Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday gets its name from the palm branches thrown on the road ahead of Jesus’ trek into Jerusalem – sometimes called Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. The passages are found in all four of the Gospels: Matthew 21:1–11, Mark 11:1–11, Luke 19:28–44, and John 12:12–19.

In some of the old movies you’ll see Jesus’ riding on a donkey with his followers ahead of him laying down palm branches and their cloaks. Oddly though, the first three Gospels in the New Testament, Mark, Matthew, and Luke never mention “palm” branches but instead, “leafy” branches. The Gospel of John is the only one that mentions “palm” branches (John 12:13) but never says that they put the branches or even their cloaks on the road ahead of Jesus. John doesn’t say what the people did with the palm branches other than, “they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him…” (NIV).

The Apostle John was one of the twelve chosen by Jesus so we should believe him, shouldn’t we? But were the other three wrong? Something else to think about – some Bible scholars say there is no firm evidence that palm trees ever grew near Jerusalem but only in the south in the warm, fertile valleys. Just a thought.


Let’s look at another difference that occurs in the four stories. Did Jesus ride one donkey or was he riding on two? I know that sounds like a crazy question but Matthew seems to believe that Jesus rode on two donkeys (Matthew 21:7), or a donkey and a colt. Christian apologists try to cover this up by saying that they brought a donkey with its colt and Jesus rode on the donkey and the colt walked along side them. But read the verse: “…they brought the donkey and the colt and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them.” That, to me, is pretty clear that “them” indicates the donkey and its colt. Matthew was one of the twelve recruited by Jesus himself. Why would we not believe his inspired words? But wouldn’t that make the others wrong?

Another difference I observed in this very short reading of Palm Sunday is that in three of the stories Jesus sends two of his disciples ahead of him to get the donkey. In John’s Gospel (John 12:14), Jesus finds a donkey and sits on it himself without the help of any of his disciples. In the other Gospels, two disciples bring a donkey, or two, throws their cloaks on it (them) and then Jesus sits on it (them).

I’m not saying these are contradictions or errors of the Bible. I’m just pointing out that there are differences in the four stories and I often wonder why we choose certain parts of one or more stories to make our own. We tend to conflate, or combine, the various stories to fill in the blanks. I can see in some instances where it might sound better and make sense like Jesus riding on only one donkey. But, then again, sometimes the stories are more interesting with the oddities included.

So, what happens on Monday, the day after Palm Sunday? That just might be my next blog. Stay tuned and drink some coffee!

Let’s Talk God

I’m enjoying coffee with the Gods this morning. My wife and I went to dinner last evening with some good friends. We enjoyed a nice meal and a very nice conversation. Thank you, guys!

I find the discussion of the philosophy of God fascinating. If you know me you’ll know that our discussions usually end up on the subject of God and religion. Depending on the company, we’ll discuss either the arguments for God or the arguments for atheism. Some people think that I’m a Christian through our discussion. Some will think I’m an atheist. I appreciate good, open-minded conversation to see what one believes and how they became to believe that way.

I can usually tell when someone isn’t comfortable in our discussion – a sign for me to back off or change the subject. They will usually try to convert me or to convince me that they know the truth. I’ve heard most if not all the arguments for God (and for atheism) and not interested in being converted to anything. I simply enjoy a good, philosophical conversation without admitting to any truths or condemning anyone’s beliefs.


What about an afterlife, someone asks? There are many theories of an afterlife. Why does it matter what I believe? Will that make it true? There are many who have “died on the table” and claim to have been there. They claim to know the afterlife. It’s ironic how their particular religion comes into play while they’re dead. If their evidence is the truth, then someone is lying because wouldn’t the afterlife be the same for everyone? I don’t know whether there is an afterlife or not. It’s a mystery and will remain a mystery to me.

As you can tell, I’m not smart enough to know whether God does or doesn’t exist. The arguments for God are strong and the arguments for atheism are strong. There are thousands of religions in the world all claiming to know the truth about God through their religion and rituals. What I see in most cases, are that beliefs in a particular religion are established by geography. For instance, if you were born in India, your beliefs will probably be in Hinduism. Most people in Indonesia believe in Islam. And the majority of Americans are Christian. And even in America, your beliefs in Christianity are dependent on what part of the country you’re from. If you were born in the Southeast, you’re probably a Southern Baptist. The Northeast has a lot of Catholics. And the North has a lot of Lutherans.

For now, I will enjoy my coffee and whoever will join me in conversation. Life is short, as they say. We have to make the best of it right now whether or not there is something afterwards. Loving and being kind to each other in all our beliefs is my religion. No sacred books. No rituals. Just peace.


