Monthly Archives: December 2010

12.31.10 Friday Insights from Darren Lippe

Today’s passage comes at the conclusion of an awesome court-like drama that starts at the beginning of chapter 9.  The Pharisees are dumbfounded at the healing of a blind man and are seeking all sorts of loopholes & flaws in the miracle to expose Jesus as some sort of poseur.  (Note:  This is not the Pharisees’ finest hour.  They certainly aren’t Perry Mason-esque in this scene.)  Jesus then drives home the challenge, that though the Pharisees may see they may still be blind to the truth.  What might we take away from this selection?

A few years ago at a White Elephant party, I received a bagful of jigsaw puzzle pieces with no box.  With no guidance or clues as to the picture I was hoping to re-create, the puzzle was next-to-impossible to complete.  (In hindsight, I’m not sure that a puzzle of 5 black cats on a black background was quite worth the effort.  That’s all right, somewhere, sometime, someplace there will be revenge.  Um, I mean in a “Christ-like” way, of course.)

We may think we have a vision for our lives & our purpose, but without the proper guideline & instruction, it is much like trying to complete that exasperating jigsaw puzzle:  frustrating & incredibly inefficient.

We know that corporations & churches benefit greatly from having a vision statement, but what about our own lives?  With New Year’s Eve upon us, (the evening where youth are allowed to stay up until midnight & adults are forced to stay up until midnight) perhaps we could avoid the usual resolutions like losing weight, reading more, or to be more frugal (& to not waste money on another solar-powered flashlight purchased off of late-night-TV).

What if we were to create a faith oriented mission statement that reflected our beliefs & helped us to live out these values to the fullest?  Sounds great!  How might it work?  Consider two quick examples.

One friend elected to skip the annual “lose 10 pounds resolution” and wanted to focus on just becoming healthier before an upcoming mission trip.  Her resolution was to have better overall health to better serve God.  She would eat more fruits & vegetables, exercise more, & get sufficient rest.  Her vision became a significant rallying point, instead of an arbitrary number.

Or what if instead of just resolving to attend church more often, we would elect to make our time in worship more meaningful?  One friend shared that they started to lay out all of the clothes (& find the children’s shoes – both left & right) the night before church.  They strived to leave with plenty of time, so no rushing into the church at the last second.  Instead of plotting/planning their day on the way to church, they considered that to be a time to just talk about what they might pray about or who might need prayers.  Worship became the destination for the morning, not a pit stop on the day’s schedule.

We all need a vision to help us accomplish more with our limited time & our immense talents.  This could be a great year!

12.30.10 Thursday Insights from Pastor Glen Shoup

So is this what the Prince of Peace was born in a basement barn to do?  Well…Yes! As I read this story in today’s passage, I’m reminded of Herod. It seems to me that Herod’s reaction to the possibility of Christmas 30 years earlier was being reincarnated by the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. You’ve got a man who’d been blind from birth—nothing but the kind of utter darkness that only blindness can saddle a person with. But then, all of a sudden, this blind man comes across the Christ of Christmas, and the man who had once rested in a feeding trough miraculously gives the blind man sight. All at once, the sun he’d only known by its warmth is now visible in brilliant high-definition hues of orange and red. The parents who’d only been known to him by their familiar voices now have faces, expressions, watery eyes and smiles that greet their recently-sighted son. Imagine his first sunset, his first time at the table, his first sighting of a bird in flight. It’s a miracle!

Only, the folks charged with representing God couldn’t care less that a blind man can now see. All they want to know is did that Nazarene named Jesus really do this, and exactly when did it happen. Because if it happened on the Sabbath, then clearly this Messiah want-to-be is a first-degree fraud and we might be able to bring him up on charges of breaking the Sabbath. The religious leaders don’t care that chains of blindness have been broken for one of God’s children; all they care about is that this uneducated upstart from Nazareth could pose a threat to their turf. They want to figure out a way to get rid of him–just like Herod some 30 years earlier. So the interrogation of our friend with newly minted 20/20 vision begins: “Who did this; was it that Jesus? When did he do it—exactly what time was it?” On and on it goes. The poor guy’s parents get so rattled by the cross-examination that they kind of cop-out when they’re being questioned: “Look, we know that’s our boy and he was blind and now he can see, but he’s a grown-up, he’ll have to tell you how this happened.

