Monthly Archives: September 2013

9.30.13 Insight from Chris Holliday

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

In the summer of 1996, my then future wife, Lisa, graduated from seminary, moved to Peoria, IL, and began her first pastoral ministry role as the Associate Pastor of First Baptist Church. One night, she was talking with her dad on the phone.

“How’s the new job going?” he asked.

“Well, I love the place and the people, but I’m having a hard time getting my job done. People are always interrupting me.”

He responded, “Honey, you’re a pastor. Interruptions ARE your job.”

Lisa’s dad was a wise and experienced middle school counselor, and he knew firsthand that people must come first. This is also the example that Jesus set time and time again. We see this in our scripture passage for today and throughout the gospel story. Jesus focused much of his time on people – relationships, conversations, breaking bread, preaching, teaching, healing, loving, caring, being. And he calls us to do the same. In John’s gospel, Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.” (John 13:34, Common English Bible).

Believe me when I say, I understand this “new commandment” is much easier said than done, but it’s who our God is and who we are meant to become. When a child interrupts our attempts at productivity, when a person in crisis enters our midst and asks for help, when a neighbor near or far requires assistance, or when we perceive the real need of an individual or community, we are called to respond with genuine love, care, and grace.

The words of Lisa’s dad have guided Lisa and me for these many years. In our roles as pastors, parents, and friends, these words echo in our hearts and minds as we seek to follow Christ’s example of loving others. And we know them to be true not just for pastors and counselors, but for us all.

May you cherish life’s “interruptions,” and may God’s hope, grace, and peace flow through you, so that in those moments you will not view interruptions as frustrating inconveniences, but as holy opportunities to love.

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

9.28.13 Insight from Liz Gyori

Liz Gyori serves on the Resurrection staff as the Group Life Training Program Director.

This account of John Wesley’s final moments is both highly inspirational, and, frankly, a bit daunting to me. Inspirational, of course, because of the remarkable faith and determination he demonstrated to those gathered around his death bed.  Daunting, because even though I certainly hope to be uttering praises at my end, I’m afraid I’ll fall short of that goal. I too want to model that “good death” that the Methodists became known for, singing hymns with my last breath, leaving my loved ones with the reassurance that I know I will be with Christ.

I’ve sat at the deathbeds of both my parents, who each died relatively young, and what I experienced was not as peaceful as the scene described in our GPS. Although my parents were observant Catholics, I’m not entirely sure what they believed. They viewed the topic of their beliefs as a private matter in their lives, and unfortunately, it remained a mystery to me at their deaths.

I’ve vowed that my three teenagers will not say the same about my faith, although I’m sure I’ve given them lots of other rich material to talk about together. They know where I stand in my beliefs and why I stand there, even if they aren’t particularly interested in the details some days. They know they can approach my husband and me with religious questions, and we will search for answers and insights with them. I don’t want to keep my faith as a thing apart from them – I want them to understand the transformation that occurred in my life, and is still occurring, as a result God’s love for us.

So, rather than worrying about what kind of example I will set for my loved ones on my death bed, which is surely not the point of this reading, I instead am thinking about how often and how visibly I am expressing my praise to God right now, every day, as a healthy adult with a multitude of blessings. Put aside the death bed for now – what hymns of praise have I sung today? What am I modeling to those who might be around me in meetings at work, at the dinner table at home, or in line at the grocery store? Am I modeling a Methodist’s “good life?” I pray that the Holy Spirit will work in me to make that so.

 

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

9.27.13 Insight from Chris Folmsbee

Chris Folmsbee is Resurrection’s Director of Group Life.  He is the author of several books, with an extensive background in applying principles of spiritual growth to real life. He, his wife Gina and their family have been attending Resurrection since 2008.

Today’s Scripture reading demanded that I reflect on my first experience with death.  I was early in my teens when my great-grandfather was dying. I remember vividly walking into the hospital room and seeing my great-grandfather lying there on the bed surrounded by about a dozen or so family members. He couldn’t recognize any of us and he was unaware that we were holding hands telling stories of his life. I mostly listened. He struggled to get oxygen into his lungs, and so repeated a violent gasping sound. He continued this until he breathed his last breath. Honestly, it was quite difficult to watch.

