Monthly Archives: March 2012

Saturday 3.31.12 Insight from Alison Ebright

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

Scripture only tells us a little about Zacchaeus, the infamous “wee little man” who climbed a tree to see Jesus. We know that he definitely fell into the category of “sinners and tax collectors” that Jesus used to hang with. And as chief tax collector, we can imagine that he was probably pretty ruthless in his pursuit of power and wealth (which of course came at the literal cost of those in his community). Probably not the guy everyone wanted as their BFF.

But like so many others, when Zacchaeus found himself in the presence of Jesus, his life radically changed.

First of all, instead of taking the opportunity to call him out in public about his reputation and many sins, Jesus chose to call Zacchaeus by name. And then Jesus dignified him by not only inviting him to come down and to meet, but by inviting Himself to come and stay in Zacchaeus’ home (the home of a tax collector – gasp!). I’m sure the crowd could have had plenty of other plans for Jesus during His stay there, but He made it clear that He was ready to dive in and invest in this guy.

I so wish I could have been there to see Zacchaeus’ response.

Luke tells us that he came down at once, and then he welcomed him gladly. Not begrudgingly. Not out of guilt or fear. But rather, in the presence of Christ, He was newly accepted and forgiven, and his eyes were opened to a different kind of impact his life could have in the world. I can only imagine how it must have felt for him to stand up–to really stand up–before Jesus, and gladly offer in response what he had to give. As Jesus said, salvation really did come to this man.

Of course, everyone else’s response to this gracious exchange was the all-too-easy and common reaction: grumbling. Rather than celebrate another life stunningly changed for good, their focus immediately zoomed back to themselves, and probably to conversations about things like “fairness” and “corruption” and “sin.” They knew this guy, and they wanted to be the judge.

Who is it in your life that, if saved and forgiven and changed by God, would cause you to grumble? The person who took advantage of you…hurt you…disappointed you…fired you…left you…doubted you…judged you….or you fill in the blank? I would encourage you to pray today for anyone who comes to mind, and pray that the Lord would cleanse and change our grumbling hearts once more, and let us instead truly rejoice with those who rejoice. And that you, like Zacchaeus, could find strength today in the joy of your salvation, and being beloved by the One who calls you by name. And that we would gladly give him our hearts and all we have.

Friday 3.30.12 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 and a men’s group, and serves on the Group Life Curriculum review team.

While we’ve been plotting excursions for the boys to have some grandparent-time this summer, I recalled my summer sojourns to my Grandparent’s home in Admire, Kansas sitting on their huge screened-in porch eating lunch while listening to Paul Harvey.

One of my favorite segments was Paul Harvey’s “Rest of the Story.”  He’d share a look at someone’s life and reveal the identity at the end of the broadcast.  After reading today’s passage, I wonder how he might tell Matthew’s story:

Hello, Americans. You know what the news is. In a minute you are going to hear the rest of the story. Around 2,000 years ago, there was a young man named, Levi, who was born into a Jewish family in the rural region near Galilee.  At some point Levi made the controversial choice to become an official tax collector for the Roman Empire.

For those of Jewish heritage, this was a particularly loathed profession. Rome put out the job of tax collector for bid and a man would bid how much he would pay Rome for his contracted region. Any excess cash above that bid would be his to keep.  The tax laws were extensive and complicated. There was a land tax, a head tax, and a customs tax for goods being transported on Roman roads. Further, since a tax collector had the threat of Rome to back him, he could be tempted to bump a rate from 2% to 5% on the produce or fish you were taking to market. There was zero protection against this extortion. There is no record that Levi behaved in this manner, but just the stereotype was enough for the Jews to deem him (and all tax collectors) as traitorous thieves.

We don’t know why Levi would choose such path.  Maybe he was overly enamored with wealth and possessions. Perhaps Levi felt oppressed by his friends and family, and wanted to mark a dramatic new course for his life.  Maybe he was lured by the power and prestige of the Roman Empire and thought this would gain him acceptance and respect. Or possibly Levi was angry with God and wanted to lash back at Him and His chosen people.

