The Next Step


Here are my thoughts for Ascension Sunday, 24 May 2009. The Scriptures for this Sunday are Acts 1: 1 – 11, Ephesians 1:  15 – 23, and Luke 24: 44 -53.

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There is an old Chinese proverb that says that “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” There is also a corollary to this saying that says that those who can’t teach become administrators but I will save any discussion of that for a latter time and place.

Naturally, I would disagree with that proverb. Up until the writing of this piece I thought that this saying came from many who disagreed with the nature of our educational system. And my own experience suggests that there are many in the educational system who could not survive in private industry with the same education that allows them to be teachers.

Now, before anyone (and especially teachers) gets really bent out of shape with this idea, let me put forth another idea. Are you a practitioner of the subject who happens to teach or are you someone who teaches the subject? I am by training and preference a chemist but I find my interests and desires lie in chemical education. I have a friend who is an artist first and enjoys transmitting the joy of sculpture and painting to his students. But there are many teachers who have the certification to teach subjects like chemistry and art but approach the subject from the standpoint of only teaching the information. In too many situations today, we have people teaching subject matter but who only have a basic understanding of what the subject is about. They have enough information to teach students the subject but not enough so that they themselves can utilize it in other settings.

In today’s world, what this has done is create a situation where we are teaching facts and figures, without any respect to how the information is applied. In a recent discussion on the CHEMED list (a discussion list for chemical educators), it was noted that we are fast preparing students who know how to look up the answer to a question but who cannot come up with a solution through thought and analysis. Our students are very proficient in the use of the modern calculator with its graphing capability (where were these calculators when I was in high school!!) but have no idea if the answer that they come up with has any validity in the real world.

One of the reasons that I was drawn into chemical education research was that I was fascinated by how students learned and what one could do to improve that learning. One of the things that I discovered in preparation for my doctorate was that the majority of experiments in chemistry are designed to prove what was said in lecture was correct rather than providing the data necessary to confirm the theory. And too often, the work that is done in the classroom only serves to reinforce the present instead of providing the basis for students to develop their advanced thinking skills.

Now learning takes many forms but one model (Bloom’s Taxonomy) identifies three different domains or areas of educational activity: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. Each of these domains has a specific area of interest; the affective deals with growth in feelings and emotions, the psychomotor domain deals with the development of manual or physical skills, the cognitive deals with the development of mental skills and knowledge.

In the research that was done to identify these three areas, it was shown that there were sublevels in each area. Within the cognitive domain, these sublevels can be identified as:

  1. Knowledge (dealing with the recall of data or information)
  2. Comprehension (dealing with the understanding of the information)
  3. Application (using the knowledge in new situations)
  4. Analysis (separate the parts of knowledge into components so that it can be understood)
  5. Synthesis (building from the analysis and putting different parts together to form new information)
  6. Evaluation (making judgment about the value of ideas)

(Adapted from “Learning Domains or Bloom’s Taxonomy”)

Now, the problem with America’s educational system is not that we have too many unqualified teachers (which is still a problem) but that our educational system concentrates only on the first two levels of this taxonomy. Very little is being done to move beyond the simple absorption of information and its recall for a test; too often, students will memorize countless reams of information for a test and promptly forget it, even if it is necessary for future learning and examinations.

And any learning process that focuses on the lower levels of thinking is not going to create situations whereby the upper levels can even begin to be applied. And they cannot be done through instruction and memorization; there must be an active involvement of the student in the learning and it is something that they must internalize. (For a discussion of this moment in a student’s learning process see “The AHA! Moment”)

If we do not provide those opportunities, then our students are never going to develop the thinking skills that are going to be so needed in the coming years as we find ourselves incapable of solving the problems that we now face and unable to determine solutions for the problems that we do not even know about at this time.

And it is a problem that the church faces as well. Now some may tell me that the church’s problems are more in the affective domain than they are in the cognitive domain (and I would have to agree). But the challenge of the church to find its mission in this world has to be seen in the same light as any other problem that society faces.

