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Sermons


David Brooks Addresses the (Ecclesial) Cubs

Last Sunday, David Brooks gave a remarkable sermon (or talk) at the National Cathedral in DC. There’s a lot of wonderful stuff in here, addressing both our “moment”–the attenuation, the loneliness, the over-politicization, the blandness of religion, the emotional avoidance–but more than that as well. If you stick with it til the end (and you can get past some of the agency language), you may even find he follows a bit of a familiar scheme, ht TB:

Martin Luther King, Jr: “A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart”

This an excerpt from the conclusion to MLK’s 1959 sermon, “A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart.”

8f582_MLK-Home-thumb-400xauto-29178[1]I am thankful that we worship a God who is both tough minded and tenderhearted.  If God were only tough minded, he would be a cold, passionless despot sitting in some far-off Heaven “contemplating all,” as Tennyson puts it in “The Palace of Art.”  He would be Aristotle’s “unmoved mover,” self-knowing but not other-loving.  But if God were only tenderhearted, he would be too soft and sentimental to function when things go wrong and incapable of controlling what he has made.  He would be like H. G. Well’s loveable God in God, the Invisible King, who is strongly desirous of making a good world but finds himself helpless before the surging powers of evil.  God is neither hardhearted nor soft minded.  He is tough minded enough to transcend the world; he is tenderhearted enough to live in it.  He does not leave us alone in our agonies and struggles.  He seeks us in dark places and suffers with us and for us in our tragic prodigality.

At times we need to know that the Lord is a God of justice. When slumbering giants of injustice emerge in the Earth, we need to know that there is a God of power who can cut them down like the grass and leave them withering like the Greek herb. When our most tireless efforts fail to stop the surging sweep of oppression, we need to know that in this universe is a God whose matchless strength is a fit contrast to the sordid weakness of man. But there are also times when we need to know that God possesses love and mercy. When we are staggered by the chilly winds of adversity and battered by the raging storms of disappointment and when through our folly and sin we stray into some destructive far country and are frustrated because of a strange feeling of homesickness, we need to know that there is Someone who loves us, cares for us, understands us, and will give us another chance. When days grow dark and nights grow dreary, we can be thankful that our God combines in his nature a creative synthesis of love and justice that will lead us through life’s dark valleys and into sunlit pathways of hope and fulfillment.

The Most Necessary Conversion (in Advent)

In response to several requests, here’s the wonderful quotation Scott read at the end of the most recent Mockingcast, taken from Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa second Advent sermon in 2008 to the Pontifical household:

linusThis is the most necessary conversion for those who have already followed Christ and have lived at his service in the Church. An altogether special conversion, which does not consist in abandoning what is evil, but, in a certain sense, in abandoning what is good! Namely, in detaching oneself from everything that one has done…

This emptying of one’s hands and pockets of every pretension, in a spirit of poverty and humility, is the best way to prepare for Christmas. We are reminded of it by a delightful Christmas legend that I would like to mention again. It narrates that among the shepherds that ran on Christmas night to adore the Child there was one who was so poor that he had nothing to offer and was very ashamed. Reaching the grotto, all competed to offer their gifts. Mary did not know what to do to receive them all, having to hold the Child in her arms. Then, seeing the shepherd with his hands free, she entrusted Jesus to him. To have empty hands was his fortune and, on another plane, will also be ours.

The Duty vs. the Desire to Punish

The Duty vs. the Desire to Punish

A brief review of the Persistent Widow parable from Luke 18, which many folks heard at church this past Sunday. It’s a short little parable of a widow with a just grievance. The local judge, however, is corrupt, and he refuses to hear the case. So the widow relentlessly pesters the judge until he finally agrees to hear her out to “see that she gets justice.”

The point of the parable is made clear at its telling: “Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” To quote our friend Derek Webb, there is…

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In Praise of Huge, Honking Guilt Trips

A bit tardy perhaps, but hold on to your hats cause this week Scott and co produced a special, plus-sized episode of The Mockingcast, all about the recent Church Issue of The Mockingbird. The episode features a fresh interview with author (and NY Times columnist) Molly Worthen, a discussion with editor-in-chief Ethan Richardson about the publication itself, as well as a recording of the ecclesiologically-themed panel Scott moderated at the Missio conference last month in Philadelphia. Click here to listen, and if you haven’t ordered a copy of the issue yet, just think: today could be the day you rectify that oversight.

I can’t pass up the opportunity to post a nugget from one of the essays in the issue that’s garnered a particularly enthusiastic response, Paul Walker’s survey of the art and task of preaching, “A Splendid Failure” (worth the price of admission alone!):

preachingThere is not a single person who has come through the red doors of a church who is not hoping beyond hope for a salve to be applied to his bleeding wound. This hope is often buried below bravado, barely recognizable, but it beats in the heart of every human, because everybody hurts…

For anyone to have half a chance to walk out of those red church doors and into his actual life, he must know that he is forgiven, not just for what he’s done, but for who he is. It is the preacher’s job to let him know. She must talk about what has been done for him, rather than what he must do. It’s her most important job, the job that looms so much larger than all her other ministerial concerns. It is this message alone that makes her feet beautiful.

