Monthly Archives: January 2010

1.29.10 Friday Insights from Darren Lippe

As we review Jesus’ version of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” I ran across this article about discovery of a “diary” from the 1st century.  Here’s one entry:

I simply must tell you about the most amazing day.  The barley field had recently been reaped.  I was going back through the field to glean the leftover stalks.  I noticed a throng of people coming down the lane, following this traveling Rabbi.  I could hear them chatting about Him hosting some kind of dinner party later on at His Father’s house. 

As I was standing there with my skirt in front of my robe filled with barley, He walked right up to me in the field & He simply said, “I am inviting you to come to My banquet.” 

I was speechless.  Here I was, my robe was dirty, my face was streaked with dust & sweat, & my hands were covered with scrapes & nicks from picking up grain from the field.  I must have been quite a sight!

I was hesitant to accept His invitation.  I’m not one to receive very many invitations.  Why would He want me to come?  Surely there are more worthy guests to be included.  Maybe I should just pass.

I began to think of all sorts of excuses:  I could say I needed to work more, or I could talk about repairing my cracked oven, or I could just complain that I was tired. Finally, I told Him, “I would have to come straight from the field.  I wouldn’t have time to look presentable.”

He replied, “Please come as you are.” 

I tried again, explaining that I wouldn’t have time to clean up.  He said “Don’t worry, at the party, you’ll be washed & made like new.”

Finally, I stammered if there was anything I could bring.  As the words came out of my mouth, I wanted to take them back.  What could I possibly bring that would be worthy of such a costly celebration?  I have nothing.  I felt humbled & ashamed.  He looked me in the eye & said, “Bring only yourself.  You are my guest.”  Then He smiled (oh what a smile He had!) and added, “Actually, it’s going to be such a nice banquet, why not invite some friends as well?”

Guess what?  I’m accepting His invitation!  I can’t wait to tell my friends of this amazing man.  I followed Him the rest of the afternoon.  The more He spoke & the more I learned about Him, the more excited I got.  I am still stunned.  To think He is interested in me.  What a difference a day can make!  It is late & time for bed.  For the first time in many, many years, my heart is at peace.  More tomorrow, I promise.

(Signed) Gianina

Editor’s Note:  Gianina is Hebrew for “God is gracious.”  God is gracious, indeed!

1.28.10 Thursday Insights from Amy Otto

These past few weeks have been pretty eye opening for our world. An earthquake caused massive damage to the country of Haiti. People are without homes, food, water, family– all the basic necessities we take for granted.

In today’s Scripture passage, Jesus heals a woman who has been bent over for 18 years. This was not a tragic accident that happened in front of Jesus, but someone who had carried this hardship for many years. The Pharisees, of course, got upset. Their excuse was that they had a rule that said you couldn’t heal anyone on the Sabbath.

I wonder what our excuses are. Even before the earthquake, there were people in the world, our country, our states, our cities, even our neighborhoods without food, water, families – all the necessities. There are people who have lived for years on the streets, others who haven’t spoken to family in months. There are families trying to figure out how to pay bills and buy groceries. The list goes on.

If you are like me (and the Pharisees), you’ve got a lot of great excuses. But God doesn’t want our excuses. He wants us to act. He wants that so badly that He will help us act. So as you read this scripture, think about what your excuses are. Then join me in this simple prayer that God will help us act:

Lord, I lay down my excuses before you and ask that you turn them into actions for your Kingdom. When someone needs help, may I be the one who helps. When someone needs a friend, may I stop and listen. When someone needs a healing touch, may I be that touch. In your Holy Name, Amen.

Amy Otto serves on the Student Ministries staff at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. Her e-mail signature includes the words, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.” ~ I Timothy 4:12

1.27.10 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Nicole Conard

Today’s Scripture can be summed up in one general theme: Jesus warns.  Did you read all the ways Jesus says the hard things to those who were listening?  This is not easy reading.  We can often reflect – ‘What does he mean by that?’ Then know in that reflection, we are not the only ones. The people who were listening to Jesus’ talks in this Scripture probably thought the same thing.  Jesus was not saying nice, easy-listening points of conversation. Instead, it is just the opposite.

Jesus gives warning – the message of the kingdom is not an easy message. It may bring about divisions.  It is expecting and demanding responsibility like in the parable of the faithful or unfaithful slave. Jesus warns that no one is exempt from living their faith. We all have a lot to learn. Yet in this warning we also hear a word of grace.

