March 30, 2008
Light University is committed to offering affordable, quality religious education to deepen the spirituality of the members and friends of Sunshine Cathedral. Please consider taking advantage of one of the following courses offered during the Spring II term:
Affirmative Prayer - Have you ever wanted to learn ways of enriching your prayer life? Have you ever wanted to feel as if your prayers really made a difference? Have you wondered how you could pray more effectively? Then this may be the class you've been waiting for! This class will meet for only three weeks on Mondays: April 7th, 14th, and 21st at 7:00 pm. The entire course is only $10 and will be taught by Rev. Durrell Watkins. Let's spend April praying together.
Who Killed Jesus - This course is based on historian / biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan's book, Who Killed Jesus?: Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus. The book is "Crossan's riveting and definitive historical investigation into the nature and meaning of Jesus' death." This is a post-Lenten look at the death of Jesus that will breathe Easter life into the story we thought we knew. This class begins Tuesday, April 8th at 6:45 pm and will meet once each week for eight weeks. The cost for the entire course is just $25.
Revelation in Context - The most fascinating and misunderstood book in the New Testament is the Book of Revelation. Too often presented as a prediction of doom and violence, Revelation may be something much more liberating and optimistic. This class will explore the artistic, counter-cultural, historical, and political aspects of this lively and dramatic biblical fantasy. Once the source of fear and dread for many Christians, Revelation may now become for students in this class a treasured tool of hope and empowerment. The class will be taught by Rev. Durrell Watkins and will meet Thursdays at 7:00 pm for eight weeks beginning April 10th. The cost for the entire course is only $25.
Beginning this Sunday, March 30th, and lasting until Trinity Sunday (May 18th), we will be offering a new sermon series called "Happiness Now" based on the book Happiness Now!: Timeless Wisdom for Feeling Good FAST by psychologist Robert Holden. The sermons will still focus on the scripture readings for the day but will be linked to the theme of happiness (perfect for the Easter season!). For those who want to read Holden's book as a supplement to the sermon series, we have ordered several copies that will be available in Simply Divine Books & Things by Palm Sunday. Join us each week for the eight-part series on living happier, more fulfilling lives as people of faith, and invite your friends to join you.
Are you a subscriber to the Pastor's weekly email devotional? It's free and all you have to do to subscribe is send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and type in the subject line "Weekly Devotional". You will receive a progressive, positive, practical message every week. Feel free to forward the messages to your friends.
Question: Are all the Christian rituals based on astrology? Many pagan celebrations coincided with ours.
Answer: This one is harder than most for me, but I'll try. The truth is that ancient cultures often felt a divine presence in Nature and looked to the skies for guidance. Matthew's gospel suggests that astrologers followed a sign in the heavens in order to find Jesus. Easter is calculated by observing lunar cycles in conjunction with the Spring Equinox. Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon falling upon or after the first day of Spring.
Some of our rituals (like our Easter celebration and our Epiphany story) have an astrological element to them. But I don't think that astrology motivated all of our observances. Pentecost, for example, is an ancient Jewish festival that we adopted and Christianized. Christmas is celebrated on December 25th (the day of the Winter Solstice before the calendar was changed), but that is a natural time of year for a community to remind itself that the light of spring will in due course return. I don't know of any obvious astrological connection for Advent or Lent. Numerology (the idea that numbers can be spiritually significant) plays a role in some of our celebrations: Advent is always four Sundays before Christmas; Christmas is always 12 days leading up to Epiphany; Lent is always 40 days (out of 46 because Sundays are NOT counted in Lent) leading up to Easter; Ascension is always 40 days after Easter and Pentecost is always 50 days after Easter.
The first "followers of the Way" (later to be known as Christians) were Jewish, and within a century the movement had reached out substantially to Gentiles in a pagan culture. So, Christianity has borrowed from Jewish and pagan traditions, and has initiated some of its own to meet its own needs. I wouldn't say that "all" Christian rituals are based on astrology, but it would be naïve to suggest that astrology and other esoteric traditions didn't have some influence at times on the development of Christianity.
If you have questions about faith, the bible, the church, or sexuality & spirituality, you can email your questions to email@example.com, or go to the Cathedral web site at www.sunshinecathedral.org and click on the link there. Rev. Durrell Watkins will answer your questions and publish the answers in this column. Your name will always be withheld, so only the actual question and the response will be printed.
You can read past Q&A entries in the SunBurst archive .