In other words, every sermon must be a huge, honking guilt trip. Um, what? I don’t mean the tired claptrap dished (often unwittingly) out by sermonizing guilt-invokers. Things like, “You know, you are the only hands and feet that Jesus has in the world. You know, you are the only Bible some people will ever read.”… I’m not talking about those kinds of guilt trips.

The “guilt trip” that every sermon must be is the transfer of guilt, from the rightly condemned sin junkie onto the wrongly condemned Christ Jesus. The sermon must be a beast of burden, carrying the hearer’s red-handed guilt straight into the speared side of Christ on the cross, plunged into the fountain of water and blood, which bleaches away all evidence of our criminality.

P.S. A reminder that all monthly supporters of Mockingbird ($5 or more) automatically receive a complimentary subscription to the journal. Click here to sign up. We can’t do this without you!

From The Onion: 80% Of Americans Would Get In Vehicle With Stranger For Chance At New Life

Can’t believe we missed this one when it came out a couple years ago (ht PZ, who kicked off a sermon this past week with it – embedded below):

1200WASHINGTON—According to a poll released Thursday by the Pew Research Center, 80 percent of Americans would, if given even one opportunity, enter a stranger’s vehicle for a shot at starting a new life. “Our research indicated that as long as the driver was headed somewhere else, anywhere else, more than three quarters of Americans would get in that person’s car without any hesitation,” said Pew spokesperson Sylvia Ettinger, adding that neither the make of the vehicle, its intended destination, nor the appearance or temperament of the driver would have any bearing on the decision. “Provided that entering the vehicle offered even the remotest possibility of a clean break from the past, eight out of every 10 people we surveyed said they were happy to toss their cell phone and wallet into a ditch and put their destiny in the hands of the very first person who pulled over.” The poll found, however, that only 3 percent of Americans would pick up some weirdo standing on the side of the road with his thumb out.

PZ’s Podcast: Glamour Boy

PZ’s Podcast: Glamour Boy

Episode 213: Glamour Boy

Communication, I mean, real, person-to-person communication, is the name of the game in just about every relationship. It is also the name of the game in that Game of Love (1965, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders) which is preaching.

So this podcast is for politicians; for all who aspire to love another person — like Jean Valjean; and for everyone who undertakes to preach the Word of God.

You’ve got to “blow deep” — Jack Kerouac was never wrong about this — and thereby connect with the subterranean part of every potential listener or reader. That means blowing deep…

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The Outsider Gets Radical: Notes on Blaming the Victim and Loving the Alien

The Outsider Gets Radical: Notes on Blaming the Victim and Loving the Alien

Must have been almost fifteen years ago. I was sitting down with the chaplain of a prestigious New England prep school, and although he was being incredibly polite about it, he was sussing me out. You see, I was a stranger on campus, brought there on behalf of the para-church organization for which I worked, at the invitation of the school’s Christian fellowship group. He had every right to know where I was coming from before signing off on my presence/involvement, a responsibility to parents and administrators to ensure that students would be spared any high-pressure proselytizing while away from…

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How Do You Preach to the Donald? (Or, Thoughts on the Afflicted and the Comfortable)

How Do You Preach to the Donald? (Or, Thoughts on the Afflicted and the Comfortable)

Donald Trump went to church last Sunday. Lots of people did. My guess is he doesn’t do that on the regular. Nor do most people who at one time or another have been religiously observant but for some some reason have been on a kind of hiatus. But you run for president and go back to church and people take notice.

I suppose it’s the job of the press to take note of such things. I don’t begrudge them. There is a curious bi-product of this kind of reporting though. It poses a kind of religiously voyeuristic Twilight Zone question: what…

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From the Archives: MLK’s Eulogy for Martyred Children

From the Archives: MLK’s Eulogy for Martyred Children

The following speech/sermon was given by Martin Luther King, Jr after the bombing at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on September 15, 1963, just three weeks after the March on Washington.

This afternoon we gather in the quiet of this sanctuary to pay our last tribute of respect to these beautiful children of God. They entered the stage of history just a few years ago, and in the brief years that they were privileged to act on this mortal stage, they played their parts exceedingly well. Now the curtain falls; they move through the exit; the drama of their earthly life comes…

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The Strange Kingship of Epiphany

The Strange Kingship of Epiphany

How better to mark the first day of Epiphany than with a contribution from the esteemed Wesley Hill, who was kind enough to send us the text of the homily he is preaching today on Matthew 2:1-12.

One of the reassuring things about the new Star Wars movie—which I confess I’ve only seen twice—is how predictable it is. Some of my friends have complained that it’s ridiculously derivative, virtually a remake of the first Star Wars from 1977, but most of us, I think, are very happy with how comforting the sameness feels. We have some of the same beloved characters…

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Devotions from the 2015 NYC Conference

These gems come from our 2015 conference chaplain Jim Munroe.

Devotions – Jim Munroe from Mockingbird on Vimeo.