Regardless, we can infer that at some point Levi regretfully realized he had made a foolish decision. His family would have been ashamed of him and all contact, if any, strained and distant. His childhood buddies shunned him. That nice Jewish girl with whom he had secretly hoped to have an arranged marriage was definitely out of the picture now. The Romans, glad to have Levi do their dirty work, looked down upon him because he had been shown to be a man who easily sold out. The only people who hung around Levi were people who were attracted to him because of his money (like fellow tax collectors, prostitutes, and petty thieves). The Jewish leaders wouldn’t even allow Levi past the Gentile Court into the Temple to worship God, effectively shutting him off from communing with God.

(Today’s broadcast is brought to you by Levi Jeans – If you want the very best jeans, you don’t need to Guess or Wrangle over the decision.  You’ll just be “Forever in Blue Jeans” with Levi.)

Page 2.  Then one day as Levi was at his booth along the roadside collecting the custom taxes, a Jewish rabbi named Jesus came up to Levi, looked him in the eye, and said, “Come.” Levi was flabbergasted. Rarely did anyone let his eyes meet his. They usually just looked away to avoid being singled out for harassment. It had been years since anyone had invited him to anything. He didn’t know what to say. Then the Rabbi said, “Follow me.”

Levi’s heart leapt. For the first time he saw a path out of his chosen predicament. He wasn’t locked into a forever-fate of isolation & despair. There was a second chance. There was hope. There was life. He was free. Levi got up and walked away from his booth.

Page 3. Levi became one of Christ’s original 12 Disciples. He didn’t forget those who weren’t people of prestige and popularity. He would host a party so they, too, might meet Jesus and experience the incredible freedom of forgiveness and acceptance. He wrote a Gospel specifically geared to helping his old friends and family of Jewish heritage to understand exactly who was this man named Jesus. Legend says he would later be martyred for his faith in Christ.

You might know Levi by his new name in faith, Matthew. Who would have ever believed that a man who was once such a social pariah would come to be known by a name that means “Gift of God?” And now you know the rest of the story. Good day. (Good day, indeed!)

Thursday 3.29.12 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 must confess that I’ve read this passage of scripture countless times, especially verses 35-38; I’ve taught from it, I’ve preached from it…I thought I had studied it.  But as far as I can recall, this is the first time I’ve ever really seen this scripture—particularly Jesus’ teaching about “the harvest” in direct relationship to it’s context within the story of Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (which—of course—makes me wonder, did I really study this passage in the past, or did I just bring my own pre-conceived notions of what it meant to the text).  But whatever the reason, to miss the context of Jesus’ teaching about “the harvest” is an awfully big miss! 

Now, I must say that I think I may know why I might have missed this important context in the past; for you see, I come from a branch of Christians who place great emphasis on having a personal relationship with Christ.  Desiring for everyone to come to the place where they recognize that their sin separates them from God, and personally receiving the forgiveness of God by receiving Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord is the primary objective of the branch of Christians that I grew up with and come from.  And you know, I am not knocking that objective because I do believe that God desires for all of us to personally know the love and life God longs to give us through daily opening our lives to the teachings and grace of Jesus Christ—so the important truth of knowing and being in relationship with Christ is not really the problem.  But here is the problem: when that important truth (personally accepting Jesus), becomes the only truth, you can wind up with this idea that that the only thing God really cares about is getting the whole world to come to the place where they recite the sinner’s prayer and ask Jesus in their heart (I’m not saying that does happen for all who value this important truth, I’m saying it can happen).  And when that does happen—when we come to think that all God cares about is getting people to pray a prayer—well then (among other things) we miss the context of Jesus’ important teaching on “the harvest”. 

