The Wedding on the Ark

One of the ministries I currently offer is Christian wedding ceremonies to displaced Christians, Christians who have no pastor (for whatever reason), and other folks who somehow identify with the church. In this day and age of people who have been displaced from the church for various reasons, there are more of them out there than one might think.

One of those reasons is commonly what we now call “destination weddings.” I end up celebrating a few of these each year. I officiated one of those this past weekend.

Not an Obvious Find

It was somewhat unique in that it was tucked away in a cabin back in the woods. I had the address loaded into my GPS, but I was still a little nervous about locating the place. I could tell by the map it wasn’t going to be an obvious find.

To add to my tension, it poured buckets all day. Flash flood warnings were everywhere. I left early and drove through the downpour with much trepidation. Floods, accidents, and low visibility were fears I was experiencing. I didn’t want to be late, and despite my travails, I was right on time.

I found the road rather easily (kudos to Waze) and discovered that the cabin was back in the woods up a rather steep, winding hill. Since I have a Jeep Wrangler, I wasn’t too worried about heading in. However, I had visions of shuttling people out if the road washed away. It never did stop raining.

Wedding Logistics

The road didn’t wash out, but the hosts had a difficult time getting the crowd up that one-lane, steep, dirt lane. Consequently, the ceremony was delayed for over an hour. As I stood on the deck of the cabin (which, by the way, turned out to be a fabulous place for a wedding ceremony) I marveled at the logistics involved in moving the masses upward. It occurred to me that a wedding crasher was the last of their worries.

As I waited, I went over the service in my mind a few times. Over-preparation can be a killer (check out my first book—The Last Wedding). But in this case, it gave me time to stumble across an idea that I had never used in a wedding ceremony prior to this one. With all the precipitation and the water gushing in rivulets down below, my thoughts wandered to Noah.

It suddenly occurred to me that Noah’s Ark was the perfect metaphor for a marriage. I don’t know why I had never thought of that before, but I’m sure others have used it.

When it came time for the wedding homily, I briefly alluded to Noah building the boat to keep his family safe. I likened it to marriage where we build our home and relationships to be an ark of safety from the storms of life—two by two, no less. I hope the couple liked it. I know I enjoyed the moment (although I did keep one eye on the rising water).

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

Dr. Bumbum

I had never heard of him prior to stumbling across a recent article. I wouldn’t even have given the item a second look had it not been for his name—Dr. Bumbum. As I read the piece, my suspicions that this couldn’t possibly be his real name were confirmed. His actual name is Denis Furtado, he’s from Brazil, and he’s apparently a celebrity plastic surgeon.

From what I can gather, the term “bumbum” is Portuguese slang for the posterior end of the human body. Given the man’s profession, I guess it’s an apt nickname. It would be approximately akin to a guy like me having the nickname, Dr. Bible Thumper (if I actually had a doctorate—which I don’t).

She Died of Unknown Causes

As the story goes, the good (sic) doctor was injecting chemicals into the bumbum of one of his patients when she took ill. He rushed her to the hospital, dumped her in the emergency room, and took off for parts unknown. The big news is, 1) the patient later died of unknown causes, and 2) the police captured and arrested our antagonist five days later.

I don’t mean to make light of this series of unfortunate events, but the fact that this woman wanted her butt enlarged seems a bit ironic to me. From what I can tell, most women I know are looking for ways to reduce their behinds. How many of you husbands have heard this question just prior to taking your spouse out on the town? “Honey… Does this dress make my butt look fat?” I rest my case.

I know plenty of guys with nonexistent butts whose pants are in constant danger of falling down because there’s nothing to hold them up. The females of the species don’t generally have that problem. This was, obviously, an exception to the rule—may she rest in peace.

Not Everything in Rio is a Carnival

Let this be a warning to anyone who seeks buttocks enhancement procedures. My dear departed father used to use the phrase, “a shot in the rear.” He was referring to being caught by surprise. This, in fact, seems to fit right in with his terminology. Both the doctor and his patient got the surprise of their lives (or, in her case, the surprise of her death). She not only lost her life in the process, but she never got to enjoy having a more well-rounded derrière.

It’s been reported that Dr. Bumbum was neither a licensed nor trained plastic surgeon—at least not in Rio where the incident took place. It’s clearly a case of buyer-beware which devolved into a situation of buyer’s remorse. I’m guessing Furtado has a little remorse himself at this point.

The Bible tells us that human eyes are never satisfied. I guess that was the case with the female patient in our story. She obviously looked in a mirror and was unsatisfied with what she saw. As a result, one supposes she is now only seeing with spiritual eyes. Hopefully, she is currently liking what she sees.