The old ways haven’t worked and the new ways aren’t doing the job that they need to be doing. And I think the reason for that is the same reason that we are having problems with our educational system. We are not allowing those special moments that internalize the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

We are too much like the people who are expecting the 2nd coming of Christ and the establishment of the New Kingdom in the 1st reading for today. With the ascension of Christ into Heaven, the people are already talking about the 2nd coming without having experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The same is, I believe, true today. Too many people in churches today are more interested in establishing some sort of heavenly kingdom here on earth today but they are doing it without the Holy Spirit. It is their kingdom that they want to establish, a kingdom where they can dictate how people think and behave. They cannot stand the thought or possibility that individuals can come to Christ on their own or that they can find the presence of Christ in ways other than what they think are appropriate.

To me, that moment that we call being born again is a personal and internal process; it cannot be accomplished by someone else on your behalf nor can someone else dictate to you how you will receive the Holy Spirit. But others can show you the Holy Spirit and others can provide the opportunity for you to encounter the Holy Spirit.

Harvey and Lois Seifert in their book Liberation of Life wrote,

This internalizing of openness to God and concern for neighbors is what it means to be a Christian, rather than simply to act like a Christian. That the church can produce this kind of person is a persuasive recommendation for the church.

Within the fellowship of the church, we help one another become such Christians. Here we can become comrades of our better selves. We support one another in our highest resolves. An entire searching congregation turns our attention to the liberation of unrealized possibilities as we respond to the upward call of God. Even one other person or a small subgroup within the church can sustain our determination to spend more time at devotions and to act differently in society.

In such a combination, we are to love both God and neighbor. We cannot fully do either without the other. We reach the ecstatic heights of a devotional life only as we also act creatively in society. Full creativity as consumer, worker, citizen, and friend is possible only with the vision and power that comes vital devotion. To “turn on” is to “turn up” toward God and to “turn out” toward neighbor. The two wings of soaring, liberated life are indeed devotion and action.

They also wrote that those two wings were personal piety and community charity.

An ancient saying suggested that there are two wings by which we rise, one being personal piety and the other community charity. No one can fly by flapping only one wing. It is impossible to be sincere in our worship of God without expecting to do the will of God. It is equally impossible to do the full will of God without the guidance and empowerment of a vital personal relationship with God. As Allan Hunter has said, “Those who picket should also pray, and those who pray should also picket.” The same combination of devotional vitality and social action is also emphasized in the two great commandments of Jesus — to love God with all one’s being and to love other persons as ourselves (Matthew 22: 36 – 40). (Harvey and Lois Seifert, Liberation of Life)

The church cannot be a community of itself for to do that is to shut its doors to the community outside its doors. A church which shuts its doors to the outside community becomes a collection of individuals who have shut the door to everyone, including Christ. As individuals who have accepted Christ as our Savior, we are part of a community and we are charged with taking the Word out into the world.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian and martyr for the faith, wrote,

Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community. Alone you stood before God when he called you; alone you had to answer that call; alone you had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and give an account to god. You cannot escape from yourself; for God has singled you out. If you refuse to be alone you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called. Luther said, “The challenge of death comes to us all, and no one can die for another. Everyone must fight his own battle with death by himself, alone . . . I will not be with you then, nor you with me.”

But the reverse is also true: Let he who is not in community beware of being alone. Into the community you were called, the call was not meant for you alone; in the community of the called you bear your cross, you struggle, you pray. You are not alone, even in death, and on the Last Day you will be only one member of the great congregation of Jesus Christ. If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ, and thus your solitude can only be hurtful to you. Luther also said, “If I die, then I am not alone in death; if I suffer they [the fellowship] suffer with me. (“Life Together”)

If you believe that Jesus is the Lord and Savior of all and your words, actions, thoughts, and deeds reflect that, then you are an evangelical. If your words harmonize with the examples given to us by Jesus, then you are an evangelical, whether you claim to be one or not. (Duncan) Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, tells us that he has heard of the faith of the people of Ephesus. He has heard of their faith, which means that the people are living the faith and they are evangelicals.

Clarence Jordan, who wrote the Cotton Patch Gospels, said that evangelism was declaring the Good News about all that God is doing in the world. While he emphasized that evangelism includes challenging individuals to yield to Jesus, to let Jesus into their lives, and to allow the power of the Holy Spirit to transform them into new creations, he also made it clear that evangelism is much more than that. It also involves proclaiming what God is doing in society right now to bring about justice, liberation, and economic well-being for the oppressed. It was a call to the people to participate in this revolutionary transformation of the world.

