Winning Streak

ucla bruinsMy sports teams all won this weekend. Well, almost. The Mariners were crushed by the Cardinals yesterday, after defeating the St. Louis crew on Saturday. But last night, the Seattle Seahawks humiliated the 49ers, 29-3. On Saturday, the Washington Huskies thumped the Illinois Illini, 34-24, in a game that wasn’t as close as the score shows. And the UCLA Bruins embarrassed the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 41-21, outscoring the Huskers 31-0 in the second half. In fact, the Pac-12 schools playing non-conference games were 7-1 this week, the only loss to that pesky Ohio State team over the Cal Bears. For a sports fan with my preferences, it was a great weekend. What a winning streak!

But I know it won’t last.

I have been studying the book of Hosea recently. Boy, that guy sure needed a winning streak! He finally gets in a position to start a family, and the Lord commands him to go choose a wife from the village prostitutes. He selects Gomer, a name I think might be a nickname because it means “Complete One,” as if she is the ultimate prostitute in town. Then Hosea and Gomer begin to have children, so there must be something good going on in their house. But God directs the naming of these babies, and they receive unusual names to say the least. The last two are particularly troubling. Gomer give Hosea a daughter, and he names her “Not Loved.” I know this is a big symbolic name picturing the relationship between the Lord and Israel, but what about the little girl? The name makes it sound like her father has rejected her. How would you like to go to a new school and introduce yourself as “Unloved”?

The third child, a boy, is given the name “Not My People.” Again, I know about the symbolism, that this is a sign that the Lord has rejected Israel as his people, at least temporarily. But this sounds a lot like “No Son of Mine,” as if Hosea is casting suspicion on the male parentage of the baby.

The story line of Hosea is hard to follow, but chapter 3 seems to indicate that Gomer leaves him to return to the prostitute community. This will not do, and the Lord commands Hosea to go redeem her for money (from her pimp?), to bring her home, and to love her. Hosea had to swallow every ounce of his patriarchal pride to obey, but he did. He had been on a losing streak for a long time, but it only takes one win to start a new streak.

I’m sure one of my teams will lose next week, although you never know. UCLA is playing New Mexico State, Washington is playing Idaho State, and the Seahawks are playing Jacksonville, so the streak might be intact for one more week. Does it matter? Not really. In the end, I don’t want sports to override my desire to obey the Lord. I don’t want my winning streaks to be based on athletic teams. I want to be like Hosea when it comes to following God’s will. That is a winning streak that is worth striving for, and I want it to be intact for the rest of my life.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

Why Celebrate?

Lords-SupperThe Lord’s Supper is an ancient ritual that has survived 2,000 years of change in the church. It has been the subject of many controversies:

  • the possibility of the change of the elements into the body and blood of Christ
  • the frequency of celebration
  • the proper celebrants and participants
  • the use of alcoholic or non-alcoholic wine
  • the yeast content of the bread, whether all should drink from one cup
  • the proper words of institution
  • etc.

My beliefs here are quite simple. They can be boiled down to three primary things:

1. Our celebration of the Lord’s Supper is a type of reenactment of the Last Supper that Jesus had with his disciples, and is a time of fellowship of remembrance.

2. The Lord’s Supper is best done every week. This was the pattern of the early church and I think there are good reasons for this.

3. The celebration of the Lord’s Supper is the primary reason for the gathering of the church weekly.

I have had opposition to all three of these points in churches where I have served or been a member. The most opposition has come from #3, because very few churches see the celebration of the Lord’s Supper as the most important thing they do on Sunday.

I have led seminars on this topic, and I usually begin by asking a room full of church leaders, “Why do you have the Lord’s Supper at your church?” I think there are a couple of valid answers to this question, but I am amazed that many times no reason is given at all. Often a reason is, “That’s what we have always done.” This is partially correct, but not in the way it is usually intended to be understood. What most people who say this mean is, “I have no idea why we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. This church started doing it before I came and we have just kept doing it.” What would be correct is to say, “This is what the church has always done, clear back to the first century.”

My point in this blog is to say that if the leadership of a church does not know why they celebrate the Lord’s Supper, one of two things should happen.

1. Quit celebrating it.

2. Study and come to a consensus on why you observe this ritual. If you cannot, see option #1.

I hope that we continue the weekly celebration of the Supper of the Lord. I hope I will always be able to find a church where this is the case. I hope our worship times don’t squeeze it out as something that is a hindrance to church growth.

One last thought: if the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in a church has defaulted to the worship leader, that church probably doesn’t care about it very much. I know there are exceptions to this, but I think this is generally the case.

Mark KrauseNebraska Christian College

Labor Day Thoughts

Labor-DayWhy do we have “Labor Day” in America? I think that if this question were put to many people under the age of 20, they would not know. Labor Day has become nothing more than another Monday holiday where some people (government workers, bankers) get a final three-day weekend to mark the end of the summer season. The purpose behind this named holiday is vague at best.

A firmly established idea in the American system is that having a “holiday” gives status and prestige to certain things. Even though “holiday” is derived from the church calendar (“holy day”) and its many feast days, the term means little more than a day off work, paid for some people. The most recent campaign for a new national holiday was fought over Martin Luther King Day. It is a good example of the forces at work in establishing a national holiday. King’s actual birthday is January 15, but the attraction of another three-day weekend for workers and the resort industry made “King Day” into a celebration that takes place on the third Monday of January, not on his birthday. King Day is still widely resisted and resented by some folks for various reasons. These range from employers not wanting to add another paid holiday, to those who resist anything they see as a mandate of the federal government, to those who are outright racists (and other reasons). Yet I think King Day is here to stay, and will probably take on a certain degree of irrelevance over the years and just become a three-day weekend in January for ski trips and winter youth retreats.

There are a couple of newer contenders for holiday status in the mix. Some want to christen September 11 as “Patriot Day,” in remembrance of the terrorist attack in 2001. There is a congressional mandate that requires colleges and universities to recognize “Constitution Day” on September 17, the brainchild of the late Senator Robert Byrd, who included the mandate in a congressional spending bill in 2004. Others have suggested adding a Monday holiday in February after Super Bowl Sunday to give everyone a chance to recover from the celebration (this has been a serious proposal).

Other holidays have seen their popularity wane. We don’t do much for Columbus Day any more. I remember big ceremonial tree plantings on Arbor Day in my childhood, but now I don’t even remember when it is. Earth Day had some juice for a while, but does not seem to be gaining a foothold.

It saddens me a little that Labor Day does not carry any sense of honoring the Labor Movement anymore. I know that Big Labor and unions are out of favor for many Americans. They are seen as evil, even by those who have benefited from labor’s battles for better wages and workplace rules. I recently read that 25% of American jobs now pay less than $10/hr, or less than $20,000/yr if projected to full-time employment (many of these jobs are part-time). I don’t know if that is true, but that is a very sad statistic if it is even close.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College