Monthly Archives: February 2012

Wednesday 2.29.12 Insight from Rev. Steven Blair

Rev. Steven Blair is the Congregational Care pastor overseeing Celebrate Recovery and Live Well Ministries

The Lamb of God aka ‘Leaving Egypt’
WEDNESDAY 2.29.12   John 1:29-37

 There are words that refer to historical events that have become bigger than the historical events themselves.  These words refer to a more frequent human occurrence that is symbolized in that main event.  You have heard the terms Crossing the Rubicon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubicon) , referring to the point of no return or a someone’s personal Waterloo as the location of their defeat.  The Bible has another one.

 Egypt.

 For today’s purposes, we are specifically looking at the idea of Leaving Egypt.  Egypt was the location of the Jewish people’s 430 years of slavery.  It is the location of their anguish and their tears.  It is also the location of their salvation.  From Egypt, God heard their cries (Exodus 3) and brought them into the Promised Land, albeit through a 40 year trek.  The last night of their enslavement included the spreading of lamb’s blood upon the doorposts of Jewish homes to protect them from the 10th Plague: Death.  Through the blood of the Lamb, the Jewish people were rescued from their Egypt and brought into God’s preferred future for them.

Fast Forward to back then.

In Jesus’ Day, the Jewish people are highly taxed and often brutally treated by the Romans.  It was a type of an Egypt.   One form of rescue looked like the Jewish people being released from the physical realm of the Roman rule.  It is a valid form of liberation that we too can pray for and work for to benefit anyone else in a socio-political Egypt.  This is a point that needed to be included briefly here while focusing on John’s main message.  The Gospel of John focuses more on the internal Egypt.

The internal Egypt is the location by which we are enslaved to a way of thinking and acting that adds hardship upon us.  It is a ruthless set of messages claiming that we are lower than other people.  It has every bit of terror and damage as a physical Egypt with our own thoughts serving as the taskmasters.  John the Baptist knew of this Egypt.  He knew of God’s desires to free people from enslavement wherever it is found.  John knew these two truths and then found these two truths rolled up into the person of Jesus when he claimed  “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Fast forward to today.

It is as if John was saying:
 “Look, those who are captivated by our own wrong doings….”
 “Look, those who are sitting in the mess of our past….”
“Look, those who are calling out from your own Egypts, desperate for a new life….”

“…. There is another lamb.  God is doing it again.”

God has sent another lamb to bring the people out of their own Egypts through the forgiveness of sins.

Our question is:
Do we believe Jesus is the Lamb of God?
“Do we decide to confess our sins, receive forgive and follow him?
“Do we want to leave Egypt?”

In Christ,
Steven Blair
Pastor of Celebrate Recovery  www.cor.org/celebraterecovery
(A Ministry Helping People to Leave Egypt)

Tuesday 2.28.12 Insight from Rev. Molly Simpson

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

In Matthew 3:13-17, we see Jesus do two things–he points towards the importance of baptism and he is baptized by John in the Jordan.  He who does not need to be washed clean gives himself to baptism anyway, the first of many times when Jesus does something unnecessary for his righteousness but makes way that we might be made right with God.

That’s just how Jesus is, always teaching, demonstrating, acting out of love that we might understand the way to the Father.  Again and again, his actions make possible our reconciliation with God.

I have to admit, before reading the GPS today, I’d never really given much thought to the fact that Jesus being baptized was a great show of love for us–that it demonstrates how much we are valued.  I’d always thought of his baptism as a teaching moment where Jesus says, “do what I do.”  But it really is a great act of humility on his part–the one without sin who has no need for repentance getting into the water to be washed clean that we might also.  And he did it for us.  That we might discover the true freedom found in baptism and the ongoing promise that our sins will be washed away.

If you are baptized… may you claim the promise of God’s gracious forgiveness and live as one made clean.  And if you have never been baptized… there is a good gift of God, demonstrated by Jesus, waiting for you.  I’d urge you to contact your pastor today.