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


FOMO is a thing. It’s been around for a while—years, in fact. In case you’ve missed it, FOMO stands for “fear of missing out.” Many of us are inflicted with this disorder which causes us no end of stress and angst. Lots of us are constantly concerned about things that are happening without us.

After years of suffering with this malady, it seems some of us are opting out and moving to a much more peaceful avenue. The new FOMO is JOMO (the Joy of Missing Out). In a state of JOMO, people are unplugging their Wi-Fi, turning off their phones, and leaving their i-Pads in the drawer. It’s their way of avoiding burnout and ulcers. It sounds a bit like the era in which I grew up.

Four Hours a Day

It’s obviously much different these days. I’m told that the average person spends four hours per day on social media alone. I have to admit, four minutes on that stuff sometimes is enough to stress me out. Still, FOMO can reign in my life all too often.

It’s interesting to note that some of the big boys (i.e., Google and Apple) are attempting to help people track their digital usage. I’m not sure how many folks are interested, but it might be a good idea to limit one’s self. Sometimes it becomes addicting. Other times, it just seems like a necessity—whether it actually is or not.

It’s not unusual for my lovely Bride and I to be sitting on our front porch in the evening and hearing her comment out loud, “Take a break, people!” She says this because she has her cell phone in hand and notices some of her fellow staffers from her job still texting and emailing about work meetings. I hate to break it to her, but she DOES have her phone in her hand (hopefully to view the latest videos of the grandbabies).

Don’t Leave Home Without It

As a writer, preacher, and family man, I spend a great deal of time on my devices (don’t you just love that term?). If I leave home and discover I’ve forgotten to grab my phone, I become extremely annoyed with myself. I find this rather peculiar considering I never even owned a cell phone for most of my life (even after they had become popular). Now, as the credit card company promoted, I don’t leave home without it.

I’m sure it’s a good thing that resorts are beginning to advertise “digital detox” vacations. I’d like to take one, but I’m not sure I could go cold turkey. If I can’t run to the drugstore without my cell phone, how can I go to a tropical island for five days sans electronics.

As a Christian, I have to ask myself what Jesus must think of the digital age. I can’t really give you a good answer on that one. I CAN say, however, that you don’t need a cell phone or computer to reach God. He’s always been there and always will be.

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

Why Do We Go to Church?

A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting with some Christians who were complaining about their respective worship services. After listening for a while, I asked them this question. “Why do we go to church?”

It took me a while to muster up that question because I hate that terminology. The simple fact is, we don’t GO to church. We ARE the church. Wherever we gather as the Body of Christ, that’s where you’ll find the church.

I didn’t want to sidetrack my point with a theological discussion of what constitutes the church, so I simply asked the question. I knew everyone would understand what I meant since that’s the way we always phrase it. “Why do we go to church?”

My Lovely Bride

Knowing I’m a retired pastor, everyone got quiet and just stared at me for a few seconds. My lovely Bride was present, however, and saved the moment. She’s never intimidated by me at any level, so she shot back at me, “Okay, Pastor. Why do we go to church?”

I quietly said, “We should go to church to worship.” Everyone knew immediately what I was driving at and the conversation quickly dwindled. We all want to worship, but we want to worship in our own way. Our real problem is with “corporate worship.” When a bunch of us get together to worship corporately, it gets harder and harder to please everyone. If we try hard enough, we eventually don’t please anyone (except God, I hope).

Since the conversation fizzled out that night, let me flesh out my own answer. We go to church to worship. We don’t go to hear a concert. We don’t go for a pep talk. We don’t go to show off our newest clothing or teach our kids how to be nice. If we expect the worship service to be exactly what we want it to be, we’ll be sorely disappointed—sooner rather than later.

A Disparate People

The body of Christ is made up of disparate and varying kinds of people. They’re all on their own journeys through this life as they attempt to be discipled in the ways of Jesus. They all have differing desires, attitudes, and preferences. When they gather together, it’s simply to be with someone of like mind (meaning, people who want to love and follow Jesus). If you’re a part of the body of Christ, you’ll want to worship in conjunction with a group of believers—a community, to be more exact.

Our problem is that we want to walk into a worship service, be entertained, hear a great sermon, interact with as few people as we can, and leave. If you’re one of those people, I suggest you turn on your computer every Sunday morning and find a podcast of a worship service. If you splice a few together, you might get the perfect one.

Simply put, we “go to church” to be with other people who want to worship too. They’re just as flawed as us. Let’s try to remember that.