My great-grandfather lived a good life. We were grateful that just a decade or so before his death he had decided to follow Jesus. In the words of today’s Scripture, death had no sting on my great-grandfather.

On the way home from the hospital my father asked me how I was feeling about the whole experience. Having nothing to compare it to, I muttered something like, “I know death is a real part of life but it’s very hard to say goodbye.” My dad responded by saying, “The only way to really handle death is to know and believe that the final word belongs to God, and that word is hope.”

For some, death has a way of sucking the meaning and purpose from one’s tapestry of belief. For Christians, however, through the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus God graces us with the reality that death does not have the power to have the final word. The final word belongs to God, and as the apostle Paul reminds us in his letter to the church in Corinth (our reading for today), God’s last word is not death. God’s last word is life.

A few weeks ago I stood alongside nearly 200 other new members of our church and together we proclaimed the Apostles’ Creed. The Apostles’ Creed finishes with these beautiful, profound, truth-filled words of hope: “I believe…in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” This is the very mystery Paul unveils for the people of the church of Corinth. The dead will be raised, because death has been swallowed up by something greater – life! Thanks be to God for life’s victory over death!

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

9.26.13 Insight from Rev. Glen Shoup

Rev. Glen Shoup is the Executive Pastor of Worship and Congregational Care pastor for those who have last names beginning with J – L.

There is going to be a day when the Master will settle the accounts! 

Right out of the chute, this is the truth that smacks me directly between the eyes.  The very first sentence of the very first verse of today’s scripture reading says that the master returned and settled accounts; …and I suppose I could just chalk that up to some benign and metaphorical paying of the piper if Jesus were simply weaving some parable in isolation for the purpose of trying to teach some moralistic lesson about how we all should be more honest and precise in our business dealings.

But you see, Jesus is giving this illustration in Matthew chapter 25 about a master who gives 3 different servants 3 different sums of money (with the presumed instructions to “steward this until I get back”) immediately after His telling a story about 10 bridesmaids—5 of whom were prepared and went with the bridegroom and 5 of whom were unprepared and were left behind by the bridegroom—and immediately preceding His describing how the final judgment is going to shake out—“what you did (or didn’t) do unto the least of these, you did (or didn’t) do unto me”.

So given the extra-sobering context into which today’s reading is sandwiched, I’m hit directly with the first promise found here, which is…there is a day of reckoning coming.  All the books will be opened, all the ledgers will be accounted for, and every transaction will be judged and juried by the only One equipped to render and deliver a verdict—the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  God is going to hold me (and you) accountable for what we’ve done (and what we haven’t done).

A sobering thought…yes.  A corrective awareness…hopefully.  A transformative insight…desirably.

But just like any good parent Who loves their children unconditionally, God doesn’t make clear this truth of His holding us accountable in order to intimidate or fill with fear; no God makes His expectations clear for the very same reason a parent who wants the best for their children makes their expectations clear: so that we might choose—just as the two stewards in our reading today chose—to take seriously the opportunities we are given. 

Whether those opportunities are of the two-talent variety or the five-talent variety is irrelevant.  What matters is that we put to work what we have; or as Jesus said in another portion of scripture—to whom much is given, much will be required (Luke 12:48).

That’s not a threat, that’s a gracious invitation to remember.  A loving recall that…there will come a day when all accounts will be settled.  But the issue isn’t performance, the issue is effort.  If you were to read on from verse 23 in Matthew 25, you would discover that the 3rd servant, who was judged so harshly by the master, wasn’t so judged because he tried and failed—no; the severity of his judgment came because he simply did nothing.  Rather than take seriously the opportunity he’d been given to steward what he had, he rather chose to sit on it in self-protection and self-preservation—he made no effort at all.

In light of today’s reading, I’ve got spend some time with the question of “what am I doing with what I’ve been given”; because my Maker has some clear expectations that I’m going to be putting what I’ve been given to work—and He will be holding me accountable.

Might not be a bad idea for you to spend some time with the same question.

