10.10.15 Insights from Dave Robertson

Dave_RobertsonDave Robertson is the Director of Community Life at The Church of the Resurrection’s West Campus.

Did your parents have special things in your house growing up that you knew were not for you and were not used often?  We had “special” items and a “special” place.  Many of these items were in this place.

The place we called the Living Room. There wasn’t much living in the Living Room. Our Family Room is where we gathered for television and bumper pool games. The Living Room was set aside for special guests. My parents would host other grown-ups there after church sometimes, or if guests came over for dinner. It was very formal and clean and it was to remain so. This space belonged to my parents and wasn’t for me or my brother or sister.

My mother kept her “play pretties” there. These things were not expensive but held great personal value for her. This was her place for her things, which were a reflection of her inner character and personality. I remember as a 2nd or 3rd grader playing football throughout the house–I threw the football up in the air, caught it and ran. Except, this one time, I didn’t catch it. The ball landed on a table with one of my mother’s statuettes made to resemble small flowers. One of the glass flowers broke in two pieces. I was greatly disturbed, not just because it was in the Living Room, but because it was hers, this woman who poured out her love lavishly. What could I do? I quickly found where the glue was and began to glue it back together. To the mind of a 2nd or 3rd grade boy, I thought, “It worked!” As I began to pretend to walk by it casually and look, I could see it was broken, but not badly. Maybe no one would notice.

My mother never spoke of it to me. Not because she never noticed, but because her inner beauty wasn’t defined by play pretties, but by Christ who dwelled in her heart. She pursued “righteousness, faith, love, and peace together with those who confess the Lord with a clean heart.” She loved lavishly because that’s how God loves.

The word holy literally means set apart. Do you have things or places in your homes set apart? More importantly, do you see your life as set apart for God, knowing you were created for a special purpose, to live in the kingdom of God and serve God and others in ways that point to his kingdom?

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

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10.9.15 – Insights from Darren Lippe

Darren_LippeDarren Lippe helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 7th-grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group & a men’s group, and serves on the Curriculum team.

To break the ice for Bible studies, one introductory question I like to use is, “What is your favorite hymn?” Often folks will share a hymn from childhood or their wedding or an Easter service; for a Dentist, it might be “Crown Him with Many Crowns, for a tailor, perhaps it would be “Holy, Holy, Holy,” for a golfer, it could be “The Green Hill, Far, Far Away,” or for the artist it might be, “How Great Thou Art.” (How about, “Now the Silence?” – Editor. Okay, we’ll “Go Forth (for God)” – DL.)

At times when I am struggling to fully comprehend God & His Word, like our friends referenced in today’s passage, I’ll retreat back to the basics of the faith by singing or listening to a treasured hymn, like, say, The Doxology, which we used to sing each week in my church growing up.   (Doxology just means a formula to praise God during worship.)

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow;

Praise Him, all creatures here below;

Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;

Praise Father, Son, & Holy Ghost.

The Doxology is actually the closing stanza to 3 hymns written in the 1670’s by an English pastor named Thomas Ken while he was on staff at Winchester College – a historic boy’s school.

Thomas’ career is rather Forrest-Gump-like, considering he was amongst the “Who’s Who” of English history. A quick summary:

  • Appointed chaplain to Princess Mary at The Hague. Dismissed when he insisted Prince William of Orange honor his vow of marriage to a lady of the court. (William found her dull as dishwater.)
  • Appointed Bishop to the court of King Charles II. This seemingly cushy gig had a drawback: King Charles was married & had, by one count, 13 mistresses. King Charles, in a pickle at one point, asks Thomas to stash a mistress in Thomas’ parsonage. (This mistress was Nellie Gwyn a famous actress with a very, very outgoing personality.) Thomas refuses. King Charles has him dismissed. (Interestingly, King Charles has Thomas later re-appointed as Bishop & even requests that Thomas deliver the last rites for him.)
  • In 1688, King James II issues the Declaration of Indulgence, which declared the King as absolute sovereign & recognized other denominations besides the Anglican Church. Thomas joins six other Bishops in refusing to honor the Declaration for fear it endorsed Catholicism & compromised the spiritual freedom of the church by making it subject to the auspices/whims of the state/King.  Thomas & his friends were arrested, committed to the Tower of London, tried, but ultimately acquitted.

