Category: Christian Holidays and Seasons


A Perfect Cocktail of Disgusting Lies!: Matthew Distefano’s “Heretic!”

Attending a Conservative Christian university while visiting about hundred urban churches and growing up in the conservative Midwest, I have been well acquainted with the dominant manifestations of North American Evangelical Christianity. I have found it wanting.
My relationship with it still exists, largely due to my introvert personality and general lack of verbally sharing what I truly believe with my conservative peers which make up a significant portion of my circle. One must pick their battles.
That said, Matthew Distefano’s newest book, Heretic! An LGBTQ-Affirming, Diving-Violence Denying, Christian Universalist’s Response to Some of Evangelical Christianity’s Most Pressing Concerns, resonates with me, as I believe it does an ever-increasing number of, for lack of better term, Post-Evangelicals. As the mouthful-of-a-title makes clear, it tackles some of the most heated topics among Evangelical Christians in the North American context with some tongue-in-cheek humor and signature Distefano wit to boot. Also, take the Parental Advisory warning seriously – Distefano uses some, ahem, colorful language.
Now, if you’re an Evangelical Christian, you may be thinking, “Universalism?? LGBTQ?? God as totally and wholistically nonviolent? Are you on pot? (A topic which Distefano has covered elsewhere) Of course he’s a heretic!” Except you’d be wrong, at least according to Christian tradition. Distefano still adheres to the Apostolic and Nicene Creeds (which were largely influenced by theologians who believe a variety of things that Distefano proposes in his book). The term heretic, historically, is less referring to what someone believes within the Christian tradition, and more about being divisive – someone who tears a community apart, often intentionally so.
For example, when an Evangelical church shuns a practicing homosexual – that congregation is being heretical, according to historical definition. When churches separate over minute doctrinal differences such as full or partial immersive baptism. Protestantism is about the most heretical manifestation of Christianity in the 2,000 year history of the religion – it just can’t agree on anything.
What Distefano shares with us in his new book, out April 1, is not heretical – it is, on the contrary, welcoming. Welcoming to those Evangelical Christianity has often shunned: those who refuse to believe that God as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ is an abusive father who wants to torment 99% of the human population forever, to those who don’t maintain heterosexual relations or feelings, to those who believe violence is a never-ending self-perpetuating cycle. It seeks to cultivate community, not divide it. As far as I can tell, Distefano is even inviting those whom disagree with him to participate – if they can do so without themselves being divisive.
If you’re interested, Distefano’s book officially releases April 1, 2018. For the entire month of April, the Kindle edition will be 99 cents and all proceeds will go to the Preemptive Love Coalition. Check it out!
Distefano was kind enough to send a signed copy of Heretic! to me himself. Of course, I gave a donation to him in return. Being a shunned theologian certainly does not pay the bills very well!
Visit Matthew Distefano’s website!


Syndicated from Interdependently Independent

Resurrection People

Another Way for week of March 30, 2018 Resurrection People It seems like my husband and I have been going to a lot of funerals or memorial services lately, for people we have known and loved. I’m thinking about all these friends as we come to this beautiful and life-affirming Easter season. We are Easter […]
Syndicated from findingharmonyblog

Easter Power

Although I listed many of the events in the Christian calendar in the Psalms reading schedule, I did not make any attempt to coordinate them with particular psalms. During this past week I had the thought that I should have tried harder to do this. What does Easter, the height of the Christian calendar, have to do with a wisdom psalm which we focused on during the latter part of Lent and the first weeks of the Easter season?
Today, a phrase from our reading in Psalm 37 struck me as appropriate for a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus: “The power of wickedness shall be broken” [v.17a]. Indeed, Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection three days later has broken the power of wickedness. The principalities and powers that nailed Jesus to the cross were defeated by the sacrifice of love and the power of the resurrection. The myth of redemptive violence that has ruled much of human history was proven to be a foolish fraud by the cross and the resurrection. The resurrection—indeed, the entirety of the Gospel story of Jesus—teaches us that the greatest power in the universe is not death and destruction or the fear of it; it is the power of love and life.
Yes, when I hear the rhetoric from leaders of the world these days I am often overwhelmed and depressed by the power of wickedness in our world. But today the line in this psalm and the events of Easter remind me that this power has been broken. “Walking in the resurrection” is sometimes still a struggle and a long and winding road. But today I have hope that God’s steadfast love will uphold us.

