Here is a drastic parting of the ways with a theology of glory. The Christ of the Cross takes away the possibility of doing something. The theologian of glory might be able to follow to the point of accepting the truth that Christ has fulfilled all things, but then that will have to be used as a motivational tool to make sure the law gets its due. The point is precisely that the power to do good comes only out of this wild claim that everything has already been done. The language has to break out into preaching. Never mind that when we look to ourselves we find no sign of good works. Never mind our fears and our anxieties. We are looking in the wrong place. Look to Christ! He has done it all. Nothing will be gained by trying to shore up the Old Adam. Christ leaves nothing for the Old Adam and Eve to do. The old can only be killed by the law, not given artificial respiration by recourse to it… To the theologian of the cross the language of grace and faith must be pushed absolutely to this length – until it kills the old and raises the new.
-Gerhard O. Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross
Those who’ve just received the new issue of know that it includes a fascinating interview with preacher/ pastor/author Nadia Bolz-Weber. We’ll be posting some excerpts once our esteemed magazine editor returns from honeymooning, but if her words have left you wanting more, here’s an excerpt from an incredibly powerful sermon she gave earlier this year on Matthew 5:13-14, ht LM:
It’s so easy for us to default to hearing Jesus’ sermon on the mount as pure exhortation. As though he is giving us a list of things we should try and be so we can be blessed – be meeker, be poorer, and mournier a little more and you will meet the conditions of earning Jesus’ blessing. But the thing is, it’s hard to imagine Jesus exhorting a crowd of demoniacs and epileptics to be meeker…
I [used to think] that to be the light of the world, to let your light so shine before men, you have to be whole, be strong, be perfect. That special class of people I’ll never belong to. But perhaps this is when we best listen to the words of the prophet Leonard Cohen: “Ring the bells that still can ring/ Forget your perfect offering/ There’s a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in.” In other words, it is exactly at our points of weakness, of pain, of brokenness, of insufficiency that force us, like those who originally followed Jesus, to stand in the need of God. To stand in the need of the true light.
So perhaps those cracks… made from bad choices, from anxiety and depression, from addiction, from struggle and remorse, maybe those cracks are what lets the light of God’s love in. And maybe those same cracks are also how the light gets out.
We perhaps should not miss the fact that Jesus does not say “here are the conditions you must meet to be the salt of the Earth.” He does not say, here are the standards of wholeness you must fulfill in order to be light for the world. He looks out into the crowd of people in pain, people who have been broken open – those cracks that let in and let out the Light, who have the salt of sweat and tears on their broken bodies, and says you ARE salt. You. You are light. You have that of God within you, the God whose light scatters the darkness. Your imperfect and beautiful bodies are made of chemicals with holiness shining in it… you are made of dust and the very breath of God.
In other words, you are a broken jerk and Jesus trusts you. Don’t wait until you feel as though you have met the conditions of being holy. Trust that Jesus knows what he is doing. And that you already are salt and light and love and grace. Don’t try and be it. Know that you already are.
From the brilliant Gerhard Forde’s sermon on Galatians 6, found in his work on the Captivation of the Will:
For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. Peace and mercy be upon all who who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God.
One is quite obvious. It is the problem designated by ‘uncircumcision,’ or the problem of our lawlessness, our existence among the lesser breeds without the law, our immorality and waywardness and heedlessness, even our temptation to boast in it. We are all aware enough of such things to acknowledge the problem and to recognize that it destroys faith and trust.
But the other problem is more subtle, and mostly hidden from us, especially at this place. It is really the main one that Paul wrestles with in his letters. It is the problem of the ‘circumcision,’ the problem of our lawfulness, our morality, our holiness, our so-called sanctification, our do-it-yourself religions, and all of that. What we don’t see is that the ‘circumcision’ destroys the relationship of faith and trust as surely as the ‘uncircumcision.’
So now God has acted finally in this very proclamation by his apostles to have his way with us. God has taken the whole business out of our hands. Neither your lawlessness nor your lawfulness, you immorality nor your morality, your unholiness nor your holiness – none of it matters a bit now, but a new creation. Indeed, in most radical fashion, Paul announces not only that it no longer matters but that it is now exposed as sin! ‘The scripture consigned all things – good and bad! – to sin, that what was promised to faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.’ ‘Whatever is not of faith is sin’ (Gal 3:22; Rom 14:23). All escape routes shut down. There is nothing to be done now but just listen. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision count for anything, but a new creation. Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule.”
“My friend Robin grew up in an army family, and learned early on that she wouldn’t live anywhere or know anyone for very long, that things like houses and best friends were strictly provisional and temporary. It makes me sad to know that she had to internalize this lesson so early–kids like me, with stabler lives, were brought up with the delusion, fuzzy and comforting as a favorite blanket, that home and friendship were givens, fixed forever. But, as Robin points out, transience wasn’t just a peculiarity of her own upbringing; it turns out to be the reality of life, for all of us. Everything is contingent and ephemeral, and the flimsy little Potemkin villages of permanence and security we rig up for ourselves—real estate, possessions, tenure and retirement plans, circles of friends and long-term relationships–are easily demolished by layoffs or divorce, accidents or diagnoses, even, on occasion, non-metaphorical hurricanes.”
If I’d had it on hand this past August, it would’ve definitely been included in this sermon, “Plank to Plank”:
Speaking of both Kreider and anxiety, we are finally ready to announce the theme for the upcoming NYC conference (4/3-5)! Curious? You know the drill. Preliminary Schedule coming next week.
