A lot of people get hung up on titles. I’ve known a lot of clergy types over the years who were like that. If you didn’t call them Reverend, Father, Pastor, Monsignor, or Bishop, they would get all bent out of shape. I suppose it’s a respect thing. Unfortunately, demanding respect is a lot different than earning it. Frankly, once they hang that title in front of your name, that’s when the real earning begins.

When I was ordained, someone asked me what they should call me now that the deed was done. We were with a small group of people at the time, and I couldn’t help myself. I blurted out, “His Holiness.” I was joking, of course, and got the belly laughs I was looking for. What’s really funny is that, since then, I still have friends who will occasionally refer to me as His Holiness.

Late for Supper

As a matter of course, I try to go by the old saying, “You can call me anything but late for supper.” That seems to work pretty well for me (and for my acquaintances). There are still those folks who can’t bring themselves to call me by my first name, but that’s okay. I’m old school on a lot of things myself—just not in the title department.

In this weird stream of consciousness, my next thought takes me to an old Gospel song I haven’t heard in years. I guess it was the word, supper, that did it. It was written by Jim Reeves and recorded by everyone under the sun. I think my favorite version of it was done by Johnny Cash. The song takes the listener back to the days when Mom would call at the end of a long day of playing out in the neighborhood, “Come home, come home, it’s suppertime.” As the lyrics develop, the song then transitions to what the Apostle John calls, “the Wedding Supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:6-9).

“Some days are like that.”

In Revelation, John speaks of a celebration that occurs in Heaven when the Bride of Christ (the church) is invited to come home to a wedding banquet. It’s for that reason (among others) that we in the church often refer to death as “going home.” I remember in my early days as a pastor having a parishioner often say to me, “Dave, I just want to go home.” Some days are like that.

Suppertime is something to which most of look forward. It’s a time of gathering, a time of winding down, and a time of fellowship with the ones we love the most. These days, with much of my family scattered to the four winds, suppertime is a tad less fulfilling than it used to be. I always look forward to those times, mostly on holidays, when the whole family is back together again for a big meal. There’s nothing quite like it. The reunion in Heaven is going to be a doozy. I hear God can really throw a great dinner party.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

The Jeep Wave

My usual form of transportation is a Jeep Wrangler. It’s one of those vehicles that has a tradition attached to its ownership. It’s an unwritten rule that, if you ride around in one of those babies, you’re supposed to give a wave to anyone who goes by in another Wrangler. This is also true of motorcycle riders, and I recently learned that it’s true of Mini Cooper owners as well. If this keeps up, we’ll all be waving at each other in no time.

I find it interesting to see who all lives up to the tradition. I reside in an area of the country where there are lots of Wranglers tooling around, so I’ve done a considerable amount of observation over the past couple of years. The results of my observations are about what one might expect.

They May Not Be Invested

I try to wave every time if possible. Then I intently peer at the approaching driver to see if he (or she) will wave back. About a third of the time, that doesn’t happen. For whatever reason, I don’t get a return wave. That could be for several reasons. They might not see me, they may be distracted, or they might just not want to play nice. I’ve noticed that a high percentage of women don’t bother. My guess is that it’s their boyfriend’s Jeep and they’re just not invested in the tradition.

For the most part, the rest of the drivers give me a wave (including some from the female persuasion). The tradition holds for them. Some are quite enthusiastic about it, some flash the peace sign (do they still call it that?), and if the top is down, many will wave above the windshield.

Then, there are those who are so intent on upholding the tradition that they practically cause a head-on collision attempting to get my attention. I appreciate their zeal, but a little more caution might be the better part of valor there.

I have to say, I like being part of the club (so to speak). There’s something about being friendly with people you don’t know. Not only that, in this case I’ll probably never know them. It’s quite freeing. No drama, no pretense, just plain affability. Admittedly, it’s really shallow, but that seems to be how many of us live our lives these days.

It’s Not Biblical

That, of course, is really un-Biblical. The Biblical model is based in community. The community we see fostered and endorsed in Scripture is of a very profound nature. A simple wave wouldn’t cut it there. The early Christians were called upon to persevere, but they were never asked to do it alone. They were urged to continue meeting together and to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost a lot of that comradery in the church. Often, we’ve been reduced to ducking in and out of a Sunday service as we give the Jeep wave. Heaven help us. We’ve become ships in the night.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

Mary Had Our Little Lamb

The stories of Jesus’ early life are, in many ways, the most fascinating and mysterious of them all. The ones that relate to His mother are particularly rife with human emotion, angst, and devotion. The fact that she played an integral part in the Lamb of God’s human development is often neglected and simply ignored by many of us.

