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Through Him All Things Were Made: Mercy in John Chapter One

Through Him All Things Were Made: Mercy in John Chapter One

Grateful to share this sermon by author Francis Spufford, delivered this February at St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford. The full passage is John 1:1-14. And without him not one thing came into being. May I speak in the name of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen. I’ve been hearing the first chapter of […]

The Science of Miracles

The Science of Miracles

This one comes to us from Tim Burbery. Passover is upon us, providing a superb opportunity for reflecting on the original event as well as the miracle of the Exodus. A number of scientific theories have attempted to explain how the plagues and the Red Sea crossing could be accounted for by natural causes, and […]

Rejoice: The Absurd Command, Part 3

Rejoice: The Absurd Command, Part 3

The conclusion of a three-part series. Read the others here. Beloved, we are always in the wrong, Handling so clumsily our stupid lives, Suffering too little or too long, Too careful even in our selfish loves: The decorative manias we obey Die in grimaces round us every day, Yet through their tohu-bohu comes a voice […]

Hopelessly Devoted: The Conviction of Things Not Seen (Hebrews Chapter Eleven Verse One)

Hopelessly Devoted: The Conviction of Things Not Seen (Hebrews Chapter Eleven Verse One)

This morning’s devotion was written by David Zahl for The Mockingbird Devotional. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1, NASB) When you look at your career, your marriage, your health—do you spend more time thinking about what you don’t have than what you do? Even […]

The Failure of Best Intentions (Mark 14:27-31)

The Failure of Best Intentions (Mark 14:27-31)

This timely excerpt is taken from Larry Parsley’s devotional, An Easy Stroll Through a Short Gospel: Meditations on Mark.  Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” (14:29–30) If you have read the gospels […]

I Love You, But I'm Not Gonna Wash Your Feet

I Love You, But I'm Not Gonna Wash Your Feet

Sometimes I’m asked after our Maundy Thursday service why we don’t hold a foot washing like some other churches do on that night. They’re never quite prepared for my answer. The reason I don’t do foot washings is that I’m not sure about the theology communicated in that act, namely that we are at all […]

The Top Ten Reasons the Lectionary Sucks and Five Half-Assed Solutions

The Top Ten Reasons the Lectionary Sucks and Five Half-Assed Solutions

This one comes to us from Sarah Hinlicky Wilson: A lectionary is a collection of readings for Sunday worship, ordered according to the seasons of the church year. The version most widely used by mainline Protestants is the Revised Common Lectionary, though others such as the earlier Common Lectionary and the Roman Catholic Lectionary for […]

How Does the Gospel Work?

How Does the Gospel Work?

“Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates…” – Martin Luther “About a quarter before nine, while [Luther’s commentary] was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, […]

Adam Smith and the Nature of Heaven

Adam Smith and the Nature of Heaven

This one comes to us from David Clay. Adam Smith, widely acknowledged as the father of modern economics, was first and foremost a moral philosopher by trade. Nearly two decades before Wealth of Nations (1776) revolutionized the world’s understanding of economics, Smith had established his philosophical reputation throughout Europe with The Theory of Moral Sentiments […]

Hopelessly Devoted: Psalm Chapter Thirty-Four Verse Eighteen

This morning’s devotion was written by David Zahl in The Mockingbird Devotional. (Note, if you haven’t read David’s guest column in The Washington Post from this past weekend, visit here to do so.)

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18, NIV)

There are many, many great songs about broken hearts. One of the greatest has to be Jimmy Ruffin’s 1966 hit, “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?” The record is as close to perfection as pop music can get: a powerful lyric married to an irresistible melody, delivered with feeling in just under three minutes. Pure Motown gold.

The song captures something powerful in its vivid description of brokenheartedness: “I walk in shadows, searching for light, cold and alone, no comfort in sight, hoping and praying for someone to care, always moving and going nowhere”. Most of us can point to a time when these words felt true for us, when we were hurt so badly that we thought we would never heal. The end of a romantic relationship is the most common culprit, but there are plenty of others. The death of a loved one, the disappointment of a dream, even the wrong candidate winning an election—and the list goes on.

Sadly, heartbreaking experiences tend to be definitive. They leave their mark whether we like it or not. I am reminded of a friend who broke up with his college sweetheart almost ten years ago. He confessed to me recently that he still thinks about it every day and wonders if the majority of his subsequent relationships have been an attempt to mitigate that pain. He can’t seem to “get over it” because he cannot mend his own heart.

A broken heart is characterized by need. The psalmist reminds us here that God meets us in that place of need. He does not shun people who have been hurt. He does not reject those who have been rejected or disappoint those who have been disappointed. Thanks be to God, He is close to them and saves them.

The Living Christ and the Principle of Grace

The Living Christ and the Principle of Grace

An astute reflection by Jared Jones: There is a bustling market for “principles” in the world today. “Timeless truths to live your life by.” “7 Principles of Health.” “376 Different Things to Try in Bed that You’ll Try to Remember for the Next Time You’re in a Relationship Because the Only People Who Pick Up […]

Hopelessly Devoted: Nehemiah Chapter Six Verses Eight and Nine

This devotion was written by Simeon Zahl, from The Mockingbird Devotional.

Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.” For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands. (Nehemiah 6:8-9, ESV)

The mind is a master illusionist. It is possible to spend our whole lives shadowboxing with unrealities we have “invented out of our own minds.” Nothing seems more real than the rejection we perceive in an oddly raised eyebrow, an inopportune yawn, the scowl of a stranger. The mind can spin an epic tale of misunderstanding and betrayal out of the smallest and most meaningless experience. In that sense it is immensely creative. But it is a dull sort of creativity, because it so often manufactures the same boring story of our fears, our aspirations, and our anxieties. There is no reality here. “No such things as you say have been done.” Our heart races—“Did she look at me? Or is she avoiding me?”—but only because our minds have fooled our bodies into thinking something real is happening.

True work of our hands is an antidote to such projection. There is freedom in performing the task that has been given each day. The picture of Nehemiah building a very un-illusory wall is a picture of freedom. It is a freedom that can only be granted from without, but it is a true freedom.

Lord, strengthen our hands, and save us from our unrealities.