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Posts tagged "Mockingbird Conference"


Transgressors, Transgression, and the Perilous Bridge of Forgiveness – A Conference Breakout Preview

In this past week’s Another Week Ends, I mentioned very briefly the newest season of Invisibilia, one of our go-to podcasts. That particular episode, “The Pattern Problem,” tells the story of a woman with a seriously checkered past, some her fault, some not at all. She’s the child of addicts, an ex-addict and ex-felon herself, and yet she’s made an against-all-odds comeback: after a couple stints in prison, she gets into law school and is now studying for the bar. A panel of judges overseeing the bar in her state is deciding whether or not her past precludes her from such an unlikely future.

I won’t give away what ends up happening, but you can see where the focus on “patterns” comes into play. Does her criminal past foreshadow the future? Can we really be sure she’s changed? Patterns provide ways for people to make sober decisions. They are the conditional protective measures for how we decide to invest our time, our money, and in this case, our forgiveness. Courts as institutions are not known to be particularly forgiving—it’s not their job—but the same patterns are at work for us, in our minds, in the ways we read the news and process the actions of our strangers and friends alike.

Human beings don’t just dole out our forgiveness to anyone. To the contrary, unforgiveness is tended to like a formal garden. Each garden has hard boundaries with designated entrances, and strict guidelines for keeping its delicate order alive. It has to be that way. Otherwise, the garden would be indistinguishable from the chaos surrounding it. I am not trying to be glib. This is really how it has to be.

At the same time, social science has made it clear that unforgiveness will, in the end, kill you. For all the sensible order our fine gardens provide, they are solitary places, kept alive by stress, numbness to intruders, and estrangement. In other words, unforgiveness may simplify the “pattern problem,” but forgiveness, we are told by social science (and by the New Testament), is the way to new life.

In this breakout, we will talk about the psychology of forgiveness, its proven biological and psychosocial benefits, its various meanings in our culture, and the real, totally practical hope it expresses in the Bible.

Register for the 11th Annual Mockingbird Conference here! Miss out, and you’ll never forgive yourself…

Not Weak on Sanctification: Christians Grow in Reverse – A Conference Break-Out Preview

This breakout preview comes from longtime Mockingbird contributor Nick Lannon, who is also the Associate Rector of St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church in Louisville, KY.

If you’re reading a post on (or reposted from) the Mockingbird website, chances are pretty good that, at one point or another, you’ve been accused of being “weak on sanctification.” I’ve even had a staff member of a previous church casually refer to the alleged fact that I “don’t believe in sanctification.”

Is that true? What is certainly true is that most discussion of Christian growth rubs me the wrong way, depresses me, or makes me the kind of angry that I got when I heard they were remaking Point Break. But God is at work in us! He promised he would be!

Clearly, some clarification is in order.

For people who have, like thirsty vagrants crawling out of the desert, come to the fount of the Good News of the Gospel—that “it is finished” on account of Christ—sanctification can become, at best, a difficult subject to deal with, and, at worst, a dirty word. How can we talk about the work that God is doing in our lives without making it just another law? Is there a way to celebrate the activity of the Holy Spirit without becoming self-righteous Pharisees? Does talk of “sanctification” or “Christian maturity” necessarily lead to a ranked order of Christians stretching from Mother Teresa and Billy Graham at the top to death-row converts and your back-slidden college roommate at the bottom?

At this break-out session, I’ll try to find a helpful way to talk about sanctification. There is a paradigm through which Christian growth can be discussed, believed in, and even celebrated. Spiritual maturity is neither unicorn nor bogeyman, but it does seem to work itself out in the exact opposite way of that which we are hard-wired to expect.

So join me…afterwards, you can tell all your friends that you’re a more mature Christian than they are. Or not. Wait and see.

You can still register for the 2018 Mockingbird Conference: The Grace of God in Divided Times. Click here to check out the full schedule. We hope to see you there!

 

I Don’t Identify as Human: The Hidden Image of the Hidden God – A Conference Breakout Preview

This NYC 2018 Conference breakout preview comes from Adam Morton, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church and associate pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, both in Lancaster, PA.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

You’ve heard that bit before. If not, purchase or steal a Bible (we can work on the ethics of acquisition later), and crack it open to the very first chapter. It’s a good read. This passage is one of the small set that might come out of the mouths of folks who have little or nothing to do with the church; nevertheless, they have heard that humanity is somehow the “image of God,” and this is surely important. But what does it mean?