Great coffee this morning! Got me to thinking about one of the dilemmas I had as a Christian – unanswered prayers. The Gospels are full of passages, sayings by Jesus, that says that all you gotta do is pray to God and he’ll answer. Sometimes I wondered if Jesus meant this only for his apostles. But, when I ask fellow Christians about prayer, they always recite one of those passages assuring me that I was right in my thinking.


Ben and me.

I also noticed a pattern about praying. I would pray for something, God does not answer, and a fellow Christian would rationalize why my prayer wasn’t answered. For instance, I would pray for my son, Ben. I prayed that he might hear again. He never did. I prayed for his seizures to end. They never stopped. I prayed that he would be able to walk. He never walked. Each time I asked fellow Christians and my pastor why none of my prayers were answered. And each time they would say something like, “It’s not His will,” or “God has a another plan for him/me,” or “He’ll be in a better place (after he died).”

So, the pattern for me was, pray, ask someone why my prayer wasn’t answered, and have that person rationalize as to why my prayer wasn’t answered. Some would point out passages to me as to why my prayers might not be answered. But, if that were true, isn’t that the same as saying that Jesus lied when he said that God would answer our prayers. He didn’t attach any conditions in those prayer passages, except to believe – and that if your belief was even the size of a mustard seed, He would answer.

I’ll have to go along with my Christian friend who kept telling me, “God has his reasons and we don’t always know what his plan is for us.” All I know is that in the prayer passages, Jesus did not put any boundaries on what we can pray for. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that sketch receiveth; and he that seekers findeth…” Matthew 7.

Don’t get me wrong. I want to believe in God. But, to use rationalizations to try to explain away the fact that prayer did not work for me, does not change the evidence that prayer will ever work for me.

Coffee, anyone?

You Wash My Feet, I’ll Wash Yours!

I was baptized in a Methodist Church, belonged to a Lutheran Church for many years where my son was baptized, went back to the Methodist Church for awhile, before attending a Non-denominational Christian Church. And not once did I ever have my feet washed! But, there are many Christian churches who practice this ritual – and many who don’t.

Christ Washing the Feet of His Disciples

Christ Washing the Feet of His Disciples

While pondering this matter over coffee this morning I contemplated whether or not I had missed out on an important part of being a Christian. As it turns out, it is Biblical and is found in the Gospel of John. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” John 13:14-15. The churches who practice foot washing call it “the ordinance of humility” and is commanded by Jesus during His Last Supper.

As you can see, Jesus gives a clear command – since he had washed their feet, they should likewise, go out and wash others. Now, if it’s so clear, why are so many Christian’s feet not getting washed?

With a careful reading of the Gospels, all four of them, you will notice that foot washing is found in only one gospel – John. The first three Gospel writers either forgot about it, didn’t know about it, or didn’t think it worthy enough to mention. Another thing I should mention is that the foot-washing Gospel never talks about the Lord’s Supper. How interesting! Really! Get out your Bible and read.

So, it appears that the Christians who combine the foot washing with the Lord’s Supper as their Communion service, is combining the writings of two different authors, with two different thoughts, speaking to different audiences, in different time periods. It’s not the first time, though.

Whether we believe that foot washing was a part of the Lord’s Supper or not is not the point I’m trying to make – although a good one. The point is that Christians seem to ignore many commands and teachings of Jesus. When Jesus says to wash feet, shouldn’t we, as good Christians, wash each other’s feet? And when He says that we should love our gay neighbor and our enemies, should we not follow His commands? Wouldn’t it be easier to follow all of His commands and quit picking and choosing which ones we “should” follow? It’s all in writing! And inspired by God himself!

“Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.” John 14:23

Time for another cup, please!

Big Mac or Brady Bunch?

What does a Big Mac, The Brady Bunch and The Ten Commandments have in common? You’d have to have a bizarre imagination if you came up with something.

big macA survey conducted in 2007 by Kelton Research showed that we Americans know more about the Big Mac and the The Brady Bunch than we do about The Ten Commandments. Out of 1,000 respondents, 35% could name all six Brady kids, 25% recited all seven ingredients in the mouth-watering Big Mac, but only 14% could recall all Ten Combrady kidsmandments found in the Bible. What does this say about our Christian Nation?

I just cannot get that Big Mac jingle out of my head, “Two all-beef patties…” But seriously! What are those pesky Ten Commandments? That’s okay, though. There are different versions of the Top Ten and it depends on whether you’re a Baptist, Lutheran, or Catholic. It also depends on whether or not you study your Bible. We get the Famous Top Ten from Exodus, Chapter 20. But if you flip a few chapters over to, let’s say Chapter 34, you’ll find an entirely different set of commandments (read Exodus 34:1-28). But, believe it or not, these are the “Real” Ten Commandments because God says so! I challenge you to read your Bibles, especially the Real Ten Commandments. Don’t bother reading about the punishments for violating any of these. Most people don’t.

