11.26.14 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 the rest of you, but I plan to EAT tomorrow. I love Thanksgiving, and I love Thanksgiving food. I love it for the traditions and memories it evokes and I love it purely for the deliciousness of it. Turkey and stuffing with gravy drizzled over the top, real mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, my grandmother’s cranberry salad…all of it. And then the pie. I love pie. I may heap a tablespoon of whipped cream on top of my pumpkin pie. And maybe another heaping tablespoon. Don’t tell anyone, but maybe even ANOTHER heaping tablespoon of whipped cream. And I don’t deserve it. Not at all.

Imagine those heaping tablespoons of whipped cream being the grace extended to us by God. Would you like another one of those? I know I sure would. And do I deserve it? No way.

Simply put, grace is God’s unmerited favor. A kindness from God that we don’t deserve. God sent his grace down to all of us in the form of his son, Jesus, to save us from our sins.

But what does it mean to show grace to others? Extending grace to others is to show kindness even when it’s undeserved, a reflection of what God does for us. Being kind to someone even if they are not kind to us, forgiving, responding kindly to a criticism, looking for ways to be kind to a stranger, saying you are sorry are all ways to show grace to other people.

In today’s text, Paul speaks to a group of skeptics and extends grace to them in a way that meets them where they are theologically and uses their current context to show them the love of God. He doesn’t criticize or tell them they are missing the point. He doesn’t belittle them or tell them that their idols are blasphemous. Instead he finds common ground and builds the case for the one true God using examples they could understand.

We are called to heap grace on skeptics and sinners the same way that God heaps grace on all of us. We are called to meet skeptics where they are, on their terms, finding common ground and ways to engage in their own environment. This doesn’t mean endorsing a faith you don’t believe in or engaging in sinful activity in order to make friends with a skeptic. But it does mean withholding judgment and loving people regardless of circumstances.

This Thanksgiving, let’s heap tablespoons of grace on those around us.

Thanksgiving Life Recipe
2 Heaping cups of patience
1 Heart full of love
2 Hands full of generosity
Dash of joy
1 cup full of understanding

Sprinkle generously with kindness
Add plenty of faith and mix well.
Add heaping tablespoons of grace
Spread over a period of a lifetime.
Best shared with everyone you meet!
~Author Unknown~

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

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

11.25.14 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.

When birthdays and Christmas roll around, my son actually picks out the gifts he wants to give to each parent himself. (I don’t know if that’s especially common or not, being that I haven’t been a father all that long.) It’s always interesting to see what he picks out, because it’s always something he likes and understands. He picks out the thing that’s funnest for him, not because he wants it, but because he wants to share that joy with me. I’ve gotten Annoying Orange and Jimi Hendrix t-shirts. My wife usually gets a video game. In all cases, the gift isn’t terrible by any means, but it’s not really the perfect gift for us. Here’s the thing, though–it’s the perfect gift from him. He picks out the coolest, funnest thing he knows and he wants to share that with you, he wants you to share in the joy that he has. It’s that thought that means the most to me. Of course, I then have to explain why I can’t wear my Annoying Orange shirt to a business meeting, but it’s still meaningful.

The story of the prostitute washing Jesus’ feet obviously has a much different feel to it, but there are some similarities there that are often glanced over. Here’s Jesus, who had been invited over to a religious leader’s house for some serious theological conversations, trying to show these pharisees what it means to live out God’s love. I imagine this woman standing outside for a very long time, catching parts of the conversation within, understanding even less of it, knowing that her place wasn’t there. Bear in mind, we’ve seen pharisees in other verses condemn prostitutes to death. The religious leaders within knew who she was and may have been looking for a reason to kill her. Even in a good scenario, she would be ridiculed, humiliated, devalued as a human being.

So when this woman picks up her jar of ointment and steps into this pharisee’s house, silent and shaking, she steps into the heaviest silence she had ever experienced. The glares are obvious. She knows she’s not welcome. And then she approaches Jesus to wash his feet with her hair–scandalous at the time, and reminiscent of the way she treated some of her customers. We like to look at the pharisees in this passage and think about how awful they are, but let’s be honest: if we saw this scenario go down in real life, we would probably do the same thing.

That’s when I imagine the murmurs starting. She can make out some of the statements, and they reaffirm all of her fears: she wanted to honor this savior, and she had completely missed the mark. She begins sobbing silently and the murmurs get louder, but she presses on, determined to do what she came there to do.

Her gift that night was much like a child’s gifts to his or her parents: not terrible, but not really what the son of God needed, or possibly even wanted. But she gave what she saw as the most valuable thing she could. The pharisees saw the gift, but Jesus saw the thought.

What I often hear taught on this passage is that we need to be more like Jesus and not be judgmental. I think there’s something else we can learn from this passage. I think we also need to be more like the woman.

