Aunt Thede’s Good Book & The Marriage Covenant

Sola Fide
by Rev. E.B. Holschuh

 

Aunt Thede’s Good Book & The Marriage Covenant

 

            I remember that my grandmother never missed an episode of the old western tv series “Gunsmoke.” As an adult, I, too, became a fan of the show—in fact, Marshall Matt Dillon is one my heroes, along with Captain Kirk and “The Rifleman” Lucas McCain, guys with morals and courage who never left a call to do what’s right unanswered (unlike so many in the real world). The other day I caught a “Gunsmoke” episode about a wayward aunt of Festus Haggen (Dillon’s right-hand man) who rides into Dodge City looking for a husband. Aunt Theodore is a self-proclaimed preacher down from the hills who wasted no time putting up a still since, as she chides Festus over his concern about illegal moonshine, “Wine and nectar, it’s in the book, and you know that!”

 

The “book” Aunt Thede is talking about, of course is the Bible (and I’ll look again, but I’m quite certain there’s no provision for moonshine in it); however, the book she has in her hand is “Little Women,” popular in the post-Civil War setting of the show. It turns out that most of the Haggen clan, including Festus and Theodore, can’t read. Aunt Thede journeyed from Missouri to Kansas with a couple of “reedy” folks (meaning they could read) who gave her a parting gift of the book. Festus took it to the General Store to find out the name and when the storekeeper saw the title, he told Festus that he was surprised to find his aunt with “a good book.” Festus thanked him then left without learning the true title…

 

Aunt Thede, mountain preacher and purveyor of firewater, believes she’s been given God’s Word and that it must be a sign. Toward the end of the episode, she tells a young couple she’s about to marry that “the Lord gave us a sign and we know ain’t none of us complete all of ourselves…it takes two to make one and that’s the Lord’s way, because he’s been blessing marriages since the first of things.” After inquiring whether they are truly in love, she tells them to “set your hands on the Good Book gentle-like,” then to pray silently that the Lord would know “we mean right and proper in all this and we swear it on His Book.” Aunt Thede is certain that she’s married them.

 

In the May 3 issue of The Week magazine, I read an opinion piece entitled “What’s the Point of Marriage?”, in which the author, a woman, about a quarter of the way into the article asks a pair of ladies-and-gentlemen-of-the-jury style rhetorical questions: “Isn’t it reasonable to question the value of a legal contract, written in ink, on paper, that involves disastrously punitive terms of dissolution? What kind of an old-fashioned mutant could crave such a primitive trap, particularly when it’s paired with an enormously expensive ceremony that often includes allusions to obedience and lifelong mutual suffering and death, of all things?”

 

Marriage is a covenant, a sacred bond between a man and a woman instituted by and publicly entered into before God, according to Whom marriage is fundamentally a matter of a man and a woman becoming one flesh (Genesis 2:24). Marriage is a three-way covenant between husband, wife, and God, a permanent contract between a man and a woman established before God as a witness. It’s not necessary to swear on a Bible (or a copy of “Little Women”), but a public ceremony is meant as a proclamation of faith and celebration of commitment. Marriage is meant to be a blessing to all parties involved, husband, wife, and children—a divine gift that’s not disposable. Sex equals marriage in God’s eyes…promiscuity, then, becomes the sin of adultery.

 

Though God is never mentioned in the 1,700-word article in The Week, the last word is, somewhat ironically, “grace” and answers the title question (What’s the point of marriage?). The marriage covenant, consummated with solemn vows and sexual union, is sealed with God’s grace. Aunt Thede was right…

 

“It takes two to make one and that’s the Lord’s way.”

Pastor E.B. Holschuh serves at Zion Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Alamo. He is a retired Navy Senior Chief and former English and Russian teacher. 

