Friday, April 22, 2011

Why Is Earth Day The Same As Good Friday This Year?

Photo Credit: FlyingSinger
You have probably noticed that the Christian holy day of Good Friday and Earth Day, a day devoted to care for the earth, happened to fall on the same day this year, April 22nd. You may be asking yourself if this was a ploy by environment-alists to co-opt one of the most significant days in the Christian calendar or if there was some other reason for this occurrence? As it turns out, it is mere coincidence.

As you know, Easter does not have a set day each year, such as Christmas (December 25th) or Valentine's Day (February 14th). It changes from year to year and unlike other holidays that shift each year like Thanksgiving (which always falls on the fourth Thursday of November), there is a several week period in which Easter can land. So why does the date of Easter change each year? provides a simple explanation:
"At the heart of the matter lies a very simple explanation. The early church fathers wished to keep the observance of Easter in correlation to the Jewish Passover. Because the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ happened after the Passover, they wanted Easter to always be celebrated subsequent to the Passover. And, since the Jewish holiday calendar is based on solar and lunar cycles, each feast day is movable, with dates shifting from year to year. Now, from here the explanation grows more complicated.

Today in Western Christianity, Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the Paschal Full Moon date of the year. I had previously, and somewhat erroneously stated, "Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the first full moon after the vernal (spring) equinox." This statement was true prior to 325 A.D.; however, over the course of history (beginning in 325 A.D. with the Council of Nicea), the Western Church decided to established a more standardized system for determining the date of Easter.

In actuality, the date of the Paschal Full Moon is determined from historical tables, and has no correspondence to lunar events.  As astronomers were able to approximate the dates of all the full moons in future years, the Western Christian Church used these calculations to establish a table of Ecclesiastical Full Moon dates. These dates would determine the Holy Days on the Ecclesiastical calendar.

Though modified slightly from its original form, by 1583 A.D. the table for determining the Ecclesiastical Full Moon dates was permanently established and has been used ever since to determine the date of Easter. Thus, according to the Ecclesiastical tables, the Paschal Full Moon is the first Ecclesiastical Full Moon date after March 20 (which happened to be the vernal equinox date in 325 A.D.). So, in Western Christianity, Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the Paschal Full Moon.

The Paschal Full Moon can vary as much as two days from the date of the actual full moon, with dates ranging from March 21 to April 18. As a result, Easter dates can range from March 22 through April 25 in Western Christianity."
So, yes, it is not just your imagination that Easter was rather late for 2011. It is. This now brings our discussion to Earth Day and why it is on the same day as Good Friday this year. Since Easter is a movable date, this also means that Good Friday (recognized as the Friday immediately preceding Easter Sunday) is also movable.

However, Earth Day is recognized on a fixed date, April 22nd.  Created in 1970 by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day is celebrated by like-minded individuals that seek to demonstrate care and concern for the planet on which we live.  Since Good Friday fell later this year than usual, it just happened to coincide with Earth Day.  Sorry folks but there's no major conspiracy here to take away a Christian holy day.

What is interesting about this confluence of events is that there is a substantial portion of the evangelical Christian community that snubs its nose at any and all kinds of concern for the environment. I recall once sitting in a Bible study where one of the members asserted that our children should not be watching Barney because he advocates the "environment and stuff." I never did quite understand that argument. I don't want my kids watching Barney because those songs get stuck in my head, not because the friendly dinosaur encourages recycling.

On the other hand, there is a significant number of non-religious types that lift the earth and the environment up as diety and seem much more concerned about trees than actual human life. The Apostle Paul addressed this inclination to worship the created rather than the Creator in the first chapter of the book of Romans:
"For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen."
Photo Credit: Onilad
As a Bible-believing evangelical Christian, I do not feel that I need to make a decision today on whether I should recognize either Good Friday or Earth Day. I can acknowledge both. On one hand, I celebrate the wonder of God's creation and seek to be a good steward of the earth He has entrusted to us. But today I also recognize the One who created the earth and the galaxies of the universe. Jesus Christ, who lived, died, was buried and rose from the dead, is the One who made it all happen anyway:
"The Son [Jesus Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." ~ Colossians 1:15-20
I care about the earth but I care much more about the One who died for my sin.  So today when you recycle that newspaper or minimize pollution by walking instead of driving, don't forget to thank the One who gave you the eyes to read and the legs to walk.  But, most importantly, thank Him for his sacrifice on the Cross so that our sins could be forgiven.  A saved tree is nice but a saved soul is even better.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How A Young Dean Smith Challenged Segregation

Photo Credit: WayTru
I am currently reading John Feinstein's 2006 book, Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four.  With a special emphasis on the 2005 Final Four that featured North Carolina, Illinois, Michigan State, and Louisville, Feinstein also shares some insights into the most well-known teams of the NCAA tournament and the history of the event that has become commonly known as "March Madness."

