Boycott, Gendercott, Louisa May Alcott

target-logo There is an organization commonly referred to as the HRC (the Human Rights Campaign). They are touted as “America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.” Apparently, each year they put out a survey that measures the support given to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) folks by large businesses. The results of the survey are published as the CEI (Corporate Equality Index).

I am told that, in 2015, four hundred seven businesses scored 100% on this survey. What that means is, these businesses favorably lined up with the HRC stance that LGBTs are worthy of special protection.

I only mention this because, in the current war over where one can take one’s potty breaks, this has become a huge hot-button issue. In the past few days, a firestorm has risen over a petition to boycott the Target Corporation for being transgender toilette friendly.

“Privacy writ large is my motto.”

I’m probably a bad one to ask about this simply because I don’t even like sharing Funny-Toilet-Paperpublic restrooms with other straight males. Privacy writ large is my motto. I’m all for the “one man, one restroom” rule (pardon the sexist language).

Be that as it may, Target is now more of a target than ever. But according to the aforementioned CEI, there are a whole slew of targets out there. If the HRC’s findings are accurate, the proposed boycott (or should I say, “gendercott”) of Target is only the beginning.

Say it ain’t so, Home Depot!

Included in the HRC’s list of trans-friendly companies are such stalwarts as Apple, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, Walgreens, CVS, United Airlines, Boeing, Ford, GM, Toyota, Chase Bank, Bank of America, Citi-Bank, Wells Fargo, Ikea, Sears, JC Penny, Nordstrom, Home Depot, DIRECTV, Sirius-XM Radio, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Sony, Universal, Warner Bros., Disney, Paramount, Comcast, AT&T, IKEA, General Mills, Kellogg, MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and Nike. There are another 368 of them, and these are just the ones with a perfect score.

If all this is true (which apparently it is), the only way to really fight the war of the loo is to go off the grid. I’ve always wanted to do that (sort of), but I really like my creature comforts (private latrines included). I’m not sure I could hack it, so I’m pretty sure I won’t even try.

For me to boycott Target is merely symbolic since I never go there anymore (especially since my credit card info was compromised a couple of years ago—what a pain that was). I was considered a gendercott but decided on a Louisa May Alcott. I definitely don’t want any Little Women in my bathroom.Louisa-May-Alcott

If it sounds like I’m making light of this whole thing, it’s probably because I am. Some guy hanging around a women’s restroom is an absolute absurdity in my mind.

All that being said, there’s only one sure way to win the battle if some female tries to use my urinal. I’ll hold it until I get home. Hmmm… I wonder if Depends is on that list.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

No More Halos For Me

“Everybody’s got it all wrong. Angels don’t wear halos anymore. I forget why, but scientists are working on it.” ~Olive, age 9~

raphael-angelsThat is another bit of wisdom about angels from a youngster. I love these things. Art Linkletter (anyone remember him?) used to collect these tidbits from a TV show he did many moons ago. He actually wrote a book entitled, “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” My Mother had a copy of it.

It was a great little read because it wasn’t a story. You could pick it up and start perusing anywhere. You didn’t have to read for long before you had a smile on your face. I used to grab it when I needed cheering up. I highly recommend it.

It was full of little quips similar to the one above. They were actual quotes from real, live children (and they were hilarious, precious, and outrageous). Angels always seemed to be a great topic.

“I’m not sure when they stopped.”

I love the one I quoted in the beginning of this blog because of its boldness. This nine-year-old makes no bones about it. We’ve all got it wrong. Not just a tad wrong, but ALL wrong. Any fool knows that angels no longer wear halos.

I’m not sure when they stopped (or if they ever started, for that matter). But, I’m sure Olive could fill us in.

I also love her honesty. She can’t remember why they don’t wear them anymore, but she’s not embarrassed to admit it. I suspect they just went out of heavenly style (you know how much these angels are into fashion).