I have to say, this nameless woman is kind of my hero. We look at people like king David, who worshiped so hard he took his clothes off and danced in the streets, and we commend them for their spirit. Where’s the praise for this woman? Her act of worship is one of the bravest things in the Bible.

I wish I had the courage to worship God in the face of such overwhelming odds as this woman did. I sometimes get self-conscious singing too loudly in church. Even when I’m worshipping at my best, I know my offerings to God are not much better than this woman’s misguided but genuine gift. Even when I realize that my gift is insufficient–and, let’s be honest, all of our gifts are insufficient for the creator of the universe–do I have the determination to worship God even when I know I’m wrong?

God delights in all of our gifts, even the ones that are misguided and insufficient, simply because they’re from us. We should delight in giving them as much as He delights in getting them.

In closing, I’d just like to say that my son has gotten better at buying gifts. For my wife’s recent birthday, he picked out a nice scarf and some useful car accessories for her. Of course, he also picked out two gallons of cranberry juice. Well, it’s the thought that counts.

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

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

11.24.14 Insight from Donna Karlen

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

You know those emails you get that share a wonderful message about Jesus – and then try to guilt you into forwarding it to all your contacts. “You will forward a joke,” the condemning text reads, “but most people will not forward this.”

You’re right, I won’t. (Actually, if the main message is really good, I will forward it – after I delete the guilt language at the end of it.)

While guilt may be a powerful motivator, I wonder if it would bring God much joy to have a kingdom full of people who are there only because they  “got should on.”

But guilt can do far worse things than just dampening the enthusiasm of those who actually want to spread the good news of God’s amazing grace. Trying to guilt someone into accepting Jesus could become the “bitter root” that today’s scripture talks about – turning them off from any desire to discover and follow Christ – and turning them away from God’s grace.

Certainly guilt has its place in our lives. Feeling guilty about our sins generally is the prerequisite to repentance and asking to be forgiven. But maybe we can make the road to finding Jesus less of a guilt trip, and more about coming along on one amazing journey!

 

 

 

 

 

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

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

11.22.14 Insight from Yvonne Gentile

Yvonne Gentile serves on The Church of the Resurrection staff as the Director of Connections. Yvonne directs the team that helps people get connected into the life of the church through service, studies, group life, and other ways of involvement.

In his sermon last weekend, Pastor Adam said the overarching lesson in this passage is that – whether we like it or not, whether we’re even aware of it or not – how we live our daily lives is a reflection of what’s in our hearts. The way we think about and interact with other people either confirms our faith in a tangible way, or it contradicts our faith. James 1:21 says, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” It’s one thing to say I’m a Christian and come to church every weekend, but it’s another thing entirely to pattern my whole life after Christ’s. That requires considering others’ needs before my own. When I ask myself, “Are my actions consistent with what I say I believe?” the truthful answer is: “Not as consistent as I’d like them to be.”

I read a blog post last week in which the author, John Sowers, talked about the importance of “showing up” for the people who are in your life. You can read the full post here. The author said that the people who have the biggest impact on our lives aren’t necessarily those who do extraordinary things, but are those who show up in small ways – day in and day out. They are there with us in the messiness of life. It’s not that they fix things, but their very presence demonstrates to us that we matter.

Often when we read today’s passage, we understand it as a statement that we are called to enter “the mission field” – to serve the poor, the sick, the disadvantaged in our cities and across the globe. It IS important to serve those who are disadvantaged. It’s equally important to live out our faith with (show up for) the people who are part of our everyday lives, to see Jesus in a co-worker who’s poor in spirit and needs encouragement, a friend who’s feeling anxious and hungering for security, a family member who’s sick and needs care, or the cashier at the grocery store who’s having a bad day and simply needs a kind word. Your mission field is as close as the person next to you – and so is mine.

I’m practicing showing up for the people in my life. I don’t do it nearly as well as I want, but with practice, I hope to improve. John Sowers suggests some things to practice: “We can slow down, turn off our phones, see the person right in front of us, and be fully present. Our calling is the person right in front of us.” Who do you need to show up for?

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

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

11.21.14 Insight from Darren Lippe

Darren 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.

Today’s passage referencing freedom prompted me to visit with Mr. Lawrence Iberty, Professor of Philosophy and author of “This Book is Not Free – But You Are!”

DL: While browsing at the bookstore, I was intrigued by your book’s discussion about freedom & liberty

L. Iberty: Huh. No offense, but you don’t seem like the type to be browsing the philosophy section of the bookstore.

DL: No offense taken! Actually, it was in the bargain bin….

L. Iberty: (Sigh.)

DL: …right next to the “Math for Dummies” book which had a special offer: 1 for $9.95 or 2 for $28.05.