Modern life is such that the definition of a human being seems to be daily renegotiated. The pet food commercials tell me that my pair of cats (let us never speak of them again) and my son are more or less equal objects of my care. I doubt this, but clearly not everyone does, else General Mills wouldn’t have offered $8 billion to acquire Blue Buffalo. Various experts and news stories have warned me, repeatedly, that if the robots don’t rise up to kill us, they’ll seduce us instead—and that this sort of thing is one day going to be perfectly normal. Silicon Valley appears awash in the notion that humanity can be—no, that’s too weak—will be transcended by way of the proper application of consumer electronics to the body. Sad as it is to say, neither are we anywhere near rid of the notion that certain colors or other configurations of the anthropoid form are markedly less than human.

Hear enough of this stuff and you might begin to suspect that we don’t yet really know what a human being is. This ancient notion of the image of God might be helpful in such a mess, if only we could pin it down. However, the thorny heart of the matter is that this image isn’t all that apparent in my daily life. I can’t see it, and while I could make several plausible suggestions as to its meaning, settling on which one (if any) is true is another matter—which means, strangely enough, that it has something in common with the God whose image it is supposed to be.

In this conference breakout we’ll try to talk about this image-of-God thing, what it means for it to be hidden from us, and how this confusion impacts us on a daily basis. Along the way we’ll enlist the help of Johann Georg Hamann, the greatest 18th century German writer you’ve never heard of (yes, I know, that’s hardly a selling point—but trust me, this guy is hilarious in a very un-German and un-18th century way).

You can sign up for the 11th annual Mockingbird conference here! No human beings will want to miss this!

Art for God’s Sake (and Mine): A Conference Breakout Preview

Here’s another preview for one of our NYC conference breakout sessions. This one is from Mischa Willett, author of the poetry collection Phases. 

When I exceed the reach of the FM signal, driving in some part of the country, and the stations fade out and switch, I scan quickly for a new set. And I can always tell when I’ve passed a Christian music station, not because of the lyrics, or because of a lack of appeals for someone named “baby” to alter a current course of action, but because of the sound, somehow. I don’t think the sound is worse, particularly—I love CCM in fact—but it is distinctive. What am I hearing? A brightness? A cleanliness of production? A forwarding of the vocal track? 

That’s what reading a lot of literature by people of faith has been like for me. Apart from a few examples, I find it, I don’t know, wholesome in a way that’s grating. Maybe the earnestness bothers me. In my poems, I wanted to get away from all that, while still very much attending to first things. 

In this breakout session, I’ll be reading poems from my book Phases, which has recently been called “alive with the strenuous Christianity that makes Donne and Hopkins such a pleasure to read, even in these post-Christian times.” 

What is strenuous Christianity? How do we get our literature to be alive with it? This session is best for people who want to think about what a Christian vision of the arts might look like. 

You can read more about Phases here, and check out some of Mischa’s poems, which we’ve posted here. For more, join us at Calvary St. George’s church in NYC on April 27th, at 3:00pm. 

Click here to register for the 11th annual Mockingbird conference! We hope to see you there!

NYC Preview: I'm New Here. I Don't Know Anyone. And What the &%*! Is Going On?

NYC Preview: I’m New Here. I Don’t Know Anyone. And What the &%*! Is Going On?

Recently, one of my current coworkers, whom we shall call Will, made a confession to me about his first Mockingbird Conference. A friend of mine, with whom Will worked at the time, had convinced him to come along, and so, after flying into LaGuardia, Will found himself in the backseat of my car on our way into Manhattan. Listening in on the front seat conversation between my friend and I (both Episcopal priests), which was undoubtedly, shall we say, “salty,” the following thoughts ran through Will’s head: “Who are these guys? What are they talking about? Are they even Christians?!…

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T.S. Eliot’s Parables of Self-Righteousness and Resurrection (A Conference Breakout)

T.S. Eliot’s Parables of Self-Righteousness and Resurrection (A Conference Breakout)

Perhaps this is not your issue, but I often find that the language we speak as Christians when talking about Christianity simply fails to really connect. Whether it be in a sermon, prayers, or music, full of talk of ‘justification’, ‘grace’, ‘redemption’, etc., when we hear the words, nod our heads in assent, but fail to really understand. We may know the words, but since we don’t to have any emotional or existential connection to them, they fail to have any real significance for us.

