3.26.15 Insight from Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality at Saint Paul School of Theology at OCU. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. For 25 years, Amy has taught theology and history, pursuing scholarship in service of the church.  

I love these questions raised in the GPS for today. “Picture yourself taking a walk with Jesus in a royal garden. What do you say? What does he say to you?” It took many years into my Christian walk for me to let Jesus walk with me in everyday life. It’s so easy to keep Jesus at arm’s length, to keep him safely on pages inside the Bible, or to put him on a pedestal, or even to keep him on a cloud somewhere at a distance.

The good news in these verses from Revelation is that God’s deepest desire is to share our lives, to dwell with us. That is paradise–to dwell in God’s abundant life. For me, this is a daily awakening to the presence of God in my life, here and now. The Holy One who created me has created a home for me, and for all of us, in this paradise flowing with abundant life for all.

Today, right now, stop and close your eyes. Breathe deeply and relax. Picture yourself with Jesus, walking leisurely through a lush garden. What does it look like? Smell like? What are your feelings as you walk along beside him? Let him call you by name. Just be with Jesus and see what happens.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

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3.25.15 Insight from Angela LaVallie

Angela_LaVallie[1]Angela LaVallie is the Worship Logistics Program Director at Resurrection. She oversees preparing the Sanctuary for worship, supports Vibe worship and volunteers in the Student Center, provides oversight for Holy Communion at the Leawood campus, and assists with worship logistics at conferences.

It just doesn’t seem fair when others get what we have worked for. We get passed up for a promotion even though we’ve already been doing the job in question. Someone who’s been slacking or cheats gets the same reward – or better than – we get.

So often, my judgment on others is influenced more by my own insecurities and a lack of compassion than by a true sense of justice. If someone gets away with something, I am self-righteous: I wouldn’t have even tried that. If someone gets something I feel I deserve, I get jealous: he/she doesn’t deserve that. I rarely take into account the circumstances surrounding those whom I judge. I look at my circumstances and what is or isn’t fair to me.

When Jesus tells the criminal, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise,” my sense of justice tends to be cynical. Just because this man was not against Jesus, he didn’t do anything to deserve being in paradise with Jesus. He didn’t even repent of the sins he committed. I forget that, as hard as I try to live out Jesus’ love in the world, I haven’t done anything to earn my place in heaven and I forget to repent of my sins all the time. I have no idea what crime put this man on a cross – he may have been wrongly accused or convicted for all I know.

Though God loves us and created us with all the emotions and abilities to reason that we have, God also knows we are all fallible. We are not capable of fair eternal justice. Our minds cannot comprehend the scope of God’s plan. Just as I often (after the fact) look back and understand that my expectations and judgment were not taking into account the bigger picture, I trust that God knows best and remind myself, time and time again, that God alone has the final say on what it means for Jesus to remember us when he comes into his kingdom. How much differently might we live our lives and treat others if we assumed Jesus would remember everyone rather than just those we deem worthy?

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

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3.24.15 Insight from Glen Shoup

glen-shoupRev. Glen Shoup is the Executive Pastor of Worship and a Congregational Care pastor.

Executed as a criminal, a doer of evil (a Kakourgois), a murderer, a thief, a rapist, a terrorist—that’s who gets crucified—and yet he was the antithesis of all these things.

When Jesus hangs on that Roman Cross (he was sent there by Jews and hung there by Gentiles…nobody’s hands are washed of it—despite Pilate’s disclaimer), he does so as one who is taking onto and into himself all that is broken, narcissistic, pathological and condemnable.  Yet he was none of those.

The residual effects of human self-willfulness seen on full display in the opening chapters of Genesis (what we theologically call “the fall”), which continues to manifest in each of us a disposition towards that which is broken, narcissistic, pathological and condemnable…Jesus had none of! And yet here he is absorbing all of it. This makes his prayer in those moments—“Father forgive them”—all the more stunning.  He became sin, who had no sin (II Cor 5:21).

This reality (that can’t fully be articulated) is what both of today’s reading touch on. You see this reality named in the last two sentences of the Luke reading and essentially all of the verse from Isaiah. But you see it in several other scripture passages as well.

Theologians have reflected upon it since shortly after it occurred, and yet—in 2,000 years of Church history—we still can’t fully articulate it. Depending on how you count/categorize, there are 6 theories of the “Atonement” (the theological word for what’s happening in Jesus’ death) that have classically been put forth [meaning from the early Church Fathers forward] and 5 to 6 more modern theories put forth in the last 200 years. Yet none of them singularly captures or fully defines what’s going on when…He became sin, who had no sin.

