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Grace in Practice


When Is a Baseball Card More Than Just a Baseball Card?

Blame Michael Jordan, or blame COVID-induced storage diving, or blame birthday number four-zero-one last month, but I’ve been doing some serious time traveling of late. The calendar may read 2020, but inside my head I’ve been traversing 1986-1994, one pop culture artifact at a time. Listeners to The Mockingcast have now had to listen to […]

The Man Who Challenged My Theology of Achievement

I went to college about a month after I turned seventeen, from a small town in Wisconsin to the “wretched hive of scum and villainy” known to rural folks as the University of Wisconsin in Madison. There were about 7,000 people in my hometown, contrasted with the student population of 40,000 of the University. To […]

Good Luck With That Self-Sufficiency You Speak Of

Jesus invited us to a dance, but we have turned it into a march of soldiers. – Steve Brown, A Scandalous Freedom One of my favorite parts of the daily liturgy I read comes at the beginning of the evening liturgy, which I always read at some point in the afternoon–a time when I’ve exhausted […]

When Grace Comes as a Trophy

My mother has been going through things lately. Like many people right now, she has time on her hands to unload the boxes that were lovingly packed away decades ago with the best intentions about the then-present “meaning” but with little regard for how callous time might make us. She has sent me photos of […]

Enjoy Your Forgiveness

A few years ago an interesting phrase began popping into my head, and it began to have a big impact on me and my thinking. That phrase is Enjoy Your Forgiveness. I want to share a few thoughts about that phrase, along with its origin in my thought process. It was during an Easter season […]

Human Maturity Between Sin and Righteousness

An oldie-but-goodie from Paul Zahl’s “Grace in Practice” (p.123):

“My status from God’s side is unassailable and indefectible. My substance from my side, from the analysis of anyone who knows me, is good and bad at the same time, or rather, mostly the same old, same old that I have always been, though now covered over by the thin red line, the imputing blood of Christ. We could say that this position of the simul-iustus-et-peccator self [at the same time righteous and a sinner] is the last word in what the world calls ‘maturity’. That is, the simult iustus-et-peccator self is secure in the love of another, and at the same time cognizant of its limitations, faults, and insufficiencies – its sins, in other words[…]

This is the place where Christianity becomes a matchless definition of human maturity. It is the key to living, because it lives in hope and belovedness (iustus), while at the same time accepting the limitations of a fallen, tripped-up character (peccator). This is integration. Simul iustus et peccator integrates the human object. It combines imputation, the fact that God brings everything to the table as far as my identity is concerned, and the fact that I bring nothing to the table whatsoever. The No pronounced on my sin, which I shall carry in my body and person for the rest of my life, is united with the Yes pronounced upon that sin. Imputation makes it all right for me to live as I am and also in light of what I ought and want to be.

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Crushing Our Earth Day Goals

I’ve always loved Earth Day. When I was in about fourth grade, I came home with the idea that my parents should make the toilets in our house “low-flow,” and even had the instructions on how to make it happen. It didn’t happen. Like most things, I like Earth Day when I can choose my […]

The Ministry of Weirdness, Courtesy of The Rev. Alfred Yankovic

“Even as a child, I understood on some intuitive level that Weird Al was not merely the Shakespeare of terrible food puns (“Might as well face it you’re addicted to spuds”) or an icon of anti-style (poodle fro, enormous glasses, questionable mustache, Hawaiian shirts) but a spiritual technician doing important work down in the engine […]

That’s All There Is to It: When Grace Came to Mayberry

For the last few weeks I’ve been introducing my children to The Andy Griffith Show. The classic show is particularly special to me because it was on in my childhood home about every night. I grew up in Winston-Salem, NC, which is not far from the fictional town of Mayberry, based on the real town […]

A Letter to My Future Grandchildren*

*Who will not be born for a very long time because I am still very young Dear Future Grandchildren Who Will Not Be Born For a Very Long Time Because I Am Still So Very Young, First, how lucky you are, blessed children. You have been born to one of the two finest young men […]

Offensive: On War Crimes and Forgiveness

Thankful for this one from Grant Wishard. Im Chaem, a delicate woman in her mid-70s, lives peacefully in the tiny village of Anlong Veng in northwest Cambodia. She raises cucumbers, tends to several cows, enjoys Thai soap operas, and is content to pass the time away with her loving children and grandchildren. Im Chaem is […]

The Cross Brings Mercy and Comfort

Yesterday morning, Comfort sailed into New York harbor. A few days ago, Mercy arrived in Los Angeles. I’m not sure I have ever witnessed a more powerful image of the Gospel.