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Posts tagged "Paul Walker"


Cast Away the Works of Darkness

A little sample from our latest publication, Faith Once Delivered, a collection of sermons from longtime contributor Paul N. Walker. This sermon was originally delivered at Christ Church in Charlottesville, November 28, 2010, for the First Sunday of Advent. William Golding’s 1954 novel, Lord of the Flies, remains a piercing and, I believe, accurate judgment […]

NOW AVAILABLE: “FAITH ONCE DELIVERED,” SERMONS BY PAUL N. WALKER

Couldn’t be more thrilled to announce that “Faith Once Delivered,” a collection of sermons by Paul N. Walker, is now available through our online store and Amazon! Collected over many years, through both tragedy and celebration, these sermons are for every season in life. Preface here:

It was a few minutes before noon on a Thursday, and I was killing time with Paul as he waited for his lunch date. We were standing at the bottom of the stairs at the office of Christ Church Charlottesville, as we often do. The young man arrived, and Paul introduced us. I had seen him at church but had yet to make his acquaintance.

After a few pleasantries, I asked how he had found our church. It’s the sort of open-ended question that I had heard Paul ask newcomers before, the kind that allowed them to go as light or heavy as they wished. “Someone at the office invited me,” one person might say, the next that her mother had recently died.

The young man responded by saying it was the sermons that had drawn him. He had never heard anything like them. He then paused, possibly debating whether or not to proceed with his next thought. After a moment he looked up at Paul and asked, “I’ve been listening for months and I have to ask: do you basically believe that people are always in a state of existential crisis?”

“Well, now that you mention it…” Paul responded, chuckling a little. “I suppose you could say that, yes.”

The young man cracked his first smile, “So it’s not just me!”

Their brief exchange crystallized something crucial for me about the nature of preaching, indeed the nature of life. I had only been working for Paul for a couple years at that point, but had been eagerly listening to his sermons for close to a decade. Some weeks I arrived at the sermon feeling fine, other weeks in a state of barely disguised distress. But no matter what attitude I brought to the pew or the iPod, I never walked away burdened. And I’ve never prepared a sermon myself without first consulting what Paul has said about the passage in question.

Some preachers conceive of their hearers as people who’re doing basically okay but could use a pep talk. Some as pupils in need of instruction or wisdom. Some address the complacent person they feel needs to be jolted awake. But the audience Paul has in mind when he preaches are people undergoing some kind of crisis, existential or not. His words are aimed at the man or woman in pain. It turns out that describes all of us.

You might expect therefore that his sermons might be a little morose. Yet the exact opposite is true! Despite the gravity of what he has to say—indeed, because of it—there’s a palpable freedom that comes across. Listen to him preach and you will hear a man who takes the Gospel seriously, but not himself. Or, put another way, a key part of Paul’s task each time he climbs into the pulpit involves puncturing his audience’s self-importance, beginning with his own. In poking fun at himself, he conveys that he is not above his hearers but right there among them, just as much in need of God’s grace as anyone. It’s a rare gift to be able to do so without attracting unnecessary attention, but Paul has it.

There are many other remarkable qualities I could commend in his sermons—the precision of the language, the literary imagination, the reverence of scripture, the sheer creativity. It’s all there, in spades. But what most distinguishes the entries in this collection, what accounts for their urgency and power, is the message itself: the unflagging grace of God for non-theoretical sinners like you and me. This “goodest” of good news drips from every single sermon this man preaches.

Paul once told me that, since you never know who’s sitting in the pew—perhaps they lost a loved one that week, or received a diagnosis, or simply got into a massive fight with their spouse on the way to church—you cannot risk preaching anything other than the forgiveness of sins. Any hedging and you’d be of more service selling insurance.

Of course, what we miss when the words are sequestered on the page is the sound of Paul’s own voice. Because, as we all know, you can speak words of peace in a violent manner or words of absolution in a condemnatory tone. You can speak spiritual words without conviction or heart. As someone who was present for the majority of these sermons, you’ll have to take my word for it when I say that the spirit in which they were delivered was one of utmost compassion, warmth, and sincerity.

And ultimately, that’s why this man’s ministry means so much to so many. Why his lunch schedule remains booked solid, year after year after year. These aren’t just words. Paul is not merely a spokesman for God’s grace but an active embodiment of it. He shows up on your worst day with arms outstretched and a listening ear (and possibly a well-mixed martini). That he would object to such a characterization, and resist any and all such lionization, only confirms its truth.

In fact, if you know Paul, then you know how grateful we should be that he agreed to let these sermons be preserved in the first place. Fortunately, this book was not his idea. Nor is the message it contains. It is nothing less than the faith once delivered and the only response to it is the only response to the preacher himself:

THANK YOU.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an existential crisis that needs tending…

NOW AVAILABLE: “FAITH ONCE DELIVERED,” SERMONS BY PAUL N. WALKER!

Hopelessly Devoted: First Corinthians Chapter Four Verses Three Through Four

This entry comes from Paul Walker’s “Almost Daily Devotional”:

It’s been said that life is like a courtroom. We find we need to defend ourselves against the judgment and accusation of others. Sometimes that judgment is real; more often, it is imagined. Another person’s “success,” or what appears to be success to us, will cause us to judge ourselves. You know the saying: “you are your own worst critic.” So many of our prison sentences are self-imposed.