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

9.25.13 Insight from Rev. Steven Blair

Rev. Steven Blair is the Congregational Care pastor of Live Forward and Live Well Emotional Wellness Ministry. www.cor.org/liveforward

“Be a good steward”
WEDNESDAY 9.25.13   Luke 9:23-26

I heard a story about two rabbis arguing about the Creation Story.  One rabbi argued that God created humans on the 6th day because it is the climax of creation.  Everything that was created was for their use and betterment.  The other rabbi disagreed.  He stated that humans were created on the 6th Day so that they would be the caretakers over the rest of creation.

You can see how whether a person followed one perspective versus the other would impact the way they live.  Is everything for our own use or are we created to be caretakers of this world and all that is in it?

You can see this play out in Genesis 1:26.  In some translations, God instructs humans to “have dominion” or “rule over” creation.  In other translations, the word is translated “be stewards” over creation.

Which one will it be?  Does the created order exist to serve us or do we exist to be a caretaker/steward over creation and all that is in it?  This includes natural resources, money, our relationships, etc.  The way we treat one gift from God will effect the way we think the others should be treated.

I believe God has called us to be the caretakers of this world, the Garden of God’s Delight.  To view ourselves as humble overseers of God’s gifts with the wisdom to grow, nurture, and use the gifts.  This is difficult and is an uphill battle.  But as this Scripture enforces, we are called to travel uphill.

Prayer –
Lord Jesus, help us to view ourselves as the loving stewards of all you have given us, including finances.  May we not seek to be served by money but to serve with money for your greater purposes.  In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

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

9.24.13 Insight from Shawn Simpson

Shawn Simpson serves as the Director of Technical Arts and Operations at The Church of the Resurrection’s West campus in Olathe, KS.

When I read today’s GPS, my first thought was: “Oh great, I get to talk about being a loving Christian.  That’s right in my wheelhouse.”  That’s sarcasm, by the way.  I struggle mightily with being a person who shows love as Jesus commands, but I’m good at being sarcastic.

So rather than boring you with how much I struggle and how I really need to work on being a better example of a loving Christian, I’ll tell you about somebody who models it every day of his life.

My oldest son is a highly competitive baseball player.  That means I spend a lot of time at the ball field with other parents of highly competitive baseball players.  The boys love to play baseball.  The parents most often love to complain about the umpires, coaches, league, and other parents.  One man that I’ve spent a lot of time around is different.

In the spring of this year, our son’s teams were playing in a tournament.  We’d played each other a bunch of times that year and were mostly split on the wins and losses.  They were like a “brother” team because all of our kids knew all of theirs and had a lot of respect for each other.  In this particular tournament, we hadn’t played each other yet, but were progressing through the bracket to hopefully play each other for the championship.  And then…we had one of those games…with one of those umpires…actually two of those umpires…and it was hot…and we were tired…and I’m using a lot of ellipsis in this sentence…

Yeah, so we had some massively blown calls from a couple of super lazy and blind, ummm, really nice young men that God loves.  We lost the game by one run on a heartbreaking call that ended our day.  We were pretty upset because even if God loves them, they weren’t terribly popular with our parents.  So now this other team heads over to play in the championship game against our friends.  My son wanted to go watch the game and root for his buddies…because he’s really GOOD at showing the whole loving heart thing.  He gets that from his mom.

As we’re saying hello to everyone and rehashing the awful umpires, my friend, whom I’ve spent hours talking youth baseball with, is able to smack me across the face with Christian love.  As we see the umpires coming out for the game, I’m surprised to see that it’s the same pair that had just called our game.  I look at my friend and get ready to start pouring out all of my angst.  Just before I do, he says, “Hey, that’s the kid I gave the pocket testament to earlier today!”

I’m not sure if I heard him right, so I ask him what he’s talking about.  He goes on to tell me that the young man was the umpire at his earlier game and my friend was coaching at third base.  He’d made a call on one of their kids getting thrown out at third; and the kid had just gotten up and dusted himself off, then patted the third baseman on the arm before he ran back to the dugout.  The umpire told my friend that he was really impressed with what a good sport that kid was and my friend had told him “I teach the kids to keep a rulebook handy, and it says to love other people.”  The umpire was a little confused until my friend brought out a pocket testament and showed him his “rulebook.”  Then he gave it to the umpire and told him to keep it.  The umpire stuck it in his back pocket.  Then after the game he thanked him and told him that he’s been trying to get his life on track and had just started going back to church and he’d never had his own bible.

