I may not be the only one for whom an element of Law has infiltrated the yearly ritual of gift-giving. On the giver side, I spent an undue amount of time and energy trying to find things adequately utilitarian yet also personal, valuable but not profligate, suited to the taste of various people. And on the recipient side, I feel like I’m growing progressively more choosey: partly as a function of growing older, with ever-more specific tastes, and partly as a function of the Internet (numerous sub-forums are involved in my selection of even a minor thing for myself). The…
The following piece was recently shared with Mockingbird. The “librarian,” whose name is not Paul Zahl (seriously!), has given us permission to post it here.
Note from the librarian: This reading diary, penned by LeVar Burton, was recently discovered in the archives of a theological library. The manuscript, handwritten on napkins and folded away inside an old volume of George Herbert’s poetry, suggests that Burton found gold at the end of the (Reading) Rainbow.
[Books are] a children’s game which God has given me in order that the time till his appearing should not be long for me.”
~ Johann Georg Hamann
In my 32 years on the planet, I’ve had all kinds of Christmases. There was the Almost Jewish Christmas (thanks, college boyfriend), the Just Gave Birth 3 Weeks Ago Christmas (thanks, husband), and my personal favorite, the We’re too Broke to Go Home for Christmas Christmas. I’ve had many Dr. Phil Christmases (but, really, who hasn’t?). And there’s been a few Merry ones sprinkled in between. Every year, Christmas comes upon me with waves of the urge to do, to fix, and to reboot the season. Every year, I long to make Christmas as happy as I’m told it should…
Not often do I get the opportunity to quote my dad on matters other than Alabama football and Fox News, but lately I’ve been turning over in my head two of his favorite axioms: Life isn’t fair and Everybody just CALM DOWN!
I grew up under the constant admonition of that first phrase: the awareness that the world doesn’t always work according to the balance and order I think it should have; that even if I do the right thing it doesn’t mean everyone else will; that, ultimately, there are no guarantees. But I also grew up under the reign of…
Good News for the weary Advent Amazon shopper. An amazing bit from Phillip Cary’s Good News for Anxious Christians, which I am unashamedly speed-reading this Advent. Consumerist? No way! Cary here is talking about the false, consumerist focus on change, and how that focus has bled into the way we think about our very souls. Rather than helping us see that our lives should not be about us, Cary says this kind of transformation-trance makes us incapable of thinking about anything but. Our attention deficit leads us perpetually into the trap of correcting the selves that Christ came to transform.
Another great contribution from Michael W. Nicholson, this reflection on the film Fury’s religious dimension first appeared on his blog, Tides of God.
The most religious film many moviegoers will see this year will not be an inspirational story from a faith-based production company; it will be writer-director David Ayer’s WWII tank combat epic Fury. And in some ways Fury is also a more compelling narrative about redemption than many of the sermons preached from Church pulpits on any given Sunday.
Fury is a slice-of-combat-life story that follows a few days’ action of a Sherman tank crew during the final campaign against Germany in…
“We say this even of the saints who are all very obviously and palpably sinners, in whose lives there is continually to be found much that is very different from this lifting up of themselves, who clearly continue to make use of very different freedoms and permissions from those given them by the divine direction; of all kinds of supposed freedoms and permissions which they think they can and should give themselves, but which are in fact illusory. The total, unlimited, sovereign freedom of the Spirit is given them even though they are still in the world like all other men. Their being as sinners is radically assailed, but not destroyed. They still think and speak and act as those who are not free, but who, according to the classical formula of the Heidelberg Catechism, are ‘inclined by nature to hate God and my neighbours.’ What would become of the freedom of the saints if it had to be guaranteed by the use they make of it; if its possession were dependent on the power with which they exercise it? They do indeed have to use and exercise it. How can they receive it if they do not do this? But the freedom of the saints is grounded and enclosed, not in the dignity and power of this reception, but in the dignity and power of the gift made, or rather of the Giver of this gift, in the freedom of the royal man Jesus to whom they are summoned to look. They do not look to him very well. But they are made free, and are free, only in the fact that it is He to whom they look. They are saints only in the fact that He sanctified them.”
We’re happy to announce another Mbird-friendly book out now: friend and Mbird contributor John Zahl‘s new sermon collection from Grace Church, Charleston, titled Sermons of Grace! We can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s available for purchase on Amazon here. The sermon below is the book’s opener and a great beginning to Advent, first given on Dec 1, 2013.
Prepare the way of the Lord… (Matthew 3:3)
John the Baptist’s words this morning are unequivocal: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” It is undeniable that “preparation” is one of the main themes of Advent.
The readings in Advent contain an eschatological emphasis, which means that they deal with…
Just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday (and a much-needed reprieve for our office!) comes this devotion in today’s spot, from Jonathan Mumme–a reminder of the gift we have that holds the whole thing together.
Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift [charisma] you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:11-16, ESV)
Poor Timothy—what a load! Paul, his “father in the faith,” has left town, sticking him with quite the laundry list. And yet that sounds an awful lot like typical Christianity, doesn’t it? Taking the burden from your shoulders and laying a dozen in its place. Hit atonement like a drive-thru, and with that bag in hand, speed off to the highway of “the Christian life” of moral responsibility, Scripture reading, character-building. Christianity somehow became a life of holy burdens.
There in the middle of all that is given him to do, though, is that which is given to him wholly and fully. The sine qua non—neglect it and it will all fall apart—is the charisma (gift) in him.
The certainty with which Paul approaches the ministry is the same certainty under which Timothy gets to operate: if the Lord has put him to it, the Lord himself will do it, and the Lord has certainly put him to it. Is Timothy the one saving or preserving himself and his hearers, or is God Himself the Savior of all, including Timothy and his hearers? Paul says it is not an either/or: God saves, and Timothy is responsible for the saving where he has been placed. It is not God without Timothy, nor is it God x% and Timothy x%, but God fully and Timothy fully. Whatever saving Timothy is set to be doing, it will be the Lord doing it, and that goes for the ordering, reading, preaching, teaching and the rest of this grand, long list of things given to do along with the gift given.
Where do you feel you and God are working 50-50? Where does God feel absent or dormant? Where does his presence feel all too present?
What is to be done in the Church is what God himself gives to be done. Toward that doing He gives gifts. Tasks given, gift given, to Paul and Timothy and others who are surely put in place; it is the Lord, the Savior, seeing to the whole show.
The second of our Fall Conference videos is here!
The first video from our Fall Conference in Houston is ready for blastoff! Enjoy:
Once again, huge thank you goes out to Mark and David Babikow for making this happen.