Monthly Archives: May 2012

Thursday 5.31.12 Insight 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.

As I thought about being a “new creation,” someone who exists as part of a “new community,” I had to pause to reflect on how (or even whether) I had changed. I mean, I grew up in the Christian faith, so I didn’t really have a dramatic conversion experience. In fact, for a long time I kind of took my faith for granted.  I didn’t invest time or energy into growing in my faith until my family moved to Kansas City and we joined Resurrection. That was when I began to realize that my faith wasn’t just a part of my identity, like “female” or “blue-eyed,” but that it was supposed to have an impact on how I lived my life.

The apostle Paul wrote these words to the believers in the church at Philippi:

“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then…” – (Philippians 2:1, The Message)

Notice the “if-then” language in that passage? IF we’ve gotten anything out of following Christ, THEN… It indicates that an action, a result is supposed to occur because we follow Christ. A life-shift is in order: away from being self-oriented, and toward being God-oriented…no longer living as one condemned to deal with (or pay the ultimate price for) our own sin, but living as part of a community set free to focus on things that have an eternal impact. If I look back at how I lived my life last week vs. this week, or even last year vs. this year, I have to admit that I don’t see a huge change. But when I consider my thoughts and actions more long term–15 years ago vs. today for example–the shifts in my life are more apparent:

  • My focus has shifted from being served to serving others.
  • My behaviors have shifted from being an observer to investing in this community (not just financially)
  • My opinions have shifted from criticism to seeing potential
  • My perspective has shifted from dissatisfaction to joy
  • My goals have shifted from accumulation to peace

How did that happen? The shifts happened gradually, in fits and starts, through living as part of this Christian community. As I participated in community–studying as part of a Bible study or small group, worshiping regularly, and serving side-by-side with others who are striving to follow Christ faithfully–I was spending time doing and thinking about God-pleasing things. That made all the difference in the world. Paul puts it this way in his letters to various churches:

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” –  Philippians 4:8-9, The Message

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.” – Romans 12:1, The Message

“…And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” 2 Cor. 3:18b, New Living Translation

This kind of change doesn’t happen in isolation, or under our own power. It is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit, in the community of others focused on the same goal–becoming more and more like Christ. That’s our purpose here at Resurrection: to build a Christian community where non-religious and nominally religious people are becoming deeply committed Christians. How are you actively participating in this Christian community, so that you might become more and more like Christ?

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

Wednesday 5.30.12 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.

The story of God’s people throughout the Old Testament is one of fluctuation. The people love and honor God; things are going well and they forget about God; they fall away from God; and then they return to love and honor God again. In the same way, we are not going to be perfect in our pursuit of a holy life. We are going to have setbacks and struggles in our faith journey, but once we’ve come to know Christ and are alive in him, we strive to “count [our]selves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (verse 11).

Sanctification is the lifelong process of becoming more and more like Christ. Although we (most of us anyway) don’t change completely overnight, we begin to change immediately. In verse 1 of today’s passage of Scripture, Paul asks, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?”  Of course we don’t go on sinning. Or, at least, we try to not go on sinning.

In his sermon this past Sunday, Rev. Scott Chrostek used the example of Clark Kent and his alter ego Superman to illustrate how people couldn’t see the super hero even when he was standing right in front of them because they couldn’t see beyond his glasses and his known identity. In the same way, people during his time had a difficult time seeing Jesus as the Messiah because they couldn’t see beyond his identity as a small-town carpenter.

Sometimes I forget about Jesus and who he really is. I read about him in the Bible as a character or a historical figure.  Life gets busy, and I forget that he is my living savior. When we stay in love with God, by spending time with him, we see the real Jesus, and it is easier to live a life that shows we are alive in Christ. A life that is ever more free from sin and is focused on love.

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

Tuesdays 5.29.12 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.

Yesterday afternoon my husband and I saw The Avengers. I was surprised to find that this summer blockbuster makes a pretty good case for the kind of teamwork Paul calls for here in his letter to the church at Ephesus. Without spoiling the plot, I’ll share with you how I found theological significance in this movie.

