All posts by Brian Zahnd

  • Closing The Book On Vengeance

    Jesus-Synagogue (1)

    Closing The Book On Vengeance
    (A reflection on Luke 4:14-30)
    Brian Zahnd

    To proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God.

    This is how Jesus read Isaiah 61:2 when he returned to Nazareth after beginning his ministry. Jesus edited Isaiah. Reading from this familiar passage in Isaiah, Jesus stopped midsentence and rolled up the scroll! It would be like someone singing the national anthem and ending with, O’er the land of the free. Everybody would be waiting for and the home of the brave. Jesus didn’t finish the line. Jesus omitted the bit about “the day of vengeance of our God.”

    In announcing that God’s jubilee of liberation, amnesty, and pardon was arriving with what he was doing, Jesus omitted any reference to God exacting vengeance on Israel’s enemies. In claiming that Isaiah’s prophecy had been fulfilled in their hearing, Jesus is claiming to be Jubilee in person. But the scandalous suggestion is that this Jubilee is to be for everybody…even Israel’s enemies.

    Jesus edited out vengeance, and this gives us a key to how Jesus read the Old Testament. And lest we think that Jesus’ omission of “the day of vengeance” was simply an oversight or meaningless, consider what Jesus says to the hometown crowd in the synagogue following his edited reading of Isaiah. Jesus recalls the stories of the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the leper — Gentiles who instead of receiving vengeance from God, received provision and healing.
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  • Silence Please

    A Quiet Place

    Silence Please
    Brian Zahnd

    Ours is an angry and vociferous age. We’re constantly subjected to the noise of charged political rhetoric — the wearying din of the culture wars. Too often Sunday morning can be little more than a religious echo of this same noise. But shouldn’t Sunday be a Christian Sabbath, a time to quiet our souls and receive the gift of silence? What if, instead of being another contributor to this clatter, our churches became a shelter from the storm offering respite to shell-shocked souls?

    Silence belongs to an earlier age. Ours is an age of noise. With our technological progress has come the din of modernity. With the advent of digital social media has come the white noise of everyone “expressing themselves.” Silence is now a precious commodity, a scarce resource hard to come by. Sure, we can pray anywhere, anytime, but to pray well, to pray in a way that restores the soul, we need to find some quiet places. This is what we find appealing in the holy hush of the cathedral, the sacred stillness of the monastery, the reverent quiet of the woods.

    When birdsong and gentle footfall replace the shrill rancor of 24-7 news and the inane blare from five-hundred channels, the soul has a chance to heal. Without some intentional silence the weary soul is a prisoner being slowly worked to death in a merciless gulag of endless noise. The always-posted sign at the entrance of the tourist-attracting cathedrals is perhaps a desperate plea from the soul of modern man — Silence Please.
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  • Revolutionary Jesus

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    Revolutionary Jesus
    Brian Zahnd

    You say you want a revolution
    Well, you know, we all want to change the world

    —The Beatles

    The revolution of Christ is the radical alternative to the unimaginative politicism of the religious Right and Left.

    Jesus is not apolitical. Far from it. Jesus is intensely political! But Jesus has his own politics — and they cannot be made to serve the interests of some other political agenda. As Eugene Peterson says, “The gospel of Jesus Christ is more political than anyone imagines, but in a way that no one guesses.”

    The politics of Jesus are set forth in the Sermon on the Mount — and neither the Republican nor the Democratic party have any intention of seriously adopting those politics! They simply cannot. The politics of the Sermon on the Mount are antithetical to the political interests of a military and economic superpower.

    The problem with both the Christian Right and the Christian Left is that they reduce “Christian” to the diminished role of religious adjective in service to the all-important political noun. But as Karl Barth taught us, God cannot serve some other interest, God can only rule. …
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  • Water To Wine Playlist

    playlist

    This playlist is the soundtrack for Water To Wine. Many of the songs are referred to in the book, some of the songs have obvious connections with certain passages, and a few of the songs have a deeply personal connection with the story I tell.


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  • Why I Wrote “Water To Wine”

    W2W (1)

    Why I Wrote “Water To Wine” Brian Zahnd

    Today is the release date for my new book, Water To Wine: Some of My Story. I wrote this book because I could not not write this book. I was compelled to justify my journey and give some guidance to fellow seekers.

