The holiness of belonging to *this* world (with @BrianZahnd)

In Brian Zahnd’s May 26th sermon “New Creation (Not Evacuation),” he confronts the neo-Gnosticism of the evangelicals who think we can trash the Earth because God’s just going to blow it up anyway, taking on in particular the key prooftext of the rapture fan club, 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Zahnd uses the analogy of going to the airport to receive a relative who’s been away on a long trip, like a military deployment. People who read rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 are like someone who goes to the airport to pick up Jesus, except that they’ve packed their suitcases to get on an outbound plane rather than getting their house ready to receive Him. There’s a lot of good stuff in Brian’s sermon but the best part is a poem he wrote about the holiness of belonging to this world.

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Brian Zahnd on Cruciform Evangelism in Colossians 1:24

I was listening to Brian Zahnd’s podcast Tuesday while waiting for the rest of my mission team in the Santiago airport. In his May 19th sermon “Mystery Revealed,” he preaches on the cosmic reconciliation of all creation in Christ described in Colossians 1. Brian cautions Christians not to take a triumphalist, hegemonic attitude about the cosmic reign of Christ as through its purpose is to serve as our self-affirmation. He says, “”The way of conquest and domination is the way of the old gods that are passing away… When we absorb enough of the sin and suffering of the world in imitation of Christ, people are drawn to Christ.” It’s a very fascinating claim about the nature of evangelism and what it means to take up our crosses and follow a crucified savior.

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Danceable Homiletics #1: Ring Them Bells (featuring Brian Zahnd)

My friend Bram gave me an epiphany today. I asked him what I should do to a trance track I made last night since he’s from Europe and they actually listen to trance over there. He said why don’t you overlay it with vocals from a Pentecostal preacher’s sermon. And that was how the new genre of danceable homiletics was born. We’ll see if it goes anywhere. Let me know if you have any favorite sermons you’d like me to trance-late into danceable form. Track #1 was created from an awesome sermon by one of my favorite preachers Brian Zahnd of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri. It’s called “Ring Them Bells.”

Looking Back on 2012: Jan-Feb

I figured I would end 2012 by reviewing a selection of my posts from throughout the year chronologically, starting with 10 posts from January and February, which I have listed below with a brief description for each of them. These don’t necessarily have any ranking to them; they are just the ten that first jumped out at me for being either popular or important. Continue Reading

Why should the wicked fear God’s mercy?

Psalm 52:3 blew my mind yesterday as I was reading it in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament: “Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man? God’s mercy lasts for all time.” Since this is my own translation, here’s the Hebrew:
מה-תתהלל ברעה הגבור חסד אל כל-היום. Why in the world is God’s mercy (חסד) presented as a reason to rebuke the mighty man’s boasting? I’ve shared before that hesed, the Hebrew word for mercy, has a different semantic range and connotation than our word in English. It means most essentially the unconditional love that you have for the closest members of your family. So why should the mighty man be worried? Because God’s mercy for His people means wrath against their oppressors. Continue Reading

Why you need to listen to Brian Zahnd

I’m about to leave on a youth retreat so I don’t have time for a full post on this, but Brian Zahnd’s Friday night and Sunday sermons from last weekend blew my mind. He is the pastor of non-denominational Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, MO and a leader in the exciting movement among evangelical churches to embrace the sacramental and spiritual practices of the ancient church. In his Friday sermon “Ring them bells,” he talks about the way that church bells used to serve as the city’s call to prayer before they became passe to churches seeking to be “relevant” and modern. The church bell is a metaphor for a public Christianity that is prayerful and prophetic rather than entrenched in worldly political power. Then in his Sunday sermon “The Mount of Beatitudes,” Zahnd talks about the Beatitudes, closing with a fascinating account of how every single beatitude is in play among those gathered around Jesus as he was being crucified. Zahnd says, “The kingdom of God will only come through little reenactments of Calvary.” I have a lot more to say but I don’t have time so go listen. Peace.

Beauty will save the world #3: the axis of love

It continues to blow my mind how timely Brian Zahnd’s book Beauty Will Save the World is for the climate of our country right now. I previously blogged about the first and second chapters. The third chapter is called “Axis of Love.” Kind of sounds like a Jimi Hendrix album. It’s actually a very beautiful presentation of the victory Jesus wins on the cross. Continue Reading

Letter of a Christian martyr — Father Christian de Cherge

With all the buzz about Christians being persecuted in the world (real and imagined), I thought I would share a letter from a Catholic monk who was beheaded by a Muslim radical in Algeria on May 24, 1996. Brian Zahnd printed it as part of his new book Beauty Will Save the World (which is amazing! You should buy it!). It expresses a level of maturity that exudes Christ far more beautifully than any of the loudmouths in the Christian blogosphere ever have (myself included). Here it is. Continue Reading

Beauty will save the world #2: On regaining wonder

The second chapter of Beauty Will Save the World is about rediscovering the concept of wonder. Brian Zahnd writes: “We wonder at two things–the beautiful and the mysterious. A life stripped of beauty and mystery is a life barren of wonder, and a life without wonder is a kind of deep poverty” (33). Zahnd thinks that the greatest wonder of all is Jesus’ incarnation: the claim that “the Logos, the Word, the Idea, the Reason, the Reflection, the Meditation, the Self-Understanding of God became human flesh and blood” (40). The problem is that we’ve tucked the wonder of Jesus’ identity into systematic theological propositions so that His divine/human nature is something matter of fact rather than a cause for wonder. It becomes part of the formula that has to be fulfilled for God’s equation to work. But God’s truth is better captured in poetry than mathematics. Continue Reading

Beauty Will Save the World #1: Beauty over Conquest

The title of Brian Zahnd’s brand new book Beauty Will Save the World is taken from a quote in Fyodor Dostoyevski’s novel The Idiot. Zahnd’s book is a prophetic call to turn away from the ugliness that evangelical Christianity has acquired in the last thirty years due to the loud, angry people who claim to represent us; our consequent identification in the public sphere as an anti-intellectual, xenophobic, populist partisan voting bloc; and our canned, formulaic theology that has produced exponential growth among our megachurches, but seems to be bored with and disdainful of the depths of mystery within God’s Word. Zahnd writes that all of evangelicalism’s various strategies for political and cultural conquest turn ugly when they cease to emulate the “cruciform [which] is the aesthetic of our gospel” (7). Zahnd contends that “our task is not to protest the world into a certain moral conformity, but to attract the world to the saving beauty of Christ” (xvii). Continue Reading