At the beginning of the movie, an agency called Shield collects the four superheroes because the threat against the world’s safety is too strong for just one of them to fight. Each hero brings his own special talent to the table. Thor has some sort of fancy powerful hammer and can control the thunder and lightning. Ironman has a high-tech suit and an ego he can’t contain. Captain America is super strong and has a fierce sense of values. And the Hulk (my personal favorite) blows up into a powerful green monster when his anger gets the best of him. But each of them is used to being the best, and none of them has much experience working on a team. We learn pretty quickly in watching them that the team’s biggest challenge is learning to work together. For the first half of the movie, the actual antagonist is locked up in a cage, but the heroes find plenty to do in fighting one another. In this part of the movie, one character states the obvious, saying, “We’re not a team–we’re a chemical mixture creating a time bomb.”

When the superheroes are on the verge of killing one another, the leader of the Shield reminds them why he brought them together in the first place. He says they represent virtually unlimited power. They can use that to make weapons of mass destruction, or they can create an alliance of the most remarkable people in the world, working together to save the world. This is the choice.

The moment when things change from a sense of dejection to a sense of hope is the moment they create a plan together and set aside their egos. They unite over their shared convictions and begin making progress toward a common goal.

So I wonder: how do we as God’s people work together toward the common goal of creating the kingdom of God here on earth? What special talent can you bring to this important work? Can we set our egos aside? As we remember that Christ is our head, our leader, may we each find our place in the body of Christ.

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

Monday 5.28.12 Insight from Pastor Chris Holliday

Rev. Chris Holliday serves as the associate minister at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection West.

On this Memorial Day 2012, we pause to remember those who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces, and to honor all those in our military (past and present) who have protected our freedoms and our way of life. Thanks to these brave men and women, and our country’s founders and significant leaders, we have the freedom to dream and the opportunity to make our dreams into realities. We can become teachers, doctors, construction workers, lifeguards, musicians, business people, veterinarians, artists, inventors, administrative assistants, farmers, pastors or whatever we want to be.

With such freedom, though, come major life choices and much responsibility. Who do we want to become? What do we want to accomplish? How do we decide? To whom do we listen? Surely we will have mentors along the way, but who can be our ultimate guide on this journey?

In 2 Corinthians 5:17-18, Paul writes, “So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived. All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”

So it is Christ — the one who died to save us from sin, who reconciled us to God, who taught us how to live, serve, and be, who freed us in every way imaginable that we might become new creations in and through him. Yes, Christ is our ultimate guide. But how does he lead us?

During his earthly life, Jesus Christ told us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37,39). So living a life of love is key. We are called to develop and nurture our relationship with God, and to show grace and compassion to all, even ourselves.

Christ also offers guidance through what Pastor Bill Hybels calls “God Whispers.” The Divine attempts to communicate with us in many ways, including scripture, songs, prayer, thoughts, feelings, dreams, visions, intuition, and trusted friends; but we must be careful not to let the noise and chaos of life drown out these “God Whispers.” We must make the time and space to listen for Christ’s call.

One other way Christ guides us relates directly to the gifts and passions God has given us. Author and theologian Frederick Buechner says the Divine calls us to the place “where [our] deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” (Wishful Thinking, 1973, p. 95) When we find that place, we will live with an unparalleled sense of purpose and joy.

Today, as you remember those who have gone on before us, those who have lit the path with their lives, take the time to prayerfully consider the following:

-Am I living a life of love?

-Do I hear and act upon the “God Whispers”?

-Have I found the place where my passion, gifts, and strengths meet the world’s deepest needs?

May we all work with Christ daily to become the best versions of ourselves, true ambassadors of reconciliation, new creations who serve together as Christ’s hands and feet to a world in need.

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

Saturday 5.26.12 Insight from Clif Guy

Clifton Guy is the Director of Information Technology at The Church of the Resurrection.

One summer when I was a young adult, I went camping at a remote site in the Rocky Mountains with several members of my family.  At the end of the time camping I happened to be the last person to leave.  After everyone else had been gone for a couple of hours, I got in the car and discovered that it would not start.  This was in the days before cell phones, but even now this campsite is not in cell coverage.  I was alone in a remote location with a car that was going nowhere and with no way to call for help–not a good feeling.

