Monthly Archives: April 2012

Monday 4.30.12 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.

Yesterday at Resurrection West, the youth band led music in worship at each of our services. It was inspiring to have their leadership as we gathered for worship as a community. It reminded me that one of the most powerful aspects of our worship as Christians is that it is a place where all people gather – old and young, CEOs and those that are unemployed. It doesn’t matter who you are or from where you have come, you are welcome to join in worship. Worship is one of the things that unites as as Christians.

Another unifying experience is our human condition in which we, at times, find ourselves unable to forgive other people. It can be a challenge to forgive people that have wronged us, especially if they don’t seek that forgiveness. It is only through the power of Jesus Christ that we are able to offer that forgiveness to others. As in the word’s of the Lord’s Prayer, we ask for God to forgive us as we forgive others.

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

Saturday 4.28.12 Insight from Dave Robertson

Dave Robertson is the Director of Community Life at The Church of the Resurrection’s West Campus.

Whenever I read the scripture about the Good Shepherd laying down his life for the sheep, I begin to think about people who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of others. Two people come to my mind immediately.

During World War 2 in the Auschwitz concentration camp, 3 men escaped. The Nazis, in order to deter future escape attempts, vowed to pick 10 people to be put to death in a bunker via starvation. One of the men selected was Frances Gajowniczek, who when chosen yelled out, “My wife!  My children!” Upon hearing this, a priest named Maximilian Kolbe told the captors he would be willing to die in place of Frances. The Nazis agreed.

In the bunker, Maximilian Kolbe led the 9 others in worship and hymn singing each day. After 20 days, only he remained alive and he was put to death by lethal injection. Frances Gajowniczek survived the war, and spent the remainder of his days telling the world about Father Kolbe’s incredible act.

Jesus said that the greatest thing one could do for another is to lay down their life for their friends. What about for people you don’t even know?

Joe Delaney was a running back for the Kansas City Chiefs, and in 1981 won the AFC Rookie of the Year Award. Delaney had an incredible future ahead of him in the NFL. Hall of Fame Defensive End Elvin Bethea said this about him:

“I’ve played against the best–O.J. Simpson, Gale Sayers, Walter Payton and (Delaney) ranks right up there with them…He is great with a capital G.”

In the summer of 1983, Delaney was at an amusement park with his family when he saw three kids in distress, drowning in the makeshift pond. Even though he couldn’t swim well himself, Delaney jumped in the water to save them. He was able to save one of them, but he himself ending up drowning.

President Ronald Reagan awarded Delaney posthumously with the Presidential Citizen’s Medal. President Reagan’s words about Delaney were:

“He made the ultimate sacrifice by placing the lives of three children above regard for his own safety. By the supreme example of courage and compassion, this brilliantly gifted young man left a spiritual legacy for his fellow Americans.”

When I remember these two men and the lives they offered up on behalf of others, I can’t help but know in my heart of hearts that Jesus Christ did truly lay down his life for me. I remember this verse from the hymn “How Great Thou Art”:

“And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.”

Thanks be to God for all God has done for us!

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

Friday 4.27.12 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.

There are all kinds of famous brothers throughout history. A list might include Orville & Wilbur Wright, the Parker Brothers of board game fame, the Ringling Brothers of circus renown, and I would submit that for religious & even nominally religious folk, the 2 brothers from today’s parable.

Jesus, ever the master storyteller, uses His audience’s understanding of sibling rivalry to subtly & quickly add depth to the relationship dynamic in today’s brief story. Being the father of 2 sons, I easily relate to the tension between the brothers of today’s scene.

When our boys were little guys, a rivalry would occasionally flare-up at odd times like the brief tussle over the purple chair at the Little Tykes table. As we re-created the crime scene, it appears Matthew was gleefully sitting in the “favorite” chair, which Jacob desperately desired. So, even though he was younger, Jacob pushed Matthew out of the chair. Though the re-telling of the crime by Matthew was quite pitiful & filled with drama, we determined the appropriate punishment would be for Jacob to tell Matthew he was sorry. Jacob quickly complied saying, “I am so sorry you were sitting in my chair.” Sigh.

I’ve long felt that today’s passage focusing on the older brother could be entitled, “Daddy Always Liked You Best.” (A take-off of the Smothers Brother’s comedy album, “Momma Always Liked You Best”.) (For our younger readers: The Smothers Brothers were a comedy duo from the ‘60s. An album is a vinyl disc….oh, Google it for yourself. – Editor.) Let us take a closer look at the older brother.

So, as our portion of the story begins, there is a great celebration going on & the older brother is working in the field. (What juxtaposition! I told you Jesus was good.) The older brother asks what is going on. Really? That’s your 1st response? It isn’t a scary noise; it’s music & dancing. Wouldn’t you head to the house anticipating a pleasant surprise?

When told of the earlier scene, the older brother becomes angry & refuses to go in. He has no interest in even greeting his returned brother. And, tellingly, he doesn’t know the details of the conversation/transaction between the Father & Younger Son, yet already he feels betrayed.

The Father leaves the party, not to rebuke or scold him, but to plead with his son. Wow. The Father is sure demonstrating some grace here, since the Father and oldest son should co-host all shindigs (so the whole village knows something is awry).

The Older Brother really unloads. He views himself as a slave, as having to follow demeaning orders/rules, and then unleashes an attack hoping to hit any emotional button he can: My Brother “This Son of Yours” squandered your property & spent it on prostitutes. Uh oh.

The Father, who by all rights should be spitting mad at this point, does an amazing thing. He offers grace for a third time that day. He gently calls him “his son” meaning his abominable behavior is forgotten & forgiven and reminds the son that he is an heir to all that he has. The Father doesn’t apologize for his actions, but rather simply states why they are celebrating.

So what are we to make of the older brother? He didn’t enjoy being around the Father; he felt it was an obligation/imposition. On one hand he pretends to not care what the Father does with “his son,” but he is bitterly angry that the Father dared to forgive him. The older brother, himself, has deemed the younger brother’s activities as unforgivable & beyond pale.

By the end of the story he is so angry he is standing on the outside looking in at the banquet. Does he go in? Does he stay on the outside? I would submit that Jesus is telling us it really doesn’t matter what he does. Rather, what will we do?

We may catch ourselves at times with feelings very similar to the older brother. We may be appalled at the kind of people God may actually forgive. We may be tempted to view our brothers & sisters with contempt, not worthy of being in the presence of the Father. But perhaps Jesus is telling us that this isn’t our decision. It is God’s & God’s alone.

This parable is often referred to as the “Prodigal Son,” which some may know can mean “the wasteful son.” While we can immediately discern the younger brother was wasteful, I would submit a different perspective. The older brother is taking his Father & his Father’s love for granted & doesn’t even acknowledge what a special privilege it can be to be in His presence. So, as our story ends, who is being wasteful now?

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

Thursday 4.26.12 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.

This—without doubt—is my favorite parable Jesus ever told and it might be my favorite passage in the whole Bible.  I love John 3:16, I John 1:9, Proverbs 3:5-6 and Jeremiah 29:11 as much as anybody; but honestly, today’s passage is an image—a word picture—of all those combined.  One could accurately call (and some have) Luke 15 the gospel in a chapter.

And this story that we often call “The Prodigal Son” is one in which all of us can easily see ourselves.  First, there’s the oldest son who tries to follow the rules and do things the right way; you know…put in a day—be a company man—loyal to the family and his father no matter what the opportunity costs might be.  Some of us look at our lives and see this pattern of perceived fidelity (along with its perceived entitlement) as the narrative that accurately articulates our life.  And then (just like the oldest son) when things don’t go the way we think they should—when there’s some perceived variance in the intricate balance of rewards and punishment, we’re the first ones to cry foul—“that’s not fair”.  Somebody got what they didn’t deserve and we didn’t get what we did deserve and that’s just plain wrong…at least by the carefully weighed standards of our own self-righteous scale.  All of us—at some point and in some instance—can easily find ourselves in the oldest son. 

And then there’s his younger brother—Mister You’re Not the Boss of Me.  I don’t care what the old man wants, I’ve got plans—I’ve got big dreams and I’m not wasting my life away in this one-horse town; this is my life and I’m going to live it.  So this young man goes to his father and says (in effect)…Look dad, I don’t want to hang around here waiting for you to die so I can collect my inheritance and then leave—I want to go now—so let me have my half cause I’m out of here.  And surprisingly (to me at least), rather than telling his arrogant, self-absorbed offspring where he can stick his request…the father just gives the inheritance to him…incredibly modeling that love means I’m not going to force (or manipulate through incentive of later payoff) you to stay.  And off the young man goes to whole-heartedly pursue…himself.  I’m going to do whatever I want, whenever I want, with whomever I want, however I want—the world is my oyster!  I’m a child of the 1980’s, and there was quite a popular rock band in that era (aptly) named Poison whose music I (regretably) know all too well; and one of their most famous tracks captures well the life-motto of this younger son: Nothin’ But A Good Time (and those of you from that era now have that song playing in your head).  Indeed, the youngest son was full-throttle in pursuit of a good time…and what he wanted…at any particular moment—was god to him: this is what he pursued and devoted himself to—wholeheartedly.  But as is always the case for a self-a-holic, enough never is!  And when the bank account ran dry, and the hollow fulfillment evaporated with it—he was left starving: physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  His life and his soul—were flat busted.  All of us—at some point and in some instance—can easily find ourselves in the youngest son.

And of course all of us know where the story goes from here: the younger son realizes that even his father’s hired help have a better life than his, so he’ll go back home and just ask his father if he’ll hire him on—but of course the father will have none of it, he eagerly welcomes him back, throws a party—the older brother get’s his nose out of joint—the father affirms his love for this self-righteous son right along with the prodigal and right before our eyes we see Love, Redemption, Salvation, Restoration, Forgiveness and Transformation—all in glowing high definition—right here through this great parable of Jesus.

But before we simply move on, there’s at least one more important truth that I think we’re meant to see but—too often—don’t; and that crucial truth is captured in this seemingly innocuous phrase in our text today: …“While he was still a long ways off, his father saw him” (Luke 15:20b).  …Now maybe the father just happened to be heading down the driveway to run into town to get something on the same day that his prodigal son decided to come home.  Maybe it was all just the most joyous and incredible set of coincidences where on just the right day, at just the right time, the father left the house and headed into town and happened to see what he thought was a vaguely familiar figure walking towards him only to discover that it was indeed his long-lost son.  Maybe the old man seeing him while he was still a long ways off was just a great parable-ending coincidence.

Or maybe…just maybe, the father was out looking—hoping against hope—praying that today might be the day and if it were, he was not going to miss it.  Sure, it had been futile up to now.  Sure, he’d gone out every day searching only to come back at the end of every day disappointed and empty.  There had been plenty of days when he’d been discouraged and wondered if his relentless love and searching would ever pay off—there’d been plenty of days when his firstborn son had told him to save himself the frustration and pain and just stay in the house today—but maybe, just maybe the father seeing him while he was still a long ways off wasn’t any coincidence at all.  Because maybe…just maybe the father had been out there searching every day of every week of every month of every year since the day that boy left home—and Today—His Relentless Love…paid off!

Thank-you Lord for this parabolic picture of Your Love for us; and thank-you that no matter what…You never stop searching for Your lost prodigals.

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

Wednesday 4.25.12 Insight from Rev. Steven Blair

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

 “I’ve found my lost coin!”
WEDNESDAY 4.25.12   Luke 15:8-10
In today’s Scripture, Jesus is comparing God’s joy of finding a sinner who has returned to a woman looking for a lost coin.  She frantically searches everywhere for a valuable lost coin and when she finds it, she begins rejoicing.  People in that culture who understood the value of a single coin would have understood the comparison Jesus was making to God’s love for the outsider.

I think that if Jesus were to tell the story today, he would say something like:
“There was team called the St. Louis Cardinals who were in the World Series and down to their last strike in the bottom of the ninth.  One more strike and they lose the World Series.   They were losing by two runs when a St. Louis native named David Freese came through … and there was much rejoicing.   (watch a one minute home video capturing the moment.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHXCGL5HUDs 

God’s joy for a person who is found is like that.  It is exuberant.  It is uncontrollable. God is not pictured as a mildly amused older gentleman when one someone returns to His love.  God’s joy for a person coming home is a high-fiving, loud squealing, pump your fists type of joy.  That is the emotion of God I imagine from Jesus’ story.  Intense joy is the emotion that God feels when we return to God and when we help others find our way.

 When we imagine that telling others about Jesus or bringing them to church is connected to that level of joy, we are more likely to want to be part of it.

 Questions for Reflection:
1. So, who do you know that is struggling now and might describe themselves as feeling lost? 
2.  How can you search for them, befriend them, and be part of God’s desire to bring them back to God? 
3.  How can you get caught up in the joy God has for finding others?

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

Tuesday 4.24.12 Insight from Rev. Molly Simpson

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

I love the second question on today’s GPS that points out the odd, and perhaps ironic, existence of the 99 righteous who have no need of repentance, no need of change.  Who are those 99?

I love that the 99 are there in the parable for those days when I would read this and think… I haven’t pushed beyond the fence and wandered into another field.  I once was lost, but now I’m found… so, I guess I’m done with this parable, right?!  Well, not so fast.

The drama of the parable puts the one lost sheep and the 99 who were perfectly behaved in polar opposition–likewise a sinner who repents and 99 righteous who have no need of it.  But, of course, life isn’t really like that.  If only we had to be carried back into the pasture just once!  Many of us find ourselves between the lines of the narrative–some days grazing our way away from God, and other days moving in the direction of the shepherd’s voice.

It’s a good thing that God’s love is relentless.  It’s a good thing that Christ’s love never fails and never runs out on us.  May we find ourselves more often content to stay “home” rather than to wander after greener grass.

Unless, of course, we are joining the Shepherd to go get other sheep that have wandered off.  Then, a little adventure into other pastures might just be an okay thing.

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

Monday 4.23.12 Insight from Jeanna Repass

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

My father was one of the greatest influences in my life – especially when I was younger. My dad was always looking for ways to teach a lesson to his children. My brothers and I knew we were about to receive some great wisdom (a.k.a. “learn something”) whenever my dad started a sentence with the phrase, “You see kids…” This phrase usually preceded a story, alliteration, a bible verse or a quote. “You see kids: it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” “You see kids: when I was your age we appreciated the value of a dollar.” “You see kids: any stranger could be an angel in disguise.”

Sunday was “Earth Day” and I couldn’t help but think of the time my Dad taught us a lesson about accountability to the Earth. We were out on a family walk and Dad had asked us to bring some bags with us. Shortly into our walk, without saying anything, he started picking up litter on the road. I, being a Daddy’s girl, very quickly began to emulate what he was doing. My brother Matt, being the most precocious of us, used his bag to try to catch birds (he was completely unsuccessful) and my brother V.J. being the most intellectual and thoughtful of us, asked Dad why we were picking up garbage. Weren’t we taking away the job of the sanitation workers who were paid to do this? *V.J. is a tremendous person with whom you had better have your “A-Game” if you are going to debate anything. He has been that way since birth!*

My Dad said, “You see kids: God gave man power over everything on Earth and with great power come great accountability.” If we don’t care about how litter impacts the Earth – the grass, flowers, bugs and animals – then we are not doing what God charged us to do. God sees every thing – every bug and blade of grass and has tasked us to care for all of it.

As I read the scripture for today and reflect on the Israelite leaders who let the poor, sick, lame or “unclean” (tax collectors, sinners, outcasts) fend for themselves; I think about how God requires the exact opposite from us. The “least of these” are whom we should be caring for the most and there is great consequence when we ignore them. When we walk past litter on the ground and consider it some one else’s problem or worse – when we see human suffering and write it off as something somebody else will take care of – we are just like the Pharisees and leaders that Ezekiel prophesied about. By the very nature of the fact that God created us and loves us – even to death on the cross – we are accountable to love one another. We are accountable to care for and to take care of one another. In Jesus, God shows us the awesome power of His love – it even conquers death! That power (God’s love) requires certain things of us – “You see kids, with great power comes great accountability.” Amen.

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

Saturday 4.21.12 Insight from Mike Ash

Mike Ash is the worship leader and Director of Community Life at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection’s Blue Springs Campus.

When I read Paul’s letter to the Philippians I am always humbled. In chapter 3:8 he writes “ I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish (other translations say “dung”… we all know what that is) that I may gain Christ.”

Paul is so passionate about exalting Christ that his list of impressive achievements are nothing compared to knowing Christ. His reputation and position, his moral superiority was nothing more than pride that he would gladly surrender so he might know Christ.

The surrender of our idols, whatever they may be, leads us to a place where we can get to know Jesus for who he is.

I used to work with handicapped people helping them do simple jobs in a wood shop. I was young, had just given my life back to God and was willing to do anything to get out of playing music in clubs for a living. For me this was a humbling time of laying down music and helping people who really needed it. I quickly learned that I was the one who needed them. I grew so much and learned that God is near to the humble. I remember writing on my bathroom mirror, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6 Then I would say, “It’s not about you today. It’s about pleasing God and surrendering to what He wants.”

This is a recurring theme in my life. Maybe I battle with pride more than most people, but e all have something that we struggle with.

I’m slowly learning that when I surrender my fears, pride and plans to the Lord I find grace and strength for the day. Let’s join together in making this declaration together: “Lord, it’s not about me and what I want; it’s all about you”!