For Clarence Jordan, evangelism was the declaration that God, right now, is changing people and changing the world. This, he said, requires not only preaching, but also the living out of the kingdom of God “in community” and in social action. His work in founding the Koinonia farm was his way of showing the world how to put words into action.

We are at a special moment in time with this Sunday. We, through the eyes of history, know what is to come. We also know that we have to each take the next step, the step in which we open our hearts and minds to the power of the Holy Spirit. When we accepted Christ as our Savior, we began that process. Now, we must complete that process and take the next step. The Holy Spirit will come and we must be ready and then we must be prepared to go out into the world and help others to see and feel and know the presence of the Christ in their lives.

Where Did He Go?


This is a sermon that I gave at Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church on Ascension Sunday (1 June 2003).   The Scriptures for this Sunday were Acts 1: 1 – 11, Ephesians 1:  15 – 23, and Luke 24: 44 -53.

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Traveling around the country has given me opportunities to see many things, among them churches. Over the years I have played a game guessing the denomination of the various churches that I drive by. Though it is not a perfect technique, it is getting so that I can spot a Methodist Church from 500 feet away.

Another thing that I have observed is that as you go from the countryside into the city, the nature of the architecture of the church changes. For the most part, this new architecture is not bad. Churches need to show in some way that they are a part of the society in which they exist and that they are in touch with the people of the community.

We certainly have come a long way from the days of churches like the Methodist Church in Cades Cove, NC (part of the Smoky Mountain National Park). There you have a church where the men came in through one door and the women and children through another.

But when churches take on the look of businesses or other buildings and you have to guess what it is, then you are getting away from the concept of what a church should look like. There is a church in Springfield, MO, that, were it not for the windows in the shape of cross built into the front of the building, you would think is nothing more than one of the many businesses along Battlefield Road.

The church has always had a problem being a part of society. By its very nature, it must be separate from the society in which it resides if its message is to have any meaning. But at the same time, as the church stays outside of society, it risks losing touch with those in society who need what only the church and its mission can provide.

You would be surprised how many churches insist on reading the scriptures from the King James Version and not some of the more modern translations. Some even say that the King James Version of the Bible is the only true translation. But a translation written in the essentially archaic language of 17th century England, with “thee”, “thou”, and “thy” is most certainly going to turn away people seeking a message which speaks to them today.

During the 1980’s, there was a movement in self-help philosophy, commonly called “new-age.” It emphasized the self as the solution to the problems around you. Many churches decried this approach because it quite rightly took God out of the picture. But I think that many of the solutions that churches came up with in response were as equally bad and merely designed to package the church in such a way to get people to come to church.

And that is what bothers me about the new churches in this country. What I have seen more and more is that what are clearly churches no longer include “church” in their name. Instead of churches, we see “worship centers” or “life centers”. Many don’t even advertise their denomination.

When you come into the auditorium where the services are held, you see theater type seats rather than the traditional wooden, straight-back pews of the old church. Now I can appreciate the replacement of pews with soft, comfortable seats, having endured my fair share of the hard benches, but the purpose of church is to make you think, not necessarily to make you comfortable.

Instead of an altar, many of these new modern churches have broad stages designed to put on musical productions and utilize other forms of worship. But in creating these new forms of worship, they have thrown out the Gospel music of old and replaced it with “scripture songs” and “praise songs”. Some of this new music is good and should be included but I, like others, find this new music merely repeats the same words and melodies over and over again. Nothing in these new songs shows the beauty and depth of God’s nature in life and again does nothing to challenge the listener or cause them to think about who they are. (From Connections, February, 2002)

Similarly, many of the pastors in these “new-age” style churches present a message that very rarely speaks of the issues of today or how God can show us love and promote justice. And the more I hear some of these preachers, the more I have to wonder if they have forgotten that there is a New Testament in the Bible. They preach a message that brings back the wrath of God and speaks of a way of life that abuses people rather than makes them equal in the ways of the life. If what drove people away was a lack of receptivity to the needs of the world, I do not see how preaching a message that does not include the love of God found in the New Testament will actually bring them back.

But what may bother me the most is that these modern churches, with their emphasis on reaching out to the younger population and encouraging them to come back is that nowhere on the stage in which the worship is held is there a cross. It is the cross that is central to the Gospel message and it is the cross that offers us a visual image of the hope and promise of tomorrow.