Syndicated from gareth brandt

Holy Week – Monday: The Old Testament Passage – The start of an eventful week

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.” (Isaiah 42:1)
I am pleased that after checking, I am on course for commenting on the correct topic for the correct scripture passage. Lately I have been getting lost in the days and weeks. But, I am also a little deflated that it is Holy Week that it is time to comment on. The sole reason is that I am still recovering from a cold, and do not feel up to “vigorous” commenting, and commenting for seven days in a row. It is good for me, I know, to turn to scripture and my focus shifted off of me and on to something else. I am afraid though I will give the task “short shrift” and not put forth a full effort. Other years I would intertwine and comment on several passages each day. Today I think I will be doing well if I can do one.
“He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.” (Verses 2 – 3)
I have picked the Old Testament passage. The theme is one of Jesus not shirking the outcome of his ministry on earth. Sort of apropos considering my being tempted to but not shirking the task of commenting each day – even if I focus on just one passage. My other choices were Psalms 36:5-11, Hebrews 9:11-15, and John 12:1-11. The Psalm passage is the one where the opening verse is “Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. “ The verse (and others in the passage) are used as song lyrics and when I hear/read the verse I hear the song in my head. Singing is not easy for me right now, so I set that one aside. The Hebrew passage is where Paul refers to Jesus as a high priest (a theme he devotes some time to) but it is early in the week to consider that motif. And the passage from John tells about Mary, sister to Lazarus, anointing Jesus. Some gospels “assign” this task to another woman, not Mary. It too brings to the beginning of the week considerations that are played out at the end of the week.All in all, I think this is a good passage to settle on.
“He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.” (Verse 4)
At the beginning of the week Jesus does not seem like he will ever “grow faint or be crushed.” The temple authorities are fit to be tied, and looking for a way to tie up Jesus and dispose of him. But at this point it does not seem possible that will happen. Jesus power and its source are getting to be pretty unquestionable.
“Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” (Verses 5 – 7)
Yes, Monday of Holy Week Jesus is still carrying forth the mission and message given to him without any problems or complications.
“I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.” (Verses 8 – 9)
Yes, beloved reader, I know – I am turning a blind eye to the problems that have been roiling below the surface. Mary’s anointing of Jesus sets Judas’ teeth on edge and he is going to the temple authorities/chief priests. Paul talks about the shedding of the “high priests” blood; and the psalms passage is an ode to the Divine who is in heaven, while Jesus is still on earth. Yes, it is early in the week but things are starting to happen. Hold on – events are starting to unfold! Shalom!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

A Poem for Holy Week

“Good Friday” by Christina Rossetti speaks to me this Holy Week. Written in 1862 and now in the public domain, this poem is a devotional, self-reflective piece. “Am I a stone?” she asks–and I think of the heart of stone turned hard by compassion fatigue and so unmoved by suffering. “Am I a sheep,” I … Continue reading A Poem for Holy Week
Syndicated from April Yamasaki

Podcast: Should We Expose Santa and the Easter Bunny as Frauds to Our Kids?

Greg pulls back the curtain on holiday fraud in this disenchanting roller coaster of an episode.
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Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

Slow (adjective)

Slow (adjective) : moving or operating, or designed to do so, only at a low speed; not quick or fast. synonyms: unhurried, leisurely, steady, sedate, poky, sluggish

Every year, January 1st brings a wave of declarations and intentions splashing across my facebook page.  I've hardly started purging the house of Christmas clutter and somehow it seems everyone else has already shaken off the dust of the old year and moved headlong into the new.  

In the face of it, I find myself feeling out of pace.  Here I am spinning my wheels while the rest of the world races ahead.  

Pining my slowness earlier this week, I thought of my paternal Grandma.  She never did anything fast, as far as I can remember.  She ate slow, walked slow, talked slow.  She buttered bread slow and somehow managed to make large dinners that were ready right-on-time while working at a snail's pace.  