The Calibration Prayer

Sola Fide
by Rev. E.B. Holschuh

The Calibration Prayer

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

 

“Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

 

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:7-16 ESV)

 

Jesus tells us “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them…”

 

My father was an alcoholic and during my childhood I can remember hearing the Lord’s Prayer at the close of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings—in fact, that’s where I learned to recite it by heart as a little kid. AA members—in a very Christian vein, though obviously not in the soteriological sense—are reminded to admit daily that they cannot help themselves, but to “Let go and Let God.” In my entire life I cannot think of a time that I did not believe in a God who was responsible for everything in my world, but it was not until my adult life that I began to converse with him. My personal prayer time occurs every morning before my feet hit the floor, in the quiet of the new day.

 

Martin Luther believed that all Christians to some extent are theologians. In 1539 he wrote about “the way taught by King David (and doubtlessly by all the patriarchs and prophets) in the one-hundred-nineteenth Psalm. There you will find three rules, simply presented throughout the whole Psalm. They are Oratio, Meditatio, Tentatio.” (that is, prayer, meditation, and trial). In Psalm 119, David cries out to God for understanding of his Word (prayer); he himself tries to understand God’s Word (meditation); and he is faced with repeated difficulty (trial). Today’s Christian and the Christian of Luther’s day are really no different. God knows who we are and what we go through, which is why He provided us a simple and straightforward means of communication with Him through Christ in the Lord’s Prayer.

 

I have taught the Lord’s Prayer in Sunday school class and I am fond of referring to it as the “calibration” prayer—when not recited rotely, it truly can help the helpless (i.e. us sinners) not just dialogue with God, but refocus and re-center the relationship between us (God as Creator, Benefactor, and Protector—we as self-centered, disobedient, and undeserving of even a glance from God in our direction), as well as strengthen our resolve to endure life’s trials knowing that through faith in Christ God has our back.

 

The Lord’s Prayer as we recite it in the Lutheran Church (as in many other Protestant churches) has the added conclusion: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.” This “doxology” appeared in the 17th century King James version (once the “standard” Protestant Bible).

 

Additionally, many folks don’t know how to pray, not to mention why to pray and for what. The Lord’s Prayer is a great place to start a conversation with God in repentance, gratitude, and exaltation!

 

Pastor E.B. Holschuh serves at Zion Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Alamo. He is a retired Navy Senior Chief and former English and Russian teacher. 

Church of the Empty Tomb

Sola Fide
by Rev. E.B. Holschuh

 

I am the pastor of a Christian church in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley that welcomes over a hundred returning Winter Texans through its doors each year. Zion Lutheran Church is a 90-year-old congregation, but time has left its mark upon the inside and outside of our church. Here in the Valley, not unlike most other parts of the country, fewer folks are drawn to Sunday worship, for whatever reason. Language, denomination, and church name—once easy markers for identifying a Christian church in the neighborhood—might seem these days more like code to be deciphered by those seeking a church home (or, perhaps, looking for an Easter worship service next week).

 

In our neighborhood, there are a handful of churches within walking distance of each other. Two have denominational names, another calls itself a “community” church, and another uses a metaphor for its name. And in a widening radius, there are many more with names in English and Spanish that may or may not advertise a Christian house of worship. One website (thomrainer.com) notes that, over the last decade or so, more churches have cropped up under names like Journey, Bridge, Foundry, Mosaic, and Generation, while others are branding themselves as new: New Life. New Hope. New Song. NewPoint. NewPointe (an added “e” for distinction). Still others have a New-Testament-esque Greek name like Eklessia or Koinonia or Agape.

 

Even the tradition of using a saint’s name (as with many Roman-Catholic churches) or attaching “St.” to a prominent New-Testament name, such as the ubiquitous “St. John,” which often denotes a more mainstream Christian congregation within, seems to be falling out of fashion. So how does the person looking for (or at) a Christian church make sense of all the name/denomination variations? What though crosses the mind of the passer-by who catches sight of the name Zion Lutheran Church?