Thomas, composer of many hymns & considered England’s 1st Hymnist, wrote the 3 hymns with the Doxology as the closing stanza to encourage the devotional habits of the boys in his charge at Winchester College. (There was a Morning Hymn, an Evening Hymn, &, if the boys were sleepless, a Midnight Hymn.) Just composing these hymns was quite revolutionary in this era. Only the texts of the Psalms could be sung in public worship – any other lyrics would be akin to adding words to the Bible.

The Morning Hymn encourages us to rise joyfully & to shake off the temptation of sloth & to capture each precious moment of this amazing day. We are to remind ourselves that we are forgiven children of God & we are to seek ways to let our light shine for others.

The Evening Hymn thanks God for the blessing of the light. Asks God for His forgiveness & welcomes the peace that comes with the confidence of knowing His love. We look to our time asleep as a time to strengthen us for God’s great plans the next day.

Finally, one can imagine the Midnight Hymn being a blessing to the boys at school as they perhaps wrestled with homesickness or worry about homework & tests. Thomas’ lyrics seek to comfort them during that time when doubts & darkness can seem so near at hand.

So, what might your favorite hymn be? Today might be a good day to briefly set aside the deep questions of our faith & just rest easy in the warm embrace of God’s love as we listen to some Godly tunes.  (I’ll just be listening to a father’s favorite hymn, “Let all Mortal Flesh Keep Silent.”)

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

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10.8.15 Insights from Darrell Holtz

Darrell Holtz serves as Program Director for Adult Curriculum and Writing at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

Why would God choose Saul (a driven, ambitious Pharisee who was doing everything he could to suppress the Christian movement) to be an apostle, and not even mainly to the Jews, but to the Gentiles? No personnel department worth their salt would recommend a “hire” like that!

E. P. Sanders, who taught at Duke University from 1990 to 2005, wrote a book called Paul: A Very Short Introduction. Among many valuable insights, he noted this on pages 69-70: “Paul had memorized the Scriptures in Greek, and he could pull out passages which combined certain words; [in Galatians], he cited the only passages which combine ‘right-‘ and ‘faith,’ and the only passage which combines ‘curse’ and ‘law.’ The modern reader requires a concordance to learn this, and an ancient would have needed a mastery of the text equal to Paul’s….The Galatian converts, who formerly had worshipped other Gods (Gal. 4:8), could not have recognized just how dazzling was Paul’s mastery of ancient exegetical technique….They would have seen, though, that Paul had passages in his favour and they saw his conclusions perfectly well.” In other words, with no easily searchable computer Bible on his cell phone, probably without even any Bible scrolls easily available to him, Paul used the combination of his outstanding rabbinical education (cf. Acts 22:3) and his Greek background from being born and raised in Tarsus to understand and share the broad message of the Hebrew Scriptures in a way not one person in a thousand could have done in his day! That was one reason God chose him–he was uniquely equipped to lay out, in his letters, a Biblical and practical basis for the worldwide Kingdom of God that God still invites all of us into today. (He also had dauntless courage, incredible persistence, and a caring pastor’s heart, among other strengths.)

I’m grateful that God also finds ways to use people with lesser gifts than Paul. My life, by conventional career planning standards, has been kind of a mess. I was a theology major in college. I was a pastor for 13 years, and honestly, not very many good things happened in the churches I tried to lead. Hallmark Cards hired me in 1986, and I spent almost 19 years there. During those years, I worked as an editor, editorial manager, marketing strategist, data analyst and online research facilitator. During those years, I was an active church member, but I thought I was done with ministry, so I sold many of my study books. I retired from Hallmark in 2004, and in 2006 The Church of the Resurrection honored me by asking me to join the staff in a writing and teaching capacity. During the last 9 years, I have been amazed at how many of the experiences I had during my strange, almost random-looking “career path” have helped me do my current work better.

I do not believe God micro-manages our lives, or the world around us. But I’m thankful that God has somehow woven all that I’ve done, the wise choices and the unwise, into a tapestry that can help other people understand their Bibles better. I believe God has the amazing capacity to say to each one of us, “Nothing you’ve done, nothing that’s happened to you, has to go to waste. Trust me–I’ve chosen you, and together we can make something beautiful out of all the messy loose ends of your life.”

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

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10.7.15 – Insights 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, assists with worship logistics at conferences, and oversees community events and meals.

