Who Was St. Patrick?

Who was Saint Patrick, the patron saint of the Irish whose name represents all things green? Because of the holiday—St. Patrick’s Day, celebrated every March 17th—you might think this historical figure was an Irishman who drank green beer. In fact, neither is true. Saint Patrick was actually born in Scotland or Wales to parents who were Romans living as colonial bureaucrats in Britain! Born around 385, Patrick is surely to have drunk beer, or ale as it was called then. People drank a lot of beer back then because it was cleaner than water (that could give you nasty parasites and diseases). But as everybody knows, ale is more of a meal in a glass, and generally much darker than the standard pilsners and lagers from my Germanic ancestors and other Europeans. I don’t think they had green food coloring then; making beer (and rivers) green is an Irish-American invention meant to celebrate ethnicity. Patrick would have grown up with some privilege, as his parents worked for Roman occupiers. However, in his teens, a raiding party (that’s what they did back then) invaded and kidnapped Patrick off to Ireland, where he was made to heard sheep. It was as a slave in Ireland that he encountered God. There is nothing like captivity or other unpleasant circumstances to get you on your knees. He later wrote, “The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was roused, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same…I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.” After about six years...

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,...

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...

016: Living Intentionally Dec03

016: Living Intentionally...

http://media.blubrry.com/gcoyl/p/media.medeor.co/gcoyl/16-Living_Intentionally_with_Jack_Woloshun.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 26:34 — 24.3MB)Jack Woloshun talks about his faith, friends, finding his core purpose and living intentionally. A former football coach, Jack is a father, grandfather, pastor, mentor, carpet layer and friend to many, many people. He has a knack for sharing truths in non-religious terms that is very refreshing. After you listen to this episode, you will KNOW...

003: Living a Balanced & Healthy Life Aug27

003: Living a Balanced & Healthy Life...

http://media.blubrry.com/gcoyl/p/media.medeor.co/gcoyl/GCOYL-003.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 20:10 — 18.5MB)In this episode, Dr. Deb visits with Liz Cochrane about personal adjustments Liz made to live a balanced and healthy life. Liz and her husband Steve lived in India and Nepal for 26 years, developing a Christian non-profit from just ten people to over 2,500 staff working on over 200 ministries and projects. They now live in the U.S. working with ACE Development to fight global poverty issues. Visit their website at http://www.acedevelopmentfund.org. One of the resources we mention is Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the two halves of life. You can order it by clicking on the...

Does God Think I’m an Idiot?

“God takes great pleasure in us living as we were meant to live; He even commands it in the Psalms: ‘Take delight in the Lord.’…Very few set out to live such a focused, beautiful life. Narrow is the way and only a few find it.” – Rob Bell in Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith.