Christianities: A Roadblock to Faith?

This is part of our youth group Lent and Easter series “Roadblocks and Reasons”, where we discussed Christian belief, the things that make it more difficult, and reasons that can sustain us.

How do we process the diversity of views within Christianity? How can something that claims to be “the” universal truth have so many divisions? What even is Christianity if it changes so frequently?

I think 1 Corinthians has the answer, and here it is:

Different “versions” of Christianity can exist, even with profound disagreements, because there is a “core” to Christianity that is consistent across groups, cultures, language, time, and space. What matters is that we cling to the Resurrection and love each other in spite of those differences.

Let’s see how Paul argues this. (Here’s a deeper dive on the book to show my work.)

1 Corinthians in a nutshell

The letter is written by Paul to a church in chaos, full of deep, substantive divisions around religious teachers, styles, and even different beliefs and practices. (1:10-13).

When Paul lists these group identities, I think we can mentally substitute different Christian denominations, like Catholics, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, or Progressive Christians. It’s not an exact comparison, but it can help us get in the right mindset.

If you were Paul, how would you go about addressing such division? For me, I’d probably tell them which faction is more right or which beliefs are most correct. I may tell them disagreement on these things denies our unity in Christ and embarrasses the faith. Others may even be tempted to propose a more watered-down faith that may be more agreeable, but gives little reason to actually believe it.

But Paul does none of that.

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Pentecost Cocktail | A Holy Day Drink

Recipe (this one’s a doozy)
NOTE: This recipe is in PARTS, not ounces. Please be wise.

  • .75 gin
  • .5 vodka
  • .5 brandy
  • .5 light rum
  • .5 blended scotch
  • .5 irish whiskey
  • .5 tequila
  • .25 rye
  • .5 apricot liqueur
  • .25 raspberry liqueur
  • 3 dashes cinnamon bitters (or 1 tsp Fireball — trust me on this)
  • .25 oz Absinthe and .125 oz Green Chartreuse for float
  • Lemon Peel, expressed and as garnish

Stir all ingredients (except the ingredients for the float) in a mixing glass until VERY chilled and diluted. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Express the lemon peel over the drink and garnish with the peel.

* * * *

Today is Pentecost, which is all about the Holy Spirit descending and indwelling Christians, creating unity out of a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual group of people. So, I wanted to create a cocktail that had as many “spirits” from as many regions as possible (get it?).

I ended up doing a riff on the strongest known cocktail in the world, the Aunt Roberta Cocktail (really neat history behind that drink, by the way). It has 12 ingredients (the symbolism gets a little nuts here), and what came out was an even stronger drink that is surprisingly balanced and soft for all that’s in it.

Seriously, give this a try. It will be worth your time and effort. It is one drink, with many parts. And it is beautiful.

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The Ascension Martini (His & Hers) | Holy Day Cocktails

Paul’s Recipe

  • 2 oz Dry Gin
  • .5 oz St. Germain
  • .5 oz Lillet Blanc
  • 2 dashes Orange Bitters
  • Garnish with a Lemon Twist

Stir all ingredients with ice in a mixing glass. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

Amanda’s Recipe

  • 4 oz Champagne
  • .5 oz St. Germain
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Garnish with a Raspberry

Add St Germain and Lemon Juice to a martini or coupe glass. Stir a little to combine. Then add champagne on top, plopping the raspberry in it.

* * * *

We are still in Easter, and yesterday was the Christian Holy Day celebrating the Ascension of Christ, a fascinating event whose theological implications continue to be explored (here’s a great book on it). It is complex, elusive, beautiful, and bright. So here are two cocktails in that same vein for you to enjoy!

I originally made my version, which has depth, character, and complexity. My wife wasn’t a huge fan so she made her own, which is bright, sweet, and fun. Hers is very delightful and playful while mine is a little more “serious”.

So pick your drink and let your glass rise as Christ himself did!

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Resurrection Punch | An Easter Cocktail


  • 2.5 oz Easter Honey Rum (or any Gold Rum)
  • 1 oz Lemon Juice
  • 1 oz Passion Fruit Syrup
  • .5 oz Cinnamon Syrup
  • .5 oz Apricot Liqueur
  • .5 oz Velvet Falernum
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • Top with Sparkling Water or Champagne

Scale this punch recipe as needed. Combine ingredients (minus the sparkling) without ice and let chill. When ready to drink, pour over large ice in a bowl or crushed ice in a collins glass. Top with bubbles. If you can’t chill it ahead of time, shake everything (minus sparkling) with just enough ice to chill and not dilute. Strain into glass with crushed ice and top with bubbles. Add a straw and garnish with a cherry.