Coming soon…

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10.6.15 – Insights from Courtney Felzke

Courtney_FelzkeCourtney Felzke is Pastor of Silver Link. Resurrection’s Silver Link Ministry serves the frail and elderly with dementia by maintaining a connection through pastoral care and worship with older persons who become unable to fully engage in the life of the church.

Our Scripture reading for today includes these words: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” One of the things this verse reminds us of is how much God loves us. We can see God’s love for us through the boundless forgiveness and grace God extends to each one of us. Can you imagine what the world would look like if we extended this same love, grace and forgiveness to others?

After reading today’s Scripture and being inspired by Bishop Fisher’s sermon last weekend, I began thinking of how we might take action steps to actually live out this commandment to love others. What’s one thing we can do today that might help us love our neighbor as God does? One idea would be to follow in Pastor Adam’s footsteps and begin the day in prayer, asking God to guide our actions and our words so they might be loving.

What else might we do? I wonder if we could strive try to be more patient and grace-filled in one area of our lives this week. For instance, I’m not always a patient driver. It drives me crazy when people are driving slowly, especially when I’m in a hurry. Or when people wait until the last second to merge, even though it’s very clear the lane they are currently in will soon end. I wonder if, instead of choosing to not let these cars in and having my blood pressure spike, I could let these drivers in, slow down, and be present in the moment. It’s a small thing. But if we all did one small thing each day or each week, think how different this world might look.

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

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10.5.15 – Insights from Roberta Lyle

Roberta_LyleRoberta Lyle has been on the Resurrection staff since 2006. She oversees the Collection Ministry, coordinating the donations of clothing, beds, food, furnishings, cars and computers and re-purposing them through our ministry partners to provide to those in need in our community.

Do you ever try to imagine what Paul looked like? What were his mannerisms? How did he sound? Was there something about him that would tell you he was destined for greatness? Well, probably not. Paul himself realized this and writes in 2 Corinthians 10:10, “For some say, ‘His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.’” Paul is one person in a long line of unlikely individuals in the Bible who God relies on to do God’s work of restoring His kingdom here on earth—ordinary people with shortcomings just like me.

This gives me comfort when going through times of adversity. When my dad became ill several years ago, I brought him to Overland Park for treatment. My sisters and I helped him clean out and sell his home of 40 years. As I was driving down from Iowa with Dad in the car, I had the same overwhelming feeling of inadequacy I had when we brought our first-born son home from the hospital. What did I know about taking care of a senior adult with medical issues? We had to find doctors to address Dad’s medical issues and help him decide on a course of treatment. At the same time I was trying to keep up with my sons and their activities—a typical sandwich generation challenge! My sisters were very supportive, but they live far away, so the day-to-day decisions fell to me. Every day I had to lean on God’s power to give me clarity in making decisions and to enjoy the time we had with Dad (even though he insisted on cheering for the Cardinals even when they played the Royals). Despite the struggles, it was a time of bonding and making memories.

I am thankful that when we acknowledge our weakness and call on God he will fill us with His power and strength so we can rise up to meet whatever is coming our way.

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

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10.3.15 – Insights from Mike Ash

MikeAshGPSMike Ash is the worship leader and Director of Community Life at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection’s Blue Springs Campus. This past week was Resurrection’s Leadership Institute, a very busy week. Mike first wrote this post on May 2 of this year, but it fits today’s Scripture readings well.

God is always at work creating and making things new. It’s interesting that God’s story with humans begins in a garden, and ends in a restored “garden” (which is also a city).

When Mary Magdelene went to the garden tomb and first saw Jesus she actually thought he was the gardener!

Every year my grandmother would plant a garden. I would run the tiller and help her plant the seeds. One spring she had to leave to visit her sister in Florida for two weeks. She said to me “You know how to till the garden and I’ve mapped out how the seeds should be planted.” The next morning I plowed the garden and planted the seeds and was pretty proud of myself! But when she arrived back home and saw the garden she wasn’t very happy. I hadn’t weeded, watered or broken up the ground. It was like a giant patch of hard dirt!

Most Sundays we pray the Lord’s prayer together. I’m always grateful when we say “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Like Adam and Eve, we can chose to do what we want and think we know what’s best, or we can surrender to the one who promises, that if we remain in him we will bear much fruit.

Let’s submit our lives, our concerns and our future to the Lord and know that He is making all things new!

