Pastor's Blog

It was a warm August morning when I applied for the position of “pulpit supply” at Mountain View Chapel.  I put on my best suit (my only suit!) and tie and went for an interview at the home of one of the elders (actually, the only elder!).  Upon pulling into the driveway, I saw a man in working clothing bent over the open hood of a red Ford pick-up.

               “Hello,” I called.  “I’m looking for Mel Zohe.  I’m here for an interview about the church position.”

               The man under the hood of the truck poked his head out.  “That’d be me,” he said.  “I’d shake your hand but…”  He let out a little chuckle and displayed his oil-covered greasy arm, and invited me into his home for the interview.
               That Saturday morning snapshot captures so much about the faithful elder with whom I served side-by-side for the past thirty years and whom I came to know and love.  This morning I presided over Mel Zohe’s funeral – a plain and simple no-frills event consistent with the man himself.  “Why make a big fuss?” Mel said as we were planning the funeral last week.  “I’ll be with my Lord and Savior, and to be honest with you, I won’t care at all about what’s going on down here!”  So, while Mel is joyfully distracted, I feel a need to sing the praises of this unsung hero of Mountain View Chapel to the many of you who might not have known him or met him.

               The history of the earliest years of our church is not pleasant.  While I’m sure there were some good times and good people, the minutes of board and congregational meetings long past and the stories told me by former attendees paint a picture of a struggling congregation often divided by bickering factions, misspent funds, and a few episodes of sexual indiscretion by church leaders.  No pastors stayed longer than three years.  They either left out of discouragement or were asked to leave by one of the infighting factions.  During these unstable times when leadership was lacking, Mel Zohe stepped in to try to fill the gap.  Mel had no ministry-training or higher education.  He was a tool-and-die worker who had come to Christ as a young man and who understood faithfulness and commitment to a task.  He never seemed to ask whether he was qualified to do something.  If it needed to be done, Mel simply jumped in and quietly looked for a way to get it done.

               When I came to Mountain View as “pulpit supply” in 1982, I discovered that not only had Mel Zohe been serving as elder – getting speakers for the church every Sunday, running board meetings, and handling all leadership responsibilities -- he was also keeping the church’s books and paying bills (the treasurer had left over some petty issues without a care about who would take care of the church finances).  Mel was also planning special church events and overseeing the Sunday school – because there was no one else to do it.  Mel was also the “missions committee” – a task he inherited when others quit.  As others began to attend we were able to pass some of his duties on to them.  Mel served as an elder faithfully until 2011 when his Parkinson’s disease forced him to resign his duties.

               In these latter years Mel had begun volunteering at the Boyertown Senior Center, helping “older people” – some of them younger than himself!  One of the leaders of the Senior Center who attended the funeral told me that Mel was one of the most enduring and faithful volunteers they have ever had.  If he saw a need, Mel Zohe worked to meet it without being asked.  Just a few months ago Mel became aware of a need at the Senior Center, and asked me if he could make an announcement to the folks at Mountain View about it.  He reminded me that if he was to make the announcement, I’d have to give him a head start getting up to the podium because he was pretty slow getting around with his walker!  The thought that he was incapacitated or that someone else could make the announcement never seemed to occur to Mel.

               Though sidelined from eldership by his illness, Mel refused to be sidelined from ministry to others.  He felt that he had something to offer to those who had life-altering illnesses, and with the help of Ruthanne Bozenhard, began a support group for those with life-altering illnesses.  Not many people came – but that didn’t bother Mel (or Ruthanne).  One of the pictures etched in my mind is Mel’s car pulling into the church parking lot on a Thursday afternoon, and Mel slowly making his way up the steps to the foyer of the old building, where he would sit and wait faithfully every week, sometimes praying, sometimes reading his Bible, but always hoping that someone in need would show up to whom he could offer encouragement.  Some would call this poorly attended venture a failure;  but I can’t help but think that when God measures things, faithfulness can be as important than “success” – and maybe moreso in some cases.
               The last few months of Mel’s life involved a recurring cycle of bouncing from home to hospital to rehab and then home.  A few weeks ago, at the family’s bidding, I presented to Mel that it might be better to quit this cycle, and just stay home, be comfortable, and simply live out his last days without the difficulty of physical therapy that didn’t seem to be doing much for his failing body anyway.  Mel considered it for a moment, and then said to me, “I think I’d rather keep fighting for awhile yet.”      He fought for almost a month, working to regain the ability to walk and care for his own basic physical needs. 

Late in the evening of Saturday, November 2, 2013, Mel’s body lost the fight.  He is now joyfully distracted from all of life here in the presence of Christ, and I have no doubt that he has heard the words “Well done, good and faithful servant!” – to which I can only say “amen”.  I will miss Mel greatly.  My prayer is that God will raise up a few more in our church just like him – people who don’t fear their limitations or the size of the task, who don’t say “I can’t”, but who ask “What can I do?” – and who do it, quietly, behind the scenes, and without fanfare or notice:  “as unto the Lord”.