After exhausting my limited car repair skills, and seeing no other option, I began to walk down a mountainous gravel road towards the nearest town, which was 30 miles away.  An SUV came along after a few minutes.  I flagged down the driver, a man in his early fifties, and explained my situation.  Hoping he could start the car, he took me back to the campsite and tried a number of things but the car was just as dead for him as it had been for me.

So I asked, if it wasn’t too much trouble, if he could take me in search of the nearest phone.  He agreed and ended up taking me the 45-minute drive all the way into town.  My new friend insisted on waiting while I made calls on a pay phone.  I learned of a simple trick to starting this particular car that would almost certainly work.  I told the man I would get a cab or a tow truck to take me back up to the campsite to try again to start the car.

He would not hear of it.  He insisted on taking me back himself, but first he would buy me some lunch.  As we ate, he told me of his training for the Leadville Trail 100, a 100-mile run through mountain trails at high altitudes.  He just happened to be up in the remote area of my campsite scouting out the trails he would be running later that summer when he came upon me.

After lunch, he took me the 45-minute drive back up to the campsite, and sure enough, the trick worked and the car started right up.  In his last act of kindness, he insisted that I take some cash in case I had further trouble with the car on my drive back to Colorado Springs where I would rejoin my family.  I was speechless since he had already spent more than 3 hours with me, driven me a 60-mile round trip, and taken me to lunch.

Today’s reading is the well-known passage in Matthew 25 in which Jesus says when you serve someone in need, you are serving Jesus and when you fail to serve someone in need, you are failing to serve Jesus.

I don’t know if my selfless savior that day recognized Jesus in me, but when he served me, he served Jesus.  I will never forget that act of extravagant generosity, offered by a man I had never seen before or since.  God, help me be as generous and selfless.  Help me not miss the point.

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

Friday 5.25.12 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 parable of the 5 wise bridesmaids & 5 foolish bridesmaids can strike each of us differently. For example, a friend with 3 college-aged daughters refers to this story as the Parable of the Pricey Nuptials. His takeaway is that Jesus is plainly telling His listeners that any wedding with more than 5 bridesmaids is foolish. Another dad in the group readily concurred, noting that he had never before considered that message. Thus, presenting yet another benefit of small groups: “Developing New Understandings of the Scriptures!” (Um, that may not necessarily be Jesus’ point in this parable. – Editor) Well then, let us take a look at what Jesus might be saying.

Weddings were great celebrations in Jesus’ time. The bride & groom would be dressed in beautiful clothes adorned with precious & colorful stones. An important part of the wedding ceremony was the procession. The groom would leave his home & go to the bride’s parent’s home. The bride & groom would then head to the couple’s new home via the longest route possible, to give the community the opportunity to bless & cheer on the couple. During the procession there would be singing, dancing, the recitation of love poems, & songs exulting the bride’s beauty. Since this procession would be at the end of the day, the roadway would be lit with oil lamps held by the wedding guests. Thus, as in our parable, if the gals had to leave the procession to replenish their oil, they would have missed the celebration. The bride & groom, instead of honeymooning in, say, Topeka, would then host an open house for the next week to visit with well-wishers & show off their new gravy boat & salad shooter.

In today’s parable, it is interesting that Jesus gives his listeners an early tip-off, noting that half the group of gals is wise & half is foolish. He might have provided this early clue, because at first-glance all the bridesmaids have their lamps lit & look the same. It is only at crunch-time do we begin to notice the difference.

So what might be one lesson Jesus is suggesting for us today? The foolish bridesmaids were all dressed up & ready for the celebration, but only if the groom arrived on their schedule. Similarly, perhaps we are tempted to accept Christ’s teachings only on our terms or when it is convenient to us.

We’ll happily participate in the blood drive when we aren’t so busy at work, but not before then. We’ll be more generous to others with our disposable income when we feel financially secure, but not before then. We’ll be eager to be more active in missions or service projects when we retire, but not before then. We’ll begin to apply the teaching of “loving our neighbor” to the workplace after we nab this next promotion, but not before then. We are really looking forward to joining in a small group or Bible study when the kids are older, but not before then. We’ll definitely get in the routine of praying daily when our needs are great, but not before then. (We’ll absolutely get Darren’s belabored point with just 3 more examples, but not before then – Editor. Touché- DL)

So, what shall we choose to do? Unlike the dads in the opening paragraph who may or may not be a part of “big” decisions between white icing and colored icing on the wedding cake, this choice will indeed have a life-changing impact. May we all choose wisely.

