Vocabulary Lesson: “Easter,” “Pascha”

St.Bede, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Why, you may ask, do Christians call the Sunday Jesus rose from the dead "Easter"? Good question. Apparently Christians are capable of getting their knickers in a knot about this: the word itself derives from an old English word, "Eostre," which is the name of a pre-Christian deity. What? Were those rascally medievals trying to foist pagan practices on the innocent … [Read more...]

Vocabulary Lesson: “Maundy Thursday”

rice planting, by CIAT, cc license

Today is the day in the Church year that wins the prize for the most peculiar name. Generation by generation, we ask, “What on earth is a ‘maundy’?”  If you were too embarrassed to ask, I’ll tell you: It is from a Latin word meaning “commandment.” It is like our English word “mandate.” This is “Commandment Thursday.” On the Thursday of the last week of Jesus’ earthly life, he … [Read more...]

Small Group Leader’s Guide for Kneeling with Giants!

Small Group Leader's Guide for Kneeling with Giants

I am very happy to announce that the Small Group Leader's Guide for Kneeling with Giants is now available! It is also free, and only for subscribers here at GaryNealHansen.com. What could be better than finding ways to draw close to God that really fit? Ways of prayer with deep roots in authentic Christianity around the world? Ways of prayer that have deepened the … [Read more...]

The Good Samaritan: A Lenten Reflection on Heidelberg Catechism Q. 9

GoodSam18 by sbhland, cc license

I can’t do it! You are not being fair.” Both as a parent and as a teacher I’ve inspired those accusations. Does our ability change our responsibility? If the rules tell me I have to do something, but my life says I just can’t do it, what happens?  Of course I don’t ask people to do something genuinely impossible - at least not on purpose. If I told my students, “To … [Read more...]

Three Keys to Spiritual Maturity: A Lenten Reflection

Water Reflection, by Ramunas Geciauskas, cc license

What qualities define spiritual maturity? It is a good thing to reflect on at any time: know what the target is and you have a better chance of moving toward it. I've been recommending people think about the question now, in Lent, following the model of Thomas Hooker, 17th century Puritan and founder of Connecticut. Hooker wrote a little piece called "The Character of a … [Read more...]

The Big Do Over (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 8)

Stop reset, by Dino Giordano, used under cc license

The idea of God giving us a big “do over” is right at the heart of the Christian season of Lent. People who have set out to follow Jesus spend time reflecting on the state of our lives. We find we aren’t meeting the standard. We don’t do this to beat ourselves up though. We are also meditating on the goodness of God. We know in advance that in Jesus God is pouring out love … [Read more...]

The “YES!” that Changed Everything: The Annunciation of the Lord

The Annunciation (detail), Fra Angelico, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

There are a few moments on which the history of the world swings like a hinge. People my age remember exactly where they were when the Twin Towers fell. For Christians the real hinge moments are long before our own lives: Jesus' death on the cross on Good Friday; his rising from the grave Easter Sunday; his birth thirty years or so earlier in Bethlehem. But consider one … [Read more...]

My Problem. Whose Fault? (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 7)

Apple a day, Patrick McFall, used under cc license

In Leonard Bernstein's "West Side Story" members of an urban gang consider the source of their problems. They sing it all to their favorite cop, Officer Krupke. Here's their first theory. I'll call it "Krupke, 1": Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke,  You gotta understand,  It's just our bringin' up-ke  That gets us out of hand." Many of us take the same approach: it is … [Read more...]

Saint Patrick of Ireland: Role Model for Real Christians

St Patrick, Kilbennan St. Benin's Church Window, wikimedia commons, used under cc license

People are really into St. Patrick. Many wonders can be attributed to his celebration: Every year the water in the kids pool at our YMCA turns green in his honor. On his night the Irish bar across from my house draws an amazingly large attendance, no matter how cold it is. But his greatest modern miracle: St. Patrick turns all of America Irish for one day.  Let's be … [Read more...]

Are You God’s Self-Portrait? Heidelberg Catechism Q. 6

Triple Self Portrait, by Norman Rockwell, Crocker Art Museum, Nathan Hughes Hamilton [via Flickr] used under cc license

You sit down with your journal to do some Lenten reflection. You start thinking about your life, your relationships, your faith. You are probably aware of some places where you wish things were different — that’s the point, of course. But then you look back and wonder: “Hasn’t it always been this way?” Unless you have the nostalgia filter firmly in place, in matters of … [Read more...]