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Not The Way That Ministry Works (via Sarah Condon)

Sarah Condon, writing about fame and self-destruction offers a peculiar, yet not alien observation about the background of some of those who enter pastoral ministry.

I have a mentor who often says about ordained people, “Something bad happened to you if you want to be a priest.” Meaning that people are attracted to ministry as a means by which to fix what is broken. Maybe we come from tough family situations and/or we have an endless and neurotic need for love and attention.
I was once in a clergy conference where the speaker asked how many of the people in the room had a mother who often “took to bed” or who was actively an alcoholic. In other words, how many people had mothers that they felt they needed to take care of when they were children? Easily 75% of the people in the room raised their hands.
For these people, there was the hope that the Church might be the Mother that would care for them. This is, of course, not at all the way ministry works.
And it is not the way fame works, either…
…fame, like the ministry, is not going to heal any deep wounds. In fact, it will exacerbate both.

Read the whole post here.


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J.B. Roane And The Case Of The Belated Apology by Larry Parsley

At Mockingbird Larry Parsley offers a piece of short fiction featuring J.B. Roane – Pastor for Hire.
Rev. Roane is engaged by a man named Thornton who needs his assistance in conveying a belated apology.
“I’d like to hire you for job. It’s a little out of the ordinary. I should be able to do it myself, but dang it, I just can’t.”
If subsequent offerings remain at this standard I’d look forward to a collection.
Have a read at Mockingbird.


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Jesus And The Easter Effect (via Bryan Jarrell at Mockingbird)

An article at Mockingbird that reflects on the point that Jesus’ resurrection has a far more profound impact than someone simply coming back from the dead:

Reading the resurrection stories in the gospels, there are plenty of themes that the four authors want to emphasize. One among them is that the resurrection was a bodily resurrection—scars were preserved, fish was digested, hands were placed in wounds. Another is that the resurrection was an embarrassment to worldly powers, with heavy stones moved, Roman soldiers terrified, and religious authorities spreading cover-up propaganda. Equally as important to the story, however, is that The Resurrection is an act of divine love to the undeserved. Jesus appears to weeping women, terrified men, doubters, runaways, people who don’t know their bibles, and disciples who quit the business and went back to their day jobs. It’s almost as if a qualification for meeting with the resurrected Jesus is being a really bad disciple of Jesus.
Which is to say, The Resurrection isn’t just that someone rose from the dead. The reanimation of Lazarus didn’t inspire a women’s rights movement, nor did the resuscitation of the Rabbi’s daughter inspire a generation of self-emptying plague doctors. The good news is that the one who rose from the dead is, specifically and uniquely, Jesus of Nazareth, friend of sinners, love incarnate, son of God, and full of grace. It’s this particular Jesus that caused the disciples to reconsider time and space and Sabbath, and also, love and forgiveness and the entire nature of the divine. Replace this Jesus with anyone else, and the whole movement falls flat.

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.


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He Knows If You’ve Been Bad or Good…and Fills Your Stocking Anyway (via Carrie Willard at Mockingbird)

We never really did the Santa Claus thing, but we made sure everyone got lots of presents.
Regardless.
One mother’s struggle to observe some of the cultural expressions of Christmas without yielding to its anti-gospel narrative of performance rewards.
A taste:

My six-year-old asked my nine-year-old this question in the backseat of my car recently, and I tried to squelch the “of COURSE he is!” that was dying to escape from my throat.
The nine-year-old, who is the tallest innocent I’ve ever met, said that yes, he believed that Santa is real. The six-year-old had his hang-ups. “What would make you say that he isn’t?” I asked from the driver’s seat, imagining a list of logistical challenges that one man might have distributing gifts around the world.
Instead I got:
“I just can’t believe that he thinks we’re so good,” he said. “I mean, everybody sins. All the time.”
Read the whole post here.


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What If I Never Change? (via Stephanie Phillips at Mockingbird)

A reflective article about life with chronic illness and trust in God by Stephanie Phillips.
An excerpt:

I had the thought the other day: what if I never change? I don’t remember what I was doing: making yet another dinner, folding some more laundry, mediating another child-fight, battling another impulse to emit a primal scream. I felt hopeless: after all, shouldn’t I, as a Christian, believe in change? Shouldn’t I hold the promise of it close like a small kitten, relying on its surety to keep me warm at night and positive during the day? “Personal transformation!” shout the majority of preachers. NO! The cynic in me counters. Consider this: what if you NEVER change?
And almost as quickly, from outside of myself, came an answer, which I believe may be the answer: you’ll still be loved. I considered it. Really? I thought. I know I’m a student of grace and all, but surely there are limits? I mean, you’ve got to show at least some effort in this game, some evidence of achievement?
Sanctification has, to be honest, always left me mystified. What does it mean? It’s just a fancy word for change, right? Of what happens after we believe? Which, of course, is spirit-directed, but let’s be honest again, is aided by my spiritual disciplines? By my own commitment? There’s certainly a multi-billion dollar industry out there that says so.
But what if I never change?
You’ll still be loved.
Preposterous. Offensive. So not me-centric. The alliteratively-outlined sermons of my childhood would be horrified.
But you know what? Trying-to-prove-myself-me? “Hey-everyone-I’m-so-OK” me? Is the worst version of me.

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.


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Book Smart And Gospel Stupid (via Mockingbird Blog)

I love it when a new phrase pops up in my feed reader that just seems to express something simple yet important.

This post from Mockingbird Blog explores the problem of people who are more enamoured with theology than with the Jesus their theology should point to.
It’s not a screed against study, or anti-intellectual.
If your love of theology doesn’t produce a surpassing love of Jesus then the theology you love is deficient:

Theologians love God. So they talk about him.
But they can’t do that without talking about Jesus. So they talk about Jesus.
But they can’t talk about Jesus without talking about his saving work. So they talk about his birth, life, death, and resurrection.
But they can’t talk about his birth, life, death, and resurrection without talking about what all those things were for. So they talk about how all of them were for us.
In other words, real theologians can’t shut up about who Jesus is and what he’s done on our behalf.
So-called theologians with little interest in Jesus may be book smart but they’re Gospel stupid.

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.


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Gospel, Cancer & True Prosperity (via Mockingbird)

Mockingbird has an article by Ethan Richardson that reflects upon the writings of Katie Bowler who has cancer and has recently written on so-called ‘prosperity’ theology.
The interaction of her study on the subject, her sickness, and Richardson’s reflections point out the way in which prosperity theology impoverishes the Christian life as it deals with mortality and eternity.

It is a perversion of the Gospel that physical death and ill-health could be equated with a lack of faith.
Richardson:
“Certainly, no amount of positive thinking is enough to stave off metastasis–but what’s worse, under the conditional framework of the prosperity gospel, your metastasis may be proof of something. It may mean you didn’t believe hard enough or think positively enough.”
Richardson quotes Bowler:
“The prosperity gospel has taken a religion based on the contemplation of a dying man and stripped it of its call to surrender all. Perhaps worse, it has replaced Christian faith with the most painful forms of certainty. The movement has perfected a rarefied form of America’s addiction to self-rule, which denies much of our humanity: our fragile bodies, our finitude, our need to stare down our deaths (at least once in a while) and be filled with dread and wonder. At some point, we must say to ourselves, I’m going to need to let go.”

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.