St. Paul knew this universal proclivity but also knew the way to commute the sentence. “I care very little, however, if I am judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not vindicate me. It is the Lord who judges me” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4). What Paul is saying is the lens by which we perceive judgment — whether from ourselves or others — is so warped and faulty that it is better to disregard the accusations altogether.

And in any case, the only person fit for the job of judgment is the Lord. And if that is the case, then go ahead and walk scot-free out of that courtroom door. And while you’re at it, put your hand in the hand of the man who said, “I did not come to judge the world but to save the world” (John 12:47). For He is our only Mediator and Advocate.

“Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.”  (Proper 22 – Book of Common Prayer p. 234)

Hopelessly Devoted: James Chapter One Verses Two Through Four

This morning’s devotion comes from Rev. Paul Walker’s “Almost Daily Devotional,” delivered to inboxes…almost daily. Grateful for today’s message: “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace.” “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that […]

What, Me Worry? – A Sermon For Thanksgiving

Very grateful to share this sermon from Paul Walker, Rector at Christ Church in Charlottesville:  If there is one thing most human beings are good at, it’s worrying. Even a day set aside to give thanks can become a day set aside for extra worry. Every year, our family has a Wednesday Thanksgiving dinner with another […]

What to Wear at Easter: A Sermon on the Resurrection

This sermon was delivered yesterday by Paul Walker, Rector at Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville. Happy Easter, everyone! Welcome to Easter Day at Christ Church! Whether you are here every week or just once a year, Easter is THE day to come to church. The news we have to tell just doesn’t get any better […]

A Message from Christ Church in Charlottesville

As a follow-up to his recent sermon, here is the message Rector Paul Walker sent to his parishioners at Christ Church in Charlottesville—relevant for all of us left shocked and dismayed by the events of last Saturday. Dear Friends, Evil is not a word to be used lightly. But it is a word that is […]

Jesus Comes Aboard the Ship of Fools: A Sermon for Charlottesville

The following incredibly powerful and comforting sermon was delivered yesterday by Paul Walker, Rector at Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville (next door to the rallies from this past weekend). Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed […]

Not Made for These Times: Looking for Answers in 4 O’Clock Moments

Every winter in the seasonal slump of dismal gray, I find myself turning to the same source of hope—the sunny sound walls of the Beach Boys. Growing up in the millennial generation, I was the only one who considered Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson’s voices to be the harmonies of my childhood. Don’t get me […]

Trying to Curb Your Own Series of Unfortunate Events

I’m on the tail end of a nasty cold that has as one of its side effects existential nihilism. To add insult to injury, this particular bug coincided with an anniversary date of the loss of a parent. Reflecting over the 15 years since that event, a lot more bad stuff has happened. In other […]

God in The Storm

Like you, I’ve currently been trying to move through season three of House of Cards as slowly as possible, and not watch the whole thing in one sitting. It’s hard to do, even though this season is a lot less binge-friendly than the first two. And it’s hard to do predominantly because the Underwood’s ‘house […]

NOW AVAILABLE! Issue 4 of The Mockingbird: The Work and Play Issue

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We’re happy to announce that Issue 4 is now available! Here’s our Table of Contents for the Work and Play Issue. Needless to say there’s lots to be excited for, so if you’re looking for a subscription, now’s the time, because this is also the last time we’ll be selling subscriptions for the price they’re at now ($42).

This is what we’re looking into in this, the Work and Play Issue: We have interviews with best-selling time-researcher (and working mother), Brigid Schulte, as well as the Nigerian theologian of play, Nimi Wariboko. We’re covering a wide variety of topics, from freemium gamers and Fitbit philosophy, to happy jobs and Las Vegas tragedies. There’s an essay on the real meaning of sabbath, and a self-improvement sermon against self-improvement. We also have two new works from the matchless poet Mark Jarman—it’s all too much to name, really. In all of these, though, a common thread remains: one that marks out workweek from weekend, the world of demand from the world of freedom. Along this boundary lie much the world’s troubles, but also its hope, for a little bit of thought, and a lot bit of tomfoolery.

THE WORK AND PLAY ISSUE

Opener

Optimization Nation: Deprogramming the Cult of Productivity by David Zahl

The ConfessionalIssue4Cover

“In a Bookstore,” A Poem by Mark Jarman

Sabbath Time: In a World of Work, an Invitation to Rest by Phillip Cary

For the Record: Games for Non-Gamers by Jamin Warren

The Overwhelm: A Conversation on a Modern Mandate with Brigid Schulte

Happy: America’s Favorite Feeling Goes to Work by Ethan Richardson

For the Record: Nine Comic Books for Your Inner-Child

God So Loved the World of Warcraft: Role-Playing Games and the Labor of Spirituality by Will McDavid

The Logic of Grace Is the Logic of Play: A Q&A with Nimi Wariboko

“Confession,” A Poem by Mark Jarman

Auden, Big Data, and the Accelerated Grimace of Modern America by Evan Brush

For the Record: Eight Must-See ESPN 30 for 30s

De Profundis: Our Past Is Prologue by Michael Nicholson

The End of the Never-Ending Voice, A Sermon by Paul Walker