Now I’m looking out at the field and seeing this guy who less than an hour earlier HAD to have been near bursting into flames from all the vicious looks we were giving him, except  I see that he still has the outline of a bible in his back pocket.  In that moment, my friend who is an excellent baseball coach and extremely attentive single parent to three young children also became a model of Christian love to me.  Even with all the great things his team had done that day to win their games and get into the championship, he was most proud of the fact that he’d given a bible to somebody who had never had one of their own.  Since that night, I’ve seen those young men who come out to call our baseball games in a new light.  I still wear them out during the game, but I make it a point to give them some love when it’s all over.

Maybe one day I’ll learn to sit quietly and watch my son play baseball.  (Remember that sarcasm thing?  Yeah, that was it.)

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

9.23.13 Insight from Jeanna Repass

Jeanna Repass serves as the Kansas City Missions Program Director at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

Sunday at church, as I walked to my seat, I noticed two men sitting together in the row in front of mine. It was the exact time in worship when we are all instructed to greet one another. The moment of truth was upon me… shall I take a few extra seconds getting settled in my seat and by “accident of timing” – miss shaking hands with two strangers? Clearly they were content only saying hi to one another – I could even overhear them making light of their greetings to each other. But I felt the nudge and I leaned over the seat and extended my hand. I found out that the two men were first time visitors who were passing through town on their way back home to Idaho. One is a United Methodist but the other shared with me that he is a Pentecostal. “Oh no! – not a Pentecostal…” *I only thought it – I didn’t say it out loud.*

I then spent the next few minutes of worship being very conscious of the men. I felt protective of my church. What were they thinking – especially that Pentecostal guy?!? Would the United Methodist visitor think we weren’t sacramental enough – not traditional enough – too audio visual? Would the Pentecostal visitor think we were not holy – not in tune with the spirit – not “Jesus” enough? Both men were reaching for the hymnal when we sang the hymn of the day (yes – I was watching them out of the corner of my eye) – and did I see judgment through the back of the Pentecostal guy’s head when we welcomed our new sister into the family of Christ in Holy Baptism? She’s a baby and we don’t deep dunk on Sunday mornings. *Full disclosure – I can’t really see judgment in someone’s eyes looking at the back of their head.* Why was I feeling so protective and defensive of my church?

Then the orchestra and choir brought forth! They blew the rafters off – I mean they were glorious! *THERE! That ought to knock the judgment right off their blocks!* But as I felt the swell of the music, I began to focus on why I was at church – I needed to hear God today – badly! I started focusing on what God might have to say to me and I stopped focusing on what I was imagining the two visitors might be thinking. Then the sermon came and I was alternating between furiously writing notes and crying. It was one of those sermons that I know was preached as a direct answer to a prayer that I lifted up the day before. It was meant just for me and I was absorbing every word! As we were standing and Pastor Adam was sharing invitations with us and blessing us to leave – my thoughts returned to the two visitors in the row in front of me.

Now I wasn’t worried about if they might be judging Church of the Resurrection or not. All I cared about was how much I wanted to extend hospitality to these two visitors. I wanted to hug them. I wanted them to feel loved and to know the heart of hospitality that we have at Church of the Resurrection. So I debated whether I should actually hug them (I’m a known “hugger”) – or should I invite them to have communion with me and my daughter after church? No – she was working in the 4th grade Sunday school class and it would take too long to make them wait. So I decided to simply extend love to them on their way out.

I stopped them and individually took them by the hand. I looked each of them in the eye and thanked them for being a part of worship with us today. I told them I would pray for their safe travels and asked them to please join us again if they were ever back in town. Then I ended by saying it blessed me to have gotten to meet them both. As opposed to the brief polite smiles that we exchanged during the earlier greeting time – this time we all smiled with warmth and genuine appreciation for having spent time together in worship.

