Monthly Archives: July 2010

7.31.10 Saturday Insights from Dan Entwistle

Peter is a straight-shooting challenger.  He exhorts and prods his readers to mature in the faith and become different people- different both from their neighbors and from their former selves.

Notice that the Christians in these early days of the church did not live in a world like ours.  In Peter’s day, Christians did not comprise the majority culture.  They were not the darlings of their community.  Instead, they sometimes found themselves under harsh persecution for their beliefs.  They were outcasts who risked their lives to follow Jesus’ way.  So, how does Peter encourage them to fight back?  What was the defense strategy?  How would they stand their ground?

They were to let their lifestyles do the talking.  They were to be exceedingly good.  In verses 8 and 9 of today’s reading, Peter writes, “be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing…”

Goodness would be their reputation.  Not a routine, safe, run-of-the-mill kind of goodness, but kindness that refuses to strike back even when provoked.  A sweetness of spirit that stands up in the midst of conflict and actively seeks a lasting peace. A rare humility that could never be born from a desire to get ahead of the pack. More difficult yet, they were to have a depth of love that would willingly suffer for the sake of blessing others- even those who would seek to do them harm.

Doing good…vigorously pursuing the kind of goodness that flows from God’s work on the interior of our lives.  Pursuing a lifestyle patterned after the perfect love of the one who loved to the bitter end and suffered for doing the right thing.

Peter’s readers were faced with a world that was often at odds with this strange band of Christ-followers.  The way forward was to let their lives speak loudly.  When they did so, people weren’t turned off. Instead, they became curious and open to the message. So much so, that Peter followed up in verse 16 with an instruction to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” When we follow the simple rule of doing good, people will want to know why.

Love, charity, grace, respect and kindness. Peter’s words challenge me to pursue goodness today. Let’s make the world curious by being good together.

Dan Entwistle serves as Managing Executive Director for Programs and Ministries at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

7.30.10 Friday Insights from Darren Lippe

My 3rd grade class was preparing for our Fall Open House, where our folks can come see our classroom & meet our teacher.  Our teacher, Mrs. Thompson, gave us an assignment:  If we had 3 wishes, what would we wish for?  We were to draw a picture of our wishes & they would be placed on our desks.  There was a bonus.  The best drawing by a boy & the best drawing by a girl would be posted on the bulletin board.

Though my artistic abilities range between nil & nada, I diligently worked on my picture.  Tuesday night arrives & I’m getting dressed in my church clothes to go to the Open House.  As we enter the room, lo & behold, my drawing was posted on the bulletin board.

Now, my 3 wishes were as follows:  1 million baseball cards, with a carefully drawn picture of my favorite baseball card & player, Carl Yastrzemski.  (This was before George Brett became George Brett.), 1 million football cards, with a carefully drawn picture of my favorite football card & player, O.J. Simpson (Yeah.  I know.), and a detailed drawing of what I thought a million dollar bill would like – so I could buy more baseball & football cards. 

As I’m mentally preparing my acceptance speech (“There are so many people I’d like to thank…”), I notice the best drawing by a girl: Tami.  Tami went to my church, Sunday school, & children’s choir with me.  Her 3 wishes were simply “Love, Joy & Peace.”

Oh my. 

I knew then that little Darren John’s life was not going to be the same.  My mother wept for days.  She asked, “How could we be raising such a materialistic child?  Were you not paying attention in Sunday School?” & on & on.  My final argument, in my ultimately futile defense, was, “who can even draw a picture of what love, joy & peace look like?”

And that is a struggle for us even today.  Paul provides us with a look at the benefits of a life with Christ, i.e. the Fruits of the Spirit.  Yet we can feel that this list is as elusive today as when we first began our faith walk.  But does it really need to be so challenging?

I would submit for your consideration that one way we might view the list is as a chain reaction.  We start with love, the basis of all Christianity.  As we come to love God, as Jesus charged, with all of our heart, soul, mind & strength, we then can begin to experience a joy that transcends mere happiness.  As our journey continues, we begin to experience peace.  Not peace as in “no war,” but rather an inner peace that conveys harmony.  Our intentions & our actions are in sync.  As our love for God grows, we then start to follow Christ’s guidance with the 2nd greatest commandment, “to love others as we love ourselves.”  Thus our love becomes directed outwardly and we begin to practice patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, & gentleness to our neighbors, friends, & family.  And as we become focused on the needs & concerns of others, we then circle back around & focus on our inner challenges & begin to enjoy self-control.

It is not enough to just know God with our head & to serve God with our hands (though these, too, are essential).  To begin to experience a transformation in our lives, we need to come to love God with our hearts.  May that be one of our wishes for today.

7.29.10 Thursday Insights from Amy Otto

Like most teenagers, I faced struggles in middle school and high school. I was 14 and a 9th grader when the Columbine shooting occurred. I grew up in upstate New York in an area whose economy had gone downhill, so after Columbine our school was affected. In fact, I went through my first bomb threat 3 years earlier as a 6th grader, when an 8th grader thought it would be funny to see what would happen. From 6th grade to 11th grade my school experience included bomb threats, students who had weapons, and classroom lock-ins while lockers were searched for weapons. At one point it was even rumored that my name and a couple of my friends names had ended up on a “black list”. It was very scary, because I had enemies I couldn’t see, and I didn’t even know why.

My junior year of high school I went to my first youth conference, in Niagara Falls right after Christmas. I went to one breakout that was set up to have someone pray with you.  I shared a little bit with the woman who was praying with me, and she said we would pray that God would help me to love my enemies. As a 16 year old, it was a very difficult thing for me to hear. Quite honestly, I thought she was crazy.

But I’ve learned a lot in ten years, and that woman was not crazy. I began praying for those who didn’t like me for whatever reason. At the beginning, I prayed that they would stop hurting me. After a while, I began to pray for them as people. I started to pray that God would be made known to them, that God would work in me to be caring and loving to them so they would see His love, and that God would change their hearts to be caring and loving to others. As I grew into those prayers, I learned how to forgive my enemies. I am beginning to learn what it means to want to reach out and care for them. I’ve connected on Facebook with a couple of people I used to consider enemies, and have been able to have conversations in which we forgive each other, move past what’s happened and talk about the future.

God has taken me from a teenager with a big chip on her shoulder and a negative attitude to what (I hope) people perceive as a caring, loving person. As crazy as it sounds to “do good even to enemies,” try it. Start with prayer, and let God transform you and your enemies.

Amy Otto serves on the Student Ministries staff at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

7.28.10 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Nicole Conard

Sometimes when I read Scripture, I read it like reading a newspaper – just skim right through it for the facts. Today’s Scripture gives us pause….to soak up the words so that we can ponder the meaning. Today we ponder the verses from Ephesians 2:8-10:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to  do.”

Throughout today’s Scripture, God is the main subject.  It is God who is at work in and through us. We are not the subject. When we do good, we are simply living into the purpose for which  God made us.

Right now, what is your purpose in life?  If you had to go deeper than the everyday tasks, what would people say that you stand for? What is important to you?   Could it be to be a good son, daughter, father, husband, wife or friend?  Could it be to make a difference by caring for those around you, volunteering your time in Kansas City? What do you do that matters to you most?

These ways of doing good are an outpouring of what God has done and continues to do in us.  God has saved us by grace. All that we do we do as a ‘thank you’ to God.  For the gifts of relationships, of mission and of being a part of the community we are in, we say thank you by giving back. 

Today I encourage you to go through your day seeing all that you do for the glory of God – to thank God for the grace, love, and gifts that God has given us. 

If you want to discover more about God’s grace and John Wesley’s interpretation of Ephesians 2:8, I encourage you to read his sermon on “The Scripture Way of Salvation.”  (John Wesley is noted as the founder of United Methodism.) The sermon outline is: What is salvation? What is that faith whereby we are saved? How are we saved by it? The sermon will give you a lot to ponder.

7.27.10 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Molly Simpson

At the end of the letter to the Galatians, Paul is concerned for the health of the community, the growing church in Galatia.  He gives instructions on how they might best live in relationship with one another, reminding them that they reap whatever they sow–either the selfish and tainted desires of their “flesh” or the eternal harvest that comes from living under the Spirit’s guidance.  And I think it’s important to realize that Paul is addressing the community here, not just an individual.  In fact, the consequences of our actions are not always only ours to bear but they impact those around us as well.  I’m sure we can all think of a time when someone else’s poor decision brought about a negative impact on not only themselves but upon us as well.

Likewise, Wesley’s rules were not only for individuals but were directed at people living in Christian community, seeking to share life together on the journey of following Jesus.  “Do no harm” and “do all the good you can” are not only directives that we might be faithful individuals, but they are instructions on how we might live well amongst one another.  Paul says this again in verse 10 when he instructs us to “work for the good of all.”

How are you doing with the challenge to live these simple rules?  And can you see any impact on those around you?  Find an opportunity to do good today (or multiple times today… do all the good you can in all the ways you can…), and I bet you will see the positive impact and blessing that it is to another.

7.26.10 Monday Insights from Pastor Andrew Conard

Do you ever find yourself trying to do good but not being sure what it really means to do good? This is a place that I find myself from time to time. Sometimes I find myself trying to move forward in areas of my life without seeking God’s will, without trying to to do good from God’s view. I recognize that my own view of what it means to do good does not always align with God’s vision for my life and the world.

I find a great deal of comfort and peace in the scripture passage from the GPS guide today. The writer of the psalm a patient trust in God that I do not always share. When I relax and trust in God’s sustaining presence in my life I am able to find peace in some of the same ways which are described by the psalmist. Trusting God empowers me to do all the good I can. Through the Holy Spirit’s work in me, I am able to live into God’s kingdom in a way that would not otherwise be possible. This is the first step to truly good actions because all good things come from God.

I am learning to trust God more as I continue on the journey of faith. Will you join me?

7.24.10 Saturday Insights from Connie Stella

Today’s passage reminds me that God knows what is good, what is healthy. God knows what gives us peace and joy, and we catch a glimpse of it here. Isaiah’s words depict a beautiful life. In this life, everything is good. Even the deepest instincts—‘protect what’s mine’, ‘strike first or be stricken’, ‘kill or be killed’—are all turned to good. There is no more danger, no more enmity, no more need to do harm.

A couple of things strike me as I think about this passage and Wesley’s call to do no harm. First, I wonder why we have such a strong instinct for harm. Why is it that we seem to actually need to do harm to others and to ourselves? In his excellent sermon last week, Rev. Steven Blair asserted that we hurt others because we’ve been hurt ourselves. So often we do and say things that are harmful because it feels ‘good’ to us in that moment. But the moment always passes, and we are left with nothing good at all.

The other thing that hits me is in verse 9, where the prophet says “they will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD…” This whole passage takes me back to the Garden of Eden where, I imagine, there was no instinct for harm. Only peace and joy and all things good, as God designed in his original plan for creation.

‘The earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD’ really grabs me. Could this refer to the tree of knowledge of good and evil we read of in Genesis 3? Is God saying through Isaiah that when his creation is finally restored we will truly understand, and live with instincts only for good? That then, and only then, we will be given what we grabbed for like ungrateful children who’d been given everything yet still wanted more? Was my instinct for doing harm born in those original children of Eden?

I’m aiming to be awake to my own instinct for harm. When I feel it rising up, I will call it out and imagine myself sitting on it. Really, sitting on it! I’ll sit and pray and wait, and think of a way to turn my ‘harm’ instinct into something good. Maybe instead of striking back at that e-mail zinger, I’ll squash my need to retort, and I’ll say, ‘Hey, I want to see your side—let’s talk’ instead. Maybe when presented with a dozen Krispy Kremes, I’ll have celery instead. For certain, the image of Mike Collins post-donuts will stick with me as a convicting reminder. (If you didn’t get to worship with us last week, be sure to view Rev. Blair’s sermon online at You’ll see what I mean about the donuts!)

I hope to live someday in the kingdom Isaiah describes, lolling around with lions and vipers and goats in that beautifully restored Garden. I’ll see you there.

Connie Stella serves as Creative Director of Worship at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

7.23.10 Friday Insights from Darren Lippe

Mr. Fess A. Lohnian, founder of the grass-roots organization, “Gripers Aren’t Always Grumps & Grouches,” takes exception with the Apostle Paul’s urging for believers to “be joyful always.”  Here is an excerpt of our “conversation.”

DL:  What is your issue with Paul’s contention for believers to “rejoice always?”

Fess:  First off, we need to recognize that those of us who might be considered as “complainers” have a great tradition: The Declaration of Independence can be considered as a list of grievances; the Abolitionist movement in the 1800s was chock full of good people protesting slavery; and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s was started by folks criticizing the treatment of African Americans.  So, we complainers have been erroneously maligned as “Oscar the Grouch” type caricatures.

DL:  Granted.

Fess:  Secondly, Paul is really out of the loop in regard to human behavior.  Complaining is as natural to our culture as breathing in & out.  Consider the following routine:  We grumble when the alarm clock goes off, we whine that we are out of coffee, we fuss about the newspaper getting soaked by the sprinkler, we nitpick about the chipped tile on the edge of the shower.  I bet that if we tried to list all of our verbal or non-verbal carping, each of us could break double digits before noon.  (Moms with school-age children on summer vacation could easily reach triple digits by 11:30 a.m.)

DL:  Perhaps Paul is acknowledging that we have a problem with this constant complaining & is urging us to be set apart from our culture & be different.  Maybe we can be encouraged by the example of Corrie Ten Boom.

Fess:  Please.  We all know her story.  Corrie was a Christian living in Holland in the midst of World War II.  She was arrested by the Nazi’s for helping Jewish refugees & placed in a brutal concentration camp.  While imprisoned, she is subjected to beatings, horrific conditions, and lives in constant fear of death.  Yet, somehow in the midst of this terrifying environment she takes Paul’s urging to heart & seeks out scenes, relationships, & events in which she can rejoice.  However, there is just no way we can do this on our own.

DL:  Maybe Paul offers us the solution to this challenge in the very next verse urging us to “pray continually.”

Fess:  But how would that work?

DL:  What if we asked for God’s encouragement & assistance to seek out ways to rejoice in our everyday routines?  For example, instead of complaining about running out of coffee, we rejoice that we can readily replace our coffee in a few minutes time at a reasonable price.  (What percentage of the world’s population can quickly acquire their needed groceries?)  Or, instead of complaining about the wet newspaper, we rejoice that we can safely walk from our front door.  (What proportion of the global population lives in constant fear for their physical safety?)  Or, instead of griping about our chipped tile in our shower, we rejoice in the amazing quality of our home.  (What percentage of the world’s population lives in comparable shelter?)

Fess:  Good points.  I’d like to continue this discussion, but I’m running late.  I have tickets for my favorite musical, “Annie.”

DL:  That “Tomorrow” song is really great.

Fess:  Actually, my favorite is “It’s a Hard Knock Life.”

DL:  Wow.  You are really dedicated.

7.22.10 Thursday Insights from Pastor Penny Ellwood

I can’t help but think about the musical, “The Children of Eden” when reading these verses. Watching this production last week, we were reminded of how in each succeeding generation God’s children have struggled to make the right choices, often making selfish decisions that brought harm to themselves or others. And how we, being the offspring of Adam, have continued to make similar choices.

When my husband and I first saw this musical, our daughter was playing one of the storytellers in a High School production of the show. We could relate to God’s disappointment as we watched our own children beginning to make choices, some of which were harmful to themselves and others as they struggled to make their own way in the world. We wished we could pass on our wisdom and they wouldn’t make the same mistakes we had made in finding our way.

The funny thing is, even as adults, we continue to make choices that cause harm and probably grieve God while the Spirit waits to lead us. Paul’s words remind us that the Spirit is available help us live out our faith in harmony with Jesus’ teachings; to serve others in love and to overcome our sinful desires. It begins with a desire to follow this one simple rule, to “do no harm. May we choose to be wiser and walk in the spirit.

7.21.10 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Russell Brown

As he writes this section of the letter to the Romans – the section that includes chapters 12 – 14, Paul has a lot to say to his readers about how Christians are to conduct themselves in relationship to other people. Commentators point out that while chapter 12 instructs members of the Roman Christian community about how to honor and get along with each other, chapter 13 mostly gives guidance about relating to the larger Roman community surrounding them. This chapter begins by counseling Christian submission to the political authorities, saying that those authorities are, “… instituted by God.”

Over the weekend Joan and I rented the movie “Invictus” starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. It is the story of the early days of the presidency of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. The story centers around the 1995 World Cup of Rugby which was hosted by South Africa. The movie does a great job of showing how the early days of the Mandela presidency were filled with fear and turmoil. The Afrikaners – the people of Dutch descent who instituted the system of apartheid which had governed the country for so long – lived in fear of a massive angry uprising of the majority black and so-called “colored” population. Because of their numerical minority and their knowledge of the brutal and repressive measures they had taken to maintain their hold on power, the Afrikaners were certain that reprisals from the non-white population were just around the corner.

The movie does a great job of painting a picture of President Mandela as a tireless peacemaker. He successfully kept the blacks’ anger and desire for revenge in check, always urging forgiveness, charity, and tolerance. Tensions continued to run high, particularly between Mandela’s personal security half white, half black security detail. In South Africa at that time, soccer was considered the game of the black segment of the population while rugby was the game of choice for the whites. In fact, any young black South African caught wearing the national team’s rugby jersey would likely be beaten severely.

Finally, the day before the World Cup final match arrived, pitting the host nation South Africa against the powerful New Zealand (interestingly enough called The All-Blacks) team. The day before the big match Mandela was asked an interesting question during a TV interview. The interviewer said, “I understand that while you were in prison, you rooted against the national rugby team every time they played. Why do you now seem to be a supporter?”

Mandela’s answer was, “How can I travel around the country asking people to change their hearts and minds if I can’t?”

Paul’s writing here helps us to see that each of us needs to change our hearts and minds in relation to other people. Yes, we carry around hurts, and more than likely we also carry resentments that in our minds are completely justified. But the supreme law, the law by which the entirety of the Torah is fulfilled, advises us that we are to “love one another.”

It is a simple rule to repeat. And and a very challenging rule to act out in our day-to-day lives. Yet as we are able to call on God, as we are able to lay aside the yearning for retribution and our own sense of “justice,” we find that slowly but surely the people around us start doing the same.

Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God.