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

An Old Dog Learning New Tricks

This past Sunday, I was sitting in a worship service with my lovely Bride by my side. Since I retired from the active pastorate, this is one of my weekly pleasures and privileges. Unfortunately, it is also the instigation of a now-weekly thought. The thought is in the form of a question, and the question is this: “Why can’t they play music I know?”

As I stood attempting to sing these (mostly unfamiliar) songs with the rest of the congregation, it really bothered me that this question keeps coming up week after week. The reason it bothers me is because, as a pastor for thirty-eight years, I fought that battle, week in and week out. If I had gotten paid for each time I heard a similar complaint from one of the parishioners, I could have retired at age fifty.

The Problem Was Obvious

The obvious problem was that everyone’s taste was different. When I was pastoring, some wanted hymns, some wanted choruses, others wanted contemporary worship music. Playing to the masses was impossible. If we hired a pianist, people complained because they wanted to hear guitar. When all we had was a guitarist, the complaints got even louder. For me as a pastor, it was a constant source of frustration. Of the several things I don’t miss in retirement, trying to choose music to please the folks in the pews is right up there with business meetings and letters from anonymous critics.

On the other side of things, there was something I had seldom paused to consider in those days. When I did pick out music, regardless of what it was, I knew the selections. If I didn’t know them, I took the time to learn them. I tried my darndest to teach people what I knew, but worship services really aren’t long enough to do much of that. But, at least, I tried. In my defense, no one has attempted much musical direction in the services I’ve attended since my retirement. I could use a tad more of that these days.

I Wouldn’t Whine

Having said all that, I have to admit, it’s not something I’d voice any complaints over. I would never go to the pastor of a church and whine about not knowing the music. The reason for my reticence to do so is found in Scripture. Beginning in Psalm thirty-three, we start reading the admonition which tells us to “sing a new song” to the Lord. We find this repeated in Psalms 96, 98, 144, 149, and Isaiah 42. So what do we do? Publish fat hymnals containing our favorites from the past five hundred years. I guess they’re new in light of eternity (how’s that for rationalization). Regardless, many of them are old and stale.

It’s not all bad, though. The fact is, I’ve heard some dynamite sermons since my retirement. In addition, I’ve struggled to learn some new songs that are quite good as well. I’m an old dog learning new tricks. It’s not easy, but it is gratifying.

A couple weeks ago, I was visiting with some Christians who were complaining about their respective worship services. After listening for a while, I asked them this question. “Why do we go to church?”

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

Bath Tubs and Pain Killers

When I used to hear Pat Boone on the radio in the old days (or see him on TV), I expected to either hear a commercial for a Christian retreat center or a song. Alas, those times are over. In the past two days, I’ve seen and/or heard Pat promoting both walk-in bathtubs and pain relievers. How far we’ve fallen (or aged, as it were).

I remember seeing a young Pat Boone in a starring role when I was a kid. Right there on the enormous, silver screen, he was the protagonist in the great Jules Verne classic, Journey to the Center of the Earth. He and Arlene Dahl journeyed with James Mason to a land beneath our own. It was glorious! Well, it seemed glorious in 1959. That, of course, is the key—it was 1959. I was nine years old, and Pat Boone was twenty-five. Many drops of water have streamed over the proverbial dam (or under its sister bridge) since then.

“It was a bit unsettling…”

While it’s understandable that the eighty-four-year-old Boone would be hawking walk-in bathtubs, it was a bit unsettling to see him in the tub itself. I suppose it will sell more tubs if he demonstrates their comfort and safety, but it’s just one of those things you can’t unsee. Fortunately, you only get to peer at his torso above the armpits. Still, it’s not a commercial I want to watch over and over again.

I don’t mean to be hard on Pat, though. Frankly, I wish I looked as good as he does. Some things in life just aren’t fair. I’m merely using him as an example of how time refuses to stand still.

Dylan and the Byrds

In that famous chapter in Ecclesiastes about everything having its time (the one Bob Dylan and the Byrds made famous in the sixties), the preacher tells us that God “has made everything beautiful in its time.” Apparently, though Pat and I are no longer beautiful on the outside, the Lord still thinks a lot of us (and you). It also states in that pericope that God “has also set eternity in the human heart.”

Living in eternity definitely sets things in a different perspective. Pat and I don’t have to be quite so concerned about gravity messing up our fine physiques or addling our brains. We still care about that stuff, of course. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be doing commercials for walk-in bathtubs and painkillers. Well, HE wouldn’t at least (they’ve never asked me to do one as yet).

Maybe the best line in that entire chapter is verse twelve. It says, “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.” I totally agree, and I suppose that’s why Pat is letting everyone in on the tubs and pills. We’re still living, so tubs and pills are yet highly relevant. He’s doing good by informing us of the latest developments in each. Keep up the good work, Pat.