Monday 2.27.12 Insight from Jeanna Repass

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

My cousin Elisia is a senior in high school in Omaha and sent me an announcement this week that she is being presented in the 93rd Annual Linx Cotillion. For those non-Omahans reading this, the Linx are an African American Social Sorority and the Omaha chapter of the Linx presents a Cotillion in the Spring for graduating senior girls (and a “Boutillion” in the Fall for graduating senior boys). The cotillion is very special. The girls and their fathers attend ballroom classes for 6 weeks to learn the waltz as well as a contemporary dance that they will perform together. Each girl has to have letters of recommendation to participate and must be seen as a young lady of good standing in the community in order to be accepted by the Linx for their cotillion.

There are ettiquette classes, custom made white gowns, long white gloves, a formal dinner and of course the presentation of each girl at the cotillion. I was in the cotillion of 1988, my mother in 1968 and her mother in the 1940’s. I’m hoping that my daughter will be participate when she is a senior. The presentation of the girls is really special as each father waits for their daughter at the top of the stairs and announces her by name and then brings her down to the floor where she is “presented” into the community. The formal dance with the fathers and daughters is the highlight of the evening. The cotillion is really the beginning of the young woman’s adult journey into the world with the blessing of her father and the acceptance by the community.

As I read Mark’s Gospel today and reflect on Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, I can’t help but think about the Linx Cotillion. Jesus was baptized by his cousin, following a tradition of baptism in his community. He was presented to his community in a public place where others would be witnesses. Jesus’ Father announced Him to everyone with words of love and blessing, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11) Then Jesus began his formal journey into his adult ministry.

I love that 2,000 years later, Christians are still following Jesus in the act of baptism. Though we are saved by Grace through our Faith in Christ Jesus, we have baptism as the outward and visible symbol that we are His followers. Just as Jesus was presented to the world, we bring our children to the baptismal fount to visibly present them to the world as children of God. Our hope is that we can live in a way that honors our heavenly Father in our journey of faith. Our ministry is to love one another in a way that shows how we are His beloved children with whom our Father is well pleased. Amen

Saturday 2.25.12 Insight from Dan Entwistle

Dan Entwistle is Resurrection’s Managing Executive Director for Programs and Ministries.

Thursday’s GPS included the story of a centurion with command of 100 soldiers. He was a leader in the Roman army, which was the occupying force in Israel. But whatever this man had heard or seen about Jesus, he had come to have great faith in Jesus’ power to heal. And he had the boldness of faith to ask Jesus to heal his paralyzed, suffering servant. Amazingly, Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And, with that, the servant was healed.

Today’s passage follows immediately afterward in the same small town of Capernaum. With today’s passage, Matthew extends the dramatic narrative of Jesus’ healing ministry. This time he is in the home of his disciple Peter who had been a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee before setting aside his nets to follow Jesus. When Jesus arrived at his house, Peter’s mother-in-law had been resting in bed with a great fever.

Imagine the scene. Jesus takes the woman by hand and, at once, the fever leaves her body. She is immediately restored to health and even begins to make afternoon preparations to feed her guests dinner. Throughout the afternoon and evening, Jesus’ healing ministry continues. Mark’s gospel tells us that “the entire town gathered at the door” of Peter’s house. Here we have everyone from Capernaum pressing in to see this man who was bringing healing to their town. Jesus healed many, some with spiritual needs and others with physical needs. Jesus is a healer.

If you travel to the Holy Land with a tour group, you will likely visit this exact location. It has been a gathering place for Christians since the day the story took place that we read in today’s passage. In the fifth century, a church was built immediately on top Peter’s house, and then a more modern glass-floored church was built more recently above that one. Visiting the site impresses upon you the “realness” of Jesus’ ministry. It happened in this town, on that day, in that place.  As you stand above this spot, you can’t help but place yourself in the story and join the crowd–the entire town of Capernaum–in pressing in at the door to observe this man who has the power to heal. (To see photos of Capernaum today, including the ruins of the synagogue at which Jesus preached and the walls of Peter’s house under the church, click here.)

