Sunday Superlatives 12/1/13 (First Sunday of Advent)

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free
'Adventkranz' photo (c) 2009, Benjamin Nussbaum - license:

Prayer for First Sunday of Advent: “Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”  - Book of Common Prayer 

Around the Blogosphere…

Best Quote: 
Pope Francis on the papal mission 

“I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security ... More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: 'Give them something to eat.'”

Best Find: 
Alan Rickman reads Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130

Best Perspective:
Nicholas Kristof at the New York Times with “Where is the Love?”

“Successful people tend to see in themselves a simple narrative: You study hard, work long hours, obey the law and create your own good fortune. Well, yes. That often works fine in middle-class families. But if you’re conceived by a teenage mom who drinks during pregnancy so that you’re born with fetal alcohol effects, the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against you from before birth. You’ll perhaps never get traction. Likewise, if you’re born in a high-poverty neighborhood to a stressed-out single mom who doesn’t read to you and slaps you more than hugs you, you’ll face a huge handicap. One University of Minnesota study found that the kind of parenting a child receives in the first 3.5 years is a better predictor of high school graduation than I.Q. All this helps explain why one of the strongest determinants of ending up poor is being born poor.” 

Best Headline: 
The Onion with “Woman Who Had Almost Formed Healthy Sense of Self Rejoins Social Media” 

Best Writing: 
Shauna Niequist with “What My Mother Taught Me” 

“I watched my mother become herself. I watched her come alive. I watched her discover her gifts. I watched her eyes sparkle when she returned from a meeting or a trip. I listened to her bubbling over with passion about what she was reading or learning. And as I watched her, I promised myself that I would follow this new example she was leaving for me, to pay attention to my gifts and passions. The life I was seeing in her for the first time was so inspiring to me. I loved it in her, and I wanted it for myself.”

Best Moment: 
Toni Morrison Honors Maya Angelou at the National Book Awards

“Easy reading is damn hard writing" 

Best Interview:
N.T. Wright discusses Paul and the Faithfulness of God

Best Lecture (nominated by Matt Saler
N.T. Wright on The Big Story of the Bible 

Best Debriefs: 
Peter Enns with “Inerrancy and the Recent Non-Apocalyptic Discussion at the Annual ETS Meeting in Baltimore” and Michael Bird with “Reflections on ETS and the Conference Theme of Inerrancy” 

From Enns: “As a biblical scholar who deals with the messy parts of the Bible (i.e., the Old Testament), I came away with one recurring impression, a confirmation of my experience in these matters: mainstream American evangelicalism, as codified in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, doesn’t really know what to do with the Bible as a historical text.”

In other news, Five Views of Biblical Inerrancy releases next week and looks like a book we’ll need to discuss! 


Best Response: 
Caryn Rivadeneira, Rachel Marie Stone, and Marlena Graves at Her.Meneutics with “Things Broke People Do” 

“The Bible doesn't indicate that people must be worthy of such generosity, no provision made for excluding the person from charity because of laziness. We see that kindness and generosity are to be given without reservation, without restriction. Perhaps this is because all good things—including the ability to work hard—come from divine grace. The prosperity that can follow hard work is not exclusively our natural and inevitable reward, but in fact a gift from God.”

Richard Beck with “Drinking Christians” 

“That's the dark side of post-evangelical drinking. Given that drinking is a sign of liberation from a troubled past, many progressive Christians find it emotionally difficult to address alcoholism, or to put the drinks away because of a "weaker brother" in our midst.”

These Goats

Sarah Bessey with “In which this is also about the men” 

“In the Kingdom of God, we don’t have to choose between lifting up men or lifting up women, it’s not one or the other: it’s both together, it’s the sacred union, the created purpose as co-image bearers of God.”