L. Iberty: A-n-y-w-a-y. You were asking about my book. When thinking of freedom most people think of the writings of great thinkers like John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, & John Stuart Mill, while others might focus on my colleagues’ various studies like the Index of Economic Freedom or the CIRI Human Rights Data Project, but most people aren’t even aware that some of the earliest writings about freedom are actually Biblically based.

DL: Really.

L. Iberty: Oh yes. Think of the Exodus story of the Israelite slaves’ dramatic escape to freedom from the Pharaoh’s brutal regime, or the Year of Jubilee celebration specified in Leviticus, or even Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

DL: How so?

L. Iberty: Paul’s letter to the Galatians is sometimes referred to as the Magna Carta of Spiritual Liberty or the Declaration of Independence for Christians. Paul’s thinking here is theological & philosophical dynamite. The Galatian church was tempted to fall into a briar patch of superstitions, ceremonies, rituals, and “labor for the sake of labor” in order to earn salvation. But Paul quickly blasts that thinking. Not only are we freed from the bondage of sin via Jesus’ awe-inspiring sacrifice on the cross, but also we are free of the burden of trying to earn our way into eternal life. We are saved by grace and by grace alone.  Martin Luther, the initiator of The Reformation, considered Galatians to be one of the greatest theological essays in the Bible.

DL: So we are free, free to do whatever we like?

L. Iberty: This is where Paul’s thinking becomes truly revolutionary. Yes, we are free citizens of the Kingdom of God. But, after we attain this citizenship we then have a responsibility: to love your neighbor as you love yourself.   You see, when our hearts are filled with God’s love, we will then feel compelled (in a good way) to show charity to our brothers & sisters. Imagine not needing a Byzantine collection of laws/rules/regulations to tell us what we can or can’t do. This is liberating. This is emancipating. This is true freedom.

If you’d like, I’d be happy to inscribe your copy of my book.

DL: Oh! Um, I…didn’t bring it with me. But, I would be happy to buy you lunch if you are, you know…

L. Iberty: Free? No thanks, I have tickets to an Andy Williams Retrospective: Born Free

DL: Were the tickets expensive?

L. Iberty: Nah. They were buy one, get one…

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

 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

11.20.14 Insight from Mike Wilhoit

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

Acts of humble service tend to have a lasting impact.

On April 28, 1999, my wife gave birth to quintuplets at the University of North Carolina Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill, NC. The birthing room was packed. In addition to two obstetricians and an anesthesiologist, each child had a 3-person team consisting of a doctor, nurse & respiratory therapist waiting for their arrival. Everyone seemed to have a role, except one woman standing quietly near the side of the room.

I was sitting by my wife’s head. When the scheduled cesarean delivery began, the babies came fast. First, Noah, followed by Mia, Ben & Zach. Finally, Chloe was born without breath or heartbeat. She was stillborn. Then the quiet woman from the side of the room introduced herself. She was a Social Worker, trained in grief therapy, and she coached us through the delicate process of saying goodbye to a child we had just met.

This humble act of service during a very challenging moment remains incredibly comforting to both my wife & me.

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

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

11.19.14 Insight from Angela LaVallie

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.

I have to confess, I like recognition for a job well done. Several years ago, I read the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This book explains the five primary ways each of us feel most loved.  After taking the quiz, I wasn’t at all surprised to learn that my primary love language is “words of affirmation.” If you haven’t read the book, this means I feel the most loved and appreciated when people use words to build me up. This doesn’t mean that I serve in order to hear what a great job I am doing. It does mean I have to be careful to do my best even when I know I won’t be acknowledged for serving.

There are nearly 100 people who come in on a rotating monthly basis to prep the attendance notebooks, the seatbacks, and the candle carts for weekly worship. These people give generously of their time every month (and some more often) to do a job that benefits every person who attends worship; they usually work in the empty Sanctuary (or Wesley Chapel) and they receive little to no recognition. I mention these servants because I get to work directly alongside them, but there are countless other volunteers who serve both at the church and out in the community. Some of them are leaders, and everyone knows who they are. Some are made examples of in sermons and newsletters. Some, like those I mentioned earlier, humbly and quietly go about their service behind the scenes.

I know it’s okay to enjoy the recognition we get from a job well done, but how much more will we bask in the glow of God saying to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” when we aren’t working to hear those words here on earth?

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

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

11.18.14 Insight from Rev. Doyle Blanton

Rev. Doyle Blanton is a Congregational Care Pastor at Resurrection, serving the 9 a.m. worship community, assisting with the 5 p.m. Sunday community and shepherding the Thursday night care night. He and his wife Christy moved to Kansas in June and have two children, Matt and Heather.

