The Christian Scriptures talk about ‘repent’, which simply means “turn away” from your current behaviour and choose something better. It does not mean see yourself as an awful human being who is not worthy.
The Feast of St. Nicholas is December 6th. Many do not know that St. Nicholas was a Christian bishop in the early 4th century.
St. Nicholas was a bishop, which means he was the senior teaching elder in his community of Myra (modern Turkey) and possibly surrounding areas. Bishops were not administrators at that time in history they way they are today.
We recognize December 6th because that was the date of his death.
He was associated with 3 miracles to make him an official Saint in the church, but in the 1970’s the Roman Catholic Church decided the evidence for those miracles wasn’t very reliable. St. Nicholas didn’t stop being a Saint, the church simply decided they would no longer make December 6th a day of obligation, which is a special worship day where people are expected to attend church.
As the story goes, Martin Luther (1500’s) did not like the idea of celebrating Saints, so he told all of his congregations and followers that the gifts at Christmas were from the Christkindl, which is German for Christ Child. Over time those English speakers who heard this German term Anglicized it, making it Kris Kringle. So the historical irony is that Martin Luther’s desire backfired and he instead reinforced the connection between St. Nicholas and baby Jesus.
Claiming ‘God forgives me’ does not excuse us from the legal consequences of our actions.
Quick test: Do your actions help or hurt others?
If our actions hurt anyone, they require us to answer for them. Depending on the severity of our actions, that might involve the court of law. Claiming ‘God forgives me’ does not remove our legal responsibility nor the obligation by society to give us consequences.
Only when our actions help others, even when they are against the law of the land (like Christians hiding Jews in Nazi occupied territory during WWII), then we can say the law is unfair and we shouldn’t experience the consequences we face.
Not every passage in the Bible is hiding a secret message.
Quick test: If the words of the Bible lead to people being excluded, it’s best to take a really good look at the meaning behind the verses with someone who knows what was happening at the time. If the words are inclusive, then we are pretty close to reading Jesus’ teaching straight-up. God is always, always the God of everyone, believers or not.
Who were the Galatians? The were a group of Greek speakers on the west end of modern Turkey, in today’s city of Ankara. They were believed to have emigrated from Gaul (modern France) around the 3rd century BCE. Paul started the church in their community within a decade or two of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Over the past 2000 years Christianity has become a significant faith in almost every country in the world, making us a universal faith. And when people see their old festivals and celebrations through the lens of their new faith, cultures start to merge.
Some facts about the celebration of Halloween:
1. The name itself means “All Hallow’s Eve”, and was the night before “All Hallow’s Day”, which today we call All Saints Day
2. Christians celebrated our saints from the beginning, and when they got too numerous, it was agreed to collect them all into one day of celebration
3. All Saints Day started out being celebrated in May or June, after Pentecost, and the Eastern Orthodox traditions still celebrate All Saints Day this way
4. All Saints Day was celebrated in Rome for over a century until Pope Louis the Pious decided everyone throughout the church, no matter where they lived, should attend church and recognize the importance of our saints on All Saints Day
5. Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis on the doors of the cathedral on October 31st because he knew crowds of people were attending worship on November 1st, and he wanted to start a conversation about the way the church was abusing the people with the Indulgence System (paying for yourself or a relative to get out of purgatory). October 31st is also Reformation Day
6. In the Celtic traditions in Ireland and Scotland, Samhain (pronounced Sow-in, or Sow-een), was the harvest festival when they brought the herds down from the north and had to slaughter most of them before winter began
7. Both Ireland and Scotland had different traditions for celebrating Samhain, and included things like bonfires, children going door to door asking for firewood or treats, feasting, dressing in costume, carving a face on a turnip, and remembering the dead
8. Settlers to North America from Ireland and Scotland brought the mixed traditions of Samhain and All Saints, and both traditions make up our modern tradition of Halloween (with a good amount of marketing from the candy manufactures)
Christians have always believed in science. Scientists are often Christians. There is no problem between the two, and the more science discovers – the more theology broadens its perspective towards inclusivity – the more the two help each other in our discovery of the universe.
Money is a hard conversation to have, but Jesus was comfortable challenging the wealthy.
Money does get in the way.
Take a look at Mark 10:17-31. Here is another story of vulnerability, not about already being vulnerable but about making ourselves vulnerable by giving away wealth and abundance to make ourselves open to God.