As a product of Big Ten country, I wish Feinstein didn't focus so much on the ACC in his book, but I was moved by one story about Dean Smith, the legendary North Carolina coach. Back when Smith was just an assistant coach to Frank McGuire at Carolina in the late 1950's, he took an important stand in regard to race relations in Chapel Hill. Feinstein tells the story:
"Not long after he [Smith] arrived in Chapel Hill, he began attending the Binkley Baptist Church and became friendly with the pastor there, Dr. Robert Seymour. It was Seymour who pointed out to him that Chapel Hill's restaurants were segregated and that it might take someone who had the clout of the North Carolina basketball program to put an end to that tradition.

Soon after, Smith walked into a well-known local restaurant with a member of the church who happened to be black. The two men sat down at a table, daring the restaurant's management to say something. No one said anything. Everyone knew that Smith was Frank McGuire's assistant coach. That was the beginning of the end of segregation in Chapel Hill restaurants.

Twenty-three years later, Seymour told that story to a reporter whom Smith had reluctantly agreed to cooperate with on a newspaper profile. "I wish you'd write about the players and not me," he had said when first approached. He finally agreed because the reporter told him he had been assigned to write the story with or without Smith's cooperation. When the reporter asked Smith about the restaurant story, Smith was clearly perturbed. "Who told you that story?" he asked.

When he heard that it was Seymour, he shook his head. "I wish he hadn't done that." "Why?" he was asked. "Aren't you proud of what you did?" "I did what I thought was the right thing," Smith said. "I don't think you should take bows in life for doing the right thing. You should just do it."
There are opportunities every day where each one of us has the chance to do the right thing. It could be something that is seemingly insignificant like holding the door open for an elderly woman or offering a kind word to a frazzled waitress. Or, like Coach Smith, it could be challenging an entrenched system of injustice. Whatever it may be, as Da Mayor said in Spike Lee's classic film "Do the Right Thing": "Doctor, always do the right thing."

Monday, April 18, 2011

How Did Bunnies & Eggs Get Associated With Christ's Resurrection?

Photo Credit: StSaling
A Seattle-area school has drawn fire from Christians due to reports that school officials required a student to refer to Easter eggs as "spring spheres." Though some people question the validity of these reports, stories like this are used as evidence by many Christians to point to the bias that exists against us when attempting to celebrate the important holidays of our faith.

While I am a big advocate that all Americans should have the freedom to express their beliefs, I do wonder if many of the Christians that are angry about the situation in Seattle could explain what exactly colored eggs have to do with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Like many other holidays celebrated within the United States, Easter is a combination of Christian practices, pagan celebrations and other rituals of non-Christian traditions. While I don't personally have a problem with taking part in the more mainstream activities of Christian holidays, it is fitting for us to remember the true meaning behind the celebration.

Pastor Mark Driscoll does a good job of providing a brief but helpful explanation of the origins of Easter here and comments on how bunnies and eggs came to be associated with this important Christian holiday.  After providing some insight upon the origins of the holiday, he shares some deeper reflections:
"Easter is still celebrated as a major holiday all around the globe, but the truth of Jesus' gory crucifixion and glorious resurrection is often obscured by the garish cartoon bunny in the stores and the gaudy displays of springtime fashion among the religious. Traditions of cute bunnies, marshmallowy creatures, colored eggs, and little girls in pink dresses are harmless enough, but at the same time we must not let anything obstruct our view of the earth-shattering reality represented by Easter. There's nothing cute or cuddly about the fact that we killed God. When we were his enemies, he came to us, suffered in our place through the horror that was Good Friday, and rose from his grave on Easter Sunday so that we will one day rise from ours. The curse is broken, and we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus because we know we will one day experience it (1 Cor. 15:20-23). Let's be joyful, let's never shrink from speaking about Jesus' death and resurrection, and let's never trivialize it."
If I'm to expend my energy defending an aspect of Easter, it won't be about bunnies or eggs. It will be, though, about the veracity of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. If you'd like to explore some of the historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ, please check out this article from Dr. William Lane Craig.  Candy and eggs and an imaginary bunny don't get me all that excited, but the Son of God conquering sin and death sure does.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lecrae Showing That Hip Hop Can Be Christ-Centered...And Good

