Monthly Archives: June 2011

Thursday 6.30.11 Insight from Rev. Glen Shoup

Rev. Glen Shoup is the Congregational Care pastor for members of the Resurrection family who have last names beginning with A – C.

In the ancient world, table seating was very telling as to pecking order. Usually the table layout was that of an open-sided rectangle with one longer table in the center and then two shorter tables coming off both ends of the longer table in a perpendicular fashion. And the seating arrangement around this open-sided rectangle was very intentional and telling.  The host or person of greatest honor would sit at the center of the long middle table, and then the guest of second greatest honor would be to his right, the guest of third greatest honor to his left, the guest of forth greatest honor second to his right, the guest of fifth greatest honor second to his left, and so-on-and-so-forth all the way around the layout until the guest of lowest honor sat at the end of the perpendicular table to the left of the guest of greatest honor.  And unlike in our culture, where seemingly nobody seems to be exactly sure of proper protocol or even what fork to use when; in the ancient near-east (where honor was and continues to be of supreme value), everybody knew the significance (or lack thereof) of each and every seat.

So as Jesus is gathered at this dinner with a bunch of church leaders, watching them passive-aggressively finagle over chairs—who gets to sit where—so that they might be recognized as significant by virtue of their seat assignment, Jesus says this is just plain stupid.  You people have been charged with representing and ministering God and you can’t even get over yourselves long enough to see that ‘who gets to sit where’ doesn’t really matter.

…Well, that might be the “Shoup version”: what Jesus actually said was that when you come to a dinner table, take the seat farthest left from the guest of honor, or—take the seat of lowest honor.  First, if you take anything more than that, you might embarrass yourself because the host of the party may not think you nearly as important as you think yourself—and he may ask you to move farther down the line.  And second, it’s far better to have the host come to you and ask you to move up (if there’s some reason that would be needed).   And then—lest the host (as the person of “greatest honor”) begin to think themselves exempt from this essential lesson—Jesus says …and when you are inviting guests, quit inviting folks who can reciprocate by inviting you to their parties and give you a seat of (perceived) importance, instead invite the left out’s and nobody’s of society who won’t be able to pay you back cause they don’t have the money or clout to ever throw a dinner party.

I think it’s remarkable in today’s passage that—in giving us an important lesson in Christian Table Manners—Jesus is certainly telling us what follower’s of His should do.  And it’s—of course—consistent with what Jesus repeatedly teaches (love others as we love ourselves, seek first God’s Kingdom [which is to say, God’s way of treating folks], the first shall be last and the last shall be first, etc).  But it’s also important to see that what Jesus is here teaching regarding how we should act and think when it comes to honor sought and bestowed is exactly how God responds towards us through Christ.  As Philippians 2 narrates powerfully, God humbled and lowered Himself to take on humanity and in so doing redeem us and, in essence, offer us a seat at the table with God that you and I don’t deserve and could never have any hope to receive—apart from God inviting folks like us whom God knew could never pay Him back (which Jesus goes on to talk about in the next verses of Luke 14).

So remembering how unworthy we are before God and yet how graciously God treats us, let us seek—by God’s grace—to live our daily lives without a hint of pretense or a whiff or thinking ourselves to be of greater importance than others.  As the Apostle Paul says at the beginning of Romans 12 (the first 3 verses of which, make a great daily prayer), let nobody think of themselves more highly than they ought.  …Lord, may this be true of me today, and everyday.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Wednesday 6.29.11 Insight from Angela LaVallie

Angela LaVallie is the Member Connection Program Director at The Church of the Resurrection. She provides oversight to our member connection efforts through the Connection Point, the Weekday Hospitality Team, Coffee With the Pastors, the New Member Team and our Spiritual Gifts Placement Team.

Like many others, I am a people pleaser. I want people to like me and approve of me. Several years ago, I read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman and discovered that my love language is words of affirmation. This means that I most feel loved when I am given positive feedback. This can sometimes make it difficult for me as a Christian who seeks to have a humble attitude. I want people to notice when I do something to help those in need, when I say a particularly “good” prayer, or when I do something well in the church, because if people notice, they might affirm my worth.

Today’s scripture passage tells us “not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them” (verse 1). This is a reminder to me that it doesn’t matter what other people think of me as long I do what pleases God. It’s important for me to remember that my true worth doesn’t come from those around me but from God who created me to be exactly who he wanted me to be.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Tuesday 6.28.11 Insight from Rev. Molly Simpson

Rev. Molly Simpson is the campus pastor at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection West.

