I Believe in the Sun

A now famous poem was found inscribed on a wall in Nazi Germany. Varying stories place its location in different spots. Some say it was found on a cellar wall while others say it was on a partition in a concentration camp. Wherever it was etched, it’s powerful, hopeful, and inspirational. Part of it says the following:

I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.
I believe in love even when I cannot feel it.
I believe in God even when he is silent.

In times such as these, we would do well to grab onto such words and understand them as best we can. When lives are wrecked by violent storms and snuffed out by evil men, there are few things left to which we can cling. Often, our beliefs (and the words which represent them) are the only things we have.

One of the phrases Jesus seemed to use a lot was, “Be not afraid.” Depending on what translation of the Scriptures you check out, you’ll see it alternately rendered as, “Don’t be fearful,” “Fear not,” or “Have no fear.” However we translate it, it all comes out the same. There’s much to fear in this world—some of those fearful things are deep, dark, evil things. Hurricanes, wildfires, snipers, and terrorists are among them. In the face of all these things, Jesus (and Scripture in general) encourages us to set our fears aside.

It’s not that we can become incapable of fear. It’s just that we need not allow our fear to become our master. If the unseen Jesus is our true Master, we ultimately have nothing to dread. Mere head knowledge won’t give that to us. Only our belief in the sun, in love, and in God will accomplish that state of mind and spirit.

It’s More Easily Said Than Done

I realize that’s more easily said than done. It takes a leap of faith. It takes a willingness to grapple with life and reach beyond the visible to a power that is unseen and not truly comprehendible. If a Jew in the midst of the horrors of Nazi Germany could reach out for that invisible strength, I’m pretty sure we can do the same.

I’m not much of a hymn guy, but there are certain ones that seem to pierce my soul whenever I hear or sing them. One of those is “It Is Well.” A friend of mine recently sent me a link to a YouTube video of Jonathan Rourke explaining the story behind that hymn. I will leave you with that same video and encourage you to watch and listen to it. It will be well worth the few minutes you will invest.

Is it well with your soul? It CAN be if only you’ll trust in what you cannot see, feel, or hear. It all sounds like a wild proposition in our day of cynicism and skepticism. Actually, it IS wild. Still, it’s all we really have. Blessings on you this day… It Is Well.

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

Bible Thumper to False Prophet in Sixty Seconds

When you publish things with the frequency that I do, you get a lot of varying reactions. You gain a few readers and make a few enemies. You endear yourself to some and grate on the nerves of other.

I write this blog, Local Church Prisoners, three times a week. I also put out an e-letter, Pulpit Man @ Large, every Friday. As a result, I get a considerable amount of feedback.

“I can live with that.”

I’m not sure what most people think of me (or my musings) because most people don’t offer a written response. There are some, however, who make their feelings well known. Earlier this year, I was called a Bible thumper. The perpetrator of that remark was apparently a non-believer who had a bit of disgust for people like myself. I can live with that. It comes with the territory.

More recently, however, I was accused of being a false prophet. My accuser’s exact words were, “You are a false prophet destroying people and leading them into HELL.” I have to tell you, that remark shook me up a tad. It’s one thing to have an atheist call you a Bible thumper. It’s quite another to have a brother in Christ call you a false prophet.

I guess I wouldn’t have minded so much if he had explained his remarks. Unfortunately, he refused to engage me in conversation. Maybe he suspected I wasn’t worth the trouble. I would have liked to know what the error of my ways happened to be. I’ll never get any better if these things aren’t pointed out to me.

Originating From Within the Body

When these sorts of things happen, I try to console myself with the words of Jesus. Toward the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount he said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12) I just never expect the insults, persecution, and falsehoods to originate from within the Body of Christ. Apparently, I’m naive.

In a case like that, what does one do? The answer is the same regardless of where the insults are initiated. In his first epistle to the church, Peter said, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9) So, according to Peter, we have to play nice with the bad guys (so to speak). Peter’s not alone in conveying these sentiments.

The interesting thing about each of these portions of Scripture is how they’re wrapped up. Both Jesus and Peter indicate we will be rewarded or blessed as a result of the insults, lies, and persecutions. It seems like a tough way to be blessed, but I guess I’ll take them any way I can get them.

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

I Just Didn’t Realize…

Last weekend, I made the 4½ hour trek back to my hometown. I try to do that at least a couple times a year, but this particular trip was for a special purpose. Fifty years ago, I graduated from high school with about 125 other young, aspiring adolescents. I’m not sure what all we were aspiring to, but many of us made it back for the annual alumni banquet.

