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The Improbable Persistence of Calling

In one of his final stories for The New Yorker, “The Long Black Line,” former Jesuit John L’Heureux offers a funny and heart-rending tale of a Jesuit novice who leaves the order. [If you have the time, check out a beautiful reading and commentary on the story by one of his former students, and don’t […]

Lancaster Conference Audio Files: Grace, Peace, and Personal Survival for the Preacher

Several weeks ago in June, when this old world was just slightly younger, some of the Lord’s own rabble met in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for Mockingbird’s first ever conference for pulpit-lurkers: “Grace, Peace, and Personal Survival for the Preacher”. It was not a terribly large group, but the food and wine were plentiful, and the talks and questions and observations from accumulated years in ministry were graceful and moving, not least to this first-time conference organizer.

Some thanks are in order, for those whose efforts made the event possible. Bruno’s and Upohar, our caterers, outdid themselves, as did Gesino’s Italian Specialty Foods, our wine supplier. The staff at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church were outstanding, and remarkably patient with the odd requests of their strange associate pastor. Our attendees – all of them – contributed mightily to the event. Everyone got a chance to be heard, and to lift one another up.

Our conference chaplain, Kyle Tomlin, gave three wonderful devotions, two of which were recorded and are posted here. Rob Myallis (who once taught David Zahl to pronounce ‘Forde’) gave a fantastic talk on why church administration is like sex, but it involved so much back and forth that the recording simply couldn’t capture the spirit of the thing, so you’ll just have to imagine it. Tasha Genck Morton blended Game of Thrones and The Good Place into a beautiful meditation on death and ministry. Nick Lannon, true preacher that he is, spoke powerfully about his inability to dunk a basketball, and about compassion. I offered some words about heroes, our inability as preachers to finish the job, and the Word who brings all things to completion. Mark Tranvik, our keynote speaker, gave two superb talks on Luther, the doctrine of vocation, and the peculiar vocation of preaching the Word. Listen and enjoy.

All presentations are available to stream and download on our Recordings page, as well as The Talkingbird podcast feed.

Please note: As always, the recordings are offered free of charge. Those who were not able to be there in person might *consider* making a donation to help cover the cost of the event.

P.S. We’ll be off over the holiday weekend, resuming normal blogging on Monday. Happy 4th!

The Unforgivables: Is There Hope For Those Consigned to Secular Hell? – Jeff Mallinson

The next video from our recent NYC Conference is here! This time courtesy of Dr. Jeff Mallinson. We’ve been referencing this one on an almost daily basis since he gave it. Brilliant, hilarious, and about as timely as it gets:

The Unforgivables: Is There Hope Even For Those Consigned to a Secular Hell – Jeff Mallinson from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

The Handmaid’s Tale Is Not Here for Your Baby Dedication

In many churches across this country, when a child is born there is a short ceremony called a Baby Dedication. The child and his or her parents are processed in front of the congregation and they make promises to raise the baby in the way of faith. These ceremonies have always fallen a bit flat […]

In Ascension Love Remains

It has been forty days since their master turned the world upside by rising from the dead. But now, it appears, the end has come. An end the apostles could not have anticipated, to be sure. As Jesus approaches his departure they are simultaneously heavy and elated. Elated, as Jesus’ mission is at an end […]

The Only Places on the Streets That Understand

Way back on Christmas Eve of 2013, The Guardian ran a piece by photographer Chris Arnade under the provocative title, “The People Who Challenged My Atheism Most Were Drug Addicts and Prostitutes.” It remains one of the best and most heartening things I’ve read on that intersection. Arnade recounts how thoroughly his unbelief was challenged […]

Don’t Ruin Brunch: A Mother’s Day Primer for the Church

I’ve got an idea for churches this upcoming Sunday. Please just ignore Mother’s Day. I do not know why we started to attach the church to this secular holiday, but for the love of all that is sacred and holy, she wants us to stop. I got a desperate note from her in the mail. […]

The (Step)Ladder to Glory

This reflection comes from Rev. Will Ryan. I never thought I had outsized expectations of how my career would go, but I certainly did have expectations. Once I got through the first year of seminary—which admittedly was an eye-opener to this guy who thought he could turn in rough drafts and get A’s (spoiler alert: […]

Sixty to Zero

In Lyndal Roper’s Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet, the author narrates the moment when Martin, a newly minted Augustinian monk, participated in his first mass as priest (1507). What made this moment especially charged was that his father Hans was present. Hans, you may remember, sacrificed to send his boy to college so that Martin […]

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 […]

Rebuilding What We Never Made: Notre Dame

Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah. (Matthew 17:4) Those tabernacles were the best way that St. Peter could fully express his love of Jesus. But […]

The Sermon in Stone at Notre Dame

Notre Dame has burned. The cathedral had — “had,” how terrible to write — one of the oldest surviving wood frames in Paris’ history, comprising 52 acres of trees. Workers cut those trees down in the 12th century and made the beams. Each beam required the wood of a whole tree. The intricate lattice of […]