 

It’s possible that in this new era of bicultural and bilingual neighbors, as well as spiritual ambivalence, my church may be experiencing something of an identity crisis. To folks with only a cursory knowledge of the Bible, the “Zion” may be misconstrued as a surname; and I’ve found that amid a predominately Catholic population, the name “Lutheran” may come off as almost cult-like.  (I have been asked more than once if Lutherans are Christians.)

 

Most Winter Texans migrating south from the Midwest grew up with Lutheran churches all around them and look for one down here like some Americans look for a McDonald’s in a foreign country. As for the locals—wouldn’t a less-puzzling name make it easier on them?

 

So I got to thinking—what doctrine should all Christian churches have in common? The answer jumped right off the calendar at me: Easter Sunday! What all Christian believers have in common is the doctrine of the Empty Tomb on Easter Sunday! Certainly most non-Christians and non-churchgoers ought to have some familiarity with the story of Jesus’ crucifixion on Friday and resurrection on Sunday. Then what about “Empty Tomb,” as in “Church of the Empty Tomb” or “Empty Tomb Christian Church”?

 

Succinct enough. Doctrinally accurate. Perhaps too macabre.

 

Hmm. On second thought, putting “Tomb” in my congregation’s name in a world obsessed with the undead may convolute what Christians believe about resurrection and the afterlife,and the zombie culture with its lack of purpose, lack of joy, and relentless urge to consume is hardly looking for a church (but it sure could use one).

 

The Church of the Empty Tomb. I’m certain there’s one near you, even if there is “Lutheran” or some other name on the sign. What better time to visit than Easter Sunday?

 

You might even catch a passing reference to an apocalypse.

 

Pastor E.B. Holschuh serves at Zion Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Alamo. He is a retired Navy senior chief and former English and Russian teacher. 

The art of coveting

Sola Fide

Rev. E.B. Holschuh

 

            An article about a thief caught my eye in a recent issue of The Week magazine. It struck me as a great topic for a Lent devotional, an opportunity to look at God’s Law, how sin pollutes even the kindest of hearts, and God’s solution to our 10-fold problem: We just can’t obey God’s Law, instructions meant for everyone on Earth long before there were Christians.

 

In the second book of the Bible, Moses brings the Ten Commandments down from Mt. Sinai (Exodus 32:5-16). The first three tell us how we should live in relation to God; the remaining seven tell us how we should live in relation to our fellow human beings. Lutherans look at it in the form of the Cross: our vertical relationship with God, then our horizontal relationship with others, distilled down to what’s known as Christ’s Law.  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

 

From the beginning, we’re to have only one God, we’re not to disgrace His name, and we’re to go to church.  Next come the seven don’ts—don’t neglect/abuse your parents, murder, cheat on your spouse, steal, say mean or false things about others, nor covet…wait…what? Covet? Yes, covet. If sin were a baseball bat, coveting would be the sweet spot.

 

According to The Week, Frenchman Stephane Breitwieser “has robbed more than $1.4 billion worth of art from nearly 200 museums and steals like he’s performing a magic trick, without violence or a frantic getaway. When he sees a piece he likes, says Breitwieser, 47, ‘I get smitten. Looking at something beautiful, I can’t help but weep.’ He never sells anything he steals, but simply brings the work home to adore. ‘The pleasure of having,’ he says, ‘is stron­ger than the fear of stealing.’”

 

Coveting is a stealthy sin that manifests itself in the behaviors of the self-righteous, the self-absorbed, the self-loving and self-gratifying.  Let’s face it; coveting is the dark art of not just desiring but getting what we want (what doesn’t belong to us, in most cases). It means obsessing over something, believing we can’t be happy without it, or trying to figure out how to get it. Coveting is dissatisfaction with all God’s given us—believing that we know what we need and what will make us happy better than God does.

 

We covet to fill a need or void, to have something we think we deserve, even if it’s something (money, property, spouse, job, status, etc.) that belongs to someone else. Coveting replaces our God with one or more little gods and is the catalyst for crime, whether art theft or something more violent, like murder or rape. Coveting breaks up families and infects our relationship with God and others.