Jesus is still healing. We see him at work in the church and in the world bringing wholeness and healing. So, are you pressing in at the door to catch a glimpse? Do you have a request for healing or for restoration?

What would cause you to press yourself to the door in order to see Jesus today?

Friday 2.24.12 Insight from Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 3rd grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group & a men’s group, and serves on the Curriculum team.

Today’s passage brings to mind the story of a young boy camping with his Dad.  As the boy laments his many bug bites, his Dad says, “That’s all right, Son.  Bug bites build character.”  The boy shakes his head & says, “That’s my Dad.  Always looking out for me.”

Before we consider today’s Scripture, we need to recognize that Paul is the most influential writer of all time. (As you ponder a list of say, Plato, Shakespeare, & J.K. Rowlings, I think you’ll reach the same conclusion.) Paul was also quite prolific, writing an estimated 32% of the New Testament.  Yet, despite this mass of writings, there are several curious omissions that provide us a window into Paul’s character. Let’s take a look & see what we can learn.

First, in all of his writings we don’t know what was afflicting Paul.  How is this possible?  I’d hate to think if I had some sharp, recurring pain how many times it would be mentioned:  I’d open a letter with updated details, I’d pause mid-letter with some transition like “Okay, now back to me & my ailment,” and certainly remind my readers in the closing about my travails, “In case you might have forgotten, I’m in great pain here (but I don’t want to be a burden).”  I’ve been told I’m not the best patient in the world, and I certainly am aware that my pain tolerance is not particularly high.  Yet Paul, despite this constant distraction, barely gives it a mention.

Secondly, he doesn’t appear to be bitter about God not taking his pain away.  This is stunning.  Here we have a devoted follower of God, who is doing incredibly important work on behalf of God’s Kingdom and yet God does nothing to rid Paul of his ailment.  And even more amazingly, Paul doesn’t quit or complain.  If there were a list of people that should have their prayers answered for relief from pain, you would think it would start with Paul.  Yet Paul doesn’t let that deter him in the least.  He continues on his mission of educating, converting, & inspiring his fellow Christians to the best of his ability.

Thirdly, Paul hints at his affliction after discussing a vision he had of paradise.  Can you imagine how crushing this should have been?  Yet Paul doesn’t even mention his disappointment or frustration.  Instead, he views his ailment as a potential positive, keeping him grounded.  Sort of like coming home after receiving a nice promotion at work & your wife says, “Hmm.  That’s nice.  The baby needs a bath & all we have for a vegetable this evening is lima beans.”

So what can we apply to our own faithwalk from the example Paul provides?  Perhaps we can strive to find times in our day to minimize the distraction our ailment causes us, by seeking to be a blessing to others.  My Grandmother, while in a nursing home, wanted her room to be a “rest stop” for the caregivers at the manor.  She felt they had a hard enough job, without her adding to their list of challenging patients.

Maybe we could avoid the temptation of playing quid pro quo in our prayer life with God – God, if You do _________, I’ll come to church more often, etc.  Perhaps we should view our prayer life as an opportunity to lay our burdens before God & refrain from the deal making.

Finally, the young boy in the opening will eventually recognize what we already know:  challenges & hurdles do help us build character.  A quick survey of the tabloid media proves the folly of thinking a life of leisure is the key to developing strong moral fiber.  Perhaps we could find inspiration from the closing of Casey Kasem’s old American Top 40 Radio Show, “Keep your feet on the ground & keep reaching for the stars.” 

 (Editor:  Casey Kasem?  Seriously?  I think we could better seek inspiration from the Great Seal of the State of Kansas:  Ad Astra Per Aspera – To the stars through difficulties.  DL: Well.  To each his own.)

Thursday 2.23.12 Insight from Alison Ebright

Alison Ebright serves on staff at Resurrection as the Assistant Director of Resurrection Music Academy.