Somehow, despite our descriptive deficiency, we find a glimpse of what it means that He became sin who had no sin in what an old priest [quoted by M. Scott Peck] was getting at when he insightfully observed, “The only ultimate way to conquer evil is to let it be smothered within a willing, living human being. When it is absorbed there…it loses its power and goes no further.”[1] 

In 1999, there was a rather dark, heavy film released called The Green Mile.  And while most movies I see aren’t memorable enough that I can still recall them 15 years later, this one—or at least elements of it—were.  Most notable to me was the character John Coffey, who’d been convicted of a heinous crime, but in the culminating scene of the movie we see that not only was he innocent of the crime—but there is this powerful moment where he decides to take into himself all the evil wrapped up in this heinous crime he didn’t commit and in making this choice, he absorbs the agony, pain and poison of this evil, smothering it, and in so doing he abolishes it. However, this selfless decision to finally take into himself all the evil and smother it…takes his own life. A powerful, redeeming reality in what would otherwise be a dark and hopeless picture.

He became sin…who had no sin.

[1] See Darrell Holtz’s notes on today’s readings

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

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3.23.15 Insight from Chris Holliday

Chris_HollidayGPS[1]Rev. Chris Holliday serves as the associate minister at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection West.

We all have people in our lives with whom we struggle. We may not name them “enemies”–we might call them challenging or difficult. And then there are those within and outside our country’s borders who stand against our nation, our way of life, our communities and even the Church, many of whom do not even know us personally.

So how do we handle “enemies”? What do we do? Let us look to the one who was and is the most grace-filled–the one who died to save all, even his enemies. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus teaches us the following law of love.

“You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete. (Matthew 5:43-48, Common English Bible)

Praying for our enemies or for those who harass us is powerful. Sometimes, it may help change those for whom we pray; but one thing is for sure–praying for our enemies will always help change us, the ones doing the praying. Through those prayers, God will soften our hearts and show us ways to love those challenging folks in our lives. Through those prayers, God will help us become more loving and caring to all, even to ourselves. Through those prayers, lives will be changed and wisdom will be gained. Through those prayers, we will continue to grow into the more complete, compassionate people God created us to be.

So may we love our enemies and pray for our enemies and show kindness to our enemies–not only to change them, but to change us. Amen.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

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3.21.15 Insight from Mary Jones

Mary Jones is an eleven-year member of the Resurrection family, and served on staff for nine. Her greatest joy is serving with My Father’s House – Resurrection Furnishings Ministry alongside her husband Kevin and the many people there who are dedicated to building God’s Kingdom in Kansas City.

Don’t you love it when you hear some insight or “new to you” idea in worship, from a friend or small group, and then something happens later that week that brings that idea back around full circle? A good friend of mine calls that a “God wink.”

I am very thankful for our church pastors who help us experience God winks by breaking open the meaning of Bible passages in ways I never considered. Last weekend Pastor Scott Chrostek spoke about Mary and John. He asserted that throughout Jesus’ ministry Mary and John were always present. It had never occurred to me that Mary’s being ever-present exemplified God’s constant and never-changing love for us. Or that John represents all of us, who God calls to follow Him.

Then there was that turning-point moment at the cross when Jesus directed John to take Mary into his home, to become family. This action of John and Mary ‘turning toward each other’ created, or rather, solidified the foundation of the community of believers.

On Tuesday night at the Lenten study on the Apostle’s Creed, Jeff Kirby listed seven activities of the Holy Spirit. Three of those were: He helps us to pray; He empowers us to share our faith with others; and He creates unity in the family of God. Jeff taught that He creates the unity, but it’s our job to maintain that unity of spirit and bond of peace. Can I repeat that? He creates the unity, but it’s our job to maintain that unity. There’s that phrase again – unity of community of believers. It started before the Cross, was directed from the cross, was gently reinforced on the walk to Emmaus, and the Holy Spirit continually tugs at our hearts to remind us.

How each of us can ‘maintain the unity of spirit and bond of peace’ through our actions differs because He has created us uniquely, but I believe prayer is where there is no uniqueness between us. Whether we are out-loud halleluiah prayer warriors or never make it audible, God knows our prayerful hearts. I’ve noticed that when I choose an action without prayer as the foundation, it can be a little (or a lot!) off kilter. When we come together in prayer first, we can be centered closer to following His will for our lives and His kingdom. This week I’m going to make an effort to put the brakes on “let’s go!” and change it to, “first lets pray!”

Happy Spring and may you have many God winks!

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

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3.20.15 Insight from Phil Antilla

philgpsPhil Antilla serves as the program director for Young Adult and College Ministry: www.cor.org/ya

The other day I was having a conversation with someone who was explaining why they didn’t believe in God.

“I just can’t believe in a God who is full of anger and wrath,” they said. “Why would I want to worship some deity who will send me to hell if I don’t live up to his moral code?” Then they added, “And since this God doesn’t seem to care about me, I don’t care much for him.”