    Over the past twelve years I’ve gone through a tremendous spiritual and theological transition. Some friends, pastors, and former church members have been critical of these changes. But many more have found hope and encouragement in my spiritual pilgrimage. Water To Wine is written for all these people. For my critics this is my humble, yet earnest, defense. For those who have found my journey helpful and have asked for some direction, this is it.

    Most of all I wrote Water To Wine for the multitudes of Christians who are sold on Jesus, but have come to feel that pop-Christianity is too watery and too thin. They are right…it is. And I want to help. I hope the story of how I found my way out of cotton-candy Christianity and into a richer and more robust faith may help point these seekers in the right direction. Perhaps you are one of them.

    Instead of trying to reproduce the book in this blog post, I want to share a thousand words — a thousand words selected from throughout the introductory first chapter. I hope it will whet your appetite.

    BZ
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  • The Magi and I (An Epiphany Post)

    journey-of-the-magi

    T.S. Eliot’s poem Journey of the Magi with my quasi-interpretation of it. Which is more than an interpretation — it’s also a kind of autobiographical confession; for I too have had a hard time of it. And like Eliot’s Magi I would do it all over again.
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  • Marked by Mercy in 2016

    2016Prayer

    Marked by Mercy in 2016
    Brian Zahnd

    I’m praying that in 2016 the church would be marked by mercy — that we would walk the world as the pardon of God.

    I wrote these words yesterday following our Wednesday Noon Prayer and Communion service in the Upper Room. As we were praying about the witness of the church in America in the coming year, our prayers took on the theme of mercy.

    We are living in a moment marked by mean-spiritedness. Much of this meanness is directed toward immigrants and refugees, Muslims and foreigners. And, of course, various political factions aim their ire at one another. As we move through the presidential campaigns of 2016, I sadly anticipate the mean-spirited rhetoric to grow worse.

    My prayer is that in 2016 the church would be something other. That instead of conforming to the spirit of the age, the church would model mercy as a Christlike act of nonconformity. Or to say it another way, I’m praying that the church would conform to the mercy of Christ and not to the current zeitgeist of mean-spiritedness. I’m praying that we would walk the world as the pardon of God — a phrase borrowed from G.K. Chesterton’s description of Saint Francis of Assisi.
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  • Losing Jesus

    Finding_of_the_Saviour_in_the_Temple

    Losing Jesus
    Brian Zahnd

    Mary had lost Jesus. She couldn’t find him anywhere. Jesus had gone missing. He wasn’t among the friends and relatives who had traveled to Jerusalem for Passover and who were now returning home to Nazareth. Jesus had always been reliable and trustworthy, but now he was inexplicably absent. Concern gave way to panic as Mary and Joseph rushed back to Jerusalem to search for their missing twelve-year-old son.

    For three days Mary and Joseph frantically searched Jerusalem. It must have been agony. On the third day they found Jesus in the Temple, sitting with the rabbis immersed in theological conversation. Mary’s anxiety turned to relief and then to irritation. “Why have you treated us this way? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”

    Our sympathies are naturally with Mary. After all, twelve-year-old boys aren’t supposed to disappear for three days without telling anyone. But this isn’t just any adolescent — this is the divine Word in boyhood. Jesus is unapologetic. He doesn’t offer an excuse. What he does say are the first recorded words of Christ:

    “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

    Mary and Joseph didn’t understand what Jesus meant by this. It wouldn’t be the last time people failed to understand Jesus.
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  • Bethlehem: Beauty and Brutality

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    Bethlehem: Beauty and Brutality
    Brian Zahnd

    The Sunday before Advent I was preaching in Bethlehem. While there a Palestinian friend I’ve known for nearly twenty years and who shares my appreciation for Orthodox icons gave me the wonderful gifts of a Nativity icon and a Root of Jesse icon. These “gospels in color” now occupy a prominent place in my study. They have been especially meaningful to me during this season of Advent.

    Icons

    I also received two more “souvenirs” from Bethlehem — a spent teargas canister and a used rubber bullet retrieved from the street in front of the Bethlehem Bible College where some of my Palestinian Christian friends teach. Unfortunately, these sad souvenirs are quite plentiful.

    Teargas
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