Monthly Archives: July 2011

Saturday 7.30.11 Insight from Constance Stella

Constance Stella serves as Director of Worship, and has been part of the church staff since 1998. She and her family were among those who helped start Resurrection in 1990, when worship happened in a funeral home!

‘Were there any witnesses?‘The witness saw everything that happened.’ ‘She was a witness for the prosecution.’ Courtroom drama and legal proceedings seem to be prominent in the news lately. As a kid, one of my favorite TV shows was Ironside, and many episodes were hinged in high drama on the surprise testimony of a key witness, as Raymond Burr looked on sternly from his wheelchair. (If you grew up in a post-Ironside generation, check it out in reruns on cable!) The testimony of witnesses is important in fiction and in real life drama.

“You are witnesses of these things,” Jesus told the disciples. He was, with the power of the Holy Spirit, equipping his friends and pupils to carry on, and he was revealing the path that lie ahead of them. They were to go out, to serve as witnesses. Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, teaches that to be a witness is to see something in a new or different way. Sort of like on Ironside, when that surprise witness takes the stand and shares some trial-shattering tidbit of new information: The witness experienced something that others had not experienced, and it changed his/her perspective completely.

Is that true for you? Have you experienced something new or different as you’ve worshipped, or read scripture, or served someone in need, or enjoyed fellowship with others in our community of faith?  Is your perspective different than it used to be?

It’s true that we do not get to see the flesh-and-blood Jesus, as the disciples did. But we have their witness, written down in the gospel accounts, and the witness of others from the same point in time. And Christians throughout the centuries have encountered God afresh, and witnessed to others about it in myriad ways. So here we are. It’s our turn, and it seems to me that Jesus is today—as in every age—reminding us that we are witnesses. We are to go out and do something, as witnesses for Christ who have a new perspective, who see things differently.

What is the new idea about life with Christ that’s been nudging its way into your thoughts? Or the new perspective that is getting clearer as you journey along in your faith? And how, in real and visible ways, in your words and actions, are you serving as a witness for the one who has changed you? These are the questions I’m asking myself today, and I hope they might be helpful for you, too.

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

Friday 7.29.11 Insight from Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe 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.

“Who’ll be a witness for my Lord?” 

As we read John’s thoughts today, we may be intimidated by the idea that we can actually be a witness for Jesus.  We consider John’s experiences, John’s testimony, & John’s first-hand encounters with Christ, and we reasonably conclude that our story can’t possibly compete with the standard he established.  But maybe we need to tweak our perspective.

 While the boys were working on becoming Junior Rangers at Yellowstone National Park earlier this month, we all learned about Thomas Moran, an American painter from the 1800s, and his role in the creation of Yellowstone as a National Park.  The early tales of the geysers, the pools of boiling water, the numerous waterfalls told by the fur-traders & trappers were considered hyperbole & too fantastic to believe. 

Aside:  The Junior Ranger program is a fantastic diversion program to let the experts answer questions like, “How many undiscovered geysers are there in the park?” or “Does Old Faithful erupt at night?” or “At what age does a deer become an elk?”

Mr. Moran joined the Hayden Geological Survey of 1871 to help document the wonders of Yellowstone.  During his 40 days in Wyoming he depicted 30 different sites in the region to illustrate its beauty & majesty to those on the Eastern seaboard.  His portrayal of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone was particularly persuasive to President Grant & to Congress.  (This painting was later purchased by Congress & hung in the capitol for decades before being preserved in the Smithsonian.)  Just seven months after his return to Washington, D.C., Yellowstone became the world’s first National Park.

Now Mr. Moran was not an expert in geology.  He had a very limited background in botany.  He was hardly proficient in identifying the various species in the park area.  So, how could he possibly have been instrumental in persuading people to set aside Yellowstone as a natural preserve?

I would submit that Mr. Moran helped people to more fully appreciate Yellowstone through the use of his own gifts & talents.  Yes, he couldn’t provide answers to the scientific questions presented, but he could help people see with their own eyes the unique beauty of Yellowstone.

Similarly, we, too, might be able to help people see Jesus through our own skill set.  Instead of lamenting our lack of theological background, we could mimic Christ by serving God in Faithworks, mission trips, or food drives.  Rather than feeling limited by our lack of experience in church-like settings, we could use this background to help other visitors feel welcome in worship.  Instead of letting the shortcomings of our earlier life seemingly disqualify us from speaking to others about Jesus, perhaps we could let others see with their own eyes the difference Christ has made in our lives.

Who’ll be a witness for my Lord?  The old spiritual gives us the answer in the very next stanza, “My soul will be a witness for my Lord.”