After listening to this friend of mine for some time, I responded by saying, ” You know what? I wouldn’t want to worship that kind of god either!”

I told my friend that the image of God which is seared into my mind is one of Jesus hanging on a cross, who sees his captors mocking him, who sees his friends running away, and yet still has his arms open wide.

As Jesus is moments away from death, he asks for the forgiveness of those who have betrayed him. He turns to a criminal next to him and provides comfort, telling him to just hold on for a few more moments and then he will be with Jesus in paradise. And even from a cross, Jesus looks down at his mother, and makes sure that she will be cared for.

We cannot avoid pain and death. However, as the Apostle Paul writes, “If we have been united with Chris in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” I am thankful that in Jesus, we see the truest image of who God is. Not a God who is distant, or a God who abandons, but a God who bears the burdens of all creation, and who hangs on a cross in front of all people with arms open wide.

There will come a time when we all have to face the reality of death. But I have a hunch, that the same Spirit which was at work in Jesus, which gave him the power to be strong, and to be brave, and forgiving, is also the same Spirit that is at work in you now.

Thanks be to God!

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

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3.19.15 Insight from Mike Wilhoit

mwilhoitMike Wilhoit serves at The Church of the Resurrection as Local Missions Director.

I try to “date” all four of my teenagers by taking them out frequently to share one-on-one experiences. This past weekend was great. Ben and I had a catch. I took Mia to Home Depot to help me buy some shears for bush trimming. Noah and I worked in some snacks at QuikTrip before picking up milk and juice at Chopper. And Zach–we had the best time of all. We woke up early Sunday morning and drove to Wyandotte County Lake Park. Built in the 1930s, the park consists of 1500 acres, a 400 acre lake for fishing and boating and 16 shelters. Zach and I brought discs and made up our own Frisbee golf course. Afterwards, we ate breakfast at the Waffle House on State Line and Highway 635 in Kansas City, Kansas, where we shared conversation with a cool trucker before meeting up with the family at church.

What grips me about today’s passage is what God says from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love…” You see, while all the disciples were still figuring Jesus out, hindsight gives us the benefit of knowing that He is headed to the cross. There is absolutely no way I would willingly send any of my children to a far-way land where I knew they would be misunderstood, rejected by most and eventually killed. In eternity, I hope I am granted the privilege of asking our Heavenly Father how He managed to send His only child to die for the likes of fickle me.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

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3.18.15 Insight from Kari Burgess

Kari Burgess is a Program Director for the Catalyst team, handling promotion and marketing for all of the conferences held at Resurrection, as well as registration and coordinating hospitality volunteers.

I don’t know about you, but I often imagine myself as the protagonist in any story. How would I react in a particular situation? After becoming a mother I started reading Scripture (especially the stories about Jesus) from this point of view.

I remember reading the story of Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth when “the child leapt in her womb” while I was expecting my own child. And I recall as a young mother reading the Christmas story about Mary “treasuring up all of these things and pondering them in her heart.” And I feel like I can relate to Mary when Jesus stays back at the Temple and Mary and Joseph frantically look for their lost son. These are especially precious scriptures to me.

In today’s story, I love the confidence Mary has in Jesus’ ability to solve the problem at hand-–running out of wine at the wedding. Whether or not Mary knew that Jesus would perform a miracle or simply solve the problem in a practical way, she had confidence in her son, a certainty that He would make it right. I feel with some certainty that Mary thought her son could walk on water.

As a mom, I have often thought that my daughters could “walk on water.” Whether it be that amazing three-point shot at the end of the basketball game, the double pirouette at the recital, the exceptional grade card at the end of the semester or the high note in the solo at the musical, I am confident my girls can do it. During those times, my heart starts beating faster and I sit on the edge of my seat in anticipation. And then comes that “I-knew-you-could-do-it” moment. (Now, since neither of my children are the Son of God and can’t literally walk on water, there are plenty of other moments like, “That’s OK, you gave it your best effort” and “I promise that no one else noticed.” And I am perfectly OK with that, too.)

But when I read about Mary in this story, I can’t help but wonder if her heart starts racing just a bit when she boldly proclaims, “Do whatever he tells you.” She has confidence, yes. But perhaps she sits on the edge of her seat just for a moment before the “I-knew-you-could-do-it” moment.

This first miracle is just the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Mary often has a front row seat to his sermons and miracles. During that time she gives Him her unwavering loyalty and she has a quiet confidence in it all. I can relate so well.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

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3.17.15 Insight from Brandon Gregory

Brandon Gregory is a volunteer for the worship and missions teams at Church of the Resurrection. He helps lead worship at the Vibe, West, and Downtown services, and is involved with the Malawi missions team at home.

