Monthly Archives: December 2009

12.31.09 Insights from Rev. Wendy Lyons Chrostek

My mom absolutely loves having a Christmas tree.  I can remember as a child on the day after Thanksgiving going out, not to shop, but to pick up a tree.  Then we would spend all day stringing the lights on it and hanging ornaments together.  She’d rearrange the living room furniture so that it was in just the perfect spot for us to be able to enjoy it from every angle.  What I remember most about the tree though, was sitting on her lap in front of the tree.  We had a rocking chair that she would place just in front of the tree, and along with a cup of hot cocoa, my sister and I would climb into her lap and she’d read us the Christmas story. Sometimes we’d be really engaged and ask questions, other times, the hot cocoa would put us right to sleep.  But, what I truly appreciate so much are those precious moments in time that we shared.

As we reflect back on what Scott preached about on Sunday and think about how we look at time, I wonder if there might be more places in our lives when we could take the time to make a memory.  It doesn’t have to be something extravagant, it could be as simple as reading the Christmas story in front of the tree, but it can make an impression on your life for years and years to come.   When I think about the Christmas story, I can still hear it being told through my mother’s voice, and I wonder, what thing might you or the ones you love like to remember and how might you make those moments more prevalent in your life? With the eve of the new year upon us, I wonder if you might make a resolution this year to pay attention to the time you spend and make more memories.

12.30.09 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Russell Brown

Today’s scripture passage tells the story of the birth and naming of Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. The story is highlighted by the astonishing restoration of the power of speech to his father Zechariah immediately following Zechariah’s affirmation of the choice of the very unusual name, “John” for his eight-day old son.

Zechariah then breaks into a recitation of an amazing canticle of praise known as “The Benedictus” praising God for using he and his wife Elizabeth as instruments in the ultimate salvation of Israel. In this song, we can see that Zechariah is absolutely clear about the role his son John will play in Israel (and the world’s) ultimate liberation: “… for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people…” (v. 76-77).

As I read this passage and thought about the role John the Baptist played in Jesus’ saving mission, I found myself wondering about the necessity of John’s role and ministry. I wondered about the impact and lasting effect of Jesus’ message if John had never appeared before him. How exactly did John’s preaching and baptizing “pave the way” for the healing and teaching of his cousin Jesus? Could Jesus have succeeded without John? Why? Why not?

Ultimately we have to conclude that God set the stage perfectly through John so that Jesus’ ministry was able to have a maximum impact on the world. In much the same way, we are each called to play a very specific role in the lives of each person we encounter. Even if we are not the one who ultimately offers the word or the touch that releases that person from their “chains,” we cannot discount the importance of the role we have been asked to play in their lives. Liberation or transformation is seldom a one-step process, in my experience. It takes me… it takes you… it takes the intervention of the Holy Spirit, all working with one another, augmenting the impact we each make independently.

As you conclude your Bible study in prayer, ask God to give you the awareness and the courage to step forward in compassion to at least one person today and to help, “… prepare the way of the Lord” in that person’s life.

Rev. Russell Brown is the Pastor of Support Ministries at the Church of the Resurrection

Phone: 913-544-0219

Email: russell.brown@cor.org

12.28.09 Monday Insights from Pastor Andrew Conard

I particularly appreciate the introduction to the gospel of Jesus Christ with which Luke begins in the first 4 verses. This introduction helps give me context for the entire book. Theologians conclude that “Theophilus” is most likely a Roman official who has been converted to Christianity. Luke asserts that he is writing an “orderly account” so that the Theophilus “may know the truth” about those things which the had been heard.

Luke is writing to set the record straight.

Luke recognizes that there are many stories about Jesus and that there is a need to be clear about the truth of Jesus.

The situation is not that much different today. There are many who are willing to make claims about Jesus – no shortage of stories. However, we are called to seek the truth and in this case the truth about Jesus. The four gospels found in the Bible contain the clearest picture of the person, life and work of Jesus Christ. This is where we find the truth about Jesus. This truth is good news of great joy for all people.

Will you share the story and truth of Jesus with someone this week?

    12.26.09 Saturday Insights from Pastor Andrew Conard

    I am amazed by this story of the magi or kings who come to visit Jesus. They recognized an unusual star in the sky that represented the birth of a new king. They could have stayed near their homes and worshiped from afar. However, it is likely that they traveled hundreds of miles over many days to find Jesus and worship fully.

    When I consider a journey like this it is most often to take a vacation or to see family. It is unlikely that I would undertake a journey without being clear where I am going or who I am going to see when I arrive. It is much less likely that I would bring significant gifts to someone that I have never met!