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

Thursday 7.28.11 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.

I like Peter.  Peter’s a react first, think later kind of guy.  I’m not suggesting that’s admirable; I’m certainly not saying that’s wise; I’m just saying that there’s something in Peter’s “ready, fire, aim” tendency that I identify with.  Admittedly most times, that tendency does not serve Peter (or me) well, but I like Peter.

However, truth be told, I see more of myself in the Peter we find in the gospels—the Peter that we see pre-Resurrection and pre-Pentecost.  The Peter who confidently tells Jesus “I’ve got you covered Jesus, I’m with you—no matter what, everybody else may bail on you Jesus but I’m with you—you can bank on it”; the Peter who, in the Garden as Jesus was being arrested, goes for his guns just to prove how loyal he is to Jesus…but then, just a few hours later—when taking a stand for Jesus might actually cost him something—he wilts under the pressure of a little girl’s questions.  Truth be told, when I look at my life, that’s the Peter I tend to identify with.

But there’s something different about this post-Resurrection, post-Pentecost Peter.  There’s something different about this Peter we observe in today’s scripture reading.  This Peter has had an encounter with the living Christ from which he hasn’t recovered; this Peter is transformed by his daily willingness to be occupied and led by the Spirit of the resurrected Jesus to the point where this Peter is on a fishing expedition the likes of which he’s never dreamed.  This Peter will stand and talk about the Christ who transformed him and he’s not the least bit bothered or worried by what it might cost him.  I mean this Peter (along with John) had just healed a lame man (see Acts 3) and following that miracle, Peter is just getting rolling in a sermon he’s preaching when the Sadducees (who don’t believe in the resurrection of the dead)—show up and have Temple security arrest Peter because this Peter won’t shut-up about the resurrection of Jesus.  (And it’s worth noting: this must have been a powerful sermon Peter was preaching because even though it ended abruptly with Peter and John handcuffed, 5,000 people [according to Acts 4:4] came to faith in Christ—now that’s a sermon!)

And after spending the night in jail, the religious power brokers—who were essentially the same crew that had orchestrated Jesus’ crucifixion—demanded of Peter “by what power or what name did you do this?” And the same Peter who formerly wilted under the suggestion of a little girl that he knew Jesus, now stood securely in the cross-examination of those who’d orchestrated Jesus’ crucifixion and proclaimed to them that the lame man was healed by the power of and in the name of Jesus… “whom you crucified (but) whom God raised from the dead”.  And then without missing a beat, Peter picked right back up with his sermon that a pair of handcuffs had so rudely interrupted the night before…and when Peter finished, the religious leaders were “amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus”(Acts 4:13).

Now I’ll have to tell you, instinctively I want to stand up and cheer for this Peter because when I read in context our reading for today, I not only see a boldness in Peter but I also love the way it appears that Peter just sticks it right back in the religious leaders’ face (this was done by the power and in the name of Jesus “whom you crucified [but] whom God raised from the dead”)—ya, take that you Sadducees!  I mean even though Peter had been transformed by Jesus’ resurrection and Jesus’ outpoured Spirit at Pentecost, there was still some of the stick-it-to-em Peter we saw in the Gethsemane garden.  …Or was there?

As I further reflected on today’s reading, I was struck by the awareness that an “in-your-face” tone, was likely not the tone from which Peter was speaking to his accusers.  That would have been the way the old Peter would have done it (that would have been the way I think I would have done it), but I don’t think that’s where the Peter we encounter in our reading today was coming from.  Rather, I suspect that this Peter was unashamedly speaking to his accusers as one sinner to another; I suspect that Peter the fishermen—had actually come to the point where he’d become a fisher of men and was seeking and hoping to free even Jesus’ accusers from the lifeless waters they were swimming in—Peter was on a catch-and-release mission that even included those who had orchestrated Jesus’ crucifixion.  Peter was on a life-saving mission in the Spirit of the One under whose name, we find the fresh waters of salvation—both now and eternally.  The Peter we find in our reading today, was one who was more concerned about fishing even for Jesus’ executors, than he was in trying to put them in their place.  Truth be told, the Peter we find in today’s reading is the kind of Peter I want to see more of in myself.

Lord, help me—like Peter—to fish with a love for all people; not just the ones I like.

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

Wednesday 7.27.11 Insight from Rev. Steven Blair

Rev. Steven Blair serves as Pastor of Support Ministries at The Church of the Resurrection. You can contact him at steven.blair@cor.org.
Celebrate Recovery – Thursdays 6:30pm @ Student Center  “There’s a Group for That”

You may have heard the saying “It’s not how many times you fall that matters, it’s how many time you get back up.”  The Disciple, James, would have been a good example of this truth.

