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Posts tagged "Church"

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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Lenten Soup Supper in the Church Basement

Lenten Soup Supper in the Church Basement

A wonderful piece by Rebecca Florence Miller. More of her writing can be found here. 

The Lenten soup supper in the church basement. A staple of the Lutheran tradition of which I am a part—and because we are Lutheran (grace!), rather than being meager, fast-like meals, we sustain ourselves for the hard truths of Lent with hardy chili, seafood chowder, tomato bisque with mozzarella, five varieties of bread, and seven choices of dessert. Just for starters: brownies with whipped cream, carrot cake topped with cream cheese frosting and shredded coconut, a nutmeg Bundt with a brown-sugar caramel frosting. Ah, free in…

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"Mockingbird Turns 10" Interviews: David Zahl

“Mockingbird Turns 10” Interviews: David Zahl

This is the first installment in a series of monthly-ish interviews between myself and various Mockingbird writers and members of the Mockingbird community. These posts will explore some aspects of each individual’s personal story and some aspects of Mockingbird’s larger story and ministry as we celebrate its 10th Anniversary.

Charlotte Donlon: What has surprised you most about Mockingbird since it was started ten years ago?

David Zahl: Well. I’m a little surprised it’s still here. When we started, our vision was (purposefully) rather vague. We had our theological convictions in mind, and a good deal of sincerity/energy, but we didn’t know how the…

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The Pastor in the Batter's Box

The Pastor in the Batter’s Box

Get your elbows up! Watch the ball! Bend your knees! Be a hitter! Keep your elbows down! Choke up on the bat! Jump on that fastball! Wait for your pitch!

I remember standing in that little league batter’s box, with coaches and random parents and teammates all yelling their well-meaning directives to me at the same time. And I wanted to please them all. I wanted with all my 9 year old body to actualize all their shouted instructions simultaneously — even when they contradicted one another. But most of the time, I felt practically paralyzed by their imperatives. The…

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Church of the Deconstruction

Church of the Deconstruction

This piece was featured in Issue 7 of The Mockingbird: The Church Issue. Issue 8 is well underway!

In a recent visit to Mexico, Pope Francis spoke to a congregation of Mexican bishops and clergy. His words were harsh, to say the least. Instead of decrying the social and political upheaval of the country, or its history of human trafficking and drug violence, the pontiff pointed the finger at his subordinates, warning them of their seduction by religious power:

Do not allow yourselves to be corrupted by trivial materialism or by the seductive illusion of underhanded agreements; do not place your faith…

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Now Available: The Church Issue of The Mockingbird!

Now Available: The Church Issue of The Mockingbird!

Issue number seven has arrived! We really love this one and think you will too. Needless to say, the theme this time is a potent one. Yet as laden with history and hope and hurt as the subject may be, that didn’t stop us from having some fun. Below find the Opener from the Editor, and our Table of Contents. And, of course, you can order your copy here.

We’ll Leave a Light On For You

When you think of the word “church,” what do you think? What images spring to mind? Old stone, baptismal fonts? Dim stadium lights, hands raised? Pews?…

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The Graduates (Almost): Thoughts on Church and Worship

The Graduates (Almost): Thoughts on Church and Worship

This is Part 2 of a multi-part series about college, faith, and the expectations of millennials from the perspective of two near-graduates: David and Lizzie, Mockingbird’s finest interns.