 

This Lenten season, I am trying to focus more on all that God has given me, in spite of my daily transgressions rather than on what I don’t have. I am trying to focus more on the Cross, where Jesus endured the wrath of God for my sin, in place of me. I am trying to remember daily that, in Christ Jesus, I have everything I need.

 

Stephane Breitwieser “is perhaps the most prolific art thief in history.” God, on the other hand, is the most prolific artist in history. When we dabble in the art of coveting, we, too, are art thieves, the likes of which Breitwieser pales in comparison!

 

Pastor E.B. Holschuh serves at Zion Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Alamo. He is a retired Navy senior chief and former English and Russian teacher. 

Caring Resources Ministries International Accredited by National Financial Accountability Organization

SAN ANTONIO, TX – The ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability) announced today the accreditation of Caring Resources Ministries International (CRMI) of San Antonio, TX.

 

ECFA accreditation is based on the ECFA Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship™, including financial accountability, transparency, sound board governance and ethical fundraising.

 

CRMI joins a growing number of Christ-centered churches and ministries across America, supported by over 27 million donors, that have earned the right to display the ECFA seal.  When an organization is accredited by ECFA, it demonstrates its willingness to follow the model of biblical accountability.

 

“We are pleased to accredit a ministry committed to serve to increase the kingdom of God,” said Dan Busby, president of ECFA.

 

Founded in 2002, Caring Resources Ministries International (https://www.crmintl.org) through its division known as Christian Resort Ministries (CRM), accomplishes their mission by placing qualified and trained chaplains in RV resorts across the US; working with owners, managers, and leaders in the RV industry to present quality programs for resorts and campgrounds; sharing their mission with churches, mission committees, and pastors; and offering the opportunity to industry leaders.

 

ECFA, founded in 1979, provides accreditation to leading Christian nonprofit organizations that faithfully demonstrate compliance with the ECFA Standards pertaining to financial accountability, fundraising, and board governance. For more information about ECFA, including information about accreditation and a listing of ECFA-accredited members, visit www.ECFA.org or call 1-800-323-9473.

 

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer chaplain with CRM, you can contact the organization at 970-420-9525 or visit the website:  https://www.crmintl.org

 

CRM currently has over 35 chaplains serving in the ministry.

H-E-B to Present McAllen’s 90th Annual Independence Day Celebration

Texas-based grocer will host, honor veterans and current serving military

With people making plans for the summer, the City of Mcallen is preparing for the 90th Annual Independence Day Celebration, this year, proudly presented by H-E-B.   The City of McAllen and H-E-B are proud to celebrate the nation’s birthday in one of the largest community events held in the city and together, to honor all veterans and current serving military for their service.

 

“H-E-B is proud to be the presenting sponsor of this year’s 90th Annual Independence Day Celebration,” said Linda Tovar, H-E-B Senior Manager of Public Affairs.  “We are honored to celebrate this Fourth of July with the City of McAllen, and to pay tribute to the many men and women of our military.”

Kicking it Off

The annual Independence Day Celebration will kick off with an early morning patriotic program, beginning at 8:00 a.m. at the Parade Grand Stand at Archer Park, 101 N. Main Street.  The 4th of July Main Street Parade begins at 9:00 a.m., heading north along Main Street, starting at Houston Street and concluding at Cedar Street at Archer Park. Freedom Festival, a family-friendly festival will be held at Archer Park immediately following the parade until 2:00 p.m.  Music, food, games and artisans will be some of the highlights of the event.

Make Waves & Stay Cool

For those who wish to celebrate the 4th of July by making waves, enjoy Aquatica Extreme at the Municipal Park Pool, 1921 N. Bicentennial Boulevard, from 1:00 p.m. through 4:00 p.m.  While this event does have an entry fee of $2.50 a person, there will be games, contests, crafts, music and more to help keep everyone entertained. Make sure to stick around for the Concert in the Sky Fireworks Extravaganza at Municipal Park, where games, food and entertainment pick up the celebration at 7:00p.m. and culminate with a sizzling fireworks musical display at 9:00 p.m. that enchants everyone in attendance.