On top of all that, she informs us “scientists are working on it.” I’d love to speak with one or two of those scientists. It must be a fascinating study. Celestial beings are hard to pin down (as far as I can tell), so they must have some new equipment I’ve never heard about. Still, if they can split an atom, the sky’s the limit (or maybe I should say, “Heaven’s the limit.”). Either way, it’s got to be a doozy of a laboratory they’ve put together. It would make a great Sunday School field trip.

Oh, that reminds me of something Jared (age 8) said. “Angels live in cloud houses made by God and his Son, who’s a very good carpenter.” Maybe that’s where the cloud houselaboratory is located—in one of those cloud houses. I think I spotted one the other day when I was on  a plane headed to Florida. At first, I didn’t realize what it was. Having heard Jared’s explanation, however, I’ve put two and two together. It might add up to five, but I’m about as sure of it as Olive is about the halo thing.

I’m glad a friend shared that quote with me. I was going to petition the Lord for a halo so it would be ready for me when I died. What a fashion faux pas that would have been…  

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

The Five Second Rule

5-second-rule-t-shirt-food-germs-pizza In second Timothy, Paul refers to someone named Demas. His statement is brief but rather damning. He says, “Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me…”

I’ve always found this passage quite disturbing. I’ve done so because, in two other letters (Colossians and Philemon), he refers to Demas as a co-worker. These two letters were written while Paul was incarcerated. That means Demas stood by him through times of imprisonment. While I’ve never served a prison sentence (or even a night in jail), I think I would be forever grateful to such a cohort. It had to be a difficult time. Jesus doesn’t urge us to visit the imprisoned with no reason.

“Paul throws Demas under the bus…”

Yet in his letter to Timothy, Paul throws Demas under the bus (or chariot as it were). To be fair, it’s apparent Paul feels abandoned by Demas, so maybe turnabout is fair play—even when you’re writing the Bible. (I know. He didn’t realize he was writing the Bible. Still, it was written to a pastor. We all know how those guys can blab.)

There’s no real background given, so it’s tough to tell exactly what’s transpiring. Yet, the tone of his remark almost makes it sound like Paul has written Demas off. I would love to see Demas’ reply in his ensuing Biblical Op-Ed. Unfortunately, there was no such thing. I’m guessing he had his reasons for leaving. Prison ministry burnout may have been one of them. The call of “the world” must have been very alluring at that point. Whatever the reason(s), in Paul’s mind, Demas was gone.

“We never hear of Demas again.”

In fairness to Paul, this was written toward the end of his life. Time was winding down, and he was trying to fulfill his final quest. Seeing a formerly willing assistant go off the reservation must have been disheartening. Consequently, we never hear of Demas again.

This morning, I was reminded of this story in an odd way. I cooked some scrambled eggs for breakfast. While pushing them onto my plate, one decent sized chunk hit the floor. I immediately thought to myself, “Five-second rule.” If I pick it up within five seconds, I can eat it. We all know that germs don’t attack food in the first five seconds. Presumably, after five seconds, all hell breaks loose and we’ll die of dysentery should we devour it. The fact that this reminded me of Demas might tell you something about how my mind works.5-second-rule

What I’m driving at is the sad reality that we Christians are often quick to throw our brethren to the lions (particularly if they don’t act in accordance with our wishes). We seem to have some sort of five-second rule that allows us to cast them off like fallen scrambled eggs.

Considering who Paul was, that puts us in good company. Still, even Paul knew he was “a wretched man.” In the future, maybe we should allow God do sainthood reductions. He’s got the facts. After all, he’s God and we’re not.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness (Hezekiah 16:32)

king_hezekiah
King Hezekiah

A controversial Christian speaker was once fielding questions following a presentation when someone shouted out, “How do you reconcile that with with Matthew 16:5?” Since he had not memorized the entire Bible at that point in his life, he had no clue what that verse said. So, without missing a beat, he shouted back, “ With James 6:22!” Then he moved on to the next question.