Nobody (except the healed blind man) wants to own the fact that Jesus did this.  Why? Because if Jesus did this, then He’s a threat to business as usual. If Jesus is the real deal, then I might not be able to live the illusion that I’m in control. If Jesus is the real deal, then my kingdom might have to take a back seat to His Kingdom and that could get complicated—that could cause some upheaval in my attempts to maintain and manage. Herod knew it, the Pharisees knew it, and the truth is—I know it (and you probably do too). When you’re blind and you know it (like our friend in the text), the “threat” Jesus poses is a welcome one, because the status quo is dark, miserable, and painful. You welcome a Savior because you know good and well you need one. When you’re blind and you know it, you need somebody that can turn the lights on and save you from the darkness.

But when you’re like Herod, or the Pharisees, when (too often) you’re like me (and maybe like you, too)—when you’re blind and you don’t know it–well, then you’ll get hung up in questions about origin, questions about the propriety (or impropriety) of timing, and so on. You’ll get hung up on those hang-ups because after all (just like Herod and the Pharisees), I’ve got the illusion of control. When I’m blind and don’t know it, I’ve got the illusion of being able to see and I don’t think I really need to be healed of blindness.

So on the heels of Christmas, at the doorstep of a New Year, my question for me and you is really pretty simple: Who in this passage am I most like? The blind man who was healed by the Christ of Christmas? Or the blind men (who thought they could see) who just stood around talking about the Christ of Christmas but never really saw Him? Who am I most like? (Not who’s my spouse, or neighbor, or co-worker most like—but who am I most like)?

Lord, just like the man born blind, may I receive You whenever You come to me in my blindness. May I always allow You to light my way. Amen.

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

12.29.10 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Russell Brown

Today’s scripture passage tells us the story of what happened when Jesus’ parents took him to the Temple for what Luke describes as “their” ritual purification… meaning the entire family. They were participating in a practice prescribed in Leviticus 12:2-8 for the dedication of a child – particularly a firstborn male child – to God.

Once again we read a narrative in which we see God’s spirit emanating through the infant Jesus and making a life-altering impression on the people in his immediate vicinity. There is a difference between the homage given to Jesus in this instance and the worship at the time of his birth that might be worth thinking about for a minute or two. In the birth story we read on Christmas Eve, the spectators (most notably the shepherds) needed to have the testimony of a company of heavenly messengers to help provide the “seal of approval” that this is indeed “the Messiah, Christ the Lord.” In the passage we read here, Jesus’ unique, divinely designated identity is revealed to Simeon and Anna strictly through their own sensitivities. In other words, they “get” who Jesus is without the aid of trumpets, guiding stars, heavenly choirs, or flashing neon signs. And notably without hearing him speak a word or do a miracle.

Great care is taken by the writer of Luke to make sure we recognize that both Simeon and Anna are “righteous and devout.” (v. 25). Simeon was guided to the Temple that day by “the Spirit” (v. 27), and Anna had lived there on the Temple grounds, fasting and praying, every day since her husband died. It stands to reason then that they would be specially inclined to understand Jesus’ identity and life purpose.

But as I read this story and try to contemplate its meaning for my life, I can’t help but ask myself two essential questions: first, why does it seem to require the whole chorus of trumpets, guiding stars, heavenly choirs, or flashing neon signs I mentioned earlier for me to recognize who Jesus is in my life? Why do I occasionally show up as one who is unable to accord him the positions of “Savior, Lord, and Messiah” in my own life? Secondly, even when I do finally recognize Jesus as my rightful Lord, why am I so slow to make the changes in my priorities and behaviors that he calls me to?

As Simeon said in v. 33, Jesus was a “sign that would be opposed” in his ministry, in spite of the fact that he came to serve as the “way, the Truth, and the Life” (Jn. 14:6) for all.

Who is Jesus to you? How has knowing him changed your life in a way that people can see?

12.28.10 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Molly Simpson

It is often said that few people really understood the kind of king Jesus was to be.  Most anticipated a messiah with military might and a commanding presence so powerful that none would challenge his authority.  I wonder what Mary and Joseph were anticipating.  When they looked at their son, did they have ideas and dreams about what his future would hold?  I wonder if Simeon’s words rattled them?  Not necessarily his first words at recognizing the Lord’s Messiah, “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel,” but the words in verse 34, about Jesus causing the rising and falling of many and the sign to be spoken against.