This story is always incredible to read. But I have to admit that Jesus’ specific words to the Centurion about how he had “not found anyone in Israel with such faith” are what always stop me in my tracks.

What a huge statement!

I have to imagine that the crowd was abuzz afterwards, discussing what Jesus saw in this man that illustrated such great “faith.” Three possible things stand out to me…

First of all, the Centurion demonstrated remarkable humility. Scripture doesn’t go into specifics about what the Centurion’s relationship was like with his slave. But it’s clear that even during a time when slaves were socially recognized as being far “less” than humans, the Centurion cared for this man and dignified this man as a person worthy of being healed. And in order to seek that healing, the Centurion took the time to personally track down Jesus and humbly make the request himself.

On that note, I believe the Centurion also showed great courage. In the religious and social systems of the day (which also overlapped), it was no small deal that the Centurion was both a high-ranking Roman and a Gentile. The Jews had a long history of being persecuted by their Roman occupiers, and Jewish law said Gentiles were unclean and even prohibited Jews setting foot in a Gentile’s house. (You can look it up in Acts 10:28.) So the fact that the Centurion would break strict social boundaries and risk venturing into this Jewish crowd to approach Jesus showed tremendous courage. And what’s more, he asked for nothing short of a miracle. Actually, make that a miracle (healing) upon a miracle (healing “long distance”!). Talk about courage!

Once Jesus generously responded that he would personally come to his house (again, breaking a social norm) to heal the slave, the Centurion gave his famous speech about his faith in the authority of Christ and his word. And in that, he showed us something about trust. Now seriously–this guy had to have been a rational man. He could have chosen to guard his fears and his reputation, and not ask for something so risky. But he decided to stand on his own faith and the faith that I’m sure he saw in others, and radically trust that Jesus would do what was best.

This is what Jesus calls “faith”.

I don’t know about you, but it seems like often a majority of the prayer requests I hear from friends and family and church members are for physical illnesses. And after praying countless prayers for healing over the years, and watching a variety of physical outcomes, at times it can become emotionally and spiritually exhausting to continue lifting up hope upon hope for healing.

But I believe more than ever that the Lord is a Healer, that He hears and answers our prayers in His wisdom and timing, and that it is our great privilege and calling to pray in this way for those we love and the world around us. And that in doing so, we have the chance to grow more like the Centurion in humility, courage, trust–and ultimately, the kind of faith that changes the world!

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” –Colossians 4:2

Wednesday 2.22.12 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 today’s passage of Scripture, the Jews couldn’t see Jesus and the healing he provided because they were too hung up on the fact that he seemed to be breaking the law regarding work on the Sabbath. I wonder today how often we miss seeing Jesus and the healing power he still provides because we are too hung up on the lack of miracles we think we experience or witness or because we think all healing can now be explained by science and medicine.

In verse 6 of this passage, Jesus asks the invalid man, “Do you want to get well?” and then tells him to “get up [and] start walking” in verse 8. I believe that Jesus still heals miraculously today, but I think he works through the trained doctors, nurses, counselors, and others as well.

I have looked back over my prayer journal, and I find time and again places where people I (and others) have prayed for physical healing, and healing has taken place. Other times, people I have prayed for have not been physically healed, but emotional or spiritual healing has taken place. I don’t understand why some people are healed and others are not, but I have seen enough healing – in some form – take place when people have asked for it to call it coincidence.

Tuesday 2.21.12 Insight from Rev. Anne Williams

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

Someone once told me that it’s okay to be mad at God because you can’t be mad unless you’re in relationship, since being mad is part of any normal relationship. I remember feeling liberated to think that I don’t have to pretend things are peachy keen if they’re not. During one particularly dry spell in my faith life when I was tired of praying without hearing God’s response, I found myself explaining to others that “God and I are not on speaking terms right now.” None of this means I don’t have faith. None of this means I’m not in relationship with God. It just means things are hard right now and I’m probably in the ebb portion of ebb and flow. I’ve also noticed that on the other side of these trying times, my relationship with God usually comes out significantly stronger.