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

Hoagie Fe Street

We went on a short excursion over the recent holiday and had a wonderful, relaxing time. Nothing like a few days on the river to calm the soul. It was superb.

On the way home, we stopped at a well-known convenience store for a little petrol and something to drink. As I walked in the front door, I glanced at the back of the room. There was a black wall above their beverage coolers which they seemed to be using as a blackboard. Across the top of the wall, the following promo was written: “Welcome to Hoagie Fe St.”

Santa Fe Street?

I immediately thought, “What a strange sounding promotion.” But, I’ve seen some that were way out there, so I took it in stride. I supposed it was some sort of takeoff from Santa Fe Street (although I’ve never run across a Santa Fe Street—but I’m sure there’s one somewhere). Being quite unimpressed, I walked away and quickly forgot about it.

I ordered one of those slushy, cold, coffee drinks; took a number, and waited in line for my thirst quencher. As I patiently stood there, I took special note of one of the gals behind the counter. She was wearing a brightly colored t-shirt with the brand of the convenience store on it. And right there in big, bold letters across the front of the shirt it said, “Hoagiefest.” Being the quick-witted person I am, I quickly surmised I had misread the large promo in the back of the store. It hadn’t said, “Hoagie Fe St.” It said, “Hoagiefest.” My bad.

Actually, it was someone else’s bad. They hadn’t taken good care to the spacing of the letters. Like punctuation, spacing can be extremely important. To be fair, I probably was a tad mindless as I read it. Yet, I can’t help but think a better bunching of the letters would have kept me from walking down Hoagie Fest Street in my mind.


Letters aren’t the only things that need proper spacing. People do as well. In recent days, some rather famous folks in our country have had their private space invaded. It has happened in restaurants, bookstores, theaters, and other public venues. They’ve been accosted primarily for their political views, but the reason doesn’t really matter.

I don’t think it’s written in the U.S. Constitution anywhere, but it seems to me that everyone is entitled to his or her proper space. When we stop being civil enough to allow for that, anything goes.

The prophet Isaiah once pronounced a woe that went like this: “Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land.” (Isaiah 5:8) I’m not exactly sure what he meant, but one thing is clear. Space is important.

To those who would rudely invade the space of another, I say (in the spirit of Isaiah), “Woe to you.” In the words of another prophet, “May the bird of paradise fly up your nose.”

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

Leading From Behind: Part 2

In my previous blog, Leading From Behind, I mentioned Professor Hill’s proposition in the Harvard Business Review that future business leaders would “lead from behind.” In juxtaposition to that, Jesus led from in front—in other words, we follow Him. My own conclusion about today’s ecclesiastical pastors is that they should do neither. They should lead from among the congregations they serve.

Because the church came of age in the time and presence of the Roman Empire, she (the Body of Christ) borrowed from the Empire’s model of hierarchy. The Empire had a Caesar, Governors, Generals, and a whole slew of foot soldiers and slaves. Somewhere along the way, the church adopted such a hierarchy as her own. We simply have different names—popes, bishops, monsignors, pastors, and a whole slew of laity.

Along with adopting the hierarchy, we deemed it to be Biblical because such people as elders, shepherds, teachers, and presbyters are delineated in Scripture. There’s one big problem with this. Even though these offices are mentioned, there is no grand hierarchy affixed to their presence in the church. As a matter of fact, these positions (if you want to call them that) are described as gifts to the church. These gifts are present for a purpose. That stated purpose is to, “equip people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” (Ephesians 4:7-13)

No Grand Hierarchy

A close reading of the New Testament gives us a picture of a church serving together, side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder, arm-in-arm. No one is giving orders, life is shared, and servanthood is the byword of the day. The elders, apostles, and teachers weren’t kings. They were co-workers in Christ. They weren’t generals. They were the servants of all. It’s no wonder their number was added to daily (Acts 2:42-47).

People surrounding them saw a loving, giving group of folks who cared for each other and those around them. There was a strong attraction to such a group. That kind of attraction still exists today.

What doesn’t exist today (for the most part) is the way the church operated in the early days. Back then, preachers preached, teachers taught, encouragers encouraged, administrators administrated, givers gave, those with the gift of hospitality… Well, you get the picture. Everyone played a part, and no one lorded it over another.

Reduced to Two Segments

In today’s church, we’ve devolved into two segments of people. There’s one small group of people paid to do everything (we now call them clergy) and a larger group who chip in a few bucks and observe the clergy (they’ve been reduced to laity). There’s absolutely nothing Biblical about this arrangement.