This breakout session is specifically looking at the issue of self-righteousness and its opposite, humility/honesty, through…

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2012 NYC Conference Recordings: Honesty, Humility and the Grace of God

2012 NYC Conference Recordings: Honesty, Humility and the Grace of God

A major thank you to everyone who helped put on this past weekend’s conference in New York! We could not be happier or more grateful for how it all went. We are offering the recordings free of charge again this year; we only ask that those who were not able to attend this year *consider* making a donation to Mockingbird to help cover the cost of the event. Download links are followed by an in-line player for each recording.

Thursday April 19th

Devotion 1 – Jacob Smith

“The Zoolander Antidote: Telling the Truth (About You)” – Aaron Zimmerman

Friday April 20th

Devotion 2 – Jacob…

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My Heart Would Poison You, But God Wants My Poison Heart

My Heart Would Poison You, But God Wants My Poison Heart

Yitzhak Zuckerman

I just came across this quote from Yitzhak Zuckerman, who was a Jewish resistance movement leader in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising during World War II:

If you could lick my heart, it would poison you.

Wow! You see, although a hero of the resistance movement, plagued by survivor guilt, he became an uncontrollable alcoholic later in life. So despite rightly being celebrated for his wartime heroism, Zuckerman was in touch with the darkest parts of himself. (This quote, by the way, is originally from the French documentary Shoah, which—full disclosure—I have not seen.)

While allowing Zuckerman’s words to stew in my…

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Mockingbird (Conference) at the Movies: Hollywood's Love Affair with Love

Mockingbird (Conference) at the Movies: Hollywood’s Love Affair with Love

C.S. Lewis described four kinds of love (based on the four Greek words): affection, friendship, romance, and charity (unconditional love). Since I’m about half as smart as him, I’ll say that, at the root, there are two kinds of love: love that requires something, and love that requires nothing. In this break-out session at the upcoming Mockingbird Conference (Friday, April 20th at 2:30pm), we’ll look at these two loves through the celluloid eyes of Hollywood.

In their effort to get us to put cash on the barrelhead at theaters across the country, the movies often tempt us with stories of love….

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Subway Mayhem and the Lostness of Identity

Subway Mayhem and the Lostness of Identity

On my way to JFK after leaving the Mockingbird Conference I ended up on the wrong train. Not knowing that there are two trains that share a track, instead of ending up at the airport I ended up in Queens.

Standing on the platform feeling a little lost and very alone, I noticed something relevant. I noticed these men in their twenties, and some definitely in their thirties, who were what the world would definitely identify as “hoodlums” or “gangsters”. And I couldn’t help but feel a sense of sadness for these men, a sadness which stemmed from…

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Conference Preview: Gracious Apologetics: Building Bridges to the Human Heart Through Similar Interests

Conference Preview: Gracious Apologetics: Building Bridges to the Human Heart Through Similar Interests

I personally was really hoping that the 4th Annual Mockingbird Conference would finally be all about end time prophecy, and my break out session was going to be entitled “Are You Rapture Ready?” Alas, that is not the case so instead I will be leading a session on apologetics. I am a firm believer in the apologetic task; however this session will not be a fact seminar where one is given a bunch of proofs for Jesus’ resurrection, and the validity of the New Testament (although believe me the facts and the evidence exist).Instead this session on apologetics will…

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Why I Am Coming to NYC

Why I Am Coming to NYC

Each year it seems like such an undertaking: spending money on travel for myself that could have been used for a family vacation; enduring crowded flights and dreary layovers; trudging to and fro on subway lines and unfamiliar avenues, a stranger in a strange land – all to spend a few fleeting days at a religious conference. Is it worth it, you may ask? Well, I wrote what follows after last year’s conference, and it sums up the reason why I intend to make this annual pilgrimage to New York City as long as there is a Mockingbird…

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