As soon as I began seeing some of those familiar faces from my past, an unfamiliar thought raced through my mind. I just didn’t realize how much I love these guys (and gals)! I hadn’t seen some of them in fifty years. But I quickly realized that the bond was still there.

“It was a bit gratifying…”

I was a shy, introverted, self-conscious teenager attempting to break out of my shell (probably not very successfully at the time). Because of that, there were many of my classmates I never got to know as well as I should have. Still, it was a comfort and a joy to see their faces—not to mention that it was a bit gratifying to discover they still remember me despite my ingrown personality.

One thing that surprised me was how young they all still look. Sure, we had a couple of wrinkles, a little less hair, and a few more pot guts. But overall, we still seem to have it going on. I’m not sure if that’s just my perspective, or if it’s really true. I suppose a teenager walking into that banquet hall would have merely seen a bunch of old geezers. To me, however, we were still teenagers—a tad more mature and a bit hardened by the past fifty years—but teenagers nonetheless.

I tend to be a bit nostalgic anyway, but this weekend was really good for me. I hope it was the same for everyone else. I’m not sure what it is about nostalgia, but it gets me every time. I’m just a tiny blip on the radar screen of life, so it seems like a really big thing to get back to my roots from time to time.

“No one will even remember…”

My life is quickly passing, and in a couple generations, no one will even remember who I am. But while I’m here, it’s good to know I mean something to at least a few people. The folks who came up and gave me a hug and a big smile mean everything to me. Life doesn’t get much better than that.

Jesus once famously said that the very hairs on our head are numbered (Matthew 10:30). There might be fewer of them to count these days, but they’re important to him—we’re important to him. When everyone else has forgotten us, he’ll remember—in fact, he’ll never forget.

My classmates (as well as many of the other alumni who gathered last weekend) are a part of me. They helped to make me who I am—for good or for ill. May they always be blessed and remembered.

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

Asleep at the Wheel: The Class of ’67

I’ve become one of those old guys I used to laugh at. You know—the ones who always fell asleep in front of the TV set. Now, that’s me. Oh, the humanity!

By the time this hits the blogosphere, I will be wending my way back home from Ridgway High’s Class of ’67 celebration. It’s now fifty years since we’ve graduated. Unbelievable!

It was only yesterday that I could stay up and watch Johnny Carson (anyone remember him?). These days, I can barely make it through the ninth inning of the Pirate game—especially the way they’re playing. But let’s not talk about that.

“Fifty years seemed like an eternity…”

Fifty years used to seem like such a long time. Now, it’s just a long time ago. When I graduated, fifty years seemed like an eternity. Now, it would be nice to think I had fifty years left. On second thought, I’m not sure I’d want to live to be 117. The pot gut and arthritis would be killers by then—they’re bad enough now.

Since this has been written prior to the celebration, I’m assuming we all had a good time. If there ever was any bad blood among us in our adolescence, I suspect it’s all been forgotten by now. Hopefully, only the good memories will remain to discuss. I suppose we’ll make up a few as well.

I just peeked a glance at the schedule of events for the celebratory weekend. Whoever planned this baby out was definitely on their game. The reunion banquet begins with a happy hour from five to six o’clock. Smart… Most of us will be ready for bed by nine.

“A few old Beatle tunes…”

After the happy hour, there will be a buffet, a program, and a DJ. I suppose a DJ is a necessary evil, but I’m guessing most of us would rather just talk to each other. Dancing to (or yelling above) music will not be a priority. It will definitely give my hearing aids a workout. I suppose some of us will bail (just to have a little peace and quiet). I hope the DJ has at least a few old Beatle tunes in the repertoire (anyone remember them?).

The program should prove to be interesting. I’ve been asked to be the designated clergy (translation: say a quick prayer, sit down, and shut up). Anyone who knew me in 1967 will be shocked to see that I’m the one standing up to pray. I’m a little shocked myself. Things were a bit different fifty years ago. I guess I sort of believed in Jesus back then, but public prayer was definitely not my favorite pastime.

This is not my first go around, though. I once attended my lovely Bride’s class reunion and was asked to give the opening prayer at that event. No one knew who I was, so there was no snickering during the prayer. I’m not so sure that will be the case where my past has been well documented. At least it will keep me awake.

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