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

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10.2.15 – Insights from Ginger Rothhaas

ginger-rothhaasGinger Rothhaas is a seminary student at Saint Paul School of Theology and is serving in Congregational Care at the Church of the Resurrection.

The scriptures for today are from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians trying to explain how Jesus’ resurrection casts light on what we humans have struggled with for all of history…death and what happens after death.

As part of my role as a seminary student and Pastoral Intern here at Resurrection, I make hospital visits on Thursdays. Last week I visited a woman who, according to hospice, had a short time left to live. I assumed she would be sleeping deeply, but instead she was awake and able to talk with me.

I anointed her forehead and prayed for her. With tears in her eyes, she held eye contact with me and our conversation was this:

She said, “I see light and friends….and they are all happy, they are happy with me.”

Me: “Who do you see?”

She: “I see them all, they are smiling….will you ask them if I did a good job?”

Me: “Yes, but I can’t see them like you can see them. I know that you did a good job. They love you. God loves you.”

She: “I am so glad they are happy. Lots of light. Everyone is happy.”

At that moment, I realized she was looking into my eyes, but she wasn’t. It was like she was looking through me to something beyond where I sat. I even turned my head to look behind me, just to make sure there was nothing there. Nothing I could see.

I was so comforted by this conversation. I felt that what she was experiencing was real and palpable. I believe she was seeing where she is headed next.

I share this with you because part of the reason I started into seminary is because I had lots of big questions. I needed to dive into the study of finding answers, or at least a better understanding.

In all of my education, that moment, in that hospice chair, with my beloved new friend, was the ultimate learning. And the gift to me, was that she described what she was seeing. My relatives weren’t able to talk with me near their time of death and I couldn’t hear what they were experiencing. But, she gifted me with this description that assures me there is more.

I have no doubt there is something more, there is a place we are going, and it is filled with light and friends.

I am counting on it.

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

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10.1.15 – Insights from Janelle Gregory

Janelle_GregoryJanelle Gregory serves on the Resurrection staff as a Human Resources Specialist.

I think that many of us could list at least two things that we have learned from Jesus – love your enemy, blessed are the poor in spirit, forgive and then forgive again and then forgive even more. The stories and teachings of Jesus are legendary. Many people allow them to influence their lives – both Christians and non-believers alike.

But is it enough to just learn from his teachings and examples? Is that what we are to gain from being a Christian? Is that why we go to church? To hear good stories?

Well if we reduce Jesus down to the lessons he taught, he’s little more than a motivational speaker in sandals. But our God wasn’t crucified to be merely influential.  His heart is in the transformation, and that is exactly what we find in the resurrection – the power of life from death – not just his life, but in ours as well. It is hope in our dried-up souls and goodness formed out of our sorrow and sin.

As Brennan Manning reminds us:

“The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian.”

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

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9.30.15 – Insights from Dr. Mike Graves

Dr. Mike Graves is McElvaney Professor of Preaching and Worship at Saint Paul School of Theology. Ordained in the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, he has spent more than 25 years helping to prepare persons for ministry.

I didn’t really grow up in church, so when I graduated from high school my life goals could be summarized in one phrase: “to grow my hair really long.” This was the ’70s, and I was really successful at reaching that goal. Not having a spiritual background per se, I perceived Christianity from the outside and concluded that all they cared about was getting people “saved,” saved from an eternity in hell. I may not have paid close attention in math class, but eternity was not a hard concept to grasp. Symbolized by that figure 8 turned on its side, it was how time marches on forever and ever.

When I finally did become a Christian at the end of my freshman year in college, I was surprised to learn that when the Bible speaks about “eternal life,” it has nothing to do with a quantity of time, but rather a quality of life here and now. Maybe “eternal” isn’t really the best interpretation. Maybe a “full” life would be more accurate. I finally understood that what Jesus offers isn’t a ticket punched for the final train to heaven when you die, but a fullness of life here in the present even when you’re stuck in traffic on I-435.

But if one trap is thinking Christianity is only about a future in heaven, another is thinking it’s limited to the past in ancient Israel. The theologian Harvey Cox tells the story of a woman in New Mexico calling an operator to place a call to Jerusalem. The operator said, “Oh, honey, Jerusalem is in the Bible. It’s not a real city.”

Maybe the most important feature in these two passages is the use of present tense: “whoever has the Son has eternal life” (1 Jn 5:12). It may not be good grammar, but in the ’70s we might have said it this way: “The present is where’s it at.”

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

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