Today’s passage in Luke 5 is probably familiar to a lot of us. But there’s a lot buried in the context there. I’m going to put on my detective hat really fast… there we go!

The first thing to know is that, even though Peter and crew were willing to follow Jesus at a moment’s notice, they didn’t make the cut to follow other rabbi. In that time, most Jewish boys aspired to train under a rabbi and were eventually told they made the cut or they didn’t. The fact that Peter and crew are now fishermen means that they were not accepted under any other rabbi of that day.

Second, they wanted to see Jesus. That sounds obvious, but they weren’t there cleaning their nets there by happenstance, and that makes the next point more insightful: they wanted to see Jesus, but their job didn’t allow time for this. As fishermen, they worked hard to make ends meet. In fact, they had just pulled an all-nighter with nothing to show for it. So they worked their job around Jesus. That’s why they were there mending the nets–working while Jesus was teaching and listening from the outskirts was the only way for them to take in some of his wisdom.

So imagine their surprise when Jesus asks to use their boat. Finally, a chance to impact ministry! It was small, but Peter took it–he was willing to do anything to further the kingdom of God, even if it was just to let more important people use his boat as a place to preach.

I like to think of this as Jesus’s first test of Peter and his crew. He first tested whether they were willing to do anything to further the kingdom of God, then he tested whether they would obey even when it didn’t make sense–like when a religious teacher tried to give them fishing advice. But their faith, even through years of knowing that they weren’t good enough to be religious teachers and were only good enough to be fishermen, paid off in a huge way: they were named the first of Jesus’s disciples. And on top of that, Jesus didn’t try to say, “Change everything about yourself, clean up your act, and follow me.” Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus said, “All those years you spent thinking you weren’t good enough, you will now use that experience to make the impact you’ve yearned for.”

I can relate to these fishermen. I moved up to Kansas City to be a worship leader. I was fired and told I didn’t have what it took to lead the church. I’ve been told on two separate occasions since then, by people who work in churches, that I don’t have what it takes to lead people in a church. I fell back on a web development job, but I kept up with reading about the Bible, psychology, and influencing others. Eventually, it’s as if God said to me, “Come, I’ll make you a debugger of people and not just websites.” I’ve been writing for the GPS for almost a year now, and God has used my music to reach large amounts of people as well. I’ve been told by complete atheists that I’ve completely changed their perspective on Christians and helped them through some of the hardest times of their lives. This is nothing to do with me and everything to do with God putting me in the right spots at the right times. Will I ever make the cut to work at a church? I don’t know–but I completely understand the joy and excitement that Peter felt on that day.

What about you? What do you feel called to that you’ve never felt like you’re ready to do? Maybe you’ve been told you’re not good enough. Maybe you’ve gone a completely different direction with your life. If God can use four fishermen to serve as the foundation of his church, he can use you, no matter where you are in life. Businessman? Great. Close a few deals with eternal impact. Nurse? Fantastic. God can use caring individuals in just about every place on the planet. Recovering alcoholic? Perfect. You know better than anyone how hard that journey can be, and there are others that need your help to even realize that their journey is yet to begin. The point is that, no matter your lot in life, God can use you, and if you’re faithful with the little things, you’ll be trusted with bigger things. If you’ve been told you’re not enough, if you’ve been away for too long, come back. God needs you and every bit of life experience you’ve had so far.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

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3.16.15 Insight from Donna Karlen

Donna Karlen serves in Communications at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

Talk about a mother going from joyful expectations to paralyzing fear!

First an angel promises Mary that her son would be great, be given the throne of David and reign forever. What mother wouldn’t want to hear that her child was destined to achieve such success?! My son recently graduated from college and is looking for his first “real” job. I pray for God to guide him in his search, to give him confidence and discernment, to surround him with people who can help him learn and grow and succeed in every good way. But I worry about him starting down a career path that is not fulfilling for him. So I think I’d welcome an angel walking up to me and proclaiming that my son would be a “king” in his profession!

But the other shoe soon dropped for Mary. Following the traditional Jewish ceremony of presenting her first-born son to the Lord, a man named Simeon tells Mary that when it comes to her child, “a sword will pierce your own soul.” Wow – um … thanks? Of course we know from the rest of the gospel story that Simeon’s words turned out to be quite prophetic.

As a mother I can’t imagine having to watch my son be persecuted, unjustly tried, beaten, mocked, nailed to a cross, pierced by a sword – to see him suffer and slowly die. I just might want to go back to the day when Angle Gabriel said I would conceive God’s son and say, “Let me get back to you on that.”

But Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” And with that statement of faith, her soul would indeed one day be pierced by a sword – and all our souls would be saved.

Thank you, Mary.

.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

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