The Lord said to Moses: Write these words; in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel. He was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.” Exodus 34:27-28.

By the way, Commandment #10 is my favorite, “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.” What’s yours?

Paul Did Not Lie!

Enjoying my coffee this morning at the kitchen table, watching the squirrels and the birds on the back deck. A thought just occurred to me concerning the Apostle Paul. The author of the Gospel of Luke is the same person that wrote about Paul in the Acts of the Apostles. Scholars agree that Acts was written about twenty to twenty-fives years after Paul’s death. Paul wrote his letters about twenty years after Jesus died. What’s interesting to me is that Paul doesn’t always agree with what Acts says about him. Let’s look at just one of several examples.


4th Century: Papyrus 8 – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin inv. 8683 – Acts of the Apostles 4, 5 – recto

As you may recall, Paul was a persecutor of the Christians before he saw the light, literally, and converted to Christianity. After he converted, he must have immediately rushed back to Jerusalem to confer with the original apostles. I can only imagine what he might have said, “Hey look guys – I’m one of you now!” But did he?

According to Acts 9:19-30, immediately after Paul’s conversion he spent some time with the disciples in Damascus, then headed to the city of Jerusalem where he met with the apostles of Jesus. He wanted to be a part of the team!

But Paul seems to disagree with the author of Acts. Take a look at what Paul says in Galatians 1:16-20:

I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus. Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days; but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother. In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!

It appears that Paul’s message to the Galatians was clear – he wanted them to know that his Gospel message came directly from God himself, through Jesus. He did not lie! So, who do you believe? The author of Acts or Paul himself? My money is on Paul!

Time for another cup!


Trivia on Paul’s Epistles

“Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss.” 1 Thessalonians 5:26

Apostle_Paul_-_iconThe first book in the New Testament is the Gospel of Matthew but it is not the first Christian writing. Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians and it was the first Christian writing, dating to about 49 C.E. Paul wrote this epistle about 20 years after Jesus’ death and about 20 years prior to the first Gospel (Mark) in the New Testament.

How many of you greet your fellow Christians with a holy kiss?

“Let anyone be accursed who has no love for the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 16:22

Leaving Religion

leaving relgion

I used to be believe in religion. My religion had many, many rules – and claimed those rules to be inspired by God. My religion even had their top ten laws engraved in stone. My religion is a religion of love although we condemn certain groups of people. We are told that we should love the sinner and hate the sin but some seem to get confused and hate the sinner. My religion says it’s okay to break some of the rules like, eating bacon because it’s an ancient rule and everybody eats and enjoys bacon. But we must be adamant about shunning others who fall in love with someone of their own gender. It’s not natural some say. I often wondered if being left-handed was natural – it’s not for me. My religion sometimes say we don’t have to follow the laws of the Old Testament because Jesus gave us new rules, even though he quoted from the old laws that were carved in the tablets by God. I no longer believe in religion. My religion became a contradiction. It’s too complicated. And all I want to do is love humankind.

Christian Nation Paradox

is-america-a-christian-nationOver coffee this morning, I pondered the question, What makes us a Christian Nation?

Statistics indicate that the United States of America is the most Christian nation in the world. We call ourselves a “Christian Nation” for various reasons that I won’t get into in this particular blog post. Given the percentage of Americans who claim to be a Christian alone gives us the right to call ourselves a Christian Nation. However, because we call ourselves a Christian Nation wouldn’t it lead you to believe that we would act like we are a nation of Christians?

Jesus gave some pretty explicit guidelines on how we should act. Let’s look at one small section of the gospels where a man comes to Jesus and asks what he must do to have eternal life – or get into heaven. This story is found in Matthew 19:16-22. Being a Christian is all about getting to that afterlife place and to avoid hell. Jesus says that we have to do something here on earth in order to earn that rite of passage. We must do something – good deeds. He first tells the man to “keep the commandments.” Jesus only names a few but we can probably assume that he meant all of God’s commandments. In John 14:15, Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Speaking of statistics, most Christians are unable to write down all ten commandments. Oops – getting off the subject.

When the man tells Jesus that he keeps the commandments and asks what else he should do, Jesus gives him the hard answer. The guy should have stopped and walked away while he was ahead. But here’s the good part. Jesus told the man that if he wants to be “perfect,” to sell his possessions and give all his money to the poor, and then follow him. The young man goes away grieving because he knew that he could not give up his possessions – that he would live with the guilt of knowing that he has a ticket to hell.

Wouldn’t it be great if Jesus said we could keep our possessions and not have to share with anyone and let the poor fend for themselves? It’s almost impossible for me to love my enemies. And our neighbors – does that include gays and transgenders? Can we, as followers of Christ, manipulate the words of Jesus? We are a Christian Nation! Time for another cup of dark roast!