But since the purpose of the modern worship service is to help the worshipper feel comfortable, to put a reminder that we are sinners and that Jesus died for us because we are sinners can only make the observer uncomfortable. What we have to realize is that many of those who are not attending church today were turned off to the archaic nature of the worship service of their childhood and the lack of receptivity of the church to modern problems. But simply modernizing the service and making the people comfortable in their worship does not help them answer the question of how to find peace and comfort in a time of stress and turmoil.

People come to the church to find Jesus, the promise of hope and peace. But they do not find him in these modern churches, where style matters more than substance, where the wrapping about the package matters more than what is in the package.

The early Christians didn’t have any of these problems. Meeting in a public place was cause for concern since, especially in the early days following the resurrection, there was fear that the authorities would arrest them for being followers of Jesus. And finding Jesus was not a problem, for He was right there with them, proof that the resurrection was not a rumor and that the promise of the Gospel was true. Their problem was that Jesus was going away and they did not know where He was going or what they were going to do with Him gone.

And that is why we have today. Today is the fulfillment of the resurrection and God’s plan. The suffering of Christ on the cross and the resurrection from the dead are only two parts of the whole story. Christ’s ascension into heaven completes the plan as it was outlined in the Law of Moses and told through the Prophets and the Psalms. His ascension shows that He, Jesus, was truly the Son of God and the fulfillment of all that was foretold. Now the disciples can carry out the mission of preaching repentance and calling for the people to turn from their own selfish ways to follow Christ. From this day forward, the disciples’ preaching would center on God’s gracious offer of forgiveness to all would believe.

The message of the disciples carries through to today. The building in which a congregation meets does not carry the message of hope, promise, and salvation; it is the people in the building that make up the congregation. That is what Paul was telling the Ephesians. The message of faith that was not told by the building in which they met but rather by how they, the members of the church demonstrated the faith that they held.

The challenge before us is to find ways to let people know that the church is here and that there are things being done in which they can participate. There is nothing wrong with a non-church organization holding its meeting or event at a church, just as long as that organization’s goals and objectives are not in conflict with the basic goals and objectives of the church. And there is nothing wrong with a church holding an activity in the church or on the church grounds that is purely social and not overly religious in nature.

For the church, we must understand that such activities are an important part of the church life and that to turn them into worship experiences will turn people away from the church. And those who come to the church for the social activities must also understand that such activities are in no way a replacement for the central activity of the church, worship.

As we go across this country, we are going to see many different churches, each unique in some way. But if the congregation which meets in that church does not exhibit the love and carrying for the people of the community in which they live, the uniqueness of the building is not going to be of any consequence.

We are called, through our faith, to meet the needs of the world by practicing the radical love and seeking the justice that Jesus taught and lived. People are seeking comfort and peace in this world. They will come to the church once in order to find that comfort and peace. The age of a church and its architectural style are not what is important; if there is no promise of hope and peace, then the people will not come again. They will leave still looking for Jesus and wonder where he went.

But, if the people who make up the church are active in seeking the way of Christ in this world, of seeking justice and righteousness for all, and practicing the love that is what the Gospel message about then they will know where He went and where to find what they are looking for.

Keys To The Car


This is a sermon that I gave at Walker Valley United Methodist Church on Ascension Sunday (4 June 2000).   The Scriptures for this Sunday were Acts 1: 1 – 11, Ephesians 1:  15 – 23, and Luke 24: 44 -53.

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This sermon comes with a warning for all those seeking to ask their parents for use of the family car or to get a car of their own. This will not help; in fact, it is quite likely that parents will use this sermon as a reason for not giving a son or daughter the keys to the car.

To a fifteen-year-old, the most momentous day of his or her life is the day they turn sixteen. I can remember the joy and exultation I felt when I was a junior at Bartlett High School and found out that I had to take driver’s education in order to graduate from high school. This meant that I would get my driver’s license much earlier than I thought. My father had been telling me that I could not get my driver’s license until I was out of high school.

Of course, after I got out of college and had my own car, I found out very abruptly when I paid my first car insurance bill just why my father didn’t want me to drive. After all, I was the oldest of the four children and would cause, when I got my license and the right to drive, our insurance rates to go dramatically up. Having a driver’s license not only brings with it a freedom to do a lot of things, it also brings with it a great deal of responsibility as well.