Recalling her slow ways, I remembered the comfort she gave even in the midst of (or perhaps because of) her predictable slowness.  I remember her lamenting once, during a visit to an Amish farm in Lancaster PA, how she missed the slowness of the old days, how everything was so hurried now, she felt she couldn't keep up.

Remembering my Grandma's slowness, I felt less alone, more able to accept my own, often poky, pace. 


Slow isn't sexy.  A poky puppy is cute, but doesn't hold our attention span for long when the rest of the world is racing by.  And, though we offer lip-service to the value of 'slowing down' or embracing an 'unhurried' life, we're quick to defend our productivity lest we somehow be deemed lazy or, worse, slow.  

I guess it's one thing to choose slow.  Another to be slow, by nature.  


This morning, while pushing myself to get ahead and make up for my slow, I remembered a conversation my husband had with my mother-in-law when he first told her we were dating.  

His mom asked, among other things, "If she fast?  Can she get things done?" 

It's was a funny question to ask, because my husband lives on the slow side of things as well.  Maybe she thought he needed someone to kick-up the pace and keep things moving along?  

Whatever she had in mind, it was not to be.  My husband answered immediately and with certainty, "No, I've never seen her do anything fast."

Remembering his reply, I smiled, and felt another layer of self-imposed judgement about the pace at which I live, slide off, like an ill-fitting skin.  


I think there are a lot of people who miss slow, but most of us feel we can't really afford it.  Here, I guess, is where the slow people (like me) have something to offer.  Hitching along at our leisurely pace we seem to stand out as a symbol that slow is not lost and, what's more, slow is sustainable.  Slow may even be the only sustainable speed in a world committed to fast without pause.  

What struck me most in the online definition of slow quoted above, is the phrase "designed to do so."  Maybe that's what I am - designed to move slowly, to offer steady in a world off-kilter.  I like the way that phrase hints at the intentionality of making something (or someone) slow.  Almost like slow itself has a purpose or is a gift.  

Who needs the gift of your slow today?  What practices help you live more in tune with your own natural pace?   

Syndicated from This Contemplative Life

Epiphany of the Lord: Gospel Passage & Old Testament Passage – The identity and might of the Lord God Jesus Christ

Today is the Epiphany of the Lord, the day when the evidence of Jesus as the Son of God is considered and pondered. Sometimes this day points to God identifying Jesus at his baptism. And within this same week the lectionary scripture passages take up the theme of Jesus’ baptism. But for today our focus and setting is when the Wise Men come to see the baby Jesus. Ad if it seems slightly out of step from the other passages, that is because the RCL separates out this day from whatever other passages might be used.

“In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.
On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.” (Matthew 2:1-12)

And the Old Testament passage continues this theme with passage from Isaiah.

“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.” (Isaiah 60:1-6)

Scripture, and the intersection of scripture passages, make it abundantly clear that Jesus was always ordained to be the Son of God. From infancy on that fact is made apparent over and over again. In the temple when he was presented, and again when he is a young boy staying in the temple for several days talking with the temple leaders. And if we let that be our focus, it might be hard to allow ourselves to think about Jesus as being human like one of us. All this week we have been seeing Jesus as holy and divine, and the Son of God the mighty Creator. But that is Jesus seen through the lens of the Divine. I am hoping that there will be other scripture passages in the coming weeks that allow us to feel humanity of Jesus. Someone we can come to when the road we are is tough, and our strength is giving out. Because that is an important aspect of Jesus also. Shalom.

Filed under: Revised Common Lectionary Year B 2018 Tagged: Character of Jesus Christ, Christian Journey, Christian Life, Discipleship, Discipline in the Church, Epiphany of the Lord, Gospel Passage, Nature of Jesus Christ, Old Testament Passage, Revised Common Lectionary
Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

My Year of Creating and a Free Gift For You

As my one word for 2017, “Create” turned out to be an apt summary for my year. As I sought to be open to what God might create in me, that led to new blog articles, new ways of doing ministry, new connections both on-line and in real life, and the creation of a new … Continue reading My Year of Creating and a Free Gift For You
Syndicated from April Yamasaki