The Unfinished Parable in Luke 13:6-9, gives me hope.  I hear of Jesus “bringing into account” the tree needing fruit. If the tree does not bear fruit, cut it down.  But, he gives ‘the tree’ a second chance. Jesus wants us to hear, believe and live life following after Christ each and every day. The days we fall short know that there is grace and a second chance. Today may our live our lives in such a way that bears fruit and for the times we fall short, rest in God’s grace and look forward to the next day.

1.26.10 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Molly Simpson

Jesus is coming back?!  What?  Really?

Was this your response to our passage today?  It may as well have been mine.  Luke 12:35-40 really challenges me.  It’s not that I don’t believe that Jesus is coming back, it’s more that the concept of expectation, anticipation and watchfulness is a bit lost on me.  Don’t get me wrong, it would be really cool for Jesus to return to Earth during my lifetime, but what are the chances… it’s been a good two thousand years already that people have been waiting.  Are you with me?

So what if I allow this passage to change my attitude?  How might I live differently?  When I was in high school, I remember the fear that some youth leader put in my head by asking “what if Jesus came back on a Friday night at 11pm?” knowing full well what happened after the football games in my friends’ basements.  That’s not really the sentiment Luke is suggesting, and really, God doesn’t need to show up in the flesh to know about our shady and dubious activities.  What Luke is suggesting is excitement, joy, preparedness, a willingness to serve.  What do I do differently today if I am eagerly anticipating the return of Christ?  How might my words and actions welcome Jesus’ return with honor?  Perhaps it is as simple as something my husband suggested–“Be faithful.  Do the work that what God has asked you to do.”  How will you live today in anticipation of the return of the Son of Man?

1.25.10 Monday Insights from Pastor Andrew Conard

In the first few verses of the scripture passage for today, Jesus reminds the Pharisees that it is as important, if not more important, to clean the inside of the cup as well as the outside of a cup. Jesus is speaking about the spiritual life of the Pharisees. The state of the interior life with God is more important than how it looks on the outside. This is true for the journey of faith today.

It is important to show the fruit of the Christian life – serving others, sharing Christ, going on a mission trip and being in worship every weekend. However, it our motivation or response to these things may be more important. Do you go to worship on the weekend to see and be seen by others? Do you serve others because of the positive impression that it makes on others? It may be time to reconsider one’s motivations.

January has been a month in which I have reexamined my commitments in various areas of my life. I wonder if you have made any resolutions for the new year. One of my commitments is to be first concerned about the wellness of my soul before considering how the appearance of my Christian life is to others.

How is it with your soul?

If you would like to talk more about this, please contact one of your pastors at Resurrection. Our hope is to provide spiritual guidance on the journey of knowing, loving and serving God.

1.22.10 Friday Insights from Darren Lippe

Working on the operations side for a Natural Gas marketer, I occasionally help a customer lock in a price on the futures screen.  Too often, such transaction would play out this way (via texts):

Customer:  I’d like to lock in a price for next month at $5.00 or less.

Darren:  The screen is trading around $4.95 right now, should I go to market?

Customer:  Let’s set a price of $4.88

Darren:  The screen is now around $4.90, so we should be good in a few minutes.

Customer:  Let’s change my bid to $4.80.

Darren:  The screen is now bouncing around $4.82.

Customer:  Let’s hold off until $4.75.

Then, as sometimes happens, the NYMEX rebounds & eventually settles at $5.15.  I’ll later chat with my friend & he’ll lament that he was just “getting too greedy.”

In our passage today, we see Jesus’ opposition “getting too greedy” with Jesus.  All of the amazing signs, miracles & fulfilled prophecies weren’t quite enough.  They were always seeking just one more sign or one more extraordinary miracle before believing.

We have to be careful to not full into such temptation.  We can find ourselves in the mode of becoming a “Yes, but…” believer.  “Yes I believe, but I’m not a committed Christian because ______.”  We can fill in the blank with a myriad of reasons:  not sure about some of the stories in the Scriptures, not pleased with the behavior of other Christians, or not enough time to study Christ’s teachings.

If we do have such unresolved questions, then what are we doing to answer them?  When facilitating a Disciple class, I’ll bring along a bright red sheet of paper labeled, “Questions –Too Hot to Handle.”  When we come across a question that we don’t have time to adequately address during our time together, or might steer us too far off the beaten path, or might require a little extra research, I’ll place the question on this sheet. 

Typically, these questions don’t linger for very long.  A question raised in Matthew’s gospel, may be answered in Mark’s re-telling or Luke’s version.  A question of the Pharaoh’s heart being hardened during the plague scene in Exodus is resolved by a quick review of a few well-written commentaries.  A challenging passage including, for example, the phrase, “jealous God,” may give us trouble.  But when we exchange the word, “jealous” with a synonym like “protective” the passage can become a little clearer.  Or as one continues to read & study the Scriptures, some questions lose their importance with the additional perspective.

While we might enjoy Lieutenant Detective Columbo’s pursuing the truth of a crime, with his, “just one more question” routine, we can’t allow our faith walk to be stuck in neutral with such mentality.  (For readers who never experienced the joy of only 3 television channels, Detective Columbo was a character played by Peter Falk in the 1970’s television crime drama, Columbo – Editor.) 

So what to do?  Why not compile a list the questions that we have about Jesus, His life, or His message?  Then discern which ones we consider to be minor & which questions are significant.  For the major questions, start taking concrete steps to seek answers or further explanations to help us move forward on our faith journey.

My frugal friend from the opening story rationalized his situation by noting “you can’t get in trouble if you never make a decision.”  While that was true in his case, it doesn’t apply to our decision-making about Christ.  “No decision” indeed becomes “a decision” that limits the peace & contentment we can experience this day with a life committed to Christ.

1.21.10 Thursday Insights from Pastor Penny Ellwood

As a woman, I am always drawn to the age old debate between the Mary’s and the Martha’s and what Jesus was conveying in this story.  As a Martha myself, I don’t believe that Jesus is criticizing Martha for her service. Jesus knows that Martha is trying to communicate her high regard for him by her hospitality and he knows that someone has to be in charge of the logistics of feeding the hungry travelers. 

However, Martha has gotten distracted by all the details; the means have become the end for her.  For example, maybe a simpler meal might have sufficed for the evening so that she could have enjoyed Jesus’ teachings herself.  I can imagine that Martha had pulled out all the stops to entertain Jesus’ entourage.  But by doing so, she was being pulled in so many directions that she had lost her perspective; her ability to focus on the most important thing. 

Jesus commends Mary for her attentiveness, her ability to center herself on the “one thing” that is needed.  Mary was hanging onto every word that Jesus spoke and not attending to the tasks set out by her sister.  Mary wasn’t just sitting at Jesus’ feet like an adoring school girl, as we might imagine though.  “Sitting at the feet” was a common way of stating that one was listening and learning, focusing on the teaching of a master and putting it all together in their mind, as a student.  It was something you did if you wanted to be a rabbi yourself.  This was not simply learning for learning’s sake, it meant that Mary had quietly taken her place as a would-be teacher and preacher of the kingdom of God, something unheard of for a woman of that time. 

  Perhaps this was part of why Martha was so concerned.  Mary had come under the liberating influence of Jesus and he welcomed her presence along with the men.  Jesus affirmed that for a disciple, which Mary appeared to be, there was only one essential pre-requisite: to be still and listen; to sit and learn.

 I think that Jesus was trying to gently point Martha in the same direction, away from the worry and stress of perfecting her evening to a single minded focus on the Word that gives life.  Sometimes in our attempts to offer the Word of God, we get distracted by the details, wanting everything to go just perfect.  This is a good reminder to keep “the ‘one thing’, the main thing.”

1.20.10 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Russell Brown

The stories highlighted in this section of Luke’s gospel share a common theme; that there is a cost involved in following Christ.

In 1937, Dietrich Bonhoeffer published a landmark book titled, The Cost of Discipleship. Almost as significant as the title and message of the book is the publication place and date. An ordained pastor in the Lutheran church of Germany, Bonhoeffer wrote passionately about the need for Christians to submit their lives fully to Christ. Of course he wrote against the cultural backdrop of the rise of the Nazi regime in his country. Ultimately, because of his message and because of the steps he took to oppose Adolf Hitler’s rule, Bonhoeffer was executed in a German concentration camp at the age of 33.

In his writings, Bonhoeffer contrasted what he called “cheap grace” with “costly grace.” He said, “cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.” Bonhoeffer believed that in its zeal to grow and become a “successful” institution, the church of his time had accommodated the German cultural norms and softened and mellowed the message of Jesus in order to make it more agreeable to a greater number of people.

In the passages we read today, Jesus makes no such accommodation. When he tells his audience, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head,” (Lk. 9:58) Jesus pulls no punches. There will indeed be a price to pay for following this nomadic rabbi. When so many of the prescriptions Jesus offers are so diametrically opposed to the supposed “wisdom” of the world, there will inevitably be a clash.

Has following Christ been costly for you? Have there been changes in your habits, in your friendships, in your behaviors, in your financial life, or anyplace else that have come about as a result of your decision to follow Christ? For most of us the answer is yes. None of us is likely to pay the ultimate price that Jesus or Dietrich Bonhoeffer paid, but even as we look over the changes – indeed the costs – that discipleship has wrought in our lives, we should each be able to echo the words the ap0stle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:8, “More than that I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…”

1.19.10 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Scott Chrostek

In the days before Christ’s mountaintop metamorphosis, Jesus, the hope of the world, announces that he must undergo great suffering, rejection, and ultimately execution.  Upon hearing this news, his disciples must have been devastated. According to Mark, Peter actually shouts at Jesus.  He rebukes him, grabs him by the shoulders and screams something to the tune of, “What are you talking about Jesus!  You’re a king.  You make miracles happen!  You have all the power in the world!  Say it isn’t so.  Don’t do this to us!”  Jesus answered immediately saying, “Get behind me, Satan!  Can’t you see? You are setting your sights not on divine things, but on human things. You don’t have a clue as to who I am or how I work, Peter!”  And then there was silence. Jesus walks off, and leaves the disciples to fend for themselves for 6 whole days according to Mark (8 according to Luke).

For 8 days they lived alone, abandoned, depressed, left to wonder, “What will become of us, without Jesus?” And then He reappears.   Jesus shows back up, and calmly asks them if they’d like to go on a holy adventure.  Do you guys want to climb a mountain with me?

Tom Long writes, ‘nothing in the immediate topography of the Gospel prepares us for it. The landscape is generally fast and flat.  Jesus had been doing ministry in the lowlands of Galilee, with no mountains in sight, and now suddenly, without any warning whatsoever the grade turns sharply upward, and we find ourselves with Jesus on a high mountain apart.’ At their lowest point, Jesus returns to invite them to join in on a holy adventure, a grand journey, a tough climb upward.  The disciples said yes, and we’re lifted up from below sea level, we’re brought out from beneath the silence and fear, and we’re placed on a mountaintop to stand apart with Jesus…

Over the last few days we have all been witnessing and experiencing some tough stuff. Hundreds of thousands of real lives have been lost.  Things have been trying; the suffering has been plenty, the fear abundant.  I imagine that lots of people are feeling as though you’d like to grab Jesus, or God, by the shoulders and shout, “What’s this all about? I don’t get it!”  Jesus meets us in moments like these.  It’s these kinds of moments, that Christ reappears calling us, inviting us, enabling us to go with him, to be with him, to pursue a holy mountain climbing adventure with him.  More important than the invitation, becomes our willingness to accept Christ’s invitation to action.

Whenever there seems to be no possible way to join hands with God, that’s when I’ve discovered that God reaches out to us the most…that’s when Christ calls us to go with him to a place, on a journey where we’ll see the big picture, where we’ll dream God-sized dreams and hope for greater things yet to come.  God is calling us now to join in witnessing anew to the glory of the coming of the Lord by climbing the mountain with him, so that we might share the transfiguration light, with all people walking in fear.  God is calling us now to live into the light of the Resurrection!

In what has become his last speech, Martin Luther King Jr., traveled to Memphis, TN to speak in Mason Temple Church on the eve of his assassination.  In that speech King closed by talking about mountaintops in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement…he said, “I don’t know what will happen now…we’ve got some difficult days ahead…but it doesn’t matter to me now…because I’ve been to the mountaintop. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life.  Longevity has its place…but I’m not concerned about that now.  I just want to do God’s will.  And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain.  And I’ve looked over.   And I’ve seen the Promised Land.  I may not get there with you…But I want you to know tonight…that we will get there together…and that makes me happy…I’m not worried about anything anymore…I’m not fearing anything anymore…because mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

Have yours?

1.18.10 Monday Insights from Pastor Steven Blair

Saved from what?  Saved for what?
Jesus’ sending out of the twelve comes immediately after Jesus heals a dead girl and sick woman.  Jesus’ sending of the twelve comes before he feeds the 5000.  These two stories provide the frame of the following verse.

“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” –  Luke 9:1-2

Salvation has almost exclusively referred to what we are being saved from.  We are saved from sin, sadness, bad habits, etc.  But salvation liberates us in order to point us in another direction.  A person who is saved from selfishness is saved for God’s mission of extending compassion to all people. A person who is saved from prejudice is saved for God’s mission of reconciliation.

Take out a sheet of paper and create two columns.  Now write 2-20 things God has saved you from, or is saving you from.  Now connect that salvation to what you see God saving you for.
Saved from                         Saved for

While you reflect on this Scripture and today’s GPS, we highly encourage you to read: Martin Luther King’s Famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”  It is a short letter directed to the pastors who had worked against the Civil Rights Movement.  In honor of MLK, spend a “Day on” working for racial and social equality and also read his “Letter” by clicking below.

Steven Blair is Pastor of Congregational Care for last names beginning with M-R at The Church of the Resurrection. You can read his personal blog at