Sometimes that responsibility can be a heavy load. When I was a sophomore in high school, the kid next door desperately wanted a car of his own and the right to drive it. His desire to do so was so great that he promised his parents that he would actually study and bring his grades up. This rather dramatic appeal so impressed his parents that they agreed to get him a car if he were to raise his grades to a more presentable level of “C+” or better and keep them there. This, admittedly, makes sense only if you understand that this kid’s grades at that time were like a submarine, below “C” level.

Now, after he had the car a few months, his grades returned to their normal level and his parents were faced with the dilemma of what to do next. They felt that they could not take the car back because they had given their word that he could have a car. But he had failed in his responsibility to keep his grades at the proper level, so something had to be done. So, the parents let him keep the car but took the tires away. So he could sit out in his car but he couldn’t go anywhere.

Getting the keys to the car represent a decision on your part to accept responsibility. Accepting responsibility is this Sunday is about. With Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the responsibility of taking the Gospel into the world is transferred to the disciples. It is interesting that this Sunday comes as we have concluded the quadrennial General Conference and the yearly Annual Conference. These meetings were designed to address the issues of the church’s role in the world.

Some may see a crisis in the church; others may see a crisis in what the world and wonder why the church is not doing more. If we are called to evangelism — calling people to knowledge that Christ is Savior and Lord — we must understand what God is doing in our history and how He is calling us to join Christ in his action in the world. Evangelism, in other words, must point to the presence of Christ as Lord in the affairs of the world and to the call of Christ as Savior of each of us. In this way, we see Christ calling us to abandon our worldly ways — our petty tribalism, our limiting sectionalism, and our own personal selfishness — and accept his grace in such a way that we, as forgiven sinners, can work as servants of His kingdom within the kingdoms of this world.

There is the temptation to forget that the need to see Christ working within the variety of struggles in our time also carries with it the need to see Christ as the one calling us to repent, to die to our selfish ways, and be converted, rising again to a new life with Him, as we learn to be free to serve our neighbor. If we are not careful, we soon forget that the evangelistic task of the church is the framework by which we see our service to the world.

At the time of the first reading and the closing of the Gospel, the disciples were more concerned with the date of Christ’s return.

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1: 6)

But Jesus replied,

“It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.” (Acts 1: 7)

Rather, as Jesus pointed out in verse 8, it was their job to carry His message throughout the whole world.

“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1: 8)

Being a witness was Christ’s command to His disciples to tell others about Him regardless of the consequences. God empowered His disciples to be faithful witnesses even when they faced the most vehement opposition. Eleven of the twelve disciples, the exception being John who died in exile on the island of Patmos, became martyrs. That same power for witnessing is available for us today. Our task is not to convince people, but to testify of the truth of the Gospel.

Paul, in his letter to Ephesians, emphasizes the rewards to be gained from being Christ’s witnesses in this world.

“so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.” (Ephesians 1: 18 – 19)

But being a witness to Christ in this world can and is a very difficult thing. Some, when faced with the call to follow Christ and accept the responsibility of being His disciple, simply let things slide. They feel that following Christ is not worth the effort or the price. To them, the cares and concerns of the real world outweigh the rewards of a life lived in Christ.

Others decide to go it alone, to take it upon themselves to do everything that must be done, ignoring others. Yes, we come to Christ individually and the decision to follow Him is ours and ours alone. No one can tell us what to do in that regard; we cannot tell someone else what to do, either. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who opposed the Nazis during World War II wrote,

Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community. Alone you stood before God when he called you; alone you had to answer that call; alone you had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot escape from yourself; for God has singled you out. If you refuse to be alone you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called. “The challenge of death comes to us all, and no one can die for another. Everyone must fight his own battle with death by himself, alone. . . I will not be with you then, nor you with me” (Luther).

But the reverse is also true: Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. Into the community you were called, the call was not meant for you alone; in the community of the called you bear your cross, you struggle, you pray. You are not alone, even in death, and on the Last Day you will be only one member of the great congregation of Jesus Christ, and thus your solitude can only be hurtful to you. “If I die, then I am not alone in death; if I suffer they [the fellowship] suffer with me” (Luther). (From Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

You cannot come to Christ through the community; you must come to him alone. But, having come to Christ, you are no longer alone. You are a part of a community.