Lies lead to other lies.  Have you noticed? 

Why yes, I’ve completed the proposal.  I emailed it… didn’t you get it?  Oh, no?  Well, I’m out of pocket for the next few hours (finishing said proposal) but will be delighted to email it to you again when I can get online.      …now to call my co-worker to let them know I have had a family emergency so I can ditch the meeting and finish the proposal…

Maybe you see the way that we lie to one another about our happiness, our perfect families, our problem-free lives in a way that puts pressure on a whole society of people to act like we’ve got it all together in suburbia, USA (to my loft-dwelling friends, I’m guessing it’s no better downtown). 

Think about the last time you lied–little or big–and the impact it had.  Did it help you save your own skin?  Did it keep you from having to speak hard, truthful words?  Did it help you (or your family, or your company) come out ahead of someone else?     

I reflect upon my own answer to that question, and I’m disgusted.  It’s too easy to skew the truth a bit in a way that makes me look better, but it isn’t right.  Today’s readings from Jeremiah 5 drive this point home.  Verses 1 and 2 point to the prevalance of lying in Jerusalem, and I’m sure a similar lament could rise up today.  Then Jeremiah’s words in verse 3 cut right to heart–“LORD, do not your eyes look for truth?”  

I don’t believe that God makes rules and commandments for fun.  They are like many of the rules given by a loving parent who has our safety, best interest, and most fulfilled life in mind.  Think “no dating before you are 15,” or “you aren’t allowed to eat just ice cream for dinner,” or “don’t text and drive.” 

We aren’t supposed to lie, says God.  When people lie, people get hurt.  We decieve ourselves.  We make a fool of the one who believes us.  We gain power at the expense of truth.  This was true for Aladdin, for Jafar, for those mentioned in Jeremiah 5:26-29, and it’s true for us.  

While this all seems like a bit of a downer, here’s the good news… it’s a new day (and the LORD’s mercies are new each morning)!  May we give pause before we tell a “little white lie,” make a false excuse, or blatanly distort the truth, and may we be found to have spoken and lived honestly today.  May God’s blessings be upon you as you do!

 Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Monday 6.27.11 Insight from Rev. Andrew Conard

Andrew ConardRev. Andrew Conard is a Christian, husband, father, son, brother, friend, United Methodist and also a pastor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection Online. You can follow him on Twitter at@andrewconard or read his blog, Thoughts of Resurrection at

Dishonesty and lying is one of the characteristics that breaks down relationships. In a friendship, marriage or co-worker relationship hiding the truth from someone can become burdensome and more and more difficult. It is possible to deceive others through our words or perhaps through not saying things that could be shared at a given moment.

In my own life, I find it frustrating when I find out that someone has been deceptive to me, especially around questions of someone’s identity. Not telling the truth about one’s own identity causes trouble for Aladdin in the movie and it can cause problems for us as well. There are many different ways that we can try to show ourselves in a good light – through career, family, home, vacations and many other things. Trying to show something to others that I am someone who I am not never leads to good.

Part of the good news of Jesus Christ is that we do not have to hide our identity. Each one of us are daughters and sons of God. We are made in God’s image. Regardless of the ways that we mess up, we have the opportunity to confess, receive forgiveness and begin again as a child of God.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Saturday 6.25.11 Insight from Jason Huwe

Jason Huwe is Resurrection’s minister for Young Adults and College Life.  He has attended Resurrection since 2007 and has been on staff about 2 years.  He enjoys ping pong, Dr. Pepper and cheering on his Nebraska Cornhuskers.

It is so comforting to have hope in the coming kingdom of God.  Jesus’ promise to his disciples and to us has been a regular source of hope through the centuries for people all over the world.  Much like an upcoming trip to Disneyworld or your next big vacation, the anticipation of the kingdom is half of the excitement.  What will it really be like?  Who will I see there? Will they have my favorite food from that one restaurant that closed down a couple years ago? To anticipate with excitement is a good thing.

It’s not the only thing, however.  Sometimes when I find myself in conversation with my Christian friends, I find that their primary reason for being a Christian is to get into heaven one day. While the promise of heaven is truly great, there is so much more joy to be captured as part of the Christian faith.

It can be easy to treat the acceptance of Jesus into our lives as the greatest insurance policy of all time. Eternity? I’m covered. But please don’t forget the immediate benefit of a personal relationship with God: the personal relationship with God. Before I knew Jesus, I was a sinner with no business talking to the Creator of the universe. Before I knew Jesus, that sin separated me from Him. Before I knew Jesus, the Holy Spirit did not enter into my life.