The Story
Early in Chapter 10, Jesus brought little children into the middle of one of his teaching sessions.  The disciples (including James) tried to correct Jesus saying that children are not a part of the Kingdom Jesus was talking about.  Jesus rebuked his disciples by lifting up the high position a child or anyone thought to be insignificant would have in his movement.

You can imagine this would be a difficult lesson to forget.

But later in that chapter, possibly days away from Jesus’ scene with the kids, James and his brother John approach Jesus.  In Mark 10:35-40, James and John ask to be Jesus’ top counsels with one sitting at the right hand of Jesus’ supposed throne and the other on the left.  This scene paints the disciples as self-motivated and possibly intentionally forgetful of Jesus’ very recent lesson about the high role of humility in Jesus’ Kingdom.  James and John have their feet in their mouths.  They have been drastically missing the whole point.

But…. along with Jesus telling his disciples that he will not be appointing anyone to sit on his right and left in positions of power, Jesus adds another comment. “You will drink this cup that I drink.” Jesus is referring to his pending crucifixion.  Jesus tells James and John that they will die a martyr’s death as well.  These words come across a bit harsh, but looking closer, it reveals that Jesus trusts in James and John.

The only way James and John would “drink this cup” was if they refused to waver in the face of upcoming persecutions based on their relationship to Jesus.   Jesus was looking right into the eyes of two disciples who had fallen off the discipleship wagon and believed they had the ability to get back up.  He was right.  In Acts 12, Herod had James put to death by sword because he stuck with his discipleship to Jesus even in the face of opposition. James fell, but Jesus knew that James could get back up with the help of God’s Spirit. I believe Jesus shares the same perception of each of us.

Application

Have you fallen? Have you recently said or done something you swore you would never do again? Does that make you feel like less of a disciple? If so, look at the story of James. See his story as your story. Just because you made a mistake, rather big or small, you do not have to remain fallen.

Get back up.

Fall down seven times, get back up eight times.

Jesus believes that you too can keep the faith no matter how many times you have fallen

Get back up and walk the walk.

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

Tuesday 7.26.11 Insights from Rev. Molly Simpson

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

The second set of questions in today’s GPS asks, “According to John 6:8-9, Andrew brought forward the youth’s lunch of five barley loaves and two fish, even though he couldn’t see how it would do any good to make Jesus aware of it.  Have you ever offered God a gift of time, talent or money even though it seemed too small to do any good?  Have you ever held back a gift for that reason?”

 There have been times when I have balked instead of offering myself fully to God.  I wouldn’t have given this much thought when reading the passage on the loaves and fish–I always read it in light of what Jesus did without giving too much thought to Andrew’s role–but the GPS questions pointed me toward one of those “oh, I get it” kind of moments. 

I don’t offer God my time to pray or read scripture if I don’t think it’s “enough.”  Yes, I say those quick sentence prayers now and again when a person crosses my mind or hear a bit of news that points me towards prayer, but I realize that I hold back from really meeting God in prayer or in the pages of scripture if I only have a few minutes to offer.  There’s something in me that says unless I have 15 or 30 minutes or an hour then it’s not going to be the kind of quiet time worth offering to God. 

Now don’t get me wrong… making substantial time and space for prayer and study are really important… but in the moments when I have 2 fish and not 200, maybe, just maybe it would be good to bring those to Jesus.  

Do you have 2 fish you could offer right now and see how Christ might multiply them?       

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

Monday 7.25.11 Insight from Rev. Andrew Conard

Rev. 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.

I believe that God calls each one of us in various ways throughout our lives. I was introduced to Christianity at a young age and have been blessed to have it as a part of my life. My parents Christian example and influence guided me toward my own understanding of Christianity and how to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ. I remember a moment in high school when I was overwhelmed by the love of God for me – that God knew all about me and still loved me, that Jesus life, death and resurrection brought salvation to the whole world but also to me in particular. This experience was one of the first times that I remember experiencing God’s call.

In 2002, the summer before my final year at Pittsburg State University, I realized that God was not calling me to a career in biology, my field of study at the time. During that fall semester, I considered many possibilities for what might be next for me after graduation. One of those possibilities was pursuing graduate theological education. At a campus ministry retreat, I was reading the account of Jesus calling his disciples in the Gospel according to John, I heard God speaking to me. The disciples’ question, “Where are you staying?” corresponded to my question, “What might seminary be about?” Jesus responded clearly to them and to me: “Come and see.” As a result of this and other experiences, I felt called to go to seminary. I graduated  from Pittsburg State with a Bachelor of Science in Biology in May of 2003 and began classes that fall at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC.