Ben Blatt at Slate with “A Textual Analysis of The Hunger Games” 

“These lists give us a sense of the authors’ respective proclivities and reflect the general tone of each series. The Hunger Games is a technical dystopia relying on detailed descriptions of the action (thus the prevalence of words like 'intensely' and 'electronic”'. Twilight is wrapped up in emotion (thus 'anxiously,' 'unwilling,' and 'unreadable'—the last is typically used to describe a character’s expression). Harry Potter is an exploration of a world by turns wondrous and frightening (thus 'dreamily,' 'terrified'). Collins’ adjectives are often used in a utilitarian manner, to describe processes (as in 'One of the heaviest days of betting is the opening, when the initial casualties come in.'). Meyer, meanwhile, is more likely to use her adjectives to describe people (as in 'he asked in his silken, irresistible voice').” 

Andrew Sullivan with “Reliving Iraq” 

“No writer is always right. What matters is how he or she grapples with being wrong.”

Ed Cyzewski "roasts" Zack Hunt on the arrival of his new baby with "An Open Letter to Zack Hunt" 

"Your entire life will now revolve around naps and what you find or don’t find in your daughter’s diapers. Maybe you don’t want to use the word 'poo' because it’s not amenable for your sophisticated Yale tastes. Now is the time to get the thesaurus out and pick your word of choice for 'poo”' because you’re going to talk about it A LOT."

Most Relatable: 
Twenty Pixels with “5 Differences Between Life Now and Life Before Cell Phones”

Most Encouraging: 
Micah  J. Murray with “How I Became a Jesus Feminist” 

“I stopped listening to the men in suits and their the fear-mongering doomsday predictions about feminism. Instead, I started listening to feminists talk about what feminism meant to them. What I heard wasn’t hatred or bitterness or anger or arrogance. I heard brave, strong voices. I heard hearts turned toward love and justice.” 

Most Practical:
Deseed pomegranate in 10 seconds using a wooden spoon

Most Inspiring: 
Bill and Lynne Hybels with “Evangelicals and Gender Equality” 

“Over the last three decades I have had the pleasure of standing on a church stage and introducing women teachers, knowing that the congregation was about to hear a message inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit. I’ve sat in elder meetings and listened while godly women brought wisdom and discernment to bear on complex issues of church discipline. I’ve bounced ideas back and forth with gifted businesswomen who provided thoughtful perspectives on the fiduciary matters of the church. I’ve listened to church members tell stories of transformation that occurred as they sat under the pastoral care of female small group leaders. I’ve watched women and men stand side by side as they served communion and collected the offering and led worship.”

Most Succinct:
Mark Love with “Miami Dolphins and Female Preachers”

“I think a room full of preachers is better when some of them are women.”

Most Helpful: 
Nish Weiseth with “The Reality of Special Needs and How You Can Help” 

“If you see me dealing with a massive meltdown, pray over us from afar. Pray for peace and calm over my kid, pray for strength and determination for me.”

Most Powerful: 
Dawn W. with “On Being Poor” 

“It’s taken me a lot of my growing up years and a decent amount of time studying theology for me to see what was really happening. We were poor for a multitude of reasons, among them being the failure of the system and a minimum wage that is (still) too low. Now is not the time for that. More importantly, I learned that God does not favor the rich and fiscally responsible. Monetary success is not a sacrament. My Lord is manifested in the bread and wine of the Table; the love of a friend; the poetry of the liturgy; the truth of His Word.”

Most Insightful: 
Enuma Okoro at The Washington Post with “Naughty by Nature, Hopeful by Grace”

“I get it now in a way I haven’t before; how temptation can slip slowly from shiny surfaces into the sin of unfaithfulness and undisciplined desire, from things that look good and usually are good, in the beginning. But no one talks about how to keep your balance on the slippery slope. No one wants to talk about it till everyone has slid right off. Then every pastor, priest, and prophet begins to preach about Eve and Delilah, biblical women culturally synonymous with the evils of temptation and the fall of men. In my friendship with Chris I felt the flutters growing and I wanted to start talking about it. I wanted to steady my stance on the slippery slope.”

Most Thought-Provoking: 
Christena Cleveland with “Crossing Boarders in the Church: On Embracing Undocumented Immigrants” 

“The good news is that where the church is pressing into the unity to which Christ calls us, relationships form and attitudes change.  Political scientist Ruth Melkonian-Hoover finds that white evangelicals who worship alongside immigrants are far less likely to view immigrants as a threat (19.6%) than white evangelicals as a whole (50.7%).  Those who have heard a positive message about immigration from their pastor—presumably, one that highlights the scores of biblical commands related to how immigrants ought to be treated—are only about half as likely to think of immigrants as a threat and are also much more likely (81.5%) than white evangelicals as a whole (54%) to support immigration reform policies including an earned path to citizenship for the undocumented.” 

Most Fascinating: 
Jenny Armstrong with “Opposition to Gender Equality, East and West” 

“Don't mess with the dowry system! It's biblical!”

Most Grace-full 
Osheta Moore with “A Letter to My Sisters in the Suburbs” 

“We would love for you, our suburban sisters to join us in caring for Samaria. But know this— urban ministry is not a better way and it’s definitely not the only way to seek God’s Shalom in this broken world. My ‘all or nothing’ will never look like your ‘all or nothing’ and I think that’s the mark of a true disciple: knowing your Shepherd’s voice and following him into your specific all or nothing.” 

Best Assessment: 
Kate Wallace at the Junia Project with “The Incomplete Gospel of Biblical Womanhood”

“I am a single, educated, working, Christian woman, and the “biblical womanhood” message doesn’t really apply to my life. I simply don’t fit into the patriarchal/complementarian teaching of what a woman should be. I may fit better in the future, if I get married and have kids, but what if my life doesn’t take that path? What if I am unable to have kids? What if I’m poor? What if my future husband leaves me? What if I remain single?

Best Storytelling: 

Stacy Sergent with “I Was Told to Knit While the Men Prayed” 

“When I returned to the US, I felt it was important to pursue a theological education, to prepare for ministry and discern what kind of minister I was meant to be.  I had to visit a couple of schools before I found one where women were welcome as full participants.  I’ll never forget my first seminary campus visit, during which the tour guide ignored me completely and directed all his commentary to the male prospective students, until we passed one of the education buildings and he mentioned their excellent preaching classes.  ‘Of course, you wouldn’t need to worry about those,’ he said to me.”

Best Analysis: 
Andrew Arndt with “Coherence at the Core: Some Thoughts on Love and Wrath” 

“Christians believe that Jesus is where the narrative of Scripture was heading all along.  That everything that happened before Christ was a shadow–revealing God, yes, but dimly, provisionally, awaiting further elucidation.  In Christ, God gets specific.  We come to the “hard core” of who God is and what he’s like.  And what is God like, revealed in Jesus?  He loves “sinners”, dines with them, and makes himself comfortable with them.  He heals the lame and the disfigured, extends mercy to the oppressors of Israel, and calls everyone within earshot of his voice into the range of his Father’s redeeming love.  Jew and Gentile, Israel and Rome… it matters not to him – the whole world is the focus of his work, for the whole world has been the focus of his Father’s work from the beginning.”

Best Point: 
Mike Raburn with “On Women and Slaves”

“The hermeneutic (method of interpretation) Rev. Wilson used to sanctify slavery in 1861 is exactly the same that is used now to make suppressing and subjugating women in the church seem holy too. You can see it in that same quote. Husbands are to wives as masters are to slaves. Same logic. Same way of reading the Bible.” 

On Twitter...


On the Blog….

Most Popular Post (…of all time. seriously.):
Are You Being Persecuted? 

Most Popular Comment:
In response to “Are you being persecuted?” NotMonday wrote: 

“Thank you! The idea that American Christians are persecuted is, in my opinion, quite offensive to Christians elsewhere that actually are persecuted.”


So, what caught your eye online this week? What’s happening on your blog? 

End of article logo.

Shareable Permalink

© 2013 All rights reserved.
Copying and republishing this article on other Web sites without written permission is prohibited.
Read more in the category: Sunday Superlatives