There is, of course, no chapter six in the book of James. For some reason, however, it seemed to satisfy the shouter of the question. At least it shut him up.

“People who know Scripture can be a pain.”

People who know a little something about Scripture can really be a pain sometimes. In fact, they can be downright haughty. I have to give them this, though; they know a little something about the Bible.

It’s incredible to me how slight people’s knowledge of Scripture can be. I’m speaking here of people who have called themselves Christian for years. To hear them talk, you’d think they were experts in the canon—until they begin to quote verses.

I love it when someone says, “Well, you know…the Bible says that cleanliness is next to godliness.” I love it because I’ve come to the point that I have a stock follow-up prepared for these occasions. When I hear that stated, I immediately say, “Yeah. That’s Hezekiah 16:32 if I’m not mistaken.” If I’m in the right crowd (or maybe the wrong one), they all buy it.

Hezekiah 16:32 says…

As you may know (or at least have guessed), there is no Hezekiah 16:32. As a matter of fact, there is no book of Hezekiah in all of Scripture. You have to admit, though, it really sounds good. And sometimes that’s all we want. We just want to sound good.

I realize that, as a preacher of some forty years, I should probably have a better handle on the canon than most laity. I have to tell you, however, there are some lay folks that can run rings around me when it comes to their knowledge of Scripture. I applaud them for that and wonder why so many others are clueless when it comes to knowing and understanding the Bible.

hezekiah

And there’s another pet peeve of mine (and probably many others). There are a lot of people who have a real good handle on the Bible, but they use it in grossly unsuitable ways. They can quote you chapter and verse, but they can’t tell you who said it, why it was said, to whom it was said, (and most importantly) what it means for us in our day and setting. It can make for some really odd conversations and a slew of awkward moments. Inevitably, massive arguments ensue.

“We need to know the Word.”

It would behoove us to understand what we’re reading when we delve into Scripture. That’s why we have Bible studies. It’s not enough to know the words. We also need to know the Word. The truth can set you free. Please don’t play fast and loose with it.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

Do I Have to Like the Preacher?

If you’ve never heard the following story, I’m shocked. It’s been floating around for ages, and I’m not sure why it hasn’t been long retired. But just in case there’s someone out there who’s been left unscathed, allow me to scathe you.

One Sunday morning, a mother went in to wake her son and tell him it was time to get ready for church, to which he replied, “I’m not going.” “Why not?” she in-bedasked.  “I’ll give you two good reasons,” he said. “One, they don’t like me, and two, I don’t like them.”  His mother replied, “I’ll give you two good reasons why you SHOULD go to church: One, you’re 59 years old, and two you’re the pastor!”

You may have also heard this told with the insertion of a high school principal instead of a pastor (as well as almost any other vocation that deals with people). It’s certainly made the rounds over the years in various forms.

I love his excuse (which is almost forgotten when the punch line emerges), “They don’t like me and I don’t like them.” For me (as a pastor of thirty-five plus years), it begs a question. Do the folks in the church gathering need to like me? Do I need to like them?cold_shoulder

I’ll be the first to admit. Through the years, I’ve served some parishioners that I didn’t like at all (none of which are in my current appointment, of course). In addition, I know full well there were some who didn’t like me—which is probably an understatement. So, how healthy is that?

The upside of this is the fact that we hung in there with each other despite our personal feelings. There’s no Scriptural law that says we have to like one another. Love one another, yes. Like one another, optional… It’s a testament to the completed work of Christ that we can work with each other for the advancement of God’s Kingdom. Differences aside, we are still Brothers and Sisters in Christ and can preserve enough unity to be about our Father’s business together.

I’ll even go a step further. Some of the people I disliked the most were people for whom I had the most respect. I loved them for their attributes and strengths. I just didn’t like them very much.

Personalities are like snowflakes. Just ask Meyers and Briggs (I know, I know. They’re dead, but just go with the flow here.). Some of our personality traits are going to clash from time to time (maybe always). The Apostle Paul didn’t say, “Preserve the unity with everyone except the Type A individuals.” If he did, that pronouncement didn’t make the final cut for canon inclusion.

Jerusalem_Western_Wall_stonesThe Psalmist said, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people dwell together in unity.” That unity comes with a price. St. Peter said we are like “living stones being built into a spiritual house.” Try building a stone house without chipping off a few rough edges sometime.

 

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

Anonymity: The Desired Effect?

An elderly woman walked into the local country church. The friendly usher greeted her at the door and helped her up the flight of steps.  “Where would you elderly-womanlike to sit?” he asked politely. “The front row, please,” she answered. “You really   don’t want to do that,” the usher said. “The pastor is really boring.” “Do you happen to know who I am?” the woman inquired. “No,” he said. “I’m the pastor’s mother,” she replied indignantly. “Do you know who I am?” he asked. “No,” she said. “Good,” he answered.

There are times when we’d just as soon others not know who we are. It seems the more time passes, that attitude is becoming the norm. I was involved in a three-way conversation a few years ago in which we were discussing a nearby mega-church. My comment to this small group was, “The problem with that church is you can go there and get lost in the crowd.” Another person chimed in while chuckling, “I was just going to say, the good thing about that church is you can go there and get lost in the crowd.” I guess it all depends on your perspective.

I pastor a very tiny congregation as congregations go. We average less than twenty in worship. On a good day, we’ll hit thirty. I know darn well there are people who will never darken our doors because we’re such an intimate gathering. People want to be anonymous.

Two of our regulars tell their story this way. “We used to drive by the chapel and one of us would say, ‘We should try that church.’ The other would reply, ‘If we go there, everyone will look at us.’ We decided to try it one Sunday. We walked in and everyone looked at us.”

hellomynameis

I’m a terminal introvert. I would love to be anonymous wherever I go (especially to worship). I’ve worked hard over the years to overcome that malady. I’ve found, however, that one simply does not overcome it. What I do is deal with it and labor to keep it at bay. I do so to make sure it doesn’t interfere with the benefits of my social life (especially in worship).

Worship is part of the communal gathering we call “the church.” To go and not be a part of the community is antithetical to the meaning of a corporate service. That’s why mega-churches are big on small group ministries. They don’t want people to get lost in the crowd. Small groups are vital to the life of the church. The gathering I serve has a distinct advantage. We ARE a small group, like it or not. No one is anonymous—ever.

I invite you to attend one of our worship services. No matter where you sit, you’ll be in the front row. Just a warning, however… I hear the pastor is really boring.Anonymity

No worries, though. We have an excellent pianist, and the congregation is a joy. Come join us (but don’t expect anonymity)!

 

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

Same Bowl, Different Soup!

“Same bowl, different soup!

“Recently, I heard someone say, “Same bowl, different Soup.” In context, I understood what they meant (I think). It hit me as unusual because I’d never heard the saying prior to that day. It sounds like something that should have been around at least as long as I have (sixty-six years) so I was a little surprised by it.

It resonated with me, so I went home and wrote it down on a little notepad. I found that pad today, and it got me thinking about it all over again. It still bothered me that I couldn’t remember ever hearing it before, so I got on the Internet and checked it out. It was all over the place. soup-bowl

The interesting thing is that it’s sometimes said backwards (or inside out, or conversely—I’m not sure which, if any of those apply). Anyway, some people say, “Same soup, different bowl.” That really got me thinking. Do they mean the same thing? Is one correct and the other wrong?

“Different bowl, same soup!”

The Urban Dictionary says it’s “same bowl, different soup” meaning “same ol’ same ol’.” That’s what I figured it meant, but it seems to make more sense to me to say, “same soup, different bowl.” I’d run a contest to select the right one, but I doubt anyone cares as much as me about this right now (or ever). At least half of you probably stopped reading this already.

The point of all this is how easily we can be distracted by things that don’t really matter (at least I can—and do). Time management is probably not one of my best attributes. Since I began writing this, I’ve done ten different things—none of which I had planned to do at this moment. It’s a little embarrassing, but there seem to be a lot of squeaky wheels in my life.

“What would Jesus do?”

I often wonder how Jesus would manage life in the twenty-first century. We have a zillion distractions—many of which seem to be worthwhile (at least they seem that way at the time they pop up). I want to think he would find a way to simplify things. On the other hand, I wonder if he’d be a master at multi-tasking.soup

He once said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” I’m not sure how much I look back, but I sure look forward, sideways, katty-cornered, up, and down.

And there’s another thing. My spell check just told me it’s “kitty-cornered.” All my life I’ve been taught that it’s katty-cornered. Well, I’m not changing it. So there!

Okay… Where was I? Oh yeah. I get distracted easily. Life seems to be about distractions. Someone told me when I became a pastor that, if I had a list of ten things to do for the day, I should be happy if I get one done. Why? Distractions.

Same soup, different bowl. Excuse me, I just got an e-mail.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

Living in the Book

John Wesley was said to be a man of one book. His “one book” was the Bible, of course. That doesn’t mean he read the Bible and it only. He was well read, well educated, and wrote a lot himself. What it does mean is that he lived by what he learned in Scripture. While he read other things, the Bible was his mainstay.12924503_754904354610182_4092805141949649821_n

Today, we live in a world of books. As an author, I find it amazing how far up the charts my book sails when even one is purchased. That’s simply because there are millions of books on the market competing for everyone’s dollars. A few sales can propel a book up the scale, leapfrogging it over several million others.

Putting that aside, the reality is there are many books that each sells thousands of copies or more. These days, people buy paperbacks and hardcovers as they always did. On top of that, many (if not most) books are purchased in some digital form. Nooks, Kindles, iPods, and phones are used to buy and read books. You can carry around your entire library on your smartphone to read at any time. It’s amazing there are any bookstores left at all.

“The Bible is the book of life.”

With all these books vying for our time, it’s gratifying to know that the Bible is still the best seller of all time (by an incredible margin). Like Wesley, tons of people read voraciously. Still the one place they keep going back is the Bible—often on a daily basis.

The reason for this is pretty clear. The Bible is the book of life. It transforms our understanding, our perspective, and our way of living. In short, it transforms us. It’s alive with the truth of God, and it can’t be replaced by anything else we read.

“Writing about the Bible cannot replace the Bible itself.”

We can write books about the Bible (I’ve even done that myself). But writing about the Bible cannot replace the Bible itself. It can certainly be helpful. As a preacher, I read about the Bible all the time. I want to know what other people think, how they interpret it, and how they believe it relates to life in the twenty-first century. But even then, I find myself going back to Scripture each time to verify, confirm, or refute what I’ve just read.

LiveintheBibleAnother great British preacher, Charles Spurgeon, once said, “Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.” There really is no substitute for it. Many of the most significant people of history were greatly influenced by this marvelous book. In turn, they have influenced millions themselves. There is no end to the reach “The Book” has had, and will have, on humanity.

The importance of this tome is not merely that it’s “the good book” as many have called it. It’s not the fact that it has many moral lessons or fascinating stories (although all that is true). It’s “the good book” because it points us to Jesus. So live in it. You’ll never be the same.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

Smite Me Friendly

A lot of folks don’t like John Wesley. He lived in a much different time, of course (the 1700s), and he could be rough and abrasive when he wanted to. On spiritual matters, he was influenced by the Moravians of his day. In a letter to them, he once used the phrase, “Smite me friendly.”

He was asking them for some guidance and direction. While he was predisposed to their opinions, they also had their differences. If they were going to admonish him according to any of those differences, he was hoping it would be in a gentle way.John Wesley

Wesley’s point was that they should disagree in love. He requested their patience in dealing with issues where he may have shown ignorance. He also said, “prod me and give me a kick when I need it.”

That seems like a rather balanced approach when dealing with others. I applaud him for his position. He was not afraid to seek critical advice (or give it), but he didn’t want to be tromped on either.

In today’s climate, it’s easy for us to veer from this attitude. We are surrounded by such polarization that it even infects the church. Disagreeing agreeably doesn’t seem to play a very strong role in the agenda.

Wesley wanted fellow Christians to desire what was best for others—including for him. He wanted the church to work together to iron out differences and to do the work of the Gospel hand in hand with each other. When differences remained, he was still adamant that we work together in the tasks of the Kingdom.

“We have little to lose and everything to gain…”

There’s little to refute in his stance (at least from what I can see). It seems to me, we have little to lose and everything to gain if we strive to do church Wesley’s way. I’m not talking about his theology, here. We are going to be at variance greatly when it comes to those kinds of differences. But when it comes to practical matters of mission and ministry, turning our backs on each other doesn’t seem like much of a winner.

I’m not pleading here for denominations to unite, or even for local churches to meld together into one body of believers. I am, however, asking that we work more closely together for causes that unite us. There’s plenty to motivate us to do so.

We all want to feed the hungry, for example. Yet, we’re quick to separate our efforts to do that. Everyone has their own deal and that’s that. We’re not interested in combining efforts with the congregation down the street because…well, you know what they believe about __________ (you fill in the biblefight_coverblank). I wonder how many fall through the cracks because of our petty attitudes or just a simple lack of trying to cooperate.

As I write this, I realize some will readily agree with me. Others will take offense and pronounce me wrong. That’s okay. All I ask is that you smite me friendly.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

IC Light Revisited

ICL_Pirates-1320x564

In response to my last blog (IC Light: A Beer and a Church), a friend of mine made this statement: “I do see the similarly between IC Light Beer and the IC Church. Both are imbibed with hope that neither will leave the burden of added weight or responsibility.” He’s much smarter than me, so please allow me to dumb that statement down a tad.

Neither a light beer nor a light church is going to weigh you down. Beer can put on poundage. Churches can put on responsibility. Most of us don’t want to be weighed down with either.

Is your church worth her salt?

The problem, of course, is that any church worth her salt is going to challenge us with the Word of God. God’s truth is generally going to be accompanied by personal responsibility. My friend’s point is spot on. We want neither the extra blubber nor the personal responsibility. Therefore, IC Light…

In case you didn’t read the previous blog, I encourage you to go back and do so. If you don’t have the time or inclination, please allow me to briefly fill you in. IC is the abbreviation used by former church attendees to derisively refer to the Institutional Church. They call us names, in part, because we have backed off from Scripture and have chosen what passages to emphasize (as opposed to iclightteaching, and living by, the entire Bible).

In 2 Timothy 4:3, the Apostle Paul tells his young protégé, “The time will come when people will not listen to sound doctrine, but will follow their own desires and will collect for themselves more and more teachers who will tell them what they are itching to hear. They will turn away from listening to the truth and give their attention to legends.” It seems like that time has arrived. Consequently, we have church lite.

As a pastor, I fully understand the temptation to preach around the tough parts of Scripture. Some subjects are difficult to address. Some congregations are difficult to address as well.

When we decide as pastors and congregations that we’re going to avoid certain parts of the Bible, we are proving the Apostle right. No pastor wants to be harassed by his/her congregation because of the truth. On the other side of that coin, some members leave because they just don’t want to hear it. Along with hearing comes responsibility.

“Resurrection power is found only in the truth…”

These two things work together to create local churches that are rendered irrelevant or impotent. Missions suffer, denominations shrink, and congregations die out. Resurrection power is found only in the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (so help me God).

Our lack of pursuing the truth is shamefully prominent in today’s church. We have, too often, relegated God’s Word to a footnote on what we’d rather do. I have no doubt that I have unwittingly played a role in that from time to time myself. We can offer no excuses—only a promise to put on some spiritual weight from here on in.