Monthly Archives: October 2010

10.30.10 Saturday Insights from Lori Trupp

I really enjoy the movie called The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain. In this somewhat obscure film, released in the mid 90’s, a pair of English cartographers have been sent to a small Welsh town to measure the town’s mountain. After taking careful measurements, the cartographers determine that the town’s mountain is in fact no longer considered a mountain, but instead a hill. It is 16 feet short of the 1000 feet required for “mountain” status. The townspeople are distraught over this change in status. Who wants a hill when you can have a mountain?

This is how it is in our spiritual journey. We want the mountaintop experiences all the time. These experiences are magical, life-changing, inspiring, exciting, powerful, over-the-top, and give us new perspective.  These are the experiences we want to capture and hold on to forever. Hills are just, well, hills.

It would be nice if all of life could be a mountaintop experience, but we don’t live on top of mountains. The reality is we will spend a large portion of our spiritual journey on the hills and in the valleys. But we do not need to be dismayed!  Our God meets us right where we are all the time. God meets us on our mountaintops, hills, and in our valleys. The question is, do we recognize the fullness and presence of God every day, or only on the mountaintops?

In the movie, the townspeople come together and decide to make a mound of dirt on top of the hill to raise it the required 16 additional feet, thereby restoring their mountain.  This required moving massive amounts of dirt from the base of the hill to the top, 984 feet up. The movie is set in a small rural village in the early 1900’s, so there are no bulldozers or loaders the townspeople can hire to help. They are going to have to move the dirt the old fashioned way, one bucket at a time, by hand.

After working tirelessly together day and night and for days on end, the townspeople accomplish their goal.  The visiting cartographers measure the hill and declare it a mountain once again. They celebrate on top of their mountain with great joy and jubilation. They have been part of something greater than themselves.

And so it is with our spiritual journey. There will be times when we are on a spiritual mountaintop, and we will celebrate with great joy and jubilation, giving praise to God.  There will be times we are on the hill or in the valley, moving the bucket by hand. It will be hard work, dirty and tiresome at times. Yet even then, we need to remember to celebrate with great joy and jubilation, giving praise that God is with us every step of the way.

The movie ends with a shot of the townspeople, somewhat older now, carrying buckets of dirt up the mountain once again. It seems they must repeat this task periodically to maintain the required height of 1000 feet, as the mountain settles.

The hardest thing for us to do after a mountaintop spiritual experience is to remember to do the maintenance. As our mountain settles back into a hill, or should we find ourselves in a valley, we can maintain our relationship with God by practicing the spiritual disciplines (prayer, study, meditation, simple living, and so on), coming together as a community of believers (worship), carrying the bucket up the hill for others when they are unable to do it themselves (participating in small groups and missions), and letting others carry our bucket when we ourselves grow weary (loving one another), recognizing the fullness  and presence of God who journeys with us always.

Lori Trupp serves as Director of Children’s Ministries at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

10.29.10 Friday Insights from Darren Lippe

Today’s selection is full of fascinating tidbits.  Let’s jump right in & briefly look at 3 interesting items.  (As the old GPS-Insight saying goes, “Brevity is in the eye of the beholder.”  – Editor)


At times we may wonder, when the life & teachings of Jesus are our focus, what is the point of reading & studying the Old Testament?  We may be tempted to view the Old Testament like the little girl from an old preacher story, “The Old Testament is okay, but it was before God became a Christian.”  However, today’s selection gives us evidence that the Hebrew Scriptures are essential to us fully understanding Christ’s significance.

It’s interesting to me that even at this early stage of Jesus’ ministry, the first question the Jews had for Jesus was if He was the return of the great Elijah.  As we’ve learned this week, this is no trifling question.  Elijah was & is a huge figure in Jewish history.  Even today, Passover meals leave a place-setting for Elijah and his expectant return.  The Jews intuitively recognized that Jesus was special and perhaps even “God-sent.”  Maybe we find ourselves, like our Jewish friends in today’s Scripture, viewing Jesus as a good guy with some great teachings but not quite to the level of our Savior.  Perhaps we would do well to stop & reconsider what we believe about Christ & see if our lives accurately reflect our beliefs.

John the Baptist

Can you imagine going head-to-head with John the Baptist in a job interview situation?  It might go like this:

Interviewer:  Tell me about your references.

Me:  Well, the supervisor of the 14th floor in the Kansas City office of the Kansas district of the Midwest region noted in my last quarterly review that, and I’m quoting, “I was quite punctual & my cubicle was always clean.”

Interviewer:  Very good.  John, how about you?

JtB:  Jesus Christ, the Son of God, said, “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist…”

Interviewer:  Well.  Alrighty then.  I think we are done here.

If Jesus were to offer a reference for you & me, I wonder what He might say.  In work circles we often talk about how important “face time” is with the big boss.  How are we doing in terms of quantity & quality of “face time” with Jesus?

The Dog That Didn’t Bark

In the Sherlock Holmes mystery, Sliver Blaze, Holmes finds it curious that the watchdog did nothing during the theft of the prize-winning racehorse, Sliver Blaze.  It was the lack of activity by the dog, since he recognized the thief, which led Holmes to nab the culprit.

Similarly, I’m struck by John’s reaction leading up to our verse selection.  John is in prison & his prospects are grim.  Yet, he doesn’t ask the obvious question:  When will Jesus rescue me & free me from prison? Instead, John’s focus is on discovering if Jesus is Elijah.  How could this be?

One conclusion I can draw is that John’s whole life purpose was to help prepare the way for the messenger of the covenant.  He wasn’t bothered by discomfort, distress, or even death, because he was fulfilling his life’s purpose.  John was at peace & he feared nothing for God was with Him.  Have we considered what our life’s purpose might be?  How are we doing toward fulfilling our great potential?

10.28.10 Thursday Insights from Amy Otto

The story of Elijah being taken up into heaven is an amazing story of God’s reward for Elijah’s faithfulness. I learned this story in Sunday school when I was young. I remember coloring a chariot bright yellow and orange to represent the fiery chariot and horses. My entire page was probably colored these colors, as my creative mind told me that everything must have been on fire if the horses and chariot were. I don’t remember much else about the lesson, to be honest, but as a young child I was awestruck by this story.

The character I relate to the most in this story, though, is Elisha. 2 Kings 2 begins with Elisha and Elijah travelling together. Several times Elijah says he is going to a town or city. Each time Elisha insists on going with him. Elijah comments that soon Elisha will have to learn to travel on his own, and Elisha asks Elijah not to speak of it. Elisha is not ready to face this truth just yet. He knows that Elijah will be leaving him, but doesn’t want to accept the separation until it happens.

Don’t we all have things come into our lives that we just don’t want to accept until we are forced to face them? The end of my junior year of high school I moved from upstate New York to Olathe, Kansas. Before Christmas of my junior year I found out that my parents had decided to move. I worked very hard at seeming to be happy about it—but once I told my friends, I didn’t want to think about it anymore. I worked very hard to put as much into that year as possible. I went on trips, went to dances and two proms…everything I could come up with to deny the inevitable. Even when we got on the plane to fly out here, I kept telling myself that we were going on a fun trip and would be back. Only a week later when the moving van showed up and everything we owned went into the house did I finally acknowledge to myself the reality that was happening.

Elisha wanted to be with Elijah as much as was physically possible, and not speak of what was to come until he had to. I didn’t want to believe that I was leaving all of my friends and the only home I had ever known to live in a whole new part of the country. We all struggle with relating to changes in our lives (whether they are exciting or traumatic). Part of our human condition is that we struggle to accept changes in our lives until they occur, and many times even after they occur. When Elijah was gone, Elisha picked up his master’s cloak and began his own ministry. For me, once we began moving our belongings into our new house, I accepted, called this area my new home and began to live into that. I find comfort in Elisha, and I hope you do, too. You can know you are not alone when you struggle to accept things in your life. And we can also find comfort in Elijah, whose story reminds us that when we remain faithful to God through changes in our lives, God will reward us as he did Israel’s faithful prophet.

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

10.27.10 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Nicole Conard

We all have to make decisions in life.We are faced with decisions about relationships, marriage, children, use of time, jobs, homes, money, holidays, possessions, giving, and more. Some of these are very big decisions, some smaller. In many cases it is of utmost importance that we make the right decisions.

Whether we are at the end of our rope like Elijah and needing the strength to carry on…..Whether we are at a crossroads and need direction….Or whether we want to guide our family… to be the person God wants us to be…to be the best father, mother, spouse, sister, co-worker, or friend. We need God’s perspective on our lives and daily decisions.  The most likely way that we experience God on a daily basis and in our lives is through God’s still small voice.

In our culture there is little time to listen to a still small voice. It is difficult to find silence in an age of technology and information. We break the silence with iPod, TV, Computer. Every part of our life is inundated with words. In the midst of so many words it becomes difficult to know which messages are really important and which ones we need to remember. Our schedules sometimes don’t allow us to have even our own thoughts to ourselves. Listening seems so unproductive, as if we are not doing anything. We cram it with something else we can learn or do or achieve.

Like Elijah, we have to prepare ourselves. We have to be open, willing and ready to receive God’s voice however it comes. Most often, God’s voice will come in the everyday, ordinary moments. When we take time away and have a chance to listen, putting ourselves in places where we intentionally tune ourselves to  hear God.  In our lives, we can find those places.

Like Jesus,  taking time away from daily demands and going to a quiet place to pray. It may look different for each of us. It may be now when you read the GPS. IIt may be like Susanna Wesley, when she put an apron over her head with 11 children and the kids new that was her time to be quiet. Or before the day begins, going out on the porch with a cup of coffee, and waiting for the morning to come. t may be when you walk the dog in the morning. It may be in the car with the radio and phone turned off. Or at the end of the day, taking time to reflect on the day, pause and offer a moment of the last part of the day in listening.

Hear this good news: God has a message for us. Whether its in response to what we say to God or how we live. God earnestly wants to speak with us. He wants us to be conversation but also allow a chance to listen to hear his perspective on life and receive his guidance for our lives.

So in this time today, I invite you to listen for God. Take the remainder time you have 2, 5, or 10 minutes and do what the prompts asked us to do today.

Choose one word that names a quality of God or Jesus you need…I’m choosing the word faithful. Choose one word for you (compassion, love, grace, hope). Reflect on that word. At the end, thank God for being with you.

So, stop reading now and sit in silence – reflecting on God’s still small voice.

10.26.10 Tuesday Insights from Scott Chrostek

(Apologies  for the late posting today. The company that hosts our blog had put a temporary hold on posting. Thanks for your patience.)

To me, prayer is like holy conversation.  It works like any other conversation would work.  It operates according to a pattern of call and response. Typically, with prayer, God calls us and it’s our job to respond.  God calls us on the phone…it’s our job to pick up.  God leads us and we follow.  Today, God speaks to Elijah, calls him, and literally leads him back to the King of Israel, and Elijah responds by living, acting, and ultimately speaking in accordance with the call of God.   In this instance, Elijah responds by challenging not only the king, blaming him for all of the trouble in Israel, but he also challenges 450 prophets of Ba’al.  It’s clear to me that one of the things we learn from Elijah about prayer is that;

To pray is to listen and follow obediently even when the way is uncertain.

I was in the fifth grade (Ms. Ferguson’s class) when I first felt the divine nudging or God calling.  In the fifth grade I sat near a boy named Steven. Steven was kind of the guy that lots of people picked on.  It seemed to be so bad that even our teacher picked on Steven.  I lived near Steven and I knew what it was like to live in Steven’s house.  His parents were split up, so Steven had to wake up at 6 a.m. every morning to make it to morning latch-key, and then he stayed most days after school until 6 p.m. for the after school programs as well.  Rarely would he have time to eat supper with his mom or dad, but instead most nights found himself eating in front of the TV. How do I know this? Well, he invited me over once and this was the routine.  In any event, Steven was struggling with math, and every now and again our teacher would call on us to solve problems aloud.  She called on Steven, and it happened to be a moment when Steven couldn’t focus and he couldn’t find the right answer.  Rather than coaching him through it or letting him pass, our teacher actually called him “stupid,” “lazy,” and then she called him “a nerd.”

I didn’t say anything in that moment, but I remember walking home from school that day, feeling as though God was nudging me to do something.  It was an inner stirring…an agitation…a burning conviction…a scratch I just had to itch.  “Scott, you have to do something about this, you have to speak to Ms. Ferguson about what happened, tell her that she can no longer teach the fifth grade.”

So that afternoon, after school, I drafted a newspaper article (editorial) that described what happened in class and then I pleaded that Ms. Ferguson apologize for what she said and for her conduct leading the class.  I put a cover letter on it, walked it back over to the school and dropped a copy in the school library, dropped one in the principal’s office, and then I was going to deliver a copy to her classroom as well.  I made it to the principal’s office (nobody there), then I walked to the newspaper office (nobody there) and then I made it over to Ms. Ferguson’s class and there she was. “Uh oh…”

I had come face to face with the most powerful woman in my world.

I’ve found that to pray is to respond to God’s call, to pray is to be obedient, even when the way is uncertain…and when we do that, great things will happen.  For me, my teacher had an amazing turn around–she apologized, we became great friends, Steven ended up (no joke) going to one of the top universities in the nation, and I felt as though that was one of the first steps of living into my call, which ultimately led me to Resurrection. For Elijah it looked like a nation falling to its knees that they might cry,“Yahweh is Lord!”

What is God calling you to do today?

Scott Chrostek serves as Downtown Campus pastor at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

10.25.10 Monday Insights from Pastor Andrew Conard


Image by Fergal OP via Flickr

This is truly a story of trust. It is a pretty bold move to move into the wilderness with the promise that the wild birds will provide for you. Elijah had deep trust in God. I have had many people in my life who have been trustworthy – my parents, friends and people of the congregation. When I allow myself to trust someone else and that trust is upheld, I find it a little bit easier to trust others again in the future.

This has a positive impact on my ability to trust God, particularly when the person who has upheld my trust is someone who professes faith in Jesus Christ. It seems to be easier for me to trust God when I see someone who is a follower of Jesus who is trustworthy and lives a life of trusting God. I recognize that this can be a bit of a trick as God’s trustworthiness is not based on the trustworthiness of those who are his followers. Nevertheless, the is a connection in perception.

One of the phrases that I found to be particularly powerful in this text is, “As surely as the LORD lives…” Elijah uses this phrase in verse 1 and the widow uses it in verse 12. I find this to be an example of clear trust in God. What is declared after that phrase seems to be a certainty. It is a given that God lives. God’s life and presence in our world and in our lives can be trusted. This is as true today as it was when Elijah met the widow at Zarephath.

10.23.10 Saturday Insights from Chuck Russell

The Martyrs remind us that there are times and places where the Christian message, with its call to self sacrifice, holiness of heart and life, righteousness, and justice, will not only fall on deaf ears, it may well be deemed so offensive that in order to stay faithful to our heavenly kingdom, we may have to forfeit our livelihoods, our property, and sometimes even our lives.  As Christians we live with a constant tension.  We know the potential of redeemed humanity and the promise of eternity, while living amidst a fallen world that is focused intently on its temporal pleasures.

“How long” is the essential cry of all Christians who long for that day when Jesus returns with power, as the mighty warrior of the messianic hope, destroying once and for all the army’s of wickedness and injustice which he initially vanquished on the cross.  The longing is for that day when the sick are healed, the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, and there is no more war.  It is a longing for the triumph of love, compassion, and kindness.  It is a longing for God to put an end to all that breaks our hearts, causes our tears, and brings us to the edge of despair.  It is a longing for truth to win out over error, and good to finally and forever defeat evil.  It is the essential hope of the Christian Faith.

But we must wait.  How long?  We do not know, but what we do know is that the same God, who sent his one and only son to take upon himself the punishment for the sins of the world, is with us until the consummation of all things.  We know that the same Jesus the apostles saw ascending into the clouds will return with the heavenly host to set the world right, to separate the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares, the righteous from the unrighteous, and set up an eternal kingdom, a world without end.  Until he does, however, we should continue to cry out with the communion of saints, “Come Lord Jesus”!

Perhaps my favorite Band is the group U2.  Widely regarded as the best rock band in history, U2’s musical catalog is deeply spiritual.  They end each concert with the song 40, which is their rendition of Psalm 40.  The song asks, “How Long” will we have to sing this song.   What is stunning is that at the end of the song, in almost every venue, the crowd continues to sing over and over again, “How Long, How Long.”–for what seems like hours.  The crowd, of course, is filled with people from all walks of life, many if not most of them non-Christians, but even the non-initiated understand that the world is somehow broken, and they too are crying out for redemption.  Take a listen here at youtube, watch the end especially as the crowd takes over and calls out to God asking “How Long?”

Chuck Russell serves as Catalyst Communications Director at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

10.22.10 Friday Insights from Darren Lippe

Sometimes we can have nicknames that are meant to be ironic.  For example, a tall person might be called “Shorty” or a bald man might be named “Curly” or a man paying for only 4 of his 5 daughter’s weddings in one calendar year might be labeled “Lucky.”  As we read today’s selection, Jeremiah’s nickname, “The Weeping Prophet,” sure seems appropriate.  (Tip:  To fully appreciate Jeremiah’s angst, I suggest reading it aloud.  Tip #2:  It is not recommended that it be read aloud during a flight.)  As I pondered today’s Scripture, I wondered what Jeremiah’s Ipod’s play list might look like.

Track 1:  I Fought the Law & the Law Won – The Clash

Jeremiah was out-of-favor with the power structure of his day.  His opinions were viewed as treasonous.  Though Jeremiah would be eventually proven correct, in the short-term he was viewed as a troublemaker & lost his freedom.  However, we know from history that conventional wisdom is not constant or all knowing.  Rather it is really mired in trendy thinking.  For example, George Washington was a losing General, uranium was a useless mineral, & Fred Astaire was a balding actor who could dance a little.  All of these ideas were considered to be correct right up until the moment these bits of “wisdom” were found to be no longer true.  God’s truth is constant & will stand the test of time.

Track 2:  We’re Not Going to Take It – Twisted Sister

Ah the fantasy of many an employee:  “I quit.  I am so out of here.  Take a picture, because I am gone.”  Jeremiah had had it.  He was tired of doing the right thing & enduring hardship as a result.  Well, he’ll show God.  He’ll just stop prophesizing.  Ha!

Track 3:  Heard it Through the Grapevine – Marvin Gaye

Like Jeremiah, we can all develop “rabbit ears” that can pick up on every slight & innuendo.  Teasing & mockery are hurtful.  The old saying, “Sticks & stones…” provided little real comfort on the playground & definitely doesn’t ease our pain as adults.  However, we can’t let ourselves be tempted to place our entire self-worth in other’s opinions & impressions.  We need to seek our value from God.

Track 4:  Don’t Worry, Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin

Huh?  Many theologians think Jeremiah “fat-fingered” this selection.  He actually meant to select The Carpenter’s “Rainy Days & Mondays Get Me Down.”

Track 5:  Born Under a Bad Sign – Albert King

How sad for our teenaged friends to realize that their seemingly crushing argument, “I wish I was never born!” isn’t even original.  They are just quoting the same feelings as our friend Jeremiah.  Jeremiah is at his rope’s end.  He is wondering what his whole life is about & he can’t see any grand purpose to his suffering.  As we read his words 2600 years later, though, we see God’s plan in action.  Jeremiah was a great servant of God.  We are blessed to be able to hear his thoughts & feelings.  Time can provide perspective to let us step back & view the bigger picture.

Track 6:  Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey

Jeremiah was mad.  He had many justifiable complaints to broach with God.  He was imprisoned, beaten, mocked, & viewed with contempt from many of his so-called friends.  Many of us might be shocked at this level of frustration directed at God.  Why would these thoughts be incorporated in His word?  Perhaps they are included to emphasize that, like Jeremiah, the soundtrack of our life will be quite eclectic.  It isn’t always going to be a smooth, slow ride.  There will be times where we are mad at God.  That’s okay.  God wants us to feel like we can go to Him with ALL of our thoughts & feelings.  Like in any relationship, the only bad conversation is one that can’t take place in trust & confidence.  As Pink Floyd might say, “Keep Talking.”

10.21.10 Thursday Insights from Pastor Glen Shoup

God, CAN YOU GIVE ME ONE GOOD REASON WHY? This sums up what Job wants to know in the litany of questions he asks God and his 3 friends. And why not? He has lost everything. His children have been killed, his wealth has been wiped out, his health is gone, his body wracked with pain as he has boils all over his skin, and his wife (probably expressing her own grief and broken spirit more than anything else) has told him he would be better off if he (and likely she too) would just curse God and die.

It all sounds too overwhelming to even be believable…until you experience just one of the tragedies Job faced. But when you stand at a loved one’s grave, when you lose your economic security, when you’re a hospital patient…then, all of a sudden, Job’s question becomes all too real.

Sadly, some in our world are born into this kind of reality. Most of us, though, meet these calamities out of the kind of perceived security that comes when our circumstances are largely favorable. Regardless of the context from which we meet tragedy and deep pain, our response tends to be the same: God, CAN YOU GIVE ME ONE GOOD REASON WHY?

I’m not God’s answer-man.  I’m not God’s bodyguard, trying to protect God from our anger, or our hard and honest questions. God doesn’t need me (or anybody else) to do that. God can handle (and invites) our questions, God can take our doubts, and God can take our anger. The books of Job and Lamentations, many of the Psalms and certainly the life and ministry of Jesus make it very clear that God wants and can handle our hard questions and all that comes with them.

What I do want to do is help us think about (a big part of) what lies behind the understandable cry of CAN YOU GIVE ME ONE GOOD REASON WHY? Maybe the simplest way to do this is to turn the question around by adding one word: CAN YOU GIVE ME ONE GOOD REASON WHY not? Let’s try this first (because it’s easier) with Job’s situation.  If we ask “why not”—why shouldn’t Job face these tragedies—we immediately have an answer: because Job was a good man. The Bible says Job honored God, served God and followed God. We can certainly infer from that that Job also cared for his fellow man and treated people with dignity and fairness (in fact, our text today explicitly bears this out). So far and away the most compelling answer (to us) as to “why not”—the answer we understandably give as to why this should not have happened to Job—is because Job didn’t deserve it.

Of course, this line of thinking implies that there are those who do deserve it. More to the point, this line of thinking shows that we tend to think in terms of simple cause and effect. We want to believe that if I do good, good things will happen and conversely, if I do bad, bad things will happen. This kind of “vending machine” (put the quarter in the slot, pull the right lever and I’ll control what I get), cause and effect thinking governs our outlook. While cause and effect is certainly real, in physics and in other aspects of life, I am suggesting that cause and effect is not the ultimate explanation for reality, no matter how badly we want it to be.

Jesus said as much in several places in the gospels. John 9 tells of a time when Jesus met a man born blind. The first question out of the disciples’ mouths (right in front of the blind man, mind you) was, “Jesus, who sinned that this guy was born blind—him or his parents?” Well, behind that question (besides inexcusable insensitivity) is cause and effect thinking. Jesus’ response to this question was NEITHER! In essence, Jesus went on to say that this kind of thinking (good things happen to good people, bad things happen to bad people) was not consistent with God’s Kingdom. In another place—just as clear—Luke 13 tells about Jesus talking with his disciples about 2 tragedies: one involving deaths due to insurgent violence, another involving a falling tower that killed innocent bystanders. Jesus says about both of these, “Do you think the people who lost their lives were worse sinners than the people who didn’t? I tell you, NO.” Jesus saw the tendency towards cause and effect thinking, and clearly said this kind of thinking is not accurate. Not because cause and effect isn’t real, but because cause and effect can’t ultimately explain the kind of tragedy Job went through. Cause and effect is not the ultimate explanation for what we sometimes go through (no matter how badly we want it to be).

This truth doesn’t take away the pain of what we go through. Seeing that cause and effect thinking breaks down, and trying to think accurately about tragedy, won’t bring the dead back to life. It won’t restore bank accounts or health. What thinking clearly about tragedy will do is bring us more often to the place Job found when we get to chapter 42. It will help us find God in the storm with us, hearing our cries, receiving our anger, seeking to comfort our pain, as a loving parent holds a hurting child. The Heavenly Father comes to us in our pain.

I know what I’ve written hasn’t answered the “why” question. There’s a simple reason for that: I don’t know the answer to “why” (and I’m a bit suspicious of anyone who thinks they do). But like Job, I have come to know the God who loves and strengthens me through the “why” questions. I pray that you will know that God, too, in the unending grace and love the Heavenly Father extends to you.

I’ll never forget what Cardinal John O’Connor told a New York Times reporter after he learned he had terminal cancer. The reporter asked the archbishop of New York if he was questioning God. After all, he had given his entire life to God and the Church—surely he must wonder why God would let this to happen to him. Rev. O’Connor replied, “Why not me? These are the kinds of things that happen to people every day. What would make me think I should be exempt?”


Glen Shoup serves as Pastor of Congregational Care (last names A-C) at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

10.20.10 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Russell Brown

I love this story from the Hebrew scriptures!  The picture that it paints of Abraham “horse trading” with God for the lives of the people of the city of Sodom is a very different picture of God from the austere, remote, omniscient CREATOR AND RULER OF THE UNIVERSE we are accustomed to seeing in the Old Testament. At the very beginning of the passage we are even afforded a glimpse into the inner workings of God’s own mind as we hear God ask himself, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” (v. 17) as God contemplates the destruction of the city.

This story has several important lessons to teach us about the nature of God and our relationship to God that go far deeper than the entertainment value of Abraham’s bargaining. One of these lessons is to demonstrate – particularly to the hearers of that time – God’s capacity for compassion. The Israelites were certainly people who knew and “feared” God and understood God’s fierce concern for righteousness and justice. Hearing of God’s willingness to look mercifully on the sins of an entire sinful city if ten righteous people can be found in it surely caused many to pause and reconsider their previous image of God.

It also shows us something important about the nature of the man through whom God has promised to bless all the nations of the earth. He is a man concerned not just with the fate of the Israelites, but with all of the other, “non-chosen” people as well. This story shows us that Abraham is proving himself to be worthy to occupy the lofty position of Patriarch of Providence for humankind.

This story finally helps us to see that it is absolutely possible to be a faithful person and to contend with God at the same time. We should perhaps be prepared to be put in our place when we embark on such a path, but this story reminds me that God gives us a brain and perceptions about the world with the clear intention that we use them and draw conclusions with them. And God is even O.K. when we respectfully disagree based on those conclusions.

As long as we remember that God is God and we are not, and that God ultimately does have the final word in the affairs of the world, we are invited to bring ourselves boldly before God and SPEAK! Most of the time this becomes an occasion of rich new insight and reverence when we do.

Rev. Russell Brown is Pastor of Support Ministries