Then I asked Jesus to come into my life and things changed.

Because of Jesus, I have proof that the God of the universe loves me beyond measure. Because of Jesus, my sin is completely wiped away (read that again and just think about it for a second). Because of Jesus, the chasm that existed between me and God because of my sin is gone. Because of Jesus, I can openly come to God with my problems. Because of Jesus, the Holy Spirit fills my soul and works inside of me. Because of Jesus, I don’t have to find my worth in my job, the number of friends I have or the size of my bank account. Now I find my worth in being a child of God, wholly loved and never forgotten. Because of Jesus, I don’t have to keep this joy to myself but am free to share it to others because it never runs out.

The Bible tells of a group of people who eagerly waited in anticipation as well. They waited for a King who would save their people and change everything. They anticipated this King for hundreds of years. And then that King finally came. He was Jesus.

The effect of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection was greater than anything those who waited could have imagined; a personal relationship with God. Let us joyfully anticipate the second coming of our Lord and the many unknown wonders that will accompany that day. But let us not forget that we are living in a day that fulfilled the anticipation of those long ago, and the great gift of grace that we don’t have to wait for.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Friday 6.24.11 Insight from Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe has attended Resurrection since 1997.  He met his wife, Doris, in Single Adult Sunday School at Resurrection and they have 2 sons, Matthew & Jacob.  He helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 2nd grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group & a men’s group, and serves on the Curriculum team.


With Mother’s Day, Matthew’s birthday May 15, Jacob’s birthday May 16, Doris’ birthday, our Wedding Anniversary, & Father’s Day, gifts have been on the brain the past few weeks.

One of the more memorable gifts I can recall was a Christmas gift our grandparents gave my older brother, David, back in 1971.  Our grandparents were in town for Thanksgiving & left his Christmas gift early.  It was in a humongous gift-wrapped box.  (Of course I was like 3 feet tall, so my perspective might be skewed.)  It was extremely heavy.  (We nudged it 80 some odd times to try accurately gauge its weight)  We dedicated many the hour poring over the Sears Roebuck catalog trying to guess what this incredible present might be: perhaps it was a 4-Car Hot-Wheel Racing Track set or a GT Scooter with ball-bearing wheels, or (Dare we dream?) an NFL electric football game? 

Aside: For our younger readers, a catalog is a publication that groups a series of products into categories with their applicable price & shipping cost.  Christmas season officially started with the commencement of Advent & the arrival of the Sears catalog.  At one point, the Sears catalog was 2nd only to the Bible in terms of popularity in the United States.

Now lest you think I was not a competitive little brother & envious of David’s gigantic present, my excitement was really quite self-centered.  My brother was in grade school all day 5 days/week.  I was in pre-school 4 afternoons/week.  This meant 1 full day & 4 mornings of unfettered access to this awesome toy, whatever it might be.  St. Francis of Assisi, I’m not.

Christmas morning finally arrived & as my brother opened his treasure, our jaws dropped: it was a red-checked bedspread.  I can still hear my Mother’s exclamation ringing in my ears as she saw the gift, “Oh my, isn’t it beautiful?  And it is of such good quality, it will last forever!”  (She was right.  My Brother still has that bedspread to this day.)

If our Grandparents had known of our hopes for the gift, they would have no doubt been disheartened.  However, the audience in Jesus’ day would certainly be familiar with gods (small g) pulling a “bait & switch” in the god’s dealings with them.  These gods were quite temperamental, petty, & vindictive.  Every answered request or offered gift always had strings attached that made receiving the present a veritable Catch-22.

In today’s passage, Jesus is contrasting His Father with these trickster gods.  Jesus assures us that if one of His hungry children were to ask for bread, God most certainly would not give them a stone.  (To fully appreciate how teasing this might be, consider the river rocks that seem to be shaped like loaves of bread.)  God’s ways may be mysterious, but He is never going to taunt a starving child with some inedible rock.

With time & perspective, God’s gift giving always seems to exceed our expectations; not disappoint us. His greatest gift to us didn’t come with brightly colored wrapping paper; rather it was covered with rough-hewn wood.  The gift-wrap was not attached with scotch tape; instead it was sealed with long nails.  There wasn’t a beautiful bow on His gift to us; rather it was topped with twisted branches covered with inch-long thorns.  Despite its seemingly ugly exterior, once opened, this gift is quite breathtakingly beautiful & unbelievably expensive: Salvation!

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Thursday 6.23.11 Insight from Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory serves on the Resurrection staff as a Human Resources Specialist.