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

Friday 4.20.12 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.Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Considering today’s parable, I came across this “blog” of a recent recounting of an eBay purchase:

Time Left: 8m

I’m waiting to place my bid on eBay for a fantastic item that promises to be life changing & heavenly. It is extremely expensive, but the value is incalculable. I am going to have to re-arrange a lot of priorities in my life to acquire it, but I’m confident it will be worth it. It can’t be worse than that speed-walking exercise app for my smartphone. Turns out that it was just a recording of some “exercise guru” saying, “Left, Right. Left, Right. Left, Right.” Sigh.

Time Left: 6m

Skimming the feedbacks on this item & they are amazing.

“I’ve begun to feel a sense of peace in my life that I haven’t experienced ever before.”

“I’ve discovered I’m not as selfish as I once was. I’m actually seeking out ways to help others.”

“The anxiety & worries that used to consume me – now fall into better perspective.”

Here is a negative review, “I think this item isn’t very helpful. It’s just a crutch.” Interesting counterpoint – but then who amongst us hasn’t walked with a limp at some point in our lives?

Time Left: 4m

It says to get the most out of the value of this item it comes with a 66-book manual. That’s awesome. Nothing like getting a new hi-tech toy, for example, & discovering a pitiful guide to help you use it. Man, I can’t wait to start reading up on all this stuff – I don’t want to miss out on any of the benefits.

Time Left: 2m

It says there are even weekly meetings to discuss the item’s many features & to help you to understand it better. There are even smaller groups that gather in homes designed to offer customer support. Wow. Who knew all of this was even out there? How did I miss all of this?

Time Left: 0m – You are the Winning Bidder!

All right! Now on to PayPal to pay for my item. The item itself is pricey but what made it even more expensive was the cost of the “shipping & handling” necessary to deliver this item to me personally. I can’t imagine what that would entail.

Huh. That’s odd. It says my invoice has already been paid. Who would have possibly paid such a high price just for me? It must have been pre-paid the whole time. Why did I wait so long to buy this? I could have used “Buy It Now” the whole time. I am still going to have to make some challenging choices & life decisions, but this is going to get fun.

Time for my work out & then some time reading the manual. (Listening) Left, Right. Left, Right. Left, Right.

Thursday 4.19.12 Insight from Janelle Gregory

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

My brother and some friends were in a restaurant on the Plaza the other day when they struck up a conversation with the server about his thick, Irish brogue. Just in America for three months now, James told them that he’s asked about his homeland often. This last week two customers were wondering about his interests back in Dublin, and he told them that he was really into soccer.

“Are you familiar with baseball?” they asked.

“Not very much, but I know a little.”

“Do you know anything about the Royals?”

“All I know is that for such a beautiful city, I hear we’ve got quite the #%$* team.”

They all chuckled and continued on with the rest of the meal. When James came back to give them their ticket, two girls had approached the table with Royals jerseys that these customers then proceeded to sign – Luke Hochevar and Alex Gordon (Royal’s players if you haven’t already guessed).

I can only imagine what went racing through James’ mind when he found out that he had been serving players from that %!#* team the whole time (I’m guessing it involved all the symbols on the keyboard). Here he had just thought that he was chumming it up with customers, and in a flash he realized that all along the people he had speaking about were the very ones he was speaking to.

It made me think about today’s story where we find the Pharisees yet again not acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah (and they were even given quite a few really good hints). They were presented with a blind man that had just been healed by Jesus. But even after witnessing this man’s new-found vision, their own blindness prevented them from seeing Christ for who He was. It wasn’t as if though Jesus was any less God, just because they didn’t recognize Him. They just couldn’t open their eyes or hearts to see Him.

I’m reminded of a term I hear quite often, “God moment.” It’s very popular at Resurrection, which is about to make me less so. A “God moment” refers to those instances where we clearly see God interjecting in our lives – when the doctors can’t explain the good results of a scan, when we receive unexpected financial gifts that allow us to pay next month’s bills, etcetera, etcetera. You get the point. But the problem that I have with this term is that it relies on our ability to see rather than God’s actual involvement.

I absolutely believe that God is moving in the unexplained good news or surprise financial gift, but I suspect that He’s moving far more often than that. It’s just that it almost always goes unnoticed. But if we come before the Healer, He will open our eyes so that we might recognize that He has been there all along. It’s then that we realize that there isn’t one single moment that is anything less than a “God moment.”

 

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