A Pastor’s 12 Days of Christmas

We are in the midst of the 12 days of Christmas, which begin on Christmas day and end with Epiphany (January 6). Here is a new version of the famous song for all of my clergy colleagues trying to get a little rest and then lead God’s people into a new year. (Fortunately, this is…
Syndicated from Spacious Faith

Nothing to Hide

Some people choose a word to guide them into a new year. A word to orient them, to remind them, to challenge and convict them. I’ve done this before with varying degrees of success. This year, however, I’m choosing a story. It’s a story I’ve written about often on this blog, but one that I never tire of reading and re-reading and writing about and discovering new ways to situate myself within. It’s a story that, like all the best stories, tells the truth in different ways and from multiple vantage points. It’s a story that keeps on teaching and inviting and rebuking and restoring. It’s a story that has kept me busy for a few decades at least, so it’s probably up to the task of another year.
I am speaking of the story told in John 8:2-11. We know it well, right? A woman has been caught in adultery. Or, perhas we ought to say, “a woman who has been isolated in her adultery.” It takes two to tango, as the saying goes, but women have always been easier and more convienient to name and shame. At any rate, the law requires that she be stoned and there’s a parade of very religious men eager to get on with doing “what the bible says.” Yet when Jesus is asked to validate all of this zealous judgment (or, probably more accurately, when they attempt to trap him), he famously replies, “Whoever is without sin can cast the first stone.” This sends the very religious men home feeling rather grumpy and not nearly as righteous as they had hoped. And then Jesus says to the woman, “Has no one condemned you? Then neither do I. Go, leave your life of sin.”
It’s quite a story. It doesn’t get old, no matter how many times I read it. Which is a good thing, because I need this story in countless ways.
I need it because I am far too prone to wag my finger at sinners, even if in the privacy of my own mind. I so easily default to “The law says we should…” I too naturally look askance at those whose sin is sensational and obvious and happily unlike my own. I am rather more hungry for judgment and, by extension, personal vindication (for I am not nearly so bad as that, right?) than I would like to admit. I need this story because it lines me up with all the other self-righteous religious hypocrites with stones in their hands and judgment at the ready. This is who I am.
I need it because I am not nearly so righteous as I imagine myself to be or as I project to the world out there. I may not be dragged before the tribunals of religious men in the way that this woman was, but there is certainly no less darkness in me than in her. If anything, there’s more. That my sins are not paraded out in front of others for public consumption and greedy titillation does not make them any less toxic or corrosive or, well, sinful. I, like her, am caught in the act, if not by others than certainly by the God who made me. I am an expert at hiding my sin from others and even from myself. But I cannot hide from the one true Judge.
I need it because like every other human being who calls themself a “Christian,” I am called to walk the world like Jesus. And if Jesus—the only one who legitimately could have done so—refused to condemn this “sinner,” how much more should I be prepared to hold my tongue and release my stones? I need to constantly be reminded of how God himself dealt with sinners like her to see how God deals with sinners like me and to remember how I’m supposed to deal with all the other sinners that cross my path.
I need this story because no matter how scary it might initially seem, there is no better place to be than alone and face to face with Jesus, seeing and being seen, knowing and being known, nothing to hide, rid of all pretense, defensese lowered, hands open, at the mercy of God.
Yes, this is a very good story for a new year. Because while 2018 will undoubtedly contain some surprises, there are a few ways in which I know that I will not be surprised. I will sin against others in 2018. And I will be sinned against (even if probably less than I imagine). I will never stop needing to give and to receive these words: “I do not condemn you. Now go and leave that which is destroying you.” This story tells truths that I will never stop needing.
I am strongly inclined to think that the world, on the whole, could do with less condemnation and more mercy in 2018. But even if I am wrong about that (I am perhaps a poor judge of what something as big as “the world” might need), I know that I need to go and learn what Jesus meant when he said, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”

Syndicated from Rumblings


  Hillary Kobernick writes and pastors at a Mennonite congregation outside Chicago; in her spare time, she does competitive slam poetry and manages a contemporary theology blog at And, as you prepare for Christmas, here is a simple family worship service for Christmas morning. Christmas Morning Worship Scripture: from Isaiah 9 “The people who walked…
Syndicated from Spacious Faith


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