In our first “Millennials” post, Lizzie and I discussed the confluence of work and play in college and the uncertainties in discerning our next steps. In the second, we thought about our church experiences as young people. We noticed, as we talked and wrote, that we spend a lot of time in worship, and that worship is rarely focused on Jesus, much less anything beyond our phone screens. For Lizzie, jamming out at a Widespread…

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Distinguishing Between Law and Gospel: A Brief Guide

This handy guide comes from the first appendix to our newest book, Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints), coauthored by Will McDavid, Ethan Richardson, and David Zahl. Hope you enjoy:

The distinction between law and gospel is the highest art in Christendom
–Martin Luther

Mbird LAW AND GOSPEL Cover options4A strong belief of Luther, and those who follow in his footsteps, is that people should not be enticed to church by the Gospel and then, after believing, turn toward self-improvement. The Law always kills, and the Spirit always gives life. This death and resurrection of the believer is not a one-time event, but must be repeated continually: It is the shape of the Christian life. On Sundays, therefore, some form of the Law is ideally preached to kill, and the Gospel to vivify—“the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6). But in many situations, the Law is mistakenly preached to give life, on the assumption that the believer, unlike the new Christian, has the moral strength to follow the guidelines. This leads to burnout, often producing agnostics or converts to Eastern Orthodoxy. Words like ‘accountability’ or ‘intentionality,’ for example, are sure signs that the letter, rather than the Spirit, is being looked to for life. To help distinguish this form of misguided Law from the Gospel, here’s a handy guide:

1. Listen for a distortion of the commandment: Anytime a hard commandment is softened, such as “Be perfect” (Mt 5:48) to “just do your best,” we’re looking to the Law, not the Gospel, for life.

2. Discern the balance of agency: If you’re in charge of making it happen, it’s misguided Law. If God’s in charge, it’s Gospel. If it’s a mixture, it’s Law.

3. Look for honesty: If you or others either seem ‘A-okay’ or ‘struggling, but…,’ then likely it’s because the Old Adam is alive and well (there will also be a horrible scandal in the next three months). If people are open and honest about their problems, such freedom shows the Gospel is at work.

4. Watch for exhaustion: If the yoke is hard and the burden heavy week after week, then the letter’s probably overpowering the Spirit.

5. Examine the language: If you hear ‘If… then,’ ‘Wouldn’t it be nice…,’ ‘We should all…,’ or anything else that smacks of the imperative voice, it’s implicit works-salvation. If you hear the indicative voice—‘God is…,’ ‘We are…,’ or ‘God will…’—then it’s probably Gospel.

6. Watch for the view of human nature, or anthropology: If human willpower, strength, or effort are being lauded or appealed to, it’s Law. High anthropology means low Christology, and vice-versa.

7. Finally, keep an eye out for the ‘Galatians effect,’ summarized by St. Paul:

Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing?—if it really was for nothing. Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? (Gal 3:2-5)

If how you’re approaching or being told to approach Christianity now feels different from “believing what you heard,” we’re in Galatians territory. Christianity is Good News, and it never ceases to be Good News.

Grab your copy of L&G today!

Short Story Wednesdays: "Where I'm Calling From" by Raymond Carver

Short Story Wednesdays: “Where I’m Calling From” by Raymond Carver

If Alcoholics Anonymous really is a model for the Church, then Raymond Carver has some of the best ecclesiology around! This time we turn to a story from his Cathedral collection about addiction, love, empathy, and (just maybe!) redemption. To read along, go here.

The next morning Frank Martin got me aside and said, ‘We can help you. If you want help and want to listen to what we say.’ But I didn’t know if they could help me or not. Part of me wanted help. But there was another part. All said, it was a very big if.

The story opens…

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Paul Tillich on the Easy Yoke Made Heavy

Paul Tillich on the Easy Yoke Made Heavy

A quick zinger from Paul Tillich in 1963, characterizing the “new” (and yet strangely familiar) challenges for the Church in practice, specifically its inveterate tendency towards decay to legalism:

The moral ‘yoke’ that Jesus wished to make easy has only been made heavier, and the message of grace has largely been lost, despite the numerous liturgical prayers for the forgiveness of sins. They do not express the vision that appears in Paul’s letters and John’s Gospel, or is expressed in the seventh petition of the Lord’s Prayer – “save us from the evil one” – namely, the image of a demonic…

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Mockingbird: Bringing You The Gospel, pt 22