Join the Festivities

The City of McAllen Parks and Recreation Department is currently accepting entries for this year’s festivities. Businesses, civic and youth groups, and nonprofit organizations, and especially, veterans and veterans’ groups are invited to participate in the parade and other festivities. All entries should feature a patriotic theme.  The deadline to submit applications has been extended to Friday, June 22, at the McAllen Parks and Recreation Department, located at 100 S. Ware Rd.

Watch

The parade will be carried live on the McAllen Cable Network, now found on Spectrum Channel 1300, as well as on the City of McAllen website and Facebook Live.  Additionally, the fireworks show is set to music; listen to the patriotic line-up on KURV-AM.  For more information, please contact (956) 681-3333 or visit www.mcallenparks.net.

What’s so great about retirement in South Texas, anyway?

Let me start out by offering a quick disclaimer:  I’m not retired.  Unfortunately, I’m far from it.  And, I’ve never been to retirement destinations in Arizona or Florida, so I personally have nothing to base this column on except the conversations I’ve had over the last 10 years with the hundred-thousand-plus (yes, 100,000+) Winter Texans who come to the Valley each year.

Now that that’s out there – back to the question.  What is it that makes the Rio Grande Valley such a wonderful place to ‘winter’?  First of all, we want you here.  WE are lucky to have YOU, not the other way around.  Not only do you energize our local economy, but you also bring your time and talents to so many of our schools and nonprofit organizations.  In Texas, we don’t see you as ‘snowbirds.’  We see you as one of us, so we gave you a name to prove it.  To us, you are Winter Texans.  We are also incredibly friendly people by nature, so the friendliness of our people is just as important to the Winter Texans we visited with as what you’ll read below.

 Next…well…you just can’t beat the cost of living.  Some people say it’s cheap down here, but we prefer the term ‘affordable.’  Your hard-earned money goes farther down here.  Period.  Trust me, you’ll save the money you spent on gas and then some.  We know it’s a long drive.

 Another great thing about South Texas is the sense of community.  All of our RV resorts and retirement communities are incredibly welcoming.  Almost all dances, craft shows, entertainment, jam sessions, and meals are open to the public, so you can zip from one resort to another without a worry in the world.  We have a wide variety of festivals and events outside of the RV resorts, as well, so you can find yourself at a world-championship barbecue contest one weekend and a butterfly festival the next!  You might even hit both the same weekend!

And we haven’t even talked about the weather!  We have great weather.  Our ‘winter’ lasted about four days in 2017, and while the locals called in sick, wore parkas, and complained an awful lot,  there were sightings of Winter Texans on bicycles sporting long pants and a light jacket.

The Rio Grande Valley is a wonderful place to live.  Now that’s something I can speak on as a ‘resident expert.’  I’ve lived in McAllen most of my life (40 out of 47 years!).  We know you have choices when it comes to retirement destinations, but we also know you’ll love it here, so we kindly ask that you give us a try.  Sure, it’s a long drive.  Once you hit the Texas border, you still have 10 hours before you see our smiling faces.  But, trust me and the 100,000+ Winter Texans who call the Rio Grande Valley their home away from home–it’s definitely worth it!!!

Safe travels, and see you in South Texas soon!

We’re just connecting the dots,

Kristi

Kristi Collier is a McAllen native who loves to share her passion for the area with others.  Her company, Welcome Home RGV caters to the Winter & Converted Texan market through their events, activities, special interest publications and more.  For more information, call the Welcome Home RGV office at 956-687-5115 or visit their website at www.welcomehomergv.com or on facebook at facebook.com/whrgv and  facebook.com/wintertexan.