    This is the story of the magi. They traveled a long distance, brought significant gifts and bowed down to worship a baby. It is an unusual act by the standards in our culture today, however they begin to make sense when considering who it was that they had come to worship. Jesus being born is God coming to earth as a human. The creator of the entire universe comes to us as a baby. The way that the magi orient their life around Jesus begins to make sense. In what ways will you seek to follow Jesus?

    Prayer: Jesus, your birth is an incredible event that changes the world. I confess that I do not always understand how to best follow you. Strengthen me to follow after you today and each day. Amen.

    12.25.09 Christmas (Friday) Insights from Pastor Karen Lampe

    The Gift of Yourself
     
    As Christians, Christmas is the day you may have opened gifts in celebration of Christ’s birth. Today, I’m pondering another kind of gift—the gift of ourselves, when we give our time, our passion, and our commitment as we work for a more just, compassionate world. 
     
    For me on this Christmas day, as I read the passage, Matthew 1: 18-24, I’m thinking of the main characters of the story.  Both Mary and Joseph, it seems to me, were giving of themselves to bring comfort and salvation to a world that needed deliverance.  Mary, though young and fearful, did her part in serving God as the mother of Jesus.  Joseph trusted the message from his dream that this baby would deliver redemption and hope.  Neither Mary nor Joseph knew quite how they fit into God’s plan, nor could they have known what difficulties they would have along the way.  But their trust and faith in God’s path was unwavering.  For they knew that God was asking them to commit themselves to something larger and more important than they could ever imagine.
     
    The most important character is Christ who the scriptures say, “will save the people from their sins.”  Commentaries interpret the word “save” to mean “deliver,” and the word “sins” to mean “unjust acts.”   So if Christ came to deliver us from doing or being compromised by unjust acts, it seems there is a call on our life to offer ourselves as we work for justice. 
     
    As I think about Christ being born this day, and the gift he gave of himself, I wonder what I can do to create a more just world?  Mary, Joseph and Jesus were all willing to do their part; what can each of us do? 
     
    This work is not easy.  Usually it means that we must intercede and go the extra mile.  What is really on my heart is the need to try to do all we can for the children of Kansas City, as well as the children of Africa and Afghanistan.  There are places that we are asked to go to try to create a more just world.  It will mean getting out of our comfort zones in big ways.  But the payoff is big.  Salvation comes to all people as we strive for a world where education, food and clean water are available.  Salvation for us means deliverance from our self-serving petty choices.  Salvation for the impoverished and hungry means the ability to be sustained by Christ’s love and be able to share the blessings with others. 
     
    Today, on this Christmas Day, let us all pray that Jesus might be born into all of our hearts, that we might be strengthened to do whatever it takes to create a more just world.   Are we up to the tasks?

    Merry, Merry Christmas!  May God bless all of us with courage to give the best gift: ourselves.

    12.24.09 Thursday Insights from Pastor Scott Chrostek

    “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.”  Charles L. Campbell writes that, “Christmas Eve is not a time for explanation or analysis.  It’s a day for story, poetry and song.”

    For me, Christmas Eve is a day when we can once again pour ourselves into the greatest story ever told.  It’s a day when we can sit beside our children and share in the excitement and anticipation of all that’s coming while singing songs that have joyfully shaped who we are and what we’re all about.  These are the songs that bring us great joy and purpose.  “Repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy, repeat, repeat the sounding joy!”

    Christmas Eve is a day for getting lost in the mystery of mangers, shepherds, angels and innkeepers.  It’s a day for gazing in awe and wonder at the stars of the heavenly host shining brightly at night.  It’s a day for witnessing and remembering an event that cannot be captured within the limits of human language, but stretches our imagination to its breaking point.  On Christmas Eve we are introduced to a holy infant named salvation.

    Tonight at midnight, Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, the true light, will be born in such a way that illumines everyone and everything.  And even though it is hard to understand in word and difficult to imagine in theory, something amazing happens when you experience it surrounded by neighbors, family, and friends in worship.  On Christmas Eve, people come together, sing together, pray together, read together, listen together, remember together, wonder together, dream together, give together, eat together, and then we all return together to the darkness.  It’s at that very moment, in the darkness when we least expect it, that a word enters the room.  At first you hear it.  Then you see it, and little by little, one by one, it spreads, increases, rises until it covers everything and everyone in a way that causes us to sing! Joy to the World, the Lord has come!

