What is Easter, really?

According to The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (Hirsch, Kett & Trefil, 1988), Easter is a holiday that every American needs to know about. Easter is a social construct, too.  That’s right; it is a made-up holiday celebrated differently by diverse people around the world. It’s considered a most holy day, along with Christmas, for Christ-followers, but people make up how they choose to celebrate it. When I first read Berger and Luckmann’s landmark social science book, The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge, I had a hard time accepting that much of our reality is socially constructed. I am a huge proponent of free will. But as time went on, I realized the theory holds much truth. How we live life—largely what we believe and why we believe it—is passed on to us culturally. That’s right, we make stuff up! We make up our culture, values, customs, ways of life, language, and to a large extent, our thought patterns. For the most part, we accept what we grew up with. We live life through social constructs I contend that the social construction of reality is not a bad thing, and does not make the reality behind a celebration or practice any less true. Easter is not just a holy day, it is a holy season. Coinciding with spring in the northern hemisphere, (where most of our Easter traditions came from), it follows a 40-day period called Lent, which since ancient times has been set aside as a season of penance and reflection, where believers are encouraged to make sacrifices and engage in acts of goodness. In this way, Christians are prepared to remember the sacrificial death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ who was both God and man in one being. Lent culminates in Holy Week, which starts with Palm Sunday (remembering Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem), then continues with Maundy Thursday (remembering the Passover supper Jesus had with his disciples and his washing of their feet), and Good Friday (remembering when Christ was executed), and finally celebrating Easter, when Christ rose from the dead. Lenten and Easter practices seem to be very ancient. In his “History of Lent” (2002), Fr. Saunders cited a letter to the Pope written in A.D. 203 commenting on the differences between how Easter was celebrated in the East and West: “The dispute is not only about the day, but also about the actual character of the fast. Some think that they ought to fast for one day, some for two, others for still more; some make their ‘day’ last 40 hours on end. Such variation in the observance did not originate in our own day, but very much earlier, in the time of our forefathers.” Many Christian customs were either borrowed from other religions or simply made up. The use of incense, visual depictions (crosses, crucifixes, icons, painting, sculptures), church architecture and many other things were used to help people connect to God. As someone pointed out, the use of “bells” and “smells” helped illiterate congregants throughout history connect with a God who isn’t tangible. Like the rest of the church calendar, dates were set aside to remind Christ-followers of many of the important aspects of the New Testament, which chronicles the life of Jesus and the beginnings of the early church. Other “holy days,” which we have come to call “holidays,” include Advent and Christmas (leading up to and celebrating the birth of Christ), Epiphany (celebrating the incarnation of Christ and the visit by the Magi), and Pentecost (remembering the outpouring of God’s spirit on early believers shortly after Christ’s return to God the Father). A basic tenant of Christianity is that God is made up of three distinct persons, designated Father, Jesus the Christ, and the Holy Spirit. These three do not exist or operate in an authoritarian structure, but by relationship and communication. Unlike Christmas,...

What Does It Mean?

These few days are undoubtedly the most important in the Christian calendar; they are centerpieces of the faith. But there is no one-way to view the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. That said, I think it’s important to think about. I contend that how you view Jesus’ death and resurrection reflects on your view of God and how you related to the Divine. In his book, Across the Spectrum: Understanding issues in Evangelical Theology, Greg Boyd and Paul Eddy devote an entire chapter on “The Atonement Debate.” There they outline the three main perspectives: The Christus Victor View (Christ destroyed Satan and his works) The Penal Substitution View (Christ dies in our place) The Moral Government View (Christ displayed God’s wrath against sin) Here, in a nutshell, is an overview of these perspectives. Then I will make a case for something more simplistic that may work even better for you. According to Boyd and Eddy, the Christus Victor view was the most popular until the Middle Ages. It was based on the idea that, “Jesus’ death and resurrection defeated Satan and thus set humankind free from his oppressive rule” (Boyd & Eddy, p. 114). Later John Calvin and Martin Luther developed the Penal Substitution view, that Jesus took on the punishment that humankind deserved. One must understand, however, that Calvin was an attorney, so he saw everything in legal terms. For him, there was a debt to be paid, and Jesus paid it. The problem I have with this view is that it turns our relationship with God into a transaction. A transaction is that I put down money at the store and I get to take the milk home. However, everything about scripture tells me that God is interested in transformation,...

The Invitation of Grace...

The follow is a devotional from Monday, March 21, 2016 written by Richard Rohr, founder and director of Center for Action and Contemplation. His writings are always good, and some just have to be shared. “As I shared earlier this year, the Bible is “a text in travail.” Sometimes the biblical writers catch a glimpse of God’s true character–love, mercy, and justice–and sometimes they lose sight of it. Old Testament scholar and theologian Walter Brueggemann traces the evolution of human consciousness through three sections of Hebrew Scriptures: the Torah (the five books of the Pentateuch), the Prophets, and the Wisdom literature (including Job, the Psalms, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes). Just as children must begin with structure and rules, religion starts with setting boundaries, rituals, and rules about who is in and who is out. It’s all about protecting the status quo, our tribal and egoic identity. But eventually we have to develop the capacity for self-criticism, as the prophets did, which is the necessary second stage. If we do both of these stages well, we will normally be catapulted toward wisdom and holiness. Another way to look at this is a series of Order > Disorder > Reorder. Most conservatives get trapped in the first step and most liberals get stuck in the second. Healthy religion is all about getting you to the third, Reorder. There is no nonstop flight. You must learn the wisdom of both the first and second stages before moving on. Much of the chaos and instability of our time stems from many young and sophisticated people now beginning life in the second stage of Disorder and criticism, without first learning deeply from Order. It appears to be a disaster. The three stages must be in proper sequence for...

Mama Knows Best

“Some people come into your life for a lifetime and some come for a season; you have to know which is which. And you always gonna mess up when you mix up those seasonal people with lifetime expectations.” So says Tyler Perry’s mama character, Medea, in this clip from one of his stage plays. Staying in character for this entire 5-minute clip, mama Media gives some of the most sound advice on relationships you will hear...

040: Pushing Through Pain Mar14

040: Pushing Through Pain...

http://media.blubrry.com/gcoyl/p/media.medeor.co/gcoyl/40-Pushing_Through_Pain.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 42:02 — 38.5MB)Subscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSWhat do you do when you’re hurting? Do you self medicate? Try to ignore it? Talk to someone? Fall apart? We all experience all kinds of pain througout our lives. In this episode, personal developer Jack Woloshun sits down again with Dr. Deb to discuss strategies for responding to pain and practical steps to ensure that we not only recover, but grow through the process. Quotes mentioned: “Five years from now, you’re the same person except for the people you’ve met and the books you’ve read.” – Basketball coach, John Wooden. “You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” – John C. Maxwell How you do anything is how you do everything.” – Franciscan Richard Rohr...

How do you start your day?...

“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.”  So said author, pastor and leadership guru, John C. Maxwell. We all have a morning routine. Of course it includes things like brushing your teeth, getting dressed and enjoying your favorite beverage. For some it also includes getting the kids ready, making lunches and ensuring everyone has what they need for the day. No matter who you are or what roles you rill, you need time to quiet your soul. And how you start your day can determine not only how your day goes, but how your life goes too. I used to get up and turn on the television to hear the morning news. But what I found over time that it was a terrible way to start my day. The chatter and stress of world events set me up to carry noise in my head throughout the day. What I discovered was key to changing my behavior. I realized that how I start my day influences the rest of the day…and my life. We all have to find our own path—our own routine and practices that work for us. I want to share what has worked well for me. Reflect. Read. Resolve. Reflect – A mark of our fast-paced “always on” lives is that we forget to take time to be silent and reflect. My morning routine involves making a lovely espresso drink and sitting in my favorite chair. I reflect on recent events, issues I’m dealing with, and the status of my relationships and goals. It means being silent and giving myself space to just be, think, process and feel. I give myself permission to just reflect. Read...

Friendship

Do you have good friends? I really mean outrageously committed, better-than-you, willing-to-go-the-mile friends who love you at your best AND your worst? I often reflect on my life that has been so enriched with quality and diverse people. Yet the longer I live, I get to experience even more awesomely unconditional, profound levels of friendship. Every time I think I’ve reach the pinnacle of what friendships can be, I find another level. I was recently going through some particularly deep, troubling and emotionally disturbing issues. The cool thing is I didn’t have to go through them alone. I met with several close friends who helped me talk through and walk through intense pain, helping me come to new levels of freedom and release. But how seldom we allow ourselves to go to such depth. In my recent crisis, I was desperate, as the issues I faced were a long-time coming and connected to years of “stuff.” Isn’t that when we reach out? It’s often in the pain and suffering that we come to the end our ourselves and find ourselves in the arms of loving friends who not only comfort us, but help us graduate to the next level. I am blown away that so many people love me. They really, really love me. This makes me reflect on what had to be in place for that to happen. Have friends who are better than you. Don’t always be the smartest, most loving or wisest one in the room. Invest in others. Love them. Be generous with them. When you are in need, you’ll likely be surprised who steps up to love on you. Be vulnerable and open. When we open to others who are worthy of our trust, they can help us navigate...

Escaping Pleasantville...

“Unless there is some pressure, social or parental, pushing [an] infant the beyond pleasure principle, human nature tends to largely take the path of least resistance. We really do need prods, goads, ideals to help us think outside of the little boxes we all create for ourselves.” So said Franciscan and spiritual leader, Richard Rohr. We only know what we know. Unfortunately, we don’t know what we don’t know. If someone grows up in a house where daddy beats mommy everyday, the kids just thinks is normal. We naturally think that what we experience is what is real; it just is, and until we are exposed to an alternative, we think it’s normal. So unless we are exposed to different ways of thinking and living, we are destined to repeat the realities we previously experienced. Too often we prefer to live in the certainty (but very small town) of Pleasantville than face the uncertainty of a really big world full of wonderfulness. Pleasantville is a film released in 1998 about two modern-day kids who escape into the idealist 1950’s, black and white town of Pleasantville. If you haven’t read my post about the film, please click here. Unfortunately, we are often destined to do the same things over and over, expecting a different outcome, or maybe even happy with the same ole same ole. We get stuck, really stuck. A car stuck in the mud is useless. Muscles that are unused atrophy; they become dead weight. And a world that never changes succumbs to chaos and death. Do you really want a piece of you to die everyday? Do you want to grow increasingly irrelevant? Do you want to be the person you are today to be the you in ten years? Change can...

039: Get Past Stuck Feb15

039: Get Past Stuck

http://media.blubrry.com/gcoyl/p/media.medeor.co/gcoyl/GCOYL-039-Get-Past-Stuck.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 51:05 — 46.8MB)Subscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSAn interview with Mark Tuggle, author of the new book, Get Past Stuck: How to Take Control of Your Spiritual Journey and Experience Full Life in Christ. This podcast is for anyone who not only feels stuck, but also anyone who is questioning beliefs they grew up with or who has thrown out religion all together. The author discusses why church and other institutions keep people from asking hard questions and developing into mature thinkers. He also offers very practical steps in reclaiming your spirituality and developing your own unique faith journey. The book is available in paperback or Kindle version from Amazon. Tuggle suggests making 3 lists: Crap I no longer believe Things I’m not sure I believe anymore Things I still believe to be true You might also be interested in a related article by Richard Rohr on Cosmos Instead of Churchiness....

It is well

  Pain. Anger. Frustration. Disappointment. Loss. We all experience the vast range of human emotion. And sometimes our feelings get the best of us. I recently had a frustrating week. Nothing seemed to go as planned. I felt trapped. I REALLY started to lose perspective. I have friends going through really bad stuff: life-threatening illness, divorce, economic troubles, and all the other “surprises” life sometimes throws our way. When we are in the midst of distresses, it often seems impossible to regain sanity and feel normal. We start going down what I call the toilet of despair, that sinking feeling of going in circles and threatening to disappear. We have our problems. But often, when we glimpse into the troubles of others, we see how relatively insignificant our little problems are and can get a bird’s eye view again. I’m not minimizing personal struggles or even tragedies. But I do think we sometimes need help adjusting our perspective. The video below helped me do that. In my morning devotional a few days ago, I thought about the old hymn that has been so meaningful from time to time. “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.” So I did a quick Google search to find the song. Then I came across this video. Not only did I get to listen to the beautiful words and music, but I also learned the tragic story of the author. Horatio Spafford was a prominent lawyer in the 1800s who seemed to have it all…and loose it all. But he never lost his faith. Turns out his lyrics transcend time and space. I found we...