatus and with the support of Mockingbird, I’m starting back up and hope these new episodes may speak.

My friend, who is about my age, observed that everyone we know, without exception — that’s the “hard” part of the saying — has suffered some arresting impasse or insuperable loss, some decisive disappointment or unconquerable conflict, which they simply cannot get over.

I agree with my friend.

Moreover, people in situations of undeniable blockage often turn to God, or whatever/wherever they think God may be. And it is there, at this conscious point of need, that churches “come out” as being out of their depth and shockingly irrelevant to human suffering. Sadly, I know — Mary and I know.

In points of distress since 2007 we have tried so many parishes and churches. We have crawled on our knees to hoped-for altars of comfort and hope, and received… nothing. I mean, nothing! There are exceptions, such as All Saints, Winter Park (FL) and Calvary/St. George in New York City. And there are others. But for the most part, you abase yourself in search of a word of hope and grace, and you get a junior-choir awards ceremony; or a sermon consisting wholly of platitudes without a single illustration; or an exhausting summons to a social cause; or a public baptism of perfect strangers who are actually strangers to the parish but can fill up some pews on a given Sunday. “It’s like a jungle sometimes/It makes me wonder/How I keep from goin’ under” (Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, 1982)

So I’m talking today about the universal in-reach of pain, and some of the resources I have found in recent months to stanch it. And I promise you, this is “Only the Beginning” (Chicago, 1969)…

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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A Botched Eucharist and a Campesino's Pocketful of Flowers

A Botched Eucharist and a Campesino’s Pocketful of Flowers

Another story of grace from Gregory Boyle’s litany of grace stories, Tattoos on the Heart. In this one, Boyle describes being a priest in Cochabamba, Bolivia, just after having been ordained. Having had little Spanish education at the time, he is able to get through the Eucharist okay, but not without reading directly from the missal. Boyle recalls being asked to perform Mass for an indigenous community known as the Quechua, who had not seen a priest in over a decade. The Quechua people are a poor mountain community that make a living harvesting flowers, and carrying the flowers in…

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Yet Another "New Start": Karl Holl on Luther's Vigorous Reinterpretation of the Christian Life

Yet Another “New Start”: Karl Holl on Luther’s Vigorous Reinterpretation of the Christian Life

The following is an excerpt from Karl Holl’s booklength essay, “What Did Luther Understand by Religion?” (trans. Meuser & Wietzke) in which Holl draws out Luther’s theology beginning with his history. As you’ll see, Holl maintains a refreshing emphasis on everyday heart-level matters, compared to other scholars of his caliber. Still, you might want to put on your academic spectacles for this one—but it’s worth it. I started transcribing the first paragraph and just couldn’t stop there. Enjoy!

Like Jesus, [Luther] tried to show his contemporaries that their apparently intense piety, the piety of good works, devotions, and mortifications, was actually…

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(Young) Woman at the Well

(Young) Woman at the Well

In the narthex of my parish church there is a beautiful monument of American religious art: two ceiling-high wooden tablets, both with gold lettering on a black background. One carries the text of the Ten Commandments. The Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer are on the other.

The Law, the Gospel, and the Church’s simplest roadmap of belief are contained here in little space and in one field of vision.

J. Kirk Richards

This is a frequent element of protestant Anglican church adornment, usually fixed on the eastern wall where all can see it: text-based, instructive, non-debatable, leveling of cleric and squire…

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Champions She Shall Never Want

Champions She Shall Never Want

I recently decided to leave Mockingbird. I do not mean that I was convinced over a bourbon-fueled colloquy with a recent Catholic convert that Sylvester Prierias was unimpeachably correct to respond to Luther’s attack on indulgences by defending papal authority. Nor do I mean that I brushed up on recent Pauline scholarship and determined that Luther’s existential read of Romans is passé. Least of all do I mean, by leaving Mockingbird, that the Mainline Protestant status quo—with its newfangled gospels—holds any lingering appeal. By leaving Mockingbird, I simply mean to relate what it was like, just a few months ago…

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Suburbia at the Mid-Century: Church

Suburbia at the Mid-Century: Church

Two thousand years of Jesus in our lives had a crest when The American Dream was real.

It was Mid-Century: after America rose from the fugue state of The Great Depression to wrest control of the globe from evil. The extreme, violent and costly effort changed the world – but especially America. Millions had died, were physically wounded and everyone was deeply affected. Those warriors who survived were wounded: some physically, but all were changed by a life or death struggle.

1945 saw those millions come home to create a new place – a sanitarium of peace in a new juggernaut: the…

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Riding Shotgun: On Being the Clergy-Adjacent

Riding Shotgun: On Being the Clergy-Adjacent

I was hauling a giant luggage container, the kind that attaches to a car roof, across my driveway with the woman who bought it from me on craigslist. It wasn’t heavy, but it was awkward and large, and we were having a bit of a hard time maneuvering it. It was dark outside, and we couldn’t really see what we were doing.

“Oh my god, this is like hauling a dead body by dark of night.”

I said it, and then I immediately wished I hadn’t said it. “I’m sorry—I shouldn’t have said that. It’s just that my husband is clergy, and…

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A Long Strange Trip through Death to Life

A Long Strange Trip through Death to Life

This was written by Deadhead, Luke Roland. 

The highly anticipated documentary on The Grateful Dead, Long Strange Trip, is now on Amazon Prime.  I have previously written about the effect that the music of The Grateful Dead has had on me for Mockingbird, and in light of the documentary I thought it would be a great time to revisit them in a Mockingbirdian context.  

The Grateful Dead have had a positive influence on American culture, and continue to do so. They could be the most important American band in our history. I realize that is a tall statement, but think about…

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