If someone were to ask me to tell them the story of the prodigal son, I would tell them all about the son who asked for his father’s inheritance, squandered it, hit rock bottom, decided to come home where his father ran to greet him with open arms and threw him a huge party (in my head, I picture a Mariachi band). Does that tell the story? Yes. Does it tell the whole story? Nope. In addition to the historical inaccuracy of the Mariachi band and leaving out all of the dynamics with the older brother, it skips over a few important verses.

Let’s start with verse 14. This is post-squander/pre-Mariachi band.

After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.

And then verse 16:

He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

Here is this son who came from an affluent family, and now it’s not just that his stomach is growling. No, he’s longing to fill his stomach with the food he’s throwing to the pigs.

Unfortunately, most of us are not able to grasp the severity of this verse. We get that this son is starved, so he’s eager to eat some pods. It doesn’t sound appetizing, but it’s not that big of a deal. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve walked past a bakery for dogs and drooled a little. If I was hungry enough, I might long for the pods too.

But wait. We’re forgetting the context of the story. We don’t get it, because the sound of bacon sizzling in the pan makes most of us giddy. But those hearing this story from the mouth of Christ saw something entirely different. We forget that during this time, pigs were considered unclean. Those listening were disgusted when they heard that this son worked on a pig farm. Longing to eat what the swine ate, was just putrid.

To put this in today’s perspective, what if I told you that I told you that I was hungry, starving really? And so when I saw my neighbor take out his trash, I went over to the bin and started searching through it. In the midst of the used tissues, old socks and cat litter was the discarded heel of a loaf of bread. As soon as I spotted it, I was ecstatic! I longed to sink my teeth into it and feel it hit the bottom of my empty stomach. I wanted to reach through the wads of hair and bloody bandages just to put my hands on it.

Is the picture any clearer now?

Good, because we miss an important part of the parable if we don’t understand or skip over verse 16. Though it makes us uneasy, we must find our own story in this verse. Just like the son, we long to be filled. Though God would gladly pour into us, we find ourselves longing for the pods that the pigs were eating, for the heel of bread under the used tissues.

Any time we turn to be filled with something other than God, this is exactly what we’re doing. Our heel of bread in the trash might look like a forbidden relationship or the next drug fix. Or maybe the heel we’re hoping to fill us is more socially acceptable:  public recognition, power, a sense of control, more money, a spouse, a child.

Verse 16 challenges us to recognize our humanly desires. It opens our eyes to see them for what they really are, to see them as the heel of bread under the cat litter. Verse 16 is significant to our faith… but we mustn’t get stuck there.

We must continue to verse 17:

“When he came to his senses… “

This son, wanting desperately to be filled, eventually came to his senses.  He recognized what was happening, what he needed to do. He was not going to be satisfied by the pods. He had to go home. Just as verse 16 is a challenge for us, verse 17 can be even more so. We must see the heel in the trash for what it is, and then we must come to our senses!

For when we do just that, we find ourselves in the midst of verse 20:

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

Verses 16, 17 and 20 are our story. They are crux of who we are as children of God. As Brennan Manning puts it, “To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.”

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Wednesday 6.22.11 Insight from Angela LaVallie

Angela LaVallie is the Member Connection Program Director at The Church of the Resurrection. She provides oversight to our member connection efforts through the Connection Point, the Weekday Hospitality Team, Coffee With the Pastors, the New Member Team and our Spiritual Gifts Placement Team.

In The Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Your will be done, on earth like it is in heaven.” By devoting ourselves to doing what is good (Titus 3:8), we can help to make earth more like heaven bit by bit. No matter what we’ve done in the past, whether it’s a sharp word that hurt someone for a short time or an act that seemingly destroyed someone’s life, we can change the way we act in the future. In each moment we can choose to do right or wrong. And the good news is that if we choose wrong, it will soon be in the past, and we will again have a chance to do something good.

When I was in high school, I had the chance to take a trip to Europe. The teacher who was sponsoring the trip told us that as citizens of the United States we would be representing the US as we traveled throughout France and Italy, and the way we behaved would influence the views of the Eurpeans we were in contact with. Several years ago I took a class at church over the book of Philippians, and one of the things we discussed was the idea of having dual citizenship–being citizens of both the earth and of heaven at the same time. When I remember this, it’s easier for me to choose to do the right thing. If I’m a citizen of heaven, then I want to act like a citizen of heaven. I want to represent the ruler of heaven to the best of my ability, and although I don’t always succeed, the reminder that I am a child of God makes me want to live up to that status.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Tuesday 6.21.11 Insight from Pastor Anne Williams

Pastor Anne Williams is the Congregational Care pastor for members of the Resurrection family who have last names beginning with S-Z.