View other Holy Day cocktails.

* * * *

It’s Easter! And to remind us that this is a season and not just a day, I’m giving you your Easter cocktail a few days in. Easter is the height of joy and celebration in the Christian Calendar, where Christians are invited–nay, expected–to be as extra as possible, with laughter, singing, hope, and yes, good food and drink.

To that end, I give you this tiki rum punch for this glorious season. And it is a delight. You can have it solo or with friends. It is sweet, floral, fruity, vibrant, bubbly, and bright.

For the base, I use a heavy pour of our Easter Honey Rum. I also knew I wanted to use Passion Fruit Syrup to remind us how Easter is literally the “fruit” of Jesus’ “passion”.

Cinnamon, Falernum, and the Angostura give the drink character and backbone; they are spicy and dark ingredients made sweet and bright here. This makes me think of the fires of hell, now quenched and by Jesus’ overpowering light and life.

Apricot is also a more biblical choice than you may think. Many scholars agree that Eden’s Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was based on an Apricot tree, not an Apple tree. So this drink tries to capture how death came through one tree, but life through another.

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Easter Honey Rum (Recipe)


  • 1 bottle of Gold Rum (or 12oz in a mason jar if you’re doing a half batch)
  • 200g/7oz of Honeycomb, crushed (or half that for the smaller batch)

Crush the honeycomb and add to container with rum. Let sit in a cool, dark place, “buried” for three days (get it?). Put the rum through a coffee filter or cheese cloth into its permanent container. Enjoy the heck out of it. It’s like candy.

* * * *

It’s Easter! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Easter is a season, not just a day, so your “official” Easter cocktail is coming in the next couple of days. But today, I’m posting the recipe for an ingredient for that cocktail: Easter Honey Rum.

You may have heard of “fat washing” liquors. It’s a fascinating process that yields interesting results. Using honeycomb is called “wax-washing” and after this, I am a huge fan.

The resulting rum is like a cocktail in a spirit. It has body and viscosity and a dominant floral sweetness that is still balanced. It’s almost like candy.

To me, this is a great Easter spirit. Bright, golden, sweet, yet strong. It is the old rum, but washed into something new and better.

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Razing Hell Espresso Martini | a Holy Saturday cocktail


  • 1.5 oz Smoky Lenten Bourbon
  • 1.5 oz Espresso or Cold Brew Concentrate
  • .75 oz Coffee Liqueur
  • .25 oz Demerara Syrup
  • Garnish: 4 drops Angostura
  • Rim: Cocoa Bitters and 1/8-1/4 tsp each of Salt, Smoked Paprika, Cayenne Pepper based on spice preference.

Wet the rim of your coupe or martini glass with cocoa bitters and dip it in the spice mix to coat. Place in freezer to chill. Shake all other ingredients (except Angostura) with ice and fine strain into the chilled glass. In the foam of the drink, add 4-5 drops of Angostura bitters and use a toothpick to “draw” them into the shape of a cross.

View other Holy Day cocktails.

* * * *

It’s Holy Saturday, the final day of Lent. During this past Holy Week, I’ve needed to find various ways to say “man, a lot happened on this day”. Not so today. Here is the entirety of what the Bible says about Jesus and his disciples this day:

On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment. (Lk 23:56b)

That’s it. This vacuum has invited a lot of theological speculation on just what might have been happening in the time between Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Most of Christian history has answered this question with some version of what’s called “The Harrowing of Hell“, based largely on an odd verse in 1 Peter 4 about Jesus preaching the gospel “even to the dead” and captured in the Apostle’s Creed when it says Jesus “descended to the dead”.

Different versions are more or less literal about it, but at the very least, this means that whatever “hell” is, Jesus endured it on behalf of those who never will. And in so doing it, he conquered it in some way, de-fanging it of its power and authority. He harrowed it, razed it–overcame it.

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Good Friday | a cocktail


  • 1.5 oz Lillet Blanc
  • .75 oz Dry Gin
  • .25 oz St. Germain
  • .25 oz White Vinegar
  • 2 dashes Celery Bitters
  • .25 oz Gentian Amaro or Aperol (float)
  • Garnish: cherry

Add all ingredients (except the Gentian spirit) to a mixing glass with ice. Stir until chilled. Strain into chilled coupe. Add the Gentian Amaro (or Aperol). Garnish with a cherry on a cocktail pick, letting its syrup drip into the glass.