After His birth, we don’t read anything about Jesus until He is twelve years old. You may remember the story. The Holy Family took a trip to Jerusalem along with many other pilgrims of their day. The went there to celebrate the Passover. It was a longstanding Jewish tradition. To this day, Jews all over the world end their Passover Seder Meals with the expression, “Next year in Jerusalem!”

They Were a Nervous Wreck

It was customary for the women and men of the various villages to travel in all female groups and all male groups. The children could travel either with the men or the women. There was no strict custom for them to follow. Because of that, Jesus was inadvertently left behind. Joseph thought He was with Mary, and Mary thought He was with Joseph. After traveling a day, they discovered Jesus was missing and rushed back to the Holy City—probably a nervous wreck.

When they arrived, they searched three days for Him. Scripture tells us that Jesus was in the Temple conversing with the teachers (who found Him to be amazingly wise and thoughtful). Mary, however, was in no mood to be swayed by a bunch of old men. In typical Jewish mother fashion, she gave Jesus a piece of her mind. Though He thought he was doing what the Lord wanted Him to do, he went with His earthly parents and, apparently, didn’t cause them any more problems. At any rate, we don’t hear anything else about Him until he’s in his late twenties.

At that point, John’s Gospel places Jesus, His mother, and His disciples at a wedding in Cana. I’m guessing you’ve heard the story. The bridegroom runs out of wine and is about to be totally humiliated. Mary cajoles Jesus to do something, but Jesus tells her in no uncertain terms that His time had not yet come. In other words, no miracles today, Mom.

The Same Woman

The same woman who dragged him out of the Temple when He believed He was doing God’s will, now forced His hand to begin His public, earthly ministry—much to His chagrin, I might add. Mary stopped Jesus from ministering when He was twelve and pushed Him back into it when he was twenty-nine.

As Mothers’ Day approaches, I think it’s imperative for us to remember the importance of earthly parents. If Jesus needed them, how much more do we. God the Father used a young woman of humble birth to not only parent His Son, but to direct His footsteps in ministry.

There’s something fascinating about the God of the Universe being vulnerable to this Jewish handmaiden. What’s a mother to do?

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

Charlie Blackmon & the Samson Syndrome

In case you’ve never seen Charlie Blackmon, he’s one of the premier players in major league baseball today. Besides being a great hitter, one of his claims to fame is the fact that he looks like a caveman. He has a shaggy mane on his head, but his most prominent feature is his magnificent beard. It’s thick, full, and dark. Most guys would love to be able to sport facial hair like that. Some of us can’t even get that kind of a mop on top of our heads let alone our chins. Very manly to say the least.

Baseball is one of those games that hangs on statistics. They measure everything. Now they’re measuring Charlie Blackmon’s performance against his facial growth. As it turns out, he has the Samson Syndrome.

Remember Samson?

You may remember the Old Testament story of Samson. He’s the guy whose strength was in his hair. The longer his hair got, the stronger he became. It’s kind of an odd story, but Blackmon is proving the reliability of its historicity.

Baseball announcers and statisticians have gone back into Blackmon’s baseball career and discovered an interesting correlation. The bigger Charlie’s beard gets, the more home runs he hits. One year, he shaved it off and his homer total dropped to one during the subsequent season. Ever since then, he’s allowed it to propagate, and his homer totals have climbed. Last season, he hit thirty-seven. It’s definitely the Samson Syndrome.

Here Come the Judge

The original Samson was a “Judge.” If you read the Book of Judges, you’ll quickly discover that a judge in the ancient history of Israel was not what we envision these days. These Judges were basically temporary leaders in a time when there really were no leaders. Undoubtedly, each family, clan, and tribe were rulers unto themselves. But it seemed that in times when things got exceptionally bad, a “Judge” would arise to help them out of one morass or another. Most of them probably never knew they were judges, but there was no salary attached to the position, so I doubt if they cared.

The story of Judge Samson begins in the context of a forty-year, Philistine occupation which resulted from Israel doing “evil in the eyes of the Lord.” (Judges 13:1) The Israelis were prone to this sort of behavior, so they needed a Judge once in a while to lift them out of a mess of their own making.

Samson had apparently taken the Nazarite vow. Part of the vow was to never apply a razor to one’s head. Consequently, Samson’s hair grew long, and his body grew strong. He strength was so great that he once tore a lion apart with his bare hands. He also was credited with several other feats that were equally jaw-dropping before his wife (Delilah) betrayed him and cut off his hair. Sans coiffure, he lost his strength and was defeated.

All I’ve got to say is this. Charlie Blackmon, let that beard continue to grow (and don’t get married).

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]