During my time at Wesley, I learned the importance of faith seeking understanding. It was refreshing to seek God with my mind with the goal of entering deeper into the mystery of God. The summer after my first year at seminary, I lived and worked in Yellowstone National Park as part of A Christian Ministry in the National Parks. During the week I cleaned rooms at a hotel and on the weekends I led a team of college students to lead worship for employees and guests at the park. It was during this summer that I felt God’s call to ministry as an ordained elder serving in the local church.

I am not always sure about the ways that God will continue to call me in the future, however I am looking forward to a lifetime of learning and life with God. I pray that I will be attentive to God’s continued call.

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

    Saturday 7.23.11 Insights from Carol Cartmill

    Carol Cartmill serves as the Executive Director of Adult Discipleship at The Church of the Resurrection.

    It’s Friday morning as I write this, and I am celebrating my birthday as I reflect on this scripture passage. Later today, I will have the joy of opening a few gifts from close friends and family members. As I read the account of Paul standing before King Agrippa in defense of his faith and actions, it causes me to reflect on the most precious gift I’ve been given and the impact accepting it continues to have on my life. Four areas in particular stand out to me from the passage:

    Paul defends his faith and actions

    Paul’s causing riots, upsetting the status quo, and now he has to give an account for his actions.  I think sometimes we get this mental picture that life as a Christian is going to be a peaceful endeavor when actually, actively practicing our faith should shake things up.  When was the last time acting on my faith caused a riot?

    Paul’s conversion experience changed the direction of his life

    Committing his life to Christ radically changed Paul.  He went from a persecutor of Christ followers and stubborn resister of God (notice the reference in verse 14 to kicking against the goads) to a fervent witness for Christ. When we accept Christ we begin a process of being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit from the inside out. How is my life different today because of my faith?

    Paul embraces the call Jesus makes on his life

    Paul made a choice to be “not disobedient” to the call Jesus placed on his life.  God has a plan and purpose for every life, mine and yours included. At the Church of the Resurrection, we describe the process of being a Christ-follower as a Journey to know, love and serve God. I grow in my understanding of my gifts and calling as I read and study my Bible, worship, pray, meet with my small group, serve others and share my faith. Am I fully living into the gifts Gods has given me?

    God uses Paul in a new, transformed way and it gets results

    God used Paul’s witness to radically change the lives of many people, both Jews and Gentiles. Sometimes the change was welcomed, and other times it created tension and turmoil.  Paul didn’t waste his time worrying about who he might upset. The cause he was pursuing was too important and his trust in God brought hope and a different kind of peace and security. Where do I find transformation happening, both in and through my life?

    Today I celebrate the ways God has been at work in and through my life. Yes, there are places I fall short of all God intends for me, but the gift is new every morning, not just on my birthday. I can choose to open it daily and allow God to direct how I use it so it benefits others. And along the way, I may even start a riot!

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

    Friday 7.22.11 Insights from Darren Lippe

    Darren Lippe 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.

    Inspired by the life story of D.L. Moody from our Christian Hero class, I thought we might “visit” with Andrew Didas – devout Christian & shoe salesman.

    Aside:  D.L. Moody (1837-1899) was a successful shoe salesman who also started a Sunday school class for children in challenging conditions in the Chicago area.  Thanks to his recruitment efforts, he eventually reached 1,500 students per week.  (The mayor of Chicago offered him the use of hall rent-free to hold his classes.)  Mr. Moody ultimately left the shoe business to begin a worldwide ministry.  He challenged himself to tell at least one person about Christ’s love each & every day of his life.

    DL: What comes to mind as you read about Paul’s struggles in today’s passage?

    A.Didas: I appreciate Paul’s passion & frustration as he runs into figurative brick walls with his audience.  In the shoe business, we refer to these folks as people “tied up in ‘nots’.”  It doesn’t matter what you say, they are going to take the opposite tack.  For example, a gentleman was looking for a new pair of shoes for work.  He was dead set on a pair of open-toed sandals.  No amount of persuasion could change his mind.  I was like, “But you lay asphalt on highways.”  No reaction.

    DL:  What else stands out?

    A.Didas: Paul is wise to step away from the resistant audience.  In the shoe business, we always say, “tread lightly.”  Being a member of the Shoe Seller’s Guild, we ultimately want the customer to buy some shoes, whether it happens to be from us or another member of the brotherhood.  Always leave a positive impression about the value of shoes & how they can change one’s life for the better.