There have been a few moments in my life in which I have had a profound experience with the Holy Spirit in a manner that follows this pattern–joy and blessing, followed by the lump in the back of my throat that is related to the weightiness of going where God leads.  One of these moments was when I was praying for confirmation that we ought to proceed with a capital campaign and building project at our West campus in Olathe.  There was the extreme joy of getting the opportunity to lead our congregation through such an awesome time… but along with that came the weight of responsibility of taking on a multi-million dollar project and the realization that this was going to demand more of my faith than perhaps anything I had ever been a part of.  (We anticipate moving into that building in December 2011, by the way!)

Have you had an encounter like this with God?  Have you experienced both the comfort and the discomfort that the leading of the Holy Spirit can cause?  Excitement and trepidation?

Simeon’s blessing reminds us, even in this Christmas week, that the road that Jesus takes is both the most blessed and challenging way and that we have the opportunity to follow.

Rev. Molly Simpson serves as the Campus Pastor at Resurrection’s West Campus in Olathe.

12.27.10 Monday Insights from Pastor Steven Blair

What do you give the God who has everything?

It is a dilemma to figure out what to buy the person who already has everything.  Many of us have just experienced that problem during Christmas.  “If this person really wanted something, they would already have it.”

The same problem can be said regarding God. What do you give the God who has everything?   This Scripture from Luke gives us an answer.

Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the Temple for consecration. Consecration was a ceremony which dedicated a child to God to be used for God’s purposes.  Mary and Joseph were not going to keep their pride and joy to themselves.  They were not going to keep Jesus under their control.  Instead they were placing Jesus in God’s hands.  Since this was an act of obedience, we can assume that receiving a dedication of a child was something that God wanted.

So maybe God does not have everything.  Maybe God is missing something. What God wants is us.  God wants us to place the things that matter most to us, our children, our finances, our dreams, and place them in God’s hands. God wants us to follow the example from Mary and Joseph in this Scripture.

Today, what do you value that you can offer God?  Perhaps it is some of your time off from school helping someone. Perhaps it is returning the present that you like and that actually fits and sacrificing that gift for money you can use to bless someone in need.

Or maybe, you can simply offer God your heart right now in a moment of prayer.  God does not have everything.  Because God is Love, God does not take.  So God waits for the only gift on his Christmas list….  Us.

Steven Blair serves as Pastor of Congregational Care (Last Names M-R) at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

12.25.10 Saturday Insights from Jason Huwe

If you’re at all like me, today might be the first time in weeks that you actually stopped to catch your breath and truly thought about the reason for the decorations, gifts, food and family.  But even pausing to consider this special season doesn’t always have the impact that it should for me.  So say this with me:

This actually happened.

By ‘this’, you probably know that I mean the birth of the baby Jesus over 2000 years ago.  We tell the story, set up the manger and sing the songs every year.  But think about that for a minute.

This actually happened.

Not only did this baby come as a divine blessing to a virgin girl, but this baby was wholly God and wholly man.   And as this baby grew up, he walked the same earth that I inhabit right now.

This actually happened.

The places he walked still exist.  I can visit many of them today.  His messages were so profound that people travelled from all over to hear him.

This actually happened.

The life, death and inconceivable resurrection of this man was so radically different from anything before in the history of humanity that it caused a fundamental shift in the thinking of the world’s inhabitants.  There were witnesses.  Lots of witnesses.  And they couldn’t stop talking about what they just experienced.

This actually happened.

The perfect gift of God’s love would regularly be distorted by our imperfect human nature throughout the next 2000 years.  Nations would rise and fall because of the beliefs around this man’s teachings.  Our history books point back to this one moment in time.

This actually happened.

Today, I write this as we close out the year 2010 A.D.  While A.D. does not mean ‘After Death’ as I learned growing up, it does stand for the Latin term ‘Anno Domini’, the year of our Lord. The truth of Jesus’ impact on the world is so interwoven into the framework of our global culture that I sometimes miss it completely.  We mark history itself by this man.

This actually happened.