Whatever the case, the church must be there. It is to be the beacon by which others may see the truth and it is to be the source of comfort for those who weary from the battles of daily life. The church must be more than just a building in which people may feel comfortable.

Churches for the most part have always been structures that one could easily identify. They have always represented a place where a person knew that they could find solace and comfort.

This internalizing of openness to God and concern for neighbors is what it means to be a Christian, rather than simply to act like a Christian. That the church can produce this kind of person is a persuasive recommendation for the church.

Within the fellowship of the church, we help one another become such Christians. Here we can become comrades of our better selves. We support one another in our highest resolves. An entire searching congregation turns our attention to the liberation of unrealized possibilities as we respond to the upward call of God. Even one other person or a small subgroup within the church can sustain our determination to spend more time at devotions and to act differently in society.

In such a combination, we are to love both God and neighbor. We cannot fully do either without the other. We reach the ecstatic heights of a devotional life only as we act creatively in society. Full creativity as consumer, worker, citizen, and friend is possible only with the vision and power that comes from vital devotion. To “turn out” is to “turn up” toward God and to “turn out” toward neighbor. The two wings of soaring, liberated life are indeed devotion and action. (From Liberation of Life by Harvey and Lois Seifert)

There was a day in your life when you looked forward to getting the keys to the car. It meant freedom and gave you the ability to go beyond the limits of the world you lived in. But in taking the keys to the car, you also accepted responsibility, to take care of the car and be respectful of other people, to buy gas and pay for the insurance.

This day is about is accepting responsibility, of accepting the charge that Christ gave to us that day some 2000 years ago — to be his disciples throughout the world. Christ’s death on the cross gave us a freedom from sin and death; it opened up the heavens to us. But it also brings with it the responsibility of taking the Gospel out into the world, through our thoughts, our words, and our actions. It is not an easy responsibility to accept and sometimes we feel that the price to pay, the burden to carry is too great.

Put it is a burden that we need not carry alone; it is a price that we not pay by ourselves. The church today can and must be the symbol of Christ in the world and it must be that place where we can be drawn together. As a united body in Christ, we can pay the price and we can carry the burden.

Bowling and Church


Ordinarily this Sunday I would be writing with regards to the lectionary and what it means to me. But this is the one weekend that I am not physically in church. For the past twenty-nine years I have participated in what is now called the USBC Open tournament. It started rather inconsequentially when I bowled in the 1978 tournament in St. Louis as a last minute substitute. The next year I bowled as a member of a team from Chillicothe, Missouri. Then in 1980 I obtained a spot for a team of my own and brought my own team. Over the years, this has expanded to where I am bringing four teams to the tournament in Corpus Christi.

These twenty people are a rather diverse group of individuals with only the common goal of bowling in this tournament. I know most of them and asked them to come. Others have asked friends of theirs and thus we have the twenty people who make up the four teams.

This year is rather special in that one of the twenty, Ken Baker, is receiving his twenty-five year plaque. This plaque is given to a bowler after twenty five tournament appearances. He joins Sam Howell and me in this “club”. Sam received his 25th two years ago and I will receive my 30th next year (if God is willing and the creek doesn’t rise). And all of this occurred because we wanted to bowl in the 1982 tournament in Baltimore.

What does bowling have to do with religion? It has been suggested that the Egyptians bowled; we know that Martin Luther bowled. Bowlers are often called “keglers”; kegler is derived from the phrase “to beat the devil.”

It has been said that the bowling was a part of the Reformation Age church. There was a lane in the center aisle of the sanctuary and worshippers would throw a ball down this lane towards the pins (generally a nine-pin setup, not the ten-pin set up of today). If they got a strike, it was sign that they had led a righteous life during the past week; if they didn’t strike, it was a sign that something was lacking.

It should be noted that the lane that one rolled the ball down was much narrower than the lanes of today. The ball was smaller and did not have the thumb and finger holes of today’s equipment. Unless you really worked at, the ball was going to go into the gutter many more times than it was going to hit the pins. So getting a strike was far more difficult than it is today.

But I suppose that doesn’t change the idea behind the weekly tournament. Unless you work at your game, you are not going to be successful. If you do not work on your spiritual life, then you are not going to be successful in that regard as well.

We may not all be good bowlers. After twenty-nine years, I still am working on the nature of the game. But we can work hard on our lives and our relationship with God; we do not need a weekly session on the lanes to do that.