View other Holy Day cocktails.

* * * *

Today is Good Friday, the day on which Jesus faced an unjust Roman trial, was crucified, and even experienced the forsaking of God. It is a violent, unjust, and sad day, only made “good” by subsequent events.

Good Friday is our salvation. It is the moment God himself entered into the greatest fear and consequence of sin and human frailty. It is God’s answer to the suffering of the world: not giving an answer for why it exists, but experiencing it himself and conquering it.

It is bittersweet. It is an unexpected coronation and enthroning over the world and its authorities by letting them do their worst and yet still be beaten.

My first instinct for a Good Friday cocktail would be a dark, smoky, and bitter whiskey drink. But as I reflected on it more, I went in another direction.

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Triduum | a Holy Weekend cocktail


  • 1 oz Whiskey
  • 1 oz Cognac or Brandy
  • .5 oz Gentian Amaro
  • .5 oz Green Chartreuse
  • 2 dashes Salt & Smoke Bitters
  • 2 dashes Orange Bitters
  • Garnish: 3 Olives

Strain all ingredients in mixing glass until very chilled and extra diluted (45-60 seconds). Strain into a chalice, wine glass, or coupe. Garnish with three olives on a cocktail pick.

View other Holy Day cocktails.

* * * *

I’ve been doing one cocktail for each day of Holy Week, but the three days starting with Maundy Thursday are there own special holiday, called the Paschal Triduum (the “three” days are from Thursday night to Easter morning). So I’m offering a bonus cocktail for this weekend.

This drink is boozy with an herbal sweetness, with a touch of sweetness.

Similar to my Maundy Thursday cocktail, the whiskey and cognac/brandy are for the bread and wine of Thursday. The smoke and amaro are for the darkness and blood of Friday. The chartreuse hearkens burial herbs and the quiet, restful devotion of the monks who still make it to this day. The orange bitters hint at the Easter brightness to come.

The three olives are for each day of the Triduum. They also remind us of the Mount of Olives, as well as the saltiness of tears in both the Passover meal and crucifixion witnesses.

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Body & Blood | A Maundy Thursday Cocktail


  • 2 oz Red wine
  • 2 oz Wheat (or Rye) Whiskey
  • .25 oz Orange Curacao
  • .75 oz Ube Syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 2 dashes Orange Bitters
  • .5 oz Water
  • tiny pinch of salt
  • Olive garnish

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass without ice and stir well to incorporate everything. Pour into a wine glass and at serve room temperature. Garnish with a single olive.

View other Holy Day cocktails.

* * * *

Today is Maundy Thursday, one of the fullest, strangest, and most complicated days of Holy Week. So here is a cocktail to match.

A lot happens on this day: Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, the Passover meal and first Communion, his farewell address (also called the “High Priestly Prayer“), his prayers in Gethsemane, the arrest, and his late-night trial before the Jewish authorities.

It’s an emotional roller coaster of a day. There is joy, singing, praying, accusation, defensiveness, injustice, and emotions so intense Jesus sweats blood. There is also a random naked guy running through Gethsemane that scholars have no idea what to make of.

While honoring the events of the day, I’ve tried to craft a cocktail that captures this sense of confusion, contrasts, and upended expectations. And I think this drink does exactly that.

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Bitter Betrayal | A Holy Wednesday Cocktail


  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz Montenegro Amaro
  • 1 oz Fernet Branca
  • 2 dashes Orange Bitters
  • 1 small ice cube (yes, it’s an ingredient)

Add all spirits into a small glass. Add one small ice cube and swirl until it is mostly melted. Enjoy.

View other Holy Day cocktails.

* * * *

I am doing a cocktail for each day of Holy Week based on the events that happened on those days. Today’s cocktail is really obvious, incredibly straightforward, and very, very good.

Holy Wednesday is the day that Judas betrayed Jesus. It’s a strange event in the gospels, with hardly any details. We don’t know Judas’ motives, why he was paid the amount he was, or the events leading to his betrayal.

The only details we get are that Jesus saw it coming, and the gospel writers saw this as one of the purest acts of evil and betrayal that’s ever been done.