“What is it that you want?” Jesus asked the wife of Zebedee and mother of their two sons rather directly. For this mother, most likely for her sons and the rest of the disciples, they wanted to share the perceived power and glory that was coming to Jesus upon entering Jerusalem, upsetting the powers of Rome, and setting up his Kingly Reign. Let’s face it, they wanted the best seats in the house. When it comes down to it, who of us doesn’t want the best seats in the house–whether it’s at the theater, game, or even Christmas at Resurrection!

As I read the text for today, this question Jesus asked seemed to jump out at me, and insist on being answered. “WHAT IS IT THAT YOU WANT?” As I pause with this question in mind, I realize the answer has changed over the years of my life and ministry. I first wanted to make it through school without too much debt. I have always wanted to have a happy life and marriage and to effectively serve the church. Since my early 20’s, I have wanted to save appropriately to provide amply for my family in our retirement. As I now move into this new decade of my life, one of the driving answers to this question is–I want to live a life that honors God in all that I do. Yes, I want to live a life that pleases God, makes a contribution to the coming Kingdom of God, and serves faithfully the church I so greatly love.

This answer to the central question proves to be very clarifying for me in regards to daily priorities and decisions. Some of the former priorities are fading as I bring my life back to center on my calling and desire to please God in all that I do. The lure of power and position continue to wane in my soul as I release my future into God’s hands, for as God has held me in the past and in the present moment, I trust my future is also secure. I would ultimately want that assurance for everyone who is wrestling with their answer to this clarifying question: “What is it that you want?”

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

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

11.17.14 Insight from Ginny Howell

Ginny Howell is the Connections Mobilization Program Director at Resurrection.

A few years ago, my friend was taking her little boy, Seamus,  to explore at Shawnee Mission Park. Seamus was curious about the world around him, and enjoyed spending Sundays at “dirt church” connecting with the Almighty through nature.  On this particular day, he took his Razor scooter with him, which he was just barely big enough to ride. While he and his mom were down by the creek checking out tadpoles or skipping rocks, someone took the scooter from the side of the trail. Seamus was devastated, and had a hard time understanding at that young age why someone would do something like that. He was a bright boy who had been listening when his parents were talking about right and wrong, and he knew that stealing  was wrong. So imagine how long the walk back was for Seamus with no scooter, and for his mom with no way to explain the why, only consoling words that didn’t quite remove the sting and certainly didn’t bring his scooter back.

After reading about this disappointment on Facebook, my husband was troubled. He knew what a great kid Seamus was, and he didn’t want Seamus to lose that precious outlook about the good there is in the world, and that good is what everyone should be doing. He went by Toys R Us and then dropped off a new Razor scooter at Srazoreamus’ house with this anonymous (until now) note:

I heard that someone took your scooter when you were playing the in the creek. That’s not fair!!! Here is a new one because nice things happen to nice people. Have fun and always wear a helmet

(Photo courtesy of mom’s Facebook page)

Justice isn’t a concept that is only tough for our little ones, it can also be a huge challenge for those of us with a bit more life experience. Living in a time of non-stop information overload where the bad stories often outweigh the good, it is easy to lose focus of how we can practice justice. Each one of us can claim our own role as an agent of justice in this world. Because we take action- protecting those in need, caring for those without, healing hurts and righting wrongs….justice becomes reality.

Jesus didn’t fixate on the injustice that he knew was about to happen (which surprisingly for those in that time became the ultimate justice in the resurrection). He stopped thinking about what had been foreseen and healed those  closest to him, in the present. How many times are we so focused on the big injustices that make us feel helpless and lose hope that we miss the opportunity to bring justice to those walking with us each and every day?

Open your eyes to those around you. How might you practice justice this week?

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

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

11.15.14 Insight from Bryan Cisler

Bryan Cisler serves as the Digital Media Specialist at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

There’s a book that came out recently called, The Paradox of Generosity. It’s focused not just on who gives or why they give but what effect generosity has on the giver. It delves into the neurochemical changes that happen in the brain when we routinely and sacrificially give. As you read in today’s scripture, this isn’t some new theory. The Bible has been stating that this is the only way to live for thousands of years.

So why don’t we do this? We have always known it’s a crucial requirement in serving God, and now over the last several decades we are learning more and more about its tangible health benefits as well. For me, it’s not that I suddenly wake up and say, “I am going to start worshiping money and not God,” it’s just that serving the Lord becomes less of a priority. Several weeks ago Pastor Adam gave us a coin with the instruction that we should move it from pocket to the next when we do an act of kindness. The first several days I was very disciplined about doing that, and I could feel the effects. Now that we are at the end of the sermon series, the coin … I think it’s one of my pant pockets that’s crumpled up in the laundry basket at home.

As you think about today’s scripture, be proactive in putting yourself in situations that you’re going to be generous. Also, note that when you’re in worship that the people sitting around you are trying to do the same thing. It’s a struggle for everyone, so when you see people making the effort to live sacrificially, make sure you encourage and cheer them on.

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

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone