Where Are We Now? The Pendulum Swingeth!

Do you ever just stop, look around, and wonder where we are? I don’t mean where we are physically. I mean, do you ever ask yourself where we are as a society, as a culture, and (for all you Christians out there) as a church? I ask myself that a lot.Life can become bewildering at times. That may be true now more than ever. I can’t imagine things being more confusing at any other time in history.

I know people always say that’s true of every age. Every generation thinks things couldn’t get any worse. Yet, things just seem to be absolutely nuts these days.

I suppose much of my perception stems from the fact that we know so much in our era. We have technology that feeds us information 24/7/365. We can travel like no other generation ever could. On top of all that, we seem to have more leisure time than ever before. Consequently, we’re bombarded from all sides with way more than we’d ever want to know or learn.

“A Paralyzing Force”

Too much information is a paralyzing force. At least, it is for my feeble brain. I can’t process everything that enters the portals of my eyes, ears, and brain (not to mention my other sensory organs). Because of that, I’m often held captive by the last thing I heard or saw.

As a result of all this, my thought life often feels like it’s on a pendulum. One day I think things are going to be okay. The next day I can’t imagine ever being able to surface from the quagmire we call life. Coming up for air can be a struggle.

It’s no wonder so many people take their own lives. Coping must seem like an impossible task for myriads of folks. Taking the next step must feel like stumbling off a cliff in the dark.

Take the church, for example. There are days when I feel we’re so irrelevant we could never recover. Sometimes I think we need to get back to first century Christianity. Their vitality and passion was off the charts.

“Join us in our morass.”

Then the pendulum swings back and I’m jolted into a cycle where I’m attempting to move into the twenty-first century. In those times I think most of our irrelevance is due to the fact that we’ve been stuck in the sixteenth century Reformation period. We’ve been there for so long, we think everyone should join us in our morass.

Sometimes I think I’m trying too hard. Other times I think I’m not doing nearly enough. Most of the time, I just hope I’m right where the Lord wants me to be.

Miriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia defines a pendulum as “a weight suspended from a pivot so that it can swing freely. Unfortunately, that seems to describe my life to a tee (all too often). I feel like a dead weight being pushed around by everything that’s happening around me.

 Swinging freely is not always a great feeling. Nevertheless, I’m enjoying the ride.

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

Brew Like a Monk

I just received a brochure from my old seminary. I don’t always pay much attention to these advertisements, but this one caught my eye. I live a bit too far away to take advantage of many of their programs, but I may have to make an exception for this one.

This particular brochure was announcing “a spiritual formation elective.” The names for such elective courses and seminars can be rather innocuous at times. One often sees titles such as “A Walk with Jesus,” or “Conversations with the Spirit of God.” This one seemed like an interesting departure from the “same old, same old.”

“Brew Like a Monk”

The title is “Brew Like a Monk: Fermentation as Spiritual Practice.” How can you pass up a class like that? It’s certainly not something you see every day. Pre-registration for this baby might go through the roof. One thing’s for sure. I need to beef up the titles of my retreats and seminars. They pale in comparison.

The description of the program reads as follows:

“For centuries, beer has been a means for spiritual growth—from monks embracing the contemplative process of brewing ‘liquid bread’ to the ways it has stimulated meaningful conversations when shared. Fermentation as well provides a rich metaphor for the transformation into which the Spirit invites us. Come explore the connections among beer, monastic practice, and spiritual ‘fermentation.’”

Take awhile to let that description soak in.

I particularly like the reference to beer as “liquid bread.” I guess I may have heard it put that way before, but it’s been awhile. It’s definitely catchy.

I Googled the phrase (isn’t that what we all do these days?) and discovered there’s a gastro pub in Campbell, California with that name. It’s not too far from San Jose in case you happen to get out that way.

There’s also a magazine with that title that publishes “beer news.” I know a few people that would love this mag. It, too, is based in California (where else?), centering in and around the bay area of San Francisco.

“Is Beer Actually Liquid Bread?”

In my research, I ran across an interesting article that asked the literary question, “Is Beer Actually Liquid Bread?” You may want to check it out. I won’t tell you the answer here. It was also published by a California concern.

There definitely seems to be a pattern emerging. I checked, however, and found that the leader of the seminary program seems to be from Pennsylvania. I guess California doesn’t have the liquid bread thing all locked up after all.

Actually, the history of beer is a long and storied one. Archaeological evidence for it dates back to 3000 BC (or thereabouts). There are many references to it in Scripture, although many of those don’t place its usage in such a good light. I guess that’s understandable considering how we human beings tend to abuse this noble beverage.

If I can find the time (and the money), I just may have to head back to seminary for a few days.

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

The F-Bomb

 It’s a four-letter word. It begins with the letter “F.” People drop it all the time like it’s harmless (which, of course, it’s not). I’m sick of it!

As you have probably guessed, I’m speaking of food. This habitual word has become the bane of my existence. I just wish I could stop thinking about it. Unfortunately, someone drops that bomb every time I turn around. If they would just stop reminding me of these costly calories, maybe I could make some headway in the wonderful world of dieting.

For much of my life, I was something of a skinny guy. I never had to worry about my waistline, and I certainly didn’t worry about what I ate. It was a beautiful existence.

Things have changed, and I’m not happy about it. There were a couple of times in my life when I gained considerable poundage. My face got chubby, and my overall appearance became a little roly-poly. I was able to deal with those issues in each case and got back down to fighting condition.

“Something weird happened…”

But, something weird happened when I turned sixty-five. I put on weight. In and of itself, this was not overly alarming. What was unusual about this time around was where I put it. My face remained thin, my legs skinny, and my butt is almost non-existent. Every last ounce seems to have been packed onto my midsection. In a phrase, I have a belly to beat the band. I hate it.

Apparently, I don’t hate it enough to lose it though. Every day, I keep stoking the fire. Even when I lose a few pounds, the belly protrudes. It’s just not fair. I’ve got what used to be known as “preacher’s disease,” and I’m not liking it.

I was hoping to find some theological reason for my current condition, but I can’t seem to dredge one up. It seems it’s not particularly Biblical to be overweight. There is one possibility I’m working on that does show some promise.

Eating With Sinners

If you read the Gospels (particularly the Gospel of Luke), you see Jesus eating with almost everyone. He eats with Pharisees, sinners, disciples, tax collectors, and rebellious women. There was something about breaking bread together that fed into (no pun intended) his understanding of community.

My guess is, a good number of those people had less than desirable eating habits. If we’re going to follow in the Lord’s footsteps, we too must eat with all these types of carnivores and pastaterians. I’ve been accused of having a sweet tooth, but it’s merely part of my ministry of consumption.

Still, Jesus is always pictured as being rather bony. While we don’t really know his body type, he did walk everywhere he went (something I’m not prone to do). He probably was on the slender side. On the other hand, I was really slim at thirty-three too.

I guess the Biblical argument for my belly fat is pretty thin (a condition to which I’d like to return).

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