So today’s cocktail tries to capture the bitterness of this betrayal–bitterness so great that it even ate away at Judas himself to the point of suicide.

So for this drink, I simply got the three bitterest ingredients I have, and threw them together with some orange bitters. And I am shocked how well it all came together.

The resulting drink is dark and complex, with both an herbal and fruit bitterness, and a bright pop of citrus and hint of mint. It is brash and subtle, all at once.

You will either love or hate this drink.

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Lent-Infused Bourbon | a Holy Tuesday spirit


  • 12 oz (half a bottle) High Proof Bourbon
  • 3 tsp Lapsang Souchong Tea
  • 1 tbsp White sugar
  • .25-.5 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 large Orange Wheel, halved

Add all ingredients to a 16oz airtight mason jar. Shake and let sit in a cool, dry place. Shake it once or twice every day. Start tasting after day 3. Once you like the taste, you can strain the solids if you want. After day 5 or so, the taste won’t change and it’s fine to keep everything in the jar if you want.

View other Holy Day cocktails.

* * * *

We continue our Holy week cocktails with something a little different for Holy Tuesday–a liquor infusion!

This recipe makes a high proof bourbon that is very smoky, with a touch of citrus and sweetness that really gives a lot of complexity, perfect for Lenten reflection whether you drink it straight or in a cocktail (it makes an amazing Old Fashioned).

On Holy Monday, Jesus went into the temple and overturned tables, clearing out money changers. This surely was disruptive and provocative, so what does he do on Tuesday? Return to the temple and spend the day debating the religious leaders on a huge range of topics.

Jesus exposes the priests and teachers as hypocrites before the common people, announces God’s rejection of them, and even prophesies the destruction of the very temple in which they are arguing. And at the end of it all, God in Jesus has been fully and finally rejected by the religious institution and its leaders. The stage is set, and they prepare to kill him.

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“Though the Fig Tree Not Blossom…” | A Holy Monday Cocktail


  • 2 oz Brandy
  • 1 oz Lemon Juice
  • .75 oz Fig Syrup
  • .5 tsp Rose Water
  • 1 Egg White

Add all ingredients to a shaker without ice. Shake vigorously for 30-45 seconds. Add ice and shake again for 10-15 seconds. Double strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with flower petals.

View other Holy Day cocktails.

* * * *

Thursday through Sunday get all the attention in Holy Week, but significant and symbolic things also happened on the other weekdays. So I’m making a cocktail for each one.

On Monday morning, while on his way to the Jerusalem Temple, Jesus is hungry and sees a fig tree with leaves on it, so it should have fruit he can eat. This one does not. It’s also not the season for the tree to have leaves in the first place.

Jesus sees in the tree a symbol of the Temple itself. It has the outward appearance of bearing fruit but is barren, and it does not know its season. Likewise, the temple has become a place of commerce and routine, not realizing that now is the time of the Messiah.

God in Jesus is rejected by creation itself and his very temple, where the worship and prayer of his people ought to be. So Jesus curses this fig tree and clears out the money-changers in the Temple.

This cocktail tries to capture some of these themes. Its name comes from Habakkuk 3: “Though the fig tree does not blossom and no fruit is on the vines…yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation.”

The grape brandy and soft texture hearken to the wine and solemnity of the temple, and the drink’s flavor is like a fig tree in bloom. But all this is–literally–soured by the lemon juice. It’s an unexpected drink that confuses the senses as you discern the flavors and the balance.

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Palm Sunday Cocktail


  • 2 oz Light Rum
  • 1 oz Lime Juice
  • .75 oz Toasted Coconut Syrup
  • .75 tsp Pandan Extract
  • 2 dashes Grapefruit Bitters
  • 2 dashes Rhubarb Bitters
  • .25 oz Jamaican Rum float (optional)

Add all ingredients (except the Jamaican rum) to a shaker. Add ice and shake. Free pour all contents into a glass and top with the remaining rum. Add a straw and garnish with pineapple or palm fronds.

View other Holy Day cocktails.

* * * *

It’s Holy Week, the most important and consequential seven days in all of human history, when Jesus suffered, died, and was raised. Each of these days carries significance, so I’m crafting a cocktail for each one.

But it all begins on Palm Sunday: a strange day full of hope, expectation, worship, and joy (and quite a bit of human misunderstanding). Lent is a season of brooding and fasting, but because Sundays are still feast days (and because of palms, of course) we’re doing a tiki drink!