For those interested in learning a little more about the differences between views on the age of the earth (but don't want to read really long, detailed, technical books) here is a wonderful series of articles on the subject.  Each author presents his point of view and each view is then critiqued by the other authors.

http://www.thepoachedegg.net/the-poached-egg/2012/09/three-views-on-the-age-of-the-earth.html

All three views, as presented in these articles, are not a problem at Mountain View Chapel.

At the moment I feel that the best solution to the difficulties between Genesis and the scientific data lies in the direction presented by Davis Young.

 

There is a new fad among runners:  running in your bare feet.  Man was born barefoot, it is said, and so running barefoot is natural and must therefore be a good thing and better for you.  Shoes are artificial and interfere with natural ambulation.  Ancient man very early on disagreed with this view of things and made shoes.  I agree with those many ancient tribes and will continue to put money into running shoes with strong arch support.

Many in our society assume that natural is good and man-made is unnatural and therefore, most likely, not good (or even harmful).  Nature is pristine and good and best left as it is.  Tampering with it in attempts to improve it is a violation of nature and is not good.  Assumptions like this drive much of the environmental movement and the growing interest in things like organic foods and alternative medicines, as well as the hostility to eating animal products, genetically-modified plants, and use of vaccinations and pharmaceutical products for both animals and people.  Some equate “living naturally” with “living God’s way”.

But is everything natural good?  Hurricanes, floods, lightning are natural.  Lightning rods and sump pumps aren’t.  Sunshine is natural but sunblock isn’t.  Viruses and bacteria are natural as are poison ivy and deadly nightshade.  Rats and rattlesnakes are natural.  So are great white sharks.  And all of these things doing what they do, living as they live, is natural.  We may not like the idea of being struck by lightning, being consumed by flesh-eating bacteria, or being eaten by a great white shark, but we would never accuse them of doing anything unnatural.  They are just doing what they are made to do.
 
So why is the same standard not applied to mankind?  Isn’t humanity natural?  Are we not natural beings?  Why are man’s natural survival behaviors violations of nature?  Why is man set AGAINST nature rather than seen as just another part of the natural flow of things?

What was man made to do?  God put man in the garden of Eden “to till it and keep it”:  to farm.  But farming is, by nature, almost completely unnatural.  Farming involves artificially disturbing the ground and tampering with the natural growth of vegetation.  It involves providing nutrition for the plants if the plants aren’t finding sufficient nutrition in the soil.  It involves protecting the plants from insects or bacteria or too much sunlight or choking vines.  It involves artificially providing water when nature fails to do so.  All of this is unnatural. So should we stop farming and go back to picking nuts and berries and digging out roots because “natural is good”?

When we get down to the basic principles of views of the world, one either believes that matter (nature) has always been here and is ultimate, or that an ultimate “someone” was always here who brought matter/nature into existence.  If you believe the former, then you elevate and maybe even worship nature and that which is natural in some way, shape, or form.  This is the way of most of the ancient world and most ancient religions.  It is also increasingly the way of the modern world.

Judaism (with Christianity following) introduced a different view that elevated (and worshiped) the ultimate “someone” that created nature.  Humanity, it says, is not an invader of nature.  Rather, humanity is a part of nature, and more than that has a position OVER the rest of nature (Genesis 1.26-28).  Nature is put here FOR man – and man is here for nature.  The biblical religions stand against reverence for nature as divine.  Man is the responsible steward, controller, tamer, and director of the use of the creation.  Where nature seems hostile to humanity, man must strive to overcome it and make it useful (Genesis 3.17-19).  Mankind’s manipulations of nature are natural.  It is what he has been made to do.  Humanity has a history of doing this very thing:  improving nature, taming it, conquering it, and bringing it into submission.

Because people interfered with nature we live in a world where tuberculosis, polio, smallpox, pertussis, and diphtheria (to name a few) are no longer scourges to be feared, stealing away our children in infancy or condemning them to being invalids for life.  But we don’t think of that.  We are the heirs of the intervention of previous generations of people and thus take their absence as “natural”.

Apples, tomatoes, grapes, corn, and most fruits and vegetables, as they occur in nature, are much smaller, are less resistant to insects and bacteria, have smaller yields per plant, and are often less juicy and less tasty than after they have been genetically modified by human intervention.  But we don’t know that because the only “natural” foods we know (including those labeled “organic”) have already been genetically modified for generations.  To us, big beefy tomatoes are natural.  But they really aren’t.

God’s way is not necessarily the “natural” way.  God created nature, but he created it for man’s use.  God’s way includes man’s creative intervention in nature and the improvement and responsible use of all things natural.  This is, in part, what “having dominion” is all about.  Certainly not all productions of human interference in nature are good.  But such products ought to be written off as harmful or dangerous only with solid evidence that they are so – not merely on the basis of the erroneous assumption that “natural is good” and “unnatural (or man-made) isn’t”. 

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