In his sermon on Sunday, Pastor Adam talked about the problem of spiritual amnesia – when we forget who we are, when we forget whose we are, when we forget all that God has done for us. Forgetting that God is our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer is one of the most detrimental things that can happen in our faith. Today’s passage from Deuteronomy reminds us that sometimes it is by teaching children about our faith that we ourselves are reminded of what we believe and why we believe it. I don’t have any children of my own, but I do recall that things like facilitating Vacation Bible Camp, leading youth on mission trips, and even singing Jesus Loves Me with my niece are things that can remind me that I, too am a beloved child of God.

For those of you who have attended an authentic Seder meal (the Jewish commemoration of the Passover meal), you may remember that one of the main intentions of this ritual is to retell the story of God’s provision for the Israelite people – to remind themselves who they are. Part of the liturgy includes four questions asked by the youngest child in the family about the things that are taking place. These might not be the same questions asked by children in a Christian tradition, but we are forced to think what questions our children might ask of us. Are there habits going in on our households that indicate we are different in some way? Have your children ever asked you why you pray before you eat? Why you make a point to get to worship each weekend? Why you wake up a few minutes early to read the GPS each morning?

The instruction we have in Deuteronomy is to “tie (God’s commandments) as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” We need every reminder possible of God’s love for us. There are signs and placards and picture frames decorating our homes that remind us of our favorite scripture passages, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord – Joshua 24:15,” or “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it! – Psalm 118:24.” I especially love one sign that hangs in my sister-in-law’s kitchen that reads, “God of second chances and new beginnings, here I come again!”

Find the things (tangible things or habit things) that will serve to remind you that the God of the Universe loves you. And then, when the little children ask about those things, celebrate sharing your faith with the generation that follows you!

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Monday 6.20.11 Insight from Jeanna Repass

Jeanna Repass serves as the Kansas City Missions Program Director at Resurrection.

For a short time during my faith journey, (between being an Episcopalian and becoming a Lutheran on my way to joining the United Methodist Church), I worshipped with my Maternal Grandmother at Salem Baptist Church. Salem is the largest African-American Church in Omaha, Nebraska. Worship at Salem was more of a marathon than a sprint and the race began every week with praise and worship as the kick-off to the service. The praise leader would teach songs by call and response and everyone would join in, standing on their feet, clapping, singing with joy and (watch out now) sometimes, touching and embracing each other! The lyrics from one of my favorite songs from my days at Salem are: “The Jesus in me, loves the Jesus in you. The Jesus in me, loves the Jesus in you. So easy… So easy… Easy to love!” While the congregation sang the lyrics everyone pointed to themselves and then to the people around them and sang the words directly to each other. I loved it then and can’t help but smile every time I sing this song now.

After watching the movie The Lion King on Sunday, it occurred to me that Rafiki telling Simba that he knows his father because Simba’s father, Mufasa, lives in Simba is exactly what this song is about. What I find more interesting is that Rafiki could see Mufasa in Simba even when Simba could not. It was through Rafiki’s vision that Simba was able to remember his father and finally see the Mufasa in himself. Paul shared a similar reflective observation in this second letter to Timothy. Paul tells Timothy that he remembers him with love because of Timothy’s faith but also because of the faith he sees in Timothy’s Grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. Paul reminds Timothy of the faith of their ancestors connecting them both to their bigger family as children of their father God. Paul could see and love the Jesus in Timothy and was intentional in reminding him of how important it is to see Jesus in one another.

Now that I’m feeling all good inside and full of insight – I’ll share a confession about the “Jesus in me” song. I sing it a lot. I sing it a lot because in my humanness, I find myself at odds with others more than I am proud to confess. I use this song as a way to remind myself that when I am really out of fellowship with some one, especially when I’m feeling really, righteously upset with them, it’s my job to be my own Rafiki. It’s time to write an imaginary letter from Paul to Jeanna and remind myself to see the Jesus in the other person. When I do this, whatever I am upset about goes right to the cross and it’s impossible to think of whatever was upsetting to me as having much if any significance. There are lyrics on the Lion King soundtrack that coincide with the moment that Simba sees his father’s reflection in the water and I share them with you here: “He lives in you. He lives in me. He watches over everything we see. Into the water. Into the truth. In your reflection… He lives in you.” May the Jesus in me see the Jesus in you because the Jesus in you is so easy… so easy to love! Amen.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.