On Palm Sunday, Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem in a way that symbolized to the Jewish people that he was their long-awaited king coming to rescue them from their exile.

The people come out and lay their coats and palm leaves on the road, ushering Jesus with fevered excitement and joy. However, while they thought he was coming as a violent, political, conquering king, he instead intended to save them from an even deeper spiritual exile.

I tried to capture these contrasts in this drink. It is a riff on a daiquiri, and is bright, refreshing, and tart, with multiple fruit bitters for complexity. However through the middle of it are these deep, heavier notes of toasted coconut and pandan. It’s a fantastic drink.

Blessed is he who drinks in the name of the Lord. Cheers!

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Suffering: A Family Affair | James 1.2-3

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face various trials, consider it all joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
James 1.2-3

These verses are so rich, it’s going to take more than one post to mine their treasures. A flattened, cursory reading can sound very callous and insensitive to the lived experience of human suffering. However, I think there is a nuanced, sensitive perspective here that deserves sitting with a bit.

“brothers and sisters…”

James knows he is going to say tough things, so he uses this intimate term on the outset. He doesn’t say “children” holding himself above those going through trials, but uses this familial term for peers under the same authority. This shows that no one–not even an apostle, not even the brother of Jesus–is above suffering and trials.

It also reminds us that this letter is not to individuals, but a community. This is a huge key to these verses (and the whole book). The encouragement to “consider it all joy” when we face trials can seem at least insensitive, if not outright abusive, apart from this context.

Suffering should be a community effort. We ought to be close enough to others that we hurt when our spiritual family members hurt. We share the burden to live this verse out. In suffering, not everyone will have the wherewithal to follow all these encouragements, so others step in and make up for what we lack in a given moment.

Others can keep hope on our behalf when we feel hopeless. They can recognize the resilience and endurance growing within us when we have no more to give. They can maintain faith in God’s goodness while we doubt God is there at all. These words are meant to mark a community at all times, not individuals at all times.

Note here that the brother of Jesus calls us his siblings, showing the unity we have as the singular body of Christ. James knows that spiritual family is deeper and more defining than natural, biological family. Blood may be thicker than water, but spirit is thicker still.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Family Messiahs & Modern Dispersions | James 1.1

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes in the dispersion:
James 1.1

1. “servant” (or “slave”): This is surprising. Traditionally, James is one of the brothers of Jesus (I’ve tried, but I just can’t follow Catholicism in its beliefs of Mary’s perpetual virginity and these being Jesus’ “cousins”). The Gospels tell us that Jesus’ brothers denied Christ as Messiah. They thought he was crazy. What must have happened to James to change his view to be a “slave” of his brother? How easy would it be for any of us to so quickly start seeing our brother or sister as the Son of God through which all things we were created, by which all things are sustained?

2. “dispersion”: All Jews living outside Judea. We can find ourselves in this. God’s people far from where God has promised us to be, trying to figure out how to do this whole “Christianity” thing. This is what the rest of James is about. This whole earth is ours and we wait expectantly for the enemies to be cleared out so we can receive our inheritance. So what does life look like in the tension of awaiting promises for a new home, knowing it’s not yet time, but it will come? What is the first characteristic of this life that James brings up? What does life here look like? The answer is probably in verses 2-4: a life of suffering for the purposes that God has laid out for us.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

1 Corinthians, Chapter-by-Chapter

I wrote another post applying 1 Corinthians to the divisions and differences among Christian groups. I recognize my thesis could be a little controversial, so I wanted to show my work with this survey of the letter to show Paul’s thought on these issues.

The letter is to a church divided, so it’s interesting the Paul begins by grounding them in what unifies them. They are sanctified, exist “in Christ”, are called to be saints, and call on the name of Christ as Lord. (1:1-9). But he pretty quickly gets into the divisions themselves (1:10-17).

He’ll eventually tell us what this gospel is, but first he teaches us how to think about it. Repeatedly, Paul hits hard one main idea: you can’t think about the gospel or Christianity in the same way that you think about other sets of ideas or beliefs. When you do that, Christianity is just going to look like foolishness (1:18-2:16).

But still, Paul never challenges the divisions themselves. He does not seem to think that differing views on even important issues is a challenge to Christianity or “the gospel”, which he puts in a different category than other parts of life and faith. (Ch. 3).

The problem is not what these Christians are believing, but how they are believing it and how that gets translated in their actions and worship.

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