When we miss that what Jesus said about look around you, can’t you see that the fields are ripe for the harvest was completely enveloped in the context of Jesus caring for and seeking to stand in solidarity with the outcast—when we miss that Jesus’ teaching about the harvest comes surrounded by Jesus’ complete shattering of the sexism and classism that sought to define human worth and destiny…when we miss this important context, we can tend to miss that the harvest might not primarily be about getting everybody to simply pray a prayer, but it might be rather about seeing justice come to the oppressed and seeing good news heard, felt and received by those whom the establishment (both religious and cultural) has long since disregarded.

Indeed, when we miss the context, we might miss that the Lord of the harvest is saying to the outcast…come to me, all of you who are weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest and Christ is calling those who would be his disciples to join him in this life-giving mission of preaching good news to the poor and the marginalized—wherever and however we might find them…and if we would just open our eyes, we would notice that the fields are already ripe for this harvest

Lord, help me to not miss the people outcast by circumstances or society; help me to open my eyes and see them wherever they might be around me and then be your arms and voice of love and acceptance to them, Amen.

Wednesday 3.28.12 Insight from Rev. Steven Blair

Rev. Steven Blair is the Congregational Care pastor of Resurrection’s Support Ministries.

Years ago I came across a book that used this Scripture as a template for how to talk to others about Jesus. I do not remember the title of the book, but I remember some of its main points that I would like to share with you today. Talking to another person about Jesus is not a formula or a checklist. Yet, I believe this Scripture offers some benchmarks.

1)      Go to where the people are —  Jesus did not stay stationary and wait for people to come to him. He went to Samaria.  Likewise, don’t wait until someone comes to church or knocks on your door to to talk to them about Jesus.  Go to them.

2)      Go to Samaria – Jews avoided Samaria because it was filled with–well, Samaritans.  Jesus went to the people who were not highly valued.  Likewise, go to whatever your idea of Samaria is and talk with them.

3)      Ask them to help you with something – Jesus asks for the woman to give him a drink (John 4:7).  By asking for another person’s help, you are esteeming them as having an ability or power that you do not have.  Likewise, to begin a relationship with someone, ask to borrow their hedge clippers, stapler, etc.  This starts the conversation and adds value to them.

4)      Recognize them as a person of need .. like you – Jesus was speaking to a woman at as well (identifying herself as thirsty) and identified himself as thirsty.  The people we want to tell about Jesus are not all that different from us in terms of hurts and stresses.  Like Jesus, any discussion about Jesus with another person should include a reference to your struggles with faith, struggles with discipleship and your efforts to not be a hypocrite, and the ways you continue to cry out to Jesus. This creates a common starting ground.

5)      Responding to their question AND keeping focus on the main thing– The woman at the well asked Jesus what mountain people should worship on.  That was a hot button issue of their day.  Notice that Jesus responds to the question but does not answer the question.  Jesus responds by focusing on the bigger issue–in this case the bigger issue is that worship does happen.  Likewise, if someone brings up a hot button issue such as abortion, health care, immigration, etc. with you in your conversation respond to the question but don’t focus on it.  Say something like, “There are many views on that which we can have coffee about later. What I do know is that there is a Jesus who changes lives, who has changed mine and who can help you as well.”

6)      Say who you believe Jesus is. —  Jesus ends the conversation with the words “I who speak to you am he (the Messiah).”  Likewise, know what you think about Jesus and speak it clearly and succinctly.

7)      No preaching or judging. Jesus did not browbeat the woman with Scripture.  Jesus did not make her feel guilty.  Even his comment about having 5 husbands was a reference to knowing that she was hurting since a woman could not divorce, but rather had been abandoned by 5 men.  Likewise, love the people you talk with and do not prepare long sermons or add guilt.

This story has a multitude of connections to our everyday life.  I hope these benchmarks are as helpful for you in understanding how to talk to people about Jesus as they have been for me.

Tuesday 3.27.12 Insight from Rev. Molly Simpson

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

Last night at Alpha, we spent time with the question, “Does God Still Heal Today?”  While talking about the forms that God’s healing takes, one man observed that sometimes the greatest healing that Christ offers us is to be healed spiritually–to be made right with God.

Certainly these lepers experienced Jesus’ power in being physically healed.  The end of their leprosy meant that they were free!  They would no longer be marginalized and shunned to the edges of their community.  Their disease no longer compromised their health.

But the one leper that returned to thank Jesus points us towards the greater healing that can come when we are not only made physically well but when our hearts are made right too.

Make a list of the ways that God has brought you healing in some form in this last year.  It may be big or small, physical or relational or emotional.  Maybe you know of others who have experienced God’s healing.  Make a list and stop to pray a prayer of gratitude to the Healer who offers us everything.

Monday 3.26.12 Insight from Jeanna Repass

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

I am African American which means that I am a decendant of African slaves in America. But like most Americans, the roots on my ancestral tree grow in many directions. My father is bi-racial, African American and Hispanic. On my mother’s side – like many American families – we have relatives whom are Native American. My mother’s great-great-grandmother Ester was Cherokee.  I love the variety in my heritage! I love that in many ways this is one of the great characteristics of being an American in general – we are a country of “melted pots”.

As much as we celebrate our diversity in America today, sadly, this was not always the case. There was a time when being an African in America meant that you were owned by some one else. As an African slave in American, you didn’t have a last name becaue you didn’t need one; you were not allowed to learn to read or write or own land or a home. You were not allowed to legally marry or to even claim your own children. You were used in large part as though you were cattle – for breeding, working  the land and as property to your slave owner. In short – being an African in America meant that you weren’t completely human.

For almost 100 years after the emmancipation of African slaves in America there were segregation laws in our Country which promoted the necessity of maintaining the  separation of African Americans from Whites. If an African American drank from a water source (a glass of water or a drinking fountain) it was then considered contaminated and unfit for Whites to drink from. African Americans were not allowed to try on clothing in a department store because White store owners could not/would not sell clothes that had touched the skin of an African American. African Americans and Whites could not share the same swimming pools, schools, or restaurants. African American sailors in WWII were not even allowed to share the Pacific Ocean with White sailors and had segregated days and times when they could swim in the ocean waters.

This segregation of people is not unique to our Country or even to our time in history. When Jesus walked among us, the  Samaritans, the lepers, the tax collectors, prostitutes, and other “outcasts” forcibly lived segregated from others. They were defined by societal boundaries that told them they were  “not good enough”. They were separated – and not equal – and our Lord sat and ate and ministered among them.

 Matthew 5, 12 – 16: “While (Jesus) was in one of the cities there came a man full of leprocy; and when he saw Jesus he fell on his face and besought Him  saying, ‘Lord if you will, you can make me clean. And He stretched our His hand and touched him saying, ‘I will, be clean.” Jesus wills for us to be clean – to be WHOLE. He wills humanity to be clean of the sores of oppressions against one another. He wills for us to see our Father in one another. He wills for us to look with awed admiration at the wonderful parts of ourselves that are different as we see the awesome diversity of God’s creation. Jesus says to us today as He did to the leper 2,000 years ago – It is My will – be clean, be whole, love one another as I love you.  Amen.

Saturday 3.24.12 Insight from Randy Meyer

Randy Meyer is the Executive Director of Education for The Church of the Resurrection.

When I was a very young boy, maybe 5 or 6 years old, my older brother used to have friends over to watch the TV show “Dark Shadows.” It was a daily soap opera featuring werewolves, zombies, warlocks, and a main character named Barnabas Collins, who was a vampire. It was all pretty harmless by today’s standards and I’m sure today would be quite funny to watch. However, to me at that time it was very, very scary! I distinctly remember sitting behind the TV (it was a floor console TV in the corner of the room–now I’m really dating myself!) and listening to the show because for some reason I was drawn to it, even though I had no intention of watching it. In fact, I was terrified to watch it, but something about the evil being portrayed on the TV screen enticed me, and I just couldn’t help but be curious about it.

Too often we are tempted to do things we know we shouldn’t do, and we become enticed and curious and drawn to it, in much the same way I was drawn to and enticed to sit behind that TV console. I think today’s scripture reading is a great reminder of where “bad things” or evil fit into the kingdom of God. Jesus’ treatment of the evil spirits in this story reminds us who is in control. The man in the story is overcome with demons. However, when Jesus takes control of the situation, notice what happens to those “spirits.” The influence of evil is overwhelmed by the peaceful presence of the Holy Spirit.

In our lives, pouring ourselves into Christ allows us to replace negative or bad influences with His presence. Being in tune with His kingdom allows us to replace a spirit of anger with a spirit of forgiveness, a spirit of hate with a spirit of love, greed with generosity, pride with humility, despair with hope, and so on.  When you are in tune with the Holy Spirit and the way of God’s kingdom, it will change the way you act, look, and live.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says it this way: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Everyone else looked at the man in this story as a hopeless case. Jesus saw a man and a child of God. He saw a man in need of heavenly intervention! He will do the same for us. We too, can become a new creation in Christ.

Friday 3.23.12 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.

With our family’s recent trip to Monticello fresh on the mind, I pondered Thomas Jefferson’s perspective of today’s passage.

Aside: Thomas Jefferson & John Adams were political archrivals. In their old age they slowly began to reconcile, though both were still very competitive. They had a bet of $1.00 to see who would live the longest. (Apparently a 19th century version of a March Madness bracket – Editor.) Jefferson lost the bet, but Adams couldn’t collect since he passed away 4 hours later on the same day, July 4, 1826 – the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas Jefferson was fascinated & intrigued by the teachings of Jesus; however, Jefferson struggled with the idea of Christ’s divinity & the recounting of the many miracles in the Bible.

In the 1820’s, as Jefferson reached his late 70’s, he embarked on a project, which he entitled, “The Life & Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.” He took 2 copies of the New Testament & with a razor cut out the parables & teachings of Jesus to be compiled in his collection. He excluded all miracles, healings, or super-natural events (like the calming of the sea in today’s passage). This book has come to be known as “Jefferson’s Bible” and is receiving renewed interest after re-publication by the Smithsonian in 2011.

I would submit that Jefferson isn’t too much unlike us. We are drawn to the wonderful teachings of Christ, His revolutionary ideas of how to treat others, & His desire to care for those less fortunate. But we, too, might wrestle with His ability, for example, to rebuke the seas.

So, as intelligent thinkers in 2012 what are we to make of today’s story? We first need to make sure we are merely skeptical & not paranoid. While not an everyday event, the unexplainable does occur on occasion. Scientific study is an awesome tool to verify theories & happenings, but science is limited to only studying those events that are repeatable. Miracles, by their very nature, are not repeatable; so scientific analysis will always provide an inconclusive answer.

Secondly, we need to consider our picture of God. Do we view God as being in our midst & hearing our prayers & seeking to bring His kingdom into our world? If so, is it that astonishing that, at times, He might intervene, via Jesus’ ministry, and do something we would view as miraculous?

Finally, while I’m sure Jefferson would think he is being complimentary of Jesus, I think Christ would be puzzled. How could Jefferson view Christ as being a paragon of ethics & honesty, if Jefferson considered every statement Christ made regarding His divinity & His resurrection as a falsehood? It would be like heeding the advice of a safety expert who walked around with his shoelaces untied.

I would submit there is much to be learned from Jefferson’s faith journey. He was intellectually attracted to Christ & His wisdom. Jefferson, the philosopher, knew that Christ’s teachings were of a caliber the world had never before known. Jefferson thought so much of Jesus’ morality that he adamantly fought for the separation of church & state (not just to keep religious teachings out of government, but to also keep the state from tainting religious ideals).

But Jefferson’s faith walk was also missing something. He never caught on to the whole goal of Jesus’ earthly enterprise. Jesus, through His sacrifice on the cross, came to save a broken world & reconcile each of us to a loving God. Jesus is not merely a teacher sharing exciting ideas that can stimulate our minds; Jesus is a lifesaver seeking to transform our hearts & to save us.

The Jefferson Bible concludes with this passage from John 19:41-42, “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulcher, wherein was never man yet laid. There they laid Jesus, and rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, and departed.”

Oh. With a little intellectual humility, recognizing that not everything is immediately provable/explainable, Jefferson might have allowed himself the freedom to experience the immense joy of the empty tomb just 5 sentences later. This Lenten season let us strive be open to the Holy Spirit that we might not miss out on this wondrous love of Christ.

Thursday 3.22.12 Insight from Janelle Gregory

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

To me the term “thrill-seeker” is synonymous with “idiot.” I don’t find anything particularly enjoyable about any of the so-called “thrilling” activities. I am quite thrilled to be on the ground, on the couch, doing things that don’t require a helmet or an “I promise not to sue you when I am harmed/dismembered/killed” waiver.

I know that there are some adrenaline junkies out there reading this (or at least were reading this until I called them “idiots”) that would say, “You’re the reason they created chicken exits. Bawk, bawk, baGAWK!!” This is most likely true, as I have used them on more than one occasion. But I’m a chicken in one piece, thank you very much.

I’m just not a huge fan of being scared, so I sympathize with the disciples in this story. They were probably already nervous that they had been sent out to sea without their leader. Then in rushes a terrible wind causing waves to smash against their boat, and I would guess that they (and most likely their lunches) were being tossed about. You can just imagine the panic they must have been feeling. Had it been me, I would have been hyperventilating in the fetal position at that point.

But it’s interesting to see what it is that scares them the most, what makes them cry out in fear – Jesus. Granted, it was nature-defying, walking-on-water Jesus, but still… Jesus.

I imagine that if boats came with chicken exits, there would have been a mad dash for it that day. But since we now read this with our “hindsight is 20/20” vantage, we know that they would have been running from the very One that conquers death and gives life. They were terrified of their Savior, their friend.

I think that we still struggle with this today. There are times and things that we face in life that frighten us and make us want to run, but we must stop to realize that we may just be running from rather than to God in these instances. Matthew Henry puts it this way: “Even the appearances and approaches of deliverance are sometimes the occasions of trouble and perplexity to God’s people, who are sometimes most frightened when they are least hurt.” We want so badly to be delivered from the very things that might be delivering us to Christ.

We can be certain that we will be faced with all sorts of terrifying situations and challenges, but they aren’t all ghosts. No sometimes they are the voice of the Redeemer saying, “Don’t be afraid! It is I! Take courage, and come to me.”


Wednesday 3.21.12 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, the disciples expect Jesus to feed the crowd, and he tells them to do it. It is the same today; sometimes, it’s is difficult to differentiate between God’s power and our own. Although I believe God still performs miracles today, so often God works through people to accomplish his purpose. God has given us gifts and talents and passions so that we can serve others and do his work on earth.

I sometimes get frustrated that God doesn’t intervene miraculously when I pray for things, but then I realize how much better so many things would turn out if everyone were using what God gave them to make a difference. God gave us all free will, and it is up to all of us to make the right choices. Part of living in a broken, sinful world is that not everyone chooses to do what is best. But together, those who make who do small things will make a big impact.

I have recently started using Pinterest, the online “pin board”,  and I saw a quote that reminded me of this concept. It said something like “Sometimes when I see people who are hungry, sick, homeless, and hurting, I want to ask God why he doesn’t do something about it. But I am afraid he will ask me the same thing.”

Each time we take to see the difference God makes through people, I think it makes it that much easier to trust that God knows what he is doing.