Yet one truth stands above all others regarding Jesus.  It is why he has impacted the world like no other. It is the Holy Spirit. Like so many that came before me, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus made it possible for me to have a personal relationship with God. The Holy Spirit plays an active role in my life because of what God’s son did on the cross. This is why the world changed forever. This is why we celebrate each December.  And this is why I want to slow down and remind myself that

This actually happened.

Jason Huwe serves as Young Adult Program Director at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

12.24.10 Friday Insights from Darren Lippe

Three questions arise as we consider today’s classic selection:

 Hark, the Herald Angels Sing – Why?

God utilizes a choir of angels to announce His Son’s birth.  Why might He do that?  Interestingly, we learn that in that time & place it was traditional for local musicians to come serenade the home of the newborn son with music & singing.  The birth was something for the entire community to celebrate.  God, realizing, that Joseph & Mary aren’t really part of the community in Bethlehem, elects to coordinate His own choral group to continue the time-honored festivities.

Perhaps this Advent season would be a good time to consider being part of a small group of believers who can help us celebrate life’s great joys & help us cope with life’s challenges.  If we are already blessed with such a group, maybe a quick note of thanks to each member would be a way for us to honor the value of the group in our lives.

Aside:  I admire God’s restraint in announcing His Son’s birth.  Given God’s unlimited power, I’d be oh-so-tempted to deliver an over-the-top combo platter of Charlotte’s Web, Augie Doggie, & the Big Dipper, utilizing a constellation to write “That’s my boy!” in the sky.  So His use of the choir of celestial angels seems quite reasonable to me.  (I’m sure He’ll be glad to know that you approve – Editor.)

While Shepherds Watched their Flocks – This is God’s idea of an IPO? 

So God makes His big announcement to shepherds?  Shepherds?  While we might be tempted to think of pastoral scenes & great time in the out-of-doors, in that day & age shepherds were not viewed in a positive light (to put it mildly).  They were often considered as somewhat good-for-nothing vagabonds, & since, by trade, they couldn’t maintain the cleansing rituals, viewed as unclean.  They were definitely not a crowd of movers & shakers of that day & age.

For those of us who sometimes feel as though we are “outside the box,” we know this:  no box can limit God’s love; it is boundless & barrier bashing.  Perhaps this Christmas we should do well to seek out those who might feel at odds with the world & invite them to join in some fellowship.  Wouldn’t it be a wonderful way to commemorate Jesus’ birthday?

Mary Did You Know?

I love the idea that Mary “treasured all these things & mused over them in her heart.” Mary understood the amazing truth of her Son, Jesus: He was going to be too important for her to hold just to herself.  She would have to share Him with the world & let the others experience the joy of coming to know Him.

Like Mary, once we have Jesus in our lives, we have to share Him with others.  The 1800s evangelist, D.L. Moody, challenged himself to tell someone about Christ each day.  How different would our community be, if we sought to share Christ’s love through word & deed with the same passion?

12.23.10 Thursday Insights from Amy Otto

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Singer Andy Williams recorded and released this popular holiday song, written in 1963. Other artists have recorded their own versions of the song. And why not? From the very first verse the song immediately puts you in the Christmas spirit with “the kids jingle-belling and everyone telling you be of good cheer.”

What makes me really stop and notice this song is the fourth line of the third verse which says, “there’ll be…tales of the glories of Christmases long long ago”. Whenever I hear those words I get goose bumps. My heart and mind immediately jump to the reason for Christmas, the original Christmas story, the birth of Jesus Christ in a stable.

Luke 2:1-3 says, “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.” The Christmas story began with a long journey – about a 10-day walk for Mary (9 months pregnant) and her husband Joseph. And it wasn’t just the physical strength needed that made this journey difficult. It also had to be frustrating because Mary and Joseph had to leave the comfort of all that they knew to make the hard trip just so a greedy foreign Emperor could collect more tax money. I am sure that Mary expected her children would be born with family and friends around to encourage and celebrate with her.

But Mary’s child was not hers or her husband’s, but God’s–a great gift from God. Mary and Joseph understood this, but it is doubtful that all of their family and friends did. Many of them probably saw a man who married a woman who was having another man’s baby. Doubts like that could have filled Jesus’ birth with grief and fear rather than joy. I think we see God’s great divine purpose in this. Because of Caesar Augustus’ greed, Mary and Joseph were alone where no one knew that the baby wasn’t theirs, where no one would judge them or bring them fear. The opposite happened–shepherds and wise men travelled to see Jesus and celebrate his birth. How wonderful God’s purpose was!