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

Thursday 5.24.12 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.

So if you knew that tomorrow at 9pm the world as we know it would stop, Christ would return and time would be no more; what would you do differently between now and then…how would your plans change if you knew this?  Would there be some apologies that you would initiate?  Would there be some restitution that you’d make?  Would there be some phone calls or emails to some family members or friends to let them know how much you love them?  Would there be some folks you’d seek to talk with about spiritual things?  If you knew this life-altering event would take place at 9pm tomorrow, I wonder how many arguments you’d have between now and then…I wonder how much you’d be (pre)occupied with your portfolio?  I wonder how many times you’d lose your temper or try and figure out how to get even with someone who has wronged you?  How much do you think you’d be inclined to forgive?

Whatever gap might exist between what you’d do if you knew this and what you’d do otherwise is the very issue Jesus is addressing in telling the parable we find in our scripture reading today.  This parable may sound rather hard to understand, but in actuality it isn’t.  It’s really all about revealing to us the gap between how we would choose to live if we knew when Jesus will return and how we choose to live otherwise.  So the purpose and question of today’s reading is really very simple for you and me: are we living ready for Christ’s return?  That question isn’t meant in any way as a scare tactic…rather that question is meant to help us self-assess the degree to which we are living authentically and with fidelity to the Christ we’re seeking to follow.  I was once told (by whom I don’t recall) that one should plan as if Jesus will never come back, but one should live as if He is coming tomorrow.  Not only is this a pretty good rule of thumb, it also seems to be the point Jesus was trying to make in today’s parable…Lord, help me to live today and each day, as if it were the last!

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

Wednesday 5.23.12 Insight from Rev. Steven Blair

Rev. Steven Blair is the Congregational Care pastor of Celebrate Recovery and Live Well Emotional Wellness Ministry

How Jesus described life’s real point WEDNESDAY 5.23.12   Luke 12:22-34

In the 1991 movie City Slicker, Billy Chrystal is a city-boy who visits a dude ranch for a vacation. There he meets a rugged Jack Palance who shows him life on the range.  In one scene, Jack Palance tells Billy Chrystal  “Do you know what the secret of life is? (raising one finger) Just one thing…. It’s for you to figure out.”

Jesus hits on this message, too.  In Luke 12:34, Jesus says “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Jesus was referring to our “one thing.”  What we treasure and what we pursue is the same.  I heard a teacher say a while back “You tell me what your treasure is and I will show you how you will move heaven and earth to obtain it.”

There are times for each of us when what we treasure is not what God would like.  We might treasure being better than another person or having revenge versus someone else.  We may have pleonexia where we constantly desire the newest purchase or the newest relationship.  Or we may treasure good things like comfort and safety that, when pursued as our “one thing,” could also lead us away from experiences and service that God would want for us.

Jesus’ words raise the question “What is my treasure?”  If you are trying to answer that question, one way would be to ask your checkbook and your calendar, for they tend to give rather clear cut evidence for what we pursue.  You may also find it helpful to ask a friend what they see you pursuing.  Lastly, ask God to help you identify what it is that you treasure more than anything.  As you gather answers, compare them to the “one thing” that Jesus presented.

 In Matthew 6:33 we hear “Seek first the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  The Kingdom of God is an all encompassing reference to the way things would be if everyone obeyed Jesus’ loving rule.  As we examine and recalibrate our hearts to God’s “one thing,” see God’s ways followed out in your own heart, in your relationships, and in the world at large.  Identify it.  Treasure it.  Then move heaven and earth to pursue it.

1.  What is your treasure that you will move heaven and earth to achieve?
2.  When you focus on the Kingdom of God today, what changes?

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

Tuesday 5.22.12 Insight from Rev. Molly Simpson

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

When reading the parable found in Luke 12:13-21, I’ve always found it to be terribly wasteful and a bit silly that this man, upon an unusually abundant harvest, would tear down his barns and build bigger ones.  Why not just build an additional one or two?