For me, the most important thing is to maintain the relationship and eventually come back to that place of complete trust. Sometimes it takes intentional recalling of God’s redeeming acts, God’s faithfulness (in both my own life and throughout history) to restore my faith that indeed God’s hand is participating in creating something good out of the mess I find myself in.

But the thing I admire most about this particular piece of poetry is the author’s willingness to look first at himself to determine the cause of what has gone wrong. What a humble and courageous thing it would be to examine first whether I am the cause of any difficulty before accusing the other! And let’s be honest, God is perfect and I am not, so the odds are pretty fair that most likely the problem lies within my own heart.

As we get ready to begin the Lenten journey this week, you’ll be given many more opportunities for searching and examining the heart. My prayer is this creates space for the spirit of the living God to move in and through you.

Monday 2.20.12 Insight from Rev. Andrew Conard

Rev. Andrew Conard is a Christian, husband, father, son, brother, friend, United Methodist and also Associate Pastor at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection West.

In recent years, this has been one of the most powerful portions of scripture to me. The simple question, “What do you want me to do for you?” has resonated with me as I meet with people in hospital rooms, preparing for marriage and providing care and guidance in all kinds of circumstances. The reality that Jesus asked this question reminds me that it generally doesn’t do much good for me to assume what someone else needs. I have found that using Jesus model for my interactions has proven helpful. His example leads to questions like:

  • “What would you have me pray for today?”
  • “Will you please share any other way that I might be helpful for you?”
  • “Will you please let me know if there is any way that I might provide care or guidance for you?”

More important than my work as a pastor is when I consider Jesus asking this very same question to me. In the midst of things to improve and projects to consider taking on, this question cuts to the heart of my reality. It is not about what I want to do. It is not about what others expect of me. It is about the reality of what God has to offer me – a life lived to the full in which I am constantly growing in love of God and neighbor.

This is real life. I am thankful for Jesus question to put my priorities right.

Saturday 2.18.12 Insight from Rev. Penny Ellwood

Rev. Penny Ellwood is the campus pastor at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection Blue Springs.

In this passage from Romans, the apostle Paul offers a broad list of those things that can’t separate us from Christ’s love, and his absolute belief in the steadiness and reliability of that love. In a sense, what he’s saying is that if you trust in Jesus for eternal life, you can never be divorced from him. No matter what life hands you, Jesus will never take His love away from you.

I’d not thought of this passage before in relation to marriage but it does describe my experience in the relationship that I have with my spouse. I have been blessed to be married for over thirty years to my husband, Bill. Early on in our marriage, we made a conscious decision to build our relationship on God’s love and to strive as much as humanly possible to lift one another up. We don’t always do this perfectly. In fact, my husband is much better at it that I am (don’t tell him I said so!). Like most marriages, we’ve been through some uncertain times and faced some challenging periods, like job changes, children making poor choices or, more recently, facing frightening health issues with our parents.

Sometimes one of us has had to prop the other up or do more than their fair share. But whatever it is we’re facing, I have confidence that my husband will be there for me, that he has my best interest at heart and that nothing can separate me from his love. He may not always say what I want to hear but I rarely doubt that he is speaking the truth in love. And when I become self-centered or thoughtless, he is quick to offer grace and forgiveness. His gracious spirit inspires me to return the same. I am a better person because of him, and through him I experience the love of Christ.

This quote from author and priest Henri Nouwen says it best:
“The real mystery of marriage is not that husband and wife love each other so much they can find God in each other’s lives, but that God loves them so much they can discover each other more and more as living reminders of God’s presence.”

Through our relationship, Jesus’ love, wisdom and character are formed in us, as we help one another know, serve, love, and resemble God in deeper and deeper ways. Our marriage is, at the core, a journey to God. It’s a process of becoming that has led us to great happiness together. For this, I am very thankful.