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 ( 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.