To make matters worse, many clergy types have become dictators. They like having the authority their congregations hand over to them. They sometimes get burned out, sometimes wallow in their own hidden sin, and always trust in their own ability to lead.

It’s time to put Jesus back out in front where He belongs. He is the only real shepherd after all.

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

Leading From Behind

In her 2010 article, “Leading From Behind,” Professor Linda A. Hill proposed that the most effective business leaders in the future will (as the title implies) lead from behind. She borrowed the phrase from none other than Nelson Mandela. Mandela stated that a good shepherd, “stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”

I am certainly not a business leader, so I can’t effectively comment on how such a tactic would work in the world of commerce. As an employee, I never ran into a business leader who employed such a tactic. In the places I used to work, someone told me what to do, and I did it. (Although now that I think about it, there were times when I led from behind as an employee. But don’t tell my bosses I said that.)

Not Everyone Agrees

One of our more recent presidents has been accused of leading our country that way. In fact, Richard Miniter wrote a book with the same title as Professor Hill’s article about that president’s leadership (or, from his perspective, the lack thereof). Apparently, not everyone agrees with Mandela.

From a theological perspective, I find Mandela’s statement to be fascinating. The reason for this is his statement that good shepherds lead from behind—or as we usually like to say, they drive their flocks. He is literally correct, of course, but there is one notable exception to this. In Israel, the shepherds lead their flocks—they don’t follow them. As we know, in the Old Testament, Israel’s kings were called their shepherds. Israel was to listen to the shepherd’s voice and follow him.

Then Jesus came along. He was referred to as the Great Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20). Jesus verified this in John 10 when he said (among other things), “He goes on ahead of them.” This metaphor would not have worked in another culture where the shepherd followed.

Then arose the church. Somewhere along the way, the church decided that pastors (another word for shepherds) should be like Jesus—they should lead, and the congregation should follow. Sounds a bit scary, but we basically said, “We’ll pay you to speak, and we’ll follow where your voice takes us.” It all sounds good on paper, but it’s neither Biblical nor practical.

Pastors Aren’t Jesus

First of all, the church is an all-volunteer organization for all things at all times. I’ve never run into the parishioner (let alone an entire flock) who does everything the pastor says to do. Secondly, pastors aren’t Jesus. I’ve never known a pastor who has it together like Jesus.

The fact is (at least as I see it), a good pastor can neither lead from behind nor from the front. Pastors can’t sit back and hope the church does everything right, nor can they bark orders and expect things to happen.

In actuality, a good pastor leads from among the sheep. That pastor understands who he (or she) is. [To be continued…]

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

The Picture on the Piano

Now that I’m retired, I often get to sit beside my lovely Bride during Sunday worship—a perk I seldom had in my long life as a pastor. Another perk, which I relish, is attending worship with a variety of congregations of all sorts, shapes, sizes, and styles.

This morning I worshiped with a few new friends in an independent congregation that gathers in the all-purpose room in a local school. Ah, the joys of independence. Not having your own building can be a pain, but the freedom it affords definitely offsets the maledictions it can bring.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the service, there was a single moment that stood out more than the rest to me. The preacher mentioned something that I think about from time to time. The fact that he mentioned it was not as startling as was the way he said it. If I remember correctly, his words were something like, “Someday you will be a framed picture on someone’s piano.” Let that one sink in for a while.

Four Generations

How many people do you remember from a generation ago—two generations ago? Most of us probably can’t pull up very many memories concerning such people. If you have vivid memories of people from three generation ago, you’re really lucky. Even seeing a photo of a family with four surviving generations is a rarity. That certainly didn’t happen very much in my family, and the opportunity for it happening again is fleeting.

It causes me to wonder how long after I’m gone that my framed photo will last on someone’s piano. How much of an impact did I make (even on my own family)? How much of an impression will I leave on the world? We’d all like to think we have some importance as we journey through this world. But most of us produce far less consequence than we’d like to imagine (Facebook not withstanding).

The Apostle Paul warns us not to think more highly of ourselves than we should (Romans 12:3). Still, since most of us are at the center of our own universe, it’s rather tough to follow his suggestion. Maybe that’s why we take so many selfies. After this morning, I’m tempted to come up with a decent photo of myself and get it copied and framed for all who have pianos. Someone’s bound to get the hint.

“A Distant Relative”

The real problem is that soon there won’t be many people left to tell my story. Somebody might be able to say something like, “That guy was a distant relative.” Beyond that, I will just be another pretty face (quit laughing).

Ultimately, the framed photo will end up in some antique shop. No one will buy it unless there’s something unique about it. Eventually, it will end up in a trash heap. I guess the best strategy at this point is to do the most we can with the time we have left. The good we do just might be the only thing that will last.

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