Photo Credit: Andrea Kirkley
It may not seem possible to some but there are Christians who rap and produce both God-honoring lyrical content and high quality musical stylings. Check out this interview that The Atlanta Journal Constitution did with Christian rapper, Lecrae. A highlight:
"Some think because it's Christian-based music, it "must not be good or it's just a bunch of religious propaganda." And church folks, he [Lecrae] said, "think this sounds worldly and God is opposed to hip hop. I'm a Christian but it doesn't mean my music has to be sub-par and God owns everything, even hip hop."

While some hip hop lyrics glorify a street life, partying and having a lot of women, Lecrae's gives his view on drug dealing and murder as a way to help people see the detriments of the lifestyle. He wants young people, especially, to see the flip side of that life and to give them hope.

"I want them to see the good things in life and the benefit of living with God, as opposed to the detriments of living in opposition to Him," he said.

And he believes you can do that without saying "Jesus" every five words. Call it faith with a hip hop beat.

Lecrae is clearly on to something. "Rehab" debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Christian and Gospel charts and on the Top 200. He's tried to remain culturally relevant and biblically based in his music and deeds. In 2010, he was nominated for a Grammy for Best Gospel Rock/Rap album for "Rehab."
Unfamiliar with Lecrae's music? Check out his video for "Don't Waste Your Life" below (or by clicking here if the video player doesn't show up).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mother Theresa On True Hunger

Photo Credit: Peter Guthrie
From A Simple Path: Mother Theresa:
"The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty -- it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There's a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God."

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Campus Ministry Leaders Move Forward In Unity

Photo Credit: oooh.oooh
A historic meeting that took place earlier this school year has led to an unprecedented agreement from the leaders of a number of major evangelical Christian campus ministries.

The document, known as the Chicago Agreement: Unity in Mission, was signed by leaders of 17 different national ministries and demonstrates a commitment to unity among those working to reach college students across the Unites States with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The following eight points of the Chicago Agreement demonstrate the priority that each campus ministry is placing on working with and alongside others that have also been called to the mission field of America's college campuses:
1. We are all part of Christ’s body.

2. We do not regard any campus as our exclusive field. We recognize that many students and faculty may be helped through the various appeals and styles of the different organizations.

3. We will seek to establish relationships and build bridges with our counterparts in other Christian groups on campus. When establishing ministries on new campuses, we will take the initiative to communicate with the leadership of existing groups.

4. We will speak well of and refrain from criticism of each other’s ministries and members.

5. We commit to addressing problems on a local, regional or national level by humbly communicating with our counterparts, seeking the Lord together to resolve the issues.

6. We affirm the leadership commitments students and faculty have made to each other’s ministries and will not actively recruit them away from those groups. When starting a new campus work, each organization will endeavor to select new leaders, not leaders from other ministries.

7. We recognize students and faculty have the freedom to choose their involvement with any campus ministry. In general, we will encourage them to select and be involved with one primary organization.

8. We will encourage collaborative efforts on a voluntary basis between our organizations. We are open to share experiences and resources to assist each other with the unique challenges of campus ministry.
I'm proud to say that both the ministries that I serve with, Campus Crusade for Christ and The Impact Movement, were signers of the agreement. Though my name is not listed among the 31 initial signers, I was involved in the process of the creation of this document and wholeheartedly agree with its spirit of partnership.

All too often churches and ministries can subtlety view themselves as being in competition with other like-minded groups. The Chicago Agreement is a step in the right direction of campus ministries expressing our unity with other members of the body of Christ even as we recognize the distinctiveness of what God has called each of us to.

Baptist Press offer some more commentary on this exciting development here.

Friday, April 01, 2011

It's Bo's Birthday!

In honor of the 82nd birthday of the late Bo Schembechler, here is a little something that I created a couple of years ago.

Coach Schembechler is generally regarded as the greatest coach in the history of Michigan's football program and is the winningest Wolverines coach ever. He won 234 games during his head coaching career at Miami (Ohio) and Michigan, captured 13 Big Ten Championships and was the Big Ten Coach of the Year six times.

Happy Birthday, Bo. You were a true Michigan Man and Maize and Blue fans everywhere miss you. Go Blue!