    DL:  Can that be frustrating?

    A.Didas:  Absolutely.  But we have a motto in the shoe business: “don’t overuse the shoehorn.”  Each person’s decision to purchase shoes is unique.  Sometimes it is like a bold revelation; for others it might be a slow drip-drip-drip process.  As long as they ultimately buy shoes, it doesn’t matter how they get to the counter.  However, we can be tempted to force the customer into a style of shoe that we prefer or push a sale that matches our personal timeline.  This tends to lead to a missed sale opportunity.

    DL:  Any other advice?

    A.Didas:  In the shoe business we always close with an invitation: either “come again” or “join us at our next sale event” or “let me know if you have any questions.”  You never know how your conversation might impact their life.

    DL:  Thanks for your time.

    A.Didas:  My pleasure.  I’ve always felt that Paul & I were in the same business of saving ‘soles.’”

    (We apologize in advance for Darren’s use of puns in this week’s Insight.  In his defense, he & his family had just spent 12 days traversing 3,224 miles visiting 6 National Parks in a “rolling cage with a steering wheel.” – Editor)

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

    Thursday 7.21.11 Insights from Yvonne Gentile

    Yvonne Gentile serves on The Church of the Resurrection staff as the Director of Connections. Yvonne directs the team that is charged with helping people get connected into the life of the church through service, studies, group life, or other ways of involvement.

    Today’s passage really resonates with me.  There are three things in particular that stand out:

    1)      Peter knew Jesus before – who He was, and what He was capable of doing.
    2)      When Jesus asked Peter to “let down your nets”, Peter resisted.  Fishing
    was his job, and he’d already DONE that, with no success.
    3)      When the results of doing what Jesus asked were so wonderful, Peter was
    amazed.

    I’ve had the same kind of experiences (on a much smaller scale) throughout the years. I’ve known Jesus all my life. I was fortunate enough to have a mother, grandmother, and aunts who took me to church and nurtured my faith. So you would think that when I am faced with a “prompting” from God to do something, I’d hop right to it, right? Umm, well… not so much.

    Like Peter, even though I know Jesus, my first response to a “spiritual nudge” is to ignore it or discount it, hoping maybe it will just go away. When it doesn’t stop, I start rationalizing–going over in my head all the reasons why it won’t work, or why I can’t do it. I can find a million excuses: I’m busy, I’m tired, and I’ve got this other (really important) stuff to do first. If I’m honest with myself, though, I think the real issue is that doing what God is urging me to do will take me out of my comfort zone. I don’t feel like doing it. The fear of the unknown (or admittedly, sometimes the sheer inconvenience of action) makes me want to hang on to the status quo. I believe this desire to be “captain of my own life” is simply human nature.

    Sometimes God’s prompting involves a little thing–picking up the phone to call and check on someone, or helping a co-worker carry an armload of stuff into the office from her car–but sometimes it’s a bigger issue: changing my habits, changing my priorities, or for me recently, changing my job. What I’ve found, though, is in those instances that I DO follow through on God’s prompting, the results are just as wonderful to me as Peter’s results were to him. Although I should know exactly what to expect by now, I too am amazed–every single time! I am personally blessed; my horizons are broadened, I meet new friends, and my faith grows stronger.

    I think God works in EACH of our lives in that way, slowly wooing us, moving us deeper in our commitment and relationship to Him. We stretch ourselves, grow in our faith, and over time we get comfortable again. Then He asks us to stretch a little more. Because God meets us where we are, He “nudges” each of us differently, calling us to take whatever the next little step is in our own faith journey… to sign up for a study, to use our time and abilities to serve others, to live out our faith a little more actively in the world.

    It can be scary, I know. But the rewards: simply priceless!

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

    Wednesday 7.20.11 Insights 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.

    I would like to think that if I saw Jesus face to face, I would do whatever he wanted me to do. The difficulty for me is when he uses other people to speak to me. I want to be in charge of my life, and I often tend to think that I am right. I am much more comfortable letting God “use my stuff,” as Pastor Adam talked about in his sermon this past Sunday, but I am much less likely to change my life in any way when I don’t know if it is indeed God asking me to do so.

    There have been many times in my life – some fairly recently – when I have been reluctant to make changes, but I have come to realize that God puts people in our lives to influence us and exercise authority over us. I am thankful that God does use other people to speak to me, and I am thankful that when I don’t listen when He speaks through some people, He is patient enough to keep speaking through others.

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