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
Who is Jesus? Simple: Jesus Christ is Emmanuel, God with us. If Jesus Christ is Emmanuel, God with us, then where are we?
According to the portion of lyrics I just read to the Christmas Hymn “O come, O come Emmanuel” we are in captivity, in lonely exile, in mourning. And it’s true. Apart form what Christ has done for us we are held captive and in exile. We are in chains, imprisoned; we are in a…
“We haven’t seen them in a while,” I hear myself observing every few weeks, usually in reference to friends with whom my wife and I have lost touch. Most of the time, the estrangement is purely logistical, schedules being what they are in a house with two working parents and two napping toddlers. But guilt nevertheless sets in and triggers defensiveness. Soon platitudes like “it takes two to tango” or “life happens” are being trotted out and before long, you’re castigating yourself or the other person(s), possibly deconstructing society as a whole, and any chance of reconnection has been essentially…
A sublime passage from the 41st chapter of Moby Dick on Original Sin and scapegoating, or -whaling as the case may be, followed by a sermon that references it to great effect, ht PW:
The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them, till they are left living on with half a heart and half a lung. That intangible malignity which has been from the beginning; to whose dominion even the modern Christians ascribe one-half of the worlds; which the ancient Ophites of the east reverenced in their statue devil;—Ahab did not fall down and worship it like them; but deliriously transferring its idea to the abhorred white whale, he pitted himself, all mutilated, against it. All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick. He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.
And here’s “A-R0d, Ahab, and the Daughter of Abraham” from Paul Walker:
You may have noticed that our Resources page has been under construction most of the summer. That’s because we have been hard at work expanding our sermon archive and doing a complete overhaul of its functionality. The new page went live this past weekend! A couple of features to highlight:
- Searchability — Simplified dropdown menus and tabs for easier sorting, plus sidebar widgets to highlight things you may have missed.
- Size — Twice as many files in the archive, including a number of new speakers and venues. Of the 200 or so that have been added since June, most are older, so if you think you’ve heard everything, guess again!
- Speed — New software allows for much faster browsing.
- Mobility — Unlike the old one, the new page is fully compatible with smartphones and other such devices. Files are easily accessible and playable via the menu on the mobile version of the site.
- Snazzy New Look — In other words, silly images galore.
- The Mockingpulpit Podcast! Mbird now has a dedicated podcast on iTunes, which you can subscribe to by clicking here. Subscribers will automatically receive every new sermon or talk that gets uploaded, regardless of when they were recorded.
Major thanks to Win Jordan and James Fishwick for making this happen. And while it may take a week or two to work out the kinks, please don’t hesitate to let us know if your run into any issues (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A few Sundays ago, I preached a sermon on Galatians 1:11-24, and we had a rough landing. It was one of those Sundays where I felt the plane take off perfectly, maintaining altitude for most of the sermon, but somewhere along the descent we hit turbulence.
As I drove home that day I asked myself, “What made the last part of my sermon so rough?” Why did I struggle so much with the last five minutes? Well, I realized I was trying to deliver a truth that I wasn’t actually believing myself. During the final point of my sermon–“Who is the…
EPISODE 145: Soul Coaxing
This is about the music. For it’s the music that makes me want to speak.
The other night, right in the middle of sleep — no kidding — said a “voice from above” (Joe Meek via John Leyton): “You have got to talk about ‘Soul Coaxing’”. So I did.
The music, which was actually once the soundtrack of our lives — the real soundtrack, not The Doors and Jimi Hendrix, who, great as they were, were not what most people were actually hearing at the time — is beyond good. “Soul Coaxing” is a little like “Baby, I’m Amazed”:…
Wire’s initial three albums have long been favorites of mine, especially the first and the third. The debut album, Pink Flag, employed punk minimalism and acidity with a slyly absurd literal-ism, while completely throwing out punk’s reliance on traditional rock n’ roll song structure. It’s fast and fun and leaves you off kilter in a way you don’t quite get at first. The third album, 154, is to me the consummate post-punk album, more so than say the usual suggestions of something by the Gang of Four, Joy Division or Pere Ubu. It’s polished and often desolate art rock (cold…
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…
Another Week Ends: Assurance Anxiety, Genesis Lessons, Tumblr Love, Lost in the Cosmos, Iron Man Prep, and Hatsune Miku’s Pizza Stage
1. First off, a little pop theology. Phillip Cary contributed an encouraging review of J.D. Greear’s sensationally titled Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart to the recent issue of Christianity Today, under the header “Anxious About Assurance”. As he does in his book Good News for Anxious Christians, Cary gets straight to the heart of the matter:
Greear is not saying it’s wrong to ask Jesus into your heart. He’s saying it’s not the same thing as believing the gospel. And if we want to be assured of salvation, it’s believing the gospel that actually counts. We are saved by faith…
Grace Upon Grace is the new book of sermons from David Johnson, a great friend of Mockingbird’s here in Charlottesville, VA. You may have heard some of his sermons on our Resources page, or had the pleasure of listening to his talk on parenting at our conference this past Fall. This particular collection spans topics from all the “personal matters” of life: parents and kids, wives and husbands, money matters and big decisions, corporate ladders and childhood mistakes. In doing so, Dr. Johnson brings the heart of the gospel into the common corners of our daily lives–but not without first…