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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!

Loving the Dreadful Day of Judgment: Fleming Rutledge’s Advent

The Rev. Fleming Rutledge’s “generous orthodoxy” defies pinning down. She loves both the Day of Judgment and the oppressed in society (and thinks the former will relieve the latter); she believes in Purgatory (without indulgences) and in the nine ranks of angels; and she boldly declares Christ to be Lord and King and coming again […]

All the Pods That Are Fit to Cast

No fresh Mockingcast this week, as the hosts have all been on vacation, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to run down what else we’ve got on offer, audio-wise, and where you can listen/subscribe. Also, the more reviews we have on iTunes, the more visibility those casts get, so if you haven’t had a chance to post one, go for it! The links are below.

The Mockingcast

A bi-weekly roundtable on culture, faith and grace, co-hosted by RJ Heijmen, Sarah Condon and David Zahl.

Listen/Subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play or Stitcher

 

 

mockingpulpit

The Mockingpulpit

Sermons and talks from the voices associated with Mockingbird, singing that “same song” of God’s grace in different keys, week after week.

Listen/Subscribe on iTunes or Google Play

PZ_podcast

PZ’s Podcast

Grace-based impressions and outré correlations from the author of Grace in Practice, Paul F.M. Zahl. [Note: two fresh episodes have gone up since we last posted a blurb, “252: Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life” and “253: Facing the Cannons (NOT!)”]

Listen/Subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play or Stitcher

 

Talkingbird

Your destination for talks given at our events, both present and past. Subjects run the gamut from religion and theology to psychology and literature to pop culture and relationships and everything in between. Humor and grace abound. Selected talks from our archives go up every two weeks in between events.

Subscribe on iTunes, Google Play or Stitcher

 

Fresh on Talkingbird as of this past weekend are both David Zahl’s talk from the Ordinary event in CA last month (“Nobody’s Somebody or Somebody’s Nobody’s”) and Jady Koch’s masterful presentation on “Law, Gospel and Guns N Roses: How the English Reformation Is Still Speaking Today” that he gave at Concordia Seminary this past Fall as part of their symposium on “The Just Shall Live by Faith: The Reformation Word for Life Then and Now.” You can watch the video below.

Devotion 1 – Sarah Condon

The first video from our recent NYC Conference is here! It’s the opening devotion from our chaplain, The Rev. Sarah Condon. Recordings should be ready any day now – just waiting on Apple to approve a dedicated feed (stay tuned!).

Devotion #1 – Sarah Condon from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Finding God at Arby’s: Reflections on Doubting Thomas

This sermon was delivered this past Sunday in Charlottesville, by Sam Bush. This is a very exciting time for the church. It’s one week after Easter. The lilies are still up, the altar is in full splendor. We are living in the aftermath of Jesus’ resurrection. And today we see how the resurrection immediately plays […]

Pithy Preachers Proclaiming Perplexing Epigrams: On Preaching, the Pulpit, & Thomas Guthrie’s Christ and the Inheritance of the Saints

It’s a turn of phrase that I’ve seen around the Internet and various other places in the past, but only recently has it been actually uttered to my face. I wouldn’t have thought much of it but it was said twice in a few short days and it got me to thinking about how prevalent […]

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 […]

The Very Intersection of Love and Death

Grateful to share this Ash Wednesday sermon, by our friend Sam Bush: Well, in a beautiful twist of irony, this is the first time since 1945 that Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day have coincided. It’s such a bad pairing for a hybrid holiday that it makes you wonder if someone screwed up. The ultimate day […]

“He Reads Well”

I was both thrilled and intimidated when my church asked me — then a 29 year old college minister — to become their interim pastor. While I loved to preach, I was nervous about having to prepare practically every Sunday. I treated those sermon manuscripts like so many of the doctoral seminar papers I was […]

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 […]

The Bible in One Hand, the Novel in the Other

Call it a nerd’s dream-come-true. A few months before I attended their three week summer seminar called “Imaginative Reading for Creative Preaching,” Calvin College mailed me a rather large box filled with all manner of books — novels, poetry, short stories, journalism, biography, and children’s literature. Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath was bunking next to Gilead, […]

Hungry for Religion

As the Church turns its attention to a certain supper, we thought we’d post the closing sermon from the most recent issue (Food and Drink) of The Mockingbird. Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one”… Some […]