I believe God works even through all the secularism around Christmas. Through Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus movies, Rudolph cartoons and much more God reminds us of our childhood, which builds excitement for this season. God wants us to have a childlike spirit. Matthew 19:14 says, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” We are supposed to come to God like children! Bring your childhood self into your heart again, and hear the story of the birth of Christ as if for the first time. Imagine the angels sharing the good news with the shepherds, or the wise men who travelled great distances to bring the most expensive gifts to Jesus. Be in awe and wonder as a little child is and let God speak to your heart. May God renew you, encourage you, and lift you up through this Christmas season. Then it truly can be “the most wonderful time of the year.”

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

12.22.10 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Nicole Conard

This Christmas I have been doing a lot of reflecting.  I read Christmas letters about people’s reflections on the past year and what is in store in the coming year.  It’s in this spirit of reflection that the prophet Micah wrote today’s passage of Scripture.

In Micah’s context, Jerusalem was being taken over by the Assyrians. He needed to reflect on what has been and look forward to something that can give a sense of security in the midst of great uncertainty. He looked around and began to pick the small town of Bethlehem and find hope.  Can you hear the Christmas story coming to life in these verses written 700 years before the Christ entered the world?

“But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are the one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from old from ancient days. Therefore, he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth;

(Now listen to the promises of what this ruler can do…)

then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth and he shall be the one of peace.”Micah 5:2-5

It’s like a pep talk from Micah to the town of Bethlehem.  Picture a coach trying to tell the team – yes, you can win this one! Or a motivating boss sharing you can do this project! Or a parent sharing with a child – I believe you can do this!

Or better yet a God who says – “You, yes, you….you don’t think you can but I can do this through you.”

God has an ability to do big things in people and settings that do seem insignificant.  Just look at how Christ entered the world in Bethlehem and throughout the Christmas story.

In our lives, there are times in life where we may wonder – Is what I’m doing matter? Does it make a difference? What I’m doing is so “little”? In the midst of these times, God who is proclaiming, “You yes, you, I am going to use you.”

So in this time of preparation for this Christmas, we can reflect on the ways that God may have used us in the past year.  But, like the prophet Micah we can look ahead and know that the way God does something “big” is through something “little.”  Each day this week may we pay attention to the little things and see the ways God may use us.


12.21.10 Tuesday Insights from Darrell Holtz

(Pastor Scott Chrostek will preach two sermons on the coming two weekends. Under the circumstances, he very reasonably asked to be relieved of Insights writing duty today.)

The connections that run through the many parts of the Bible’s grand story of God’s saving action are one of the things that lead me to believe the Holy Spirit was a guiding force behind these ancient writings. At first glance, today’s story is “just” the story of the prophet Samuel seeking a new king for Israel. Saul had failed miserably; the nation needed new leadership.

Samuel was pretty sure he’d found that new leadership in an impressive-looking fellow named Eliab. But God said “No,” and told Samuel to quit being so concerned with outward appearances. There was another candidate, Eliab’s kid brother, so young and so unimpressive that his own dad hadn’t even bothered to bring him to the ceremony. “Anoint David,” God told Samuel. “God looks on the heart.”

It would turn out, centuries later, that the same theme would run through the whole Christmas story. Mary was a peasant girl from a backwater village in a fourth-rate occupied country–but God looked on the heart. Joseph was a poor carpenter with no bank account to speak of–but God looked on the heart. God wanted to enter human history, to be one of us–and so this God, more interested in the heart than in outward appearances, was born as a tiny baby to these two humanly unimpressive parents. It was no way to make a “big splash,” but that wasn’t God’s main concern. God looked on the heart, and 2000 years later, we join with millions of others to come and adore that baby, born in the small town of Bethlehem and laid in a feeding trough.

Maybe you feel unimpressive. I certainly do, more often than not. Try not to worry too much about that–because God doesn’t. Focus on your heart, because that’s what God is looking at.

Darrell Holtz serves as Program Director for Curriculum and Writing in the Group Life Ministry at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.