    Merry Christmas and may the light of Christ break forth in the manger of your soul this year!

    

    12.23.09 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Molly Simpson

    John 1:1-5
    1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

    I can’t read this passage of scripture without thinking of Christmas Eve candlelight services.  We come to the end of these services, and we read this passage while sitting in a room that is totally dark.  One candle is brought into the room, and it is amazing how one flame is able to bring light to the whole room.  John’s description of the Word (Jesus) takes us to the beginning of creation echoing the first 3 words of Genesis 1:1, establishes Jesus’ co-eternal nature, tells us that the Word is God (not something or someone different altogether), and hints at the way that Jesus overcomes sin, despair, hopelessness, brokenness, and evil in this world by bringing life to all people.

    When I think about the first Christmas, I wonder about the light piercing the darkness as a child was born in a stable in Bethlehem.  Was it kind of like that one candle that enters the room on Christmas Eve?  One tiny little flicker that is able to dispel the darkness.  And, this one light sets off a chain of events that leads to the light being shared with each person.  Sometimes it’s hard to wrap my mind around the idea of Jesus changing the course of history in the incarnation (taking on flesh) by overcoming sin, evil, and death and bringing the light of salvation to the world–but I get this light thing that John is talking about.  I can picture it.  I can use this metaphor to visualize how unbelievably significant Jesus’ birth on Christmas really is.  Thanks John.

    Here’s hoping that you have a blessed Christmas and you come to know the power of the light that shines in the darkness.

    Rev. Molly Simpson is the Campus Pastor of Resurrection’s West Campus in Olathe and is available at molly.simpson@rezwest.org.

    12.22.09 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Karla Woodward

    In this text, the Old Testament prophet Isaiah writes a poetic hymn of thanksgiving, probably announcing the birth of a noble prince in the eighth century BCE in which it was written.   It is a sign of hope; a child has been born and the birth is being announced with joy!  After a time of great darkness where it seemed God had been silent, a light had pierce that darkness, shining into the world with peace, joy, authority and justice. 

    These words of Isaiah speak to us today in this season of Advent, as they seem to point forward to the birth of Jesus Christ, saying, “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Might God; Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” 

    On Christmas Eve, we celebrate the birth of God’s Incarnate One, the Word of God, a child born to pierce the darkness of sin and give us all a great light of hope, peace and joy.   Celebrate the announcement of this joyous birth this year by worshiping at a Candlelight Christmas Eve service.  As the candle light is passed through the room, remember that this light of Christ can pierce the darkness in your life!

    12.21.09 Monday Insights from Pastor Russell Brown

    In today’s scripture passage we return to God’s presentation – some 800 years before the birth of Jesus – of God’s chosen servant. As we read the opening lines of this passage we can’t help but notice that they bear a strong resemblance to the scene in Mark’s gospel (Mark 1:11) in which Jesus is baptized by John. There, the heavens are torn open and we hear the voice of God declare, “You are my son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Compare that statement to God’s words about the unnamed “servant” here in Isaiah stating, “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights.”

    In both cases, (Mark and Isaiah) we see that the qualities of this servant (son) through whom the world will be saved are unlike the qualities we might expect such a savior to possess. Isaiah describes the servant as one who will bring justice to the nations, but who also will, “… not cry or lift up his voice… a bruised reed he will not break.” In Mark, the exclamation point that follows God’s verbal anointing of Jesus is the appearance of a dove! Hardly images that evoke a sense of power or might or world-changing authority.

    And yet the meek-voiced servant and the dove-anointed Son did in fact change the world in a profound and lasting way. Reflect with me for a moment on the lasting effect on the world of the life of Jesus in comparison with the lasting effects of those who would change the world by force. What remains of the work of “saviors” such as Julius Caesar, Ghenghis Khan, Adolph Hitler, Josef Stalin, Pol Pot, or Saddam Hussein? Beyond scars in the earth and painful memories of the families of those whose lives were destroyed, what legacy remains?

    The challenge offered to each of us as we approach the season of light that is Christmas is to “enliven” its message. As Isaiah and Mark both remind us of the essential nature of the Messiah whose birth we come to celebrate, let us each pledge to apply that reminder to our lives… right here, right now. Let us live as those who lead by quiet example. Let us rededicate ourselves to the truth of the gospel of love and forgiveness. Let us lay aside all impulses to resolve disputes with force. And let us never forget that God has already been to the darkest places we will ever have to face and has overcome them by the life and light of Christ.

    And let us echo again the words that the angels sung on that first Christmas night: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace… and goodwill to ALL.”