But I started thinking about this differently after I spent a little time trying to clean our garage with my husband the other day.  We have this cool wooden piece of furniture that I just had to have (a super good deal at the church rummage sale), and well, perhaps it’s been in the garage for two full years.  And, then there’s the collection of wedding presents that are in my parents’ basement and a few pieces of furniture there that I’d like to have one day.  So, what’s this stuff waiting on?  Well, for the day that we move into a larger house.  We are hanging on to it assuming that at some point, we will upsize.  Because isn’t that what we do?  We acquire more and more stuff, and eventually, we think to ourselves, “there’s just not enough room in this house for all our stuff, perhaps we should get a bigger house.”

Tear down the barn and build a new one.

Over the course of the past two decades, I’ve watched my grandfather move in the other direction.  He and my grandmother moved  from the big family farm into a 3-bedroom condo.  After her death, he moved into a two bedroom apartment in a retirement community.  This past weekend, as I stood by his bedside in his one room in a nursing home, I looked around.  One dresser of clothing, a comfortable arm chair, a few prized possessions, a box of offering envelopes for his church and a million pictures of his family.  I thought to myself, “you can’t take it with you.”  Jesus says it like this, “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

But how easy it can be to tell ourselves quite the opposite.

If we find ourselves in the midst of a great harvest, a surplus of income, or an overflowing closet of clothing, might we find people to share it with.  And, on the night that our life comes to an end, may we have given more consideration to the place that Jesus has prepared for us than our next “barn” or real estate transaction.

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

Monday 5.21.12 Insight from Jeanna Repass

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

In the movie “My Fair Lady” wealthy Professor Henry Higgins takes a poor street urchin, Eliza Doolittle, into his home and makes a bet that he can transform her into a “Lady” that he can pass off in high society without anyone knowing where she came from. At the mid-point of the movie, Professor Higgins has a conversation with Eliza Doolittle’s father in which her father amuses Professor Higgins with his outrageous immorality. Eliza’s father shamelessly tries to extort money from the Professor in exchange for his daughter being allowed to stay in the Professor’s care. Professor Higgins laughingly says at one point, “My God, man! Have you got no morals at all?” To which Eliza’s father replies, “No Sir. I’m too poor. I can’t afford morals!”

This is one of my favorite lines of all time! I have seen it lived out. When I was working in the heart of one of Omaha’s poorest neighborhoods, I really began to understand why morality can feel like luxury afforded only to those who are privileged with money and means. When your choice is to steal from the local grocery store in order to feed your children or to allow them to go hungry – the question of morals seems ludicrous. Unfortunately, I’ve seen mothers have to make much more tragic and harmful choices than stealing in order to provide for their children. But the idea that wealth produces morality, and poverty by its nature produces the lack thereof is actually a mistake. Yes – sometimes extreme poverty produces desperation that circumvents conventional morals, but we see in our text today in Amos that extreme wealth can yield the same moral circumvention.

As the Israelites were capitalizing on the free market trading that was allowing them to build bigger homes and store up more possessions, God was speaking to them through the prophet Amos about the human cost of their prosperity. Instead of using their rapidly increasing wealth to improve the conditions of all Israelites, the rich were getting richer and the poor were dying at their gates. And God was not pleased! “Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts.” (Amos 5:22). Amos goes on to prophesy that even in the midst of their prosperity God was going to cause the Israelites to hunger and thirst. But the “famine” would be in the form of a thirst for God.

The text does not tell us how the poor were behaving during this time of lavish living by the wealthy. We know what was happening to the poor, but we don’t know how they were reacting to their circumstances. Were the poor abandoning their morals or were they still living by the law? I’m not sure. But what I am sure of is how the “poor” in North Omaha were reacting in midst of some of the most desperate living conditions. While sometimes questionable decisions were made when tough choices faced them, the people in the neighborhood where I worked showed a propensity for kindness and to care for each other that I have seldom seen matched. I saw the sharing of resources where resources barely existed. I saw kindness, compassion and empathy when pain and despair fell on someone in the neighborhood. As opposed to a poverty of morality, in one of the most desperate neighborhoods in Omaha, the people living with so few means understood how to love their neighbors richly. I am so grateful to have been a witness to this kind of moral prosperity. I pray that I am ever vigilant and cautious of my ability to “afford” morals. Amen.

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