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.

Papyrus_8_-_Staatliche_Museen_zu_Berlin_inv._8683_-_Acts_of_the_Apostles_4,_5_-_verso
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!

Chronological New Testament

For most of my Christian life the Bible was God’s Word. That is, I believed that man was inspired by God to write the books of the Bible. I also believed that the New Testament was placed in a divine order beginning with Jesus’ story as told in the Gospels. It made sense to me: Jesus came first, he died, the Apostles went out to spread his Word, followed by letters from the Apostles, and then the world ends with the book of Revelation.

Douay-Rheims-Bible1

As I studied the New Testament I learned that the books weren’t necessarily placed in the order they were written. They are actually grouped – Gospels, Acts, Paul’s Epistles by size, other Epistles by size and Revelation. As I read more and more I learned that the four Gospels are not in chronological order and should be listed as Mark, Matthew, Luke then John (instead of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).

But what really blew me away, was that if you list the entire New Testament chronologically, in the order that they were actually written, you get an entirely new list. Jesus never wrote anything, as far as we know, except in the dirt. The first Gospel written was Mark and that was written around 70-80 A.D. Jesus died around 30 A.D. so it took someone approximately 40 years to write the first Gospel. Here’s the kicker, though. Paul wrote his first epistle in the 50’s – 1st Thessalonians. Yes, 1st Thessalonians is the oldest book/letter in the New Testament. Paul wrote more letters before he died in the mid-60’s. A few more years would go by until the first Gospel, Mark, was written. Matthew, Luke and John were completed by the end of the first century. The Acts of the Apostles wasn’t written until the early part of the second century.

I don’t know about you but no one ever told me this in Adult Bible study. You’re probably wondering how the age of the books were determined. That’s fascinating in itself and I will save that for another blog. This opened up a whole new set of questions for me when I made this discovery. I’ll share those with you in later blogs.

For now, a dark roast awaits me. Get out your Bibles and read! Happy Bible reading!

Note: A great book to read about the chronological order of the New Testament was written by theologian and Bible scholar, Marcus J. Borg, Evolution of the Word. He has been a favorite author of mine for years and just passed away on January 21 of this year. Rest in peace, Marcus J. Borg.

Religious Freedom – Or Not!

My kingdom for a cup of bold coffee right now! Had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine last night. It had to do with the owners of a bakery in Oregon who refused service to a same-sex couple because of their religious beliefs. Here’s the story in case you missed it. If you know about it, skip to the next paragraph.

In January of this year, the Oregon Bureau of Labor, pursued charges against the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa. An investigation of the bureau found the bakery owners of violating the state’s public accommodation law by denying the same-sex couple full and equal access to their bakery, which the state considers a place of public accommodation and fined them $135,000. There were outcries from Christians all over America defending the bakery owner’s actions and a fund was set up to defend them. The bakery owners say that same-sex marriage violates their religious beliefs and apparently thought their beliefs trumped state laws on discrimination?

WEB-Rally-St.-Cloud

It’s interesting to note how Jesus never says anything about homosexuality or gay marriage in his teachings. However, he does make explicit statements about divorce and adultery. It appears that these supporters are picking-and-choosing certain laws of God and tossing aside the others. Allow me to give a simple example to illustrate my point.

Jesus’ teachings prohibit divorce (Mark 10:11-12, Matthew 5:32, Luke 16:18). Let’s say I own a bakery and I am passionately opposed to divorced people because that’s the religious belief that I have chosen for myself. If a couple comes in to order one of my fine wedding cakes and I find out through casual conversation that either the bride or the groom was married previously, then I will refuse to bake them a cake. Even though I know that I am violating the state law on public accommodation I still choose to discriminate on the grounds of my strong religious beliefs. I am still breaking state law.

Let’s look at another example. Another one of God’s laws – his ban on tattoos (Leviticus 19:28). Let’s use the same scenario only I see the bride’s tattoo on her ankle. I immediately refuse service to them because of my religious beliefs against tattoos. I am, again, breaking the law. Shall I go on, or do you get my drift? I think you do.

To simplify my discriminatory practices, maybe I should create a list of God’s law(s) that I feel highly convicted to. Or maybe I should list all of God’s 613 laws or easier yet, just his Top Ten. That might be a good reason to display the Ten Commandments inside my bakery – so that potential customers can see if they’ve violated any of God’s rules before ordering a wedding cake. I can’t see how that would be good for business but this isn’t about business, is it? It’s about religious freedom and how many think that it gives them the license to do whatever they feel like doing – without consequences.

Do these scenarios sound ridiculous to you – or is it just me? Time for another cup!