I decided to sit a little bit longer as I knew it would take a while for my daughter to clean up after Sunday school. While I sat there watching the sanctuary clear out, I got the enormous pleasure of hearing the orchestra play one final anthem. They are – hmmm – what’s the word? DELICIOUS! While I sat and waited, I got to wave hello to my friend Sally. I met a new friend named Dave whose wife sings in the choir so he sits by himself most Sundays. I got to see the family with their newly baptized baby taking pictures at the front of the church. I got to be with my Resurrection family and it was magnificent!

Church of the Resurrection worships in a building – but it’s so much more. Sunday I was not just at church – I was in church. And it was divine! Amen.

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

9.21.13 Insight from Cathy Bien

Cathy Bien has been serving in the Communications Ministry at Resurrection for 13 years. She and her family joined Resurrection in 1994 at Leawood Elementary School.

I need some help seeing.

In verse 44 of Matthew 25, Jesus is asked, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and didn’t do anything to help you?”  Jesus is clear in his reply that if we haven’t cared for the least, we haven’t cared for him.

The question “when did we see you” resonates with me because sometimes I find myself so caught up in doing that I fail to see.

Several years ago, I heard a praise song by Michael W. Smith called “Open the Eyes of My Heart.”

The words are simple:
Open the eyes of my heart Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see you
I want to see you

The song expresses a desire to see God in glory and experience God’s power and love, but from the first time I heard it, I connected it with this passage of scripture.

I want to see Jesus in the people around me, and I need the Lord to open the eyes of my heart so that I can really see them and care for them.

Sometimes we close our eyes because what we see is too unpleasant. Sometimes we’re moving so fast our vision is blurred. And sometimes we just look the other way because it’s easier. When we see with our hearts, our vision becomes clear, and we can see Jesus in the people around us.  And, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to  “feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, visit the prisoner.”

Clear vision is required to be “sheep” and follow our shepherd.  Join me in my daily prayer, “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord.”

Here’s a link to the song: http://youtu.be/Vnqb7Vn4AEE

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

9.20.13 Insight from Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 6th-grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group & a men’s group, and serves on the Curriculum team.

 

While doing some research for James’ classic passage on service, I ran across this You Tube video that I thought would be perfect.  It is entitled, “How to Improve Your Serve.”  While it wasn’t quite what I expected, I think it might still be able to help us better understand James’ challenge for us today.  Here are a few “excerpts:”

Hello tennis fans.  Matt Chipoint, here, with a few tips to help you improve your serve.  One viewer asked, “Why do I need to work on my serve?  Shouldn’t reading about strategy & studying techniques be a better use of my time?”  I totally agree that study is crucial to developing a good all-around game.  But you shouldn’t look at your serve as being separate from study.  I would submit your service game should be viewed as a way to actually enhance your studies.  For example, as you read 1 of the 4 biographies of the greatest player whoever lived, the stories will become more compelling & convicting if you are simultaneously improving your serve.

Even though tennis was a popular game even in Biblical days (After all we read in Genesis that Joseph served in Pharaoh’s court.), we can find it frustrating.  We find our passion can ebb & flow depending on how we think we are playing.  Sometimes even when we are practicing weekly, carving out time to study techniques, or even meeting with our teammates, we can still find our love for tennis means nothing.  (Small joke for you tennis fans; “love” = “nothing”.)  But, you’ll discover that when you make your service game a priority, your love for tennis will actually grow.

Sometimes we tennis players can be a bit crotchety.  No seriously.  (Like the old joke about how many tennis players does it take to replace a light bulb?  What do you mean it was out?  It was in!)  If we start practicing our service game, we’ll discover more patience, peace, and even joy. When we focus on the other side of the court, instead of our own side, we can see the bigger picture & realize that the game is pretty awesome.

Truthfully, even though we know the serve is important, there are times we are perturbed by our service game.  We practice serving and instead of feeling fulfilled & successful, we feel like we are double-faulting too much or not having very many aces.  This is the point where you need to assess your service game & see if it matches your talent.  For example, you might be trying to hit a kick serve, but you can’t get enough height on your toss.  Ask your tennis team or tennis advisors to help you determine what they think are/aren’t your strengths.  There are even online questionnaires to help you accurately gauge your gifts.  The key, as always, is that when your service game complements & builds on your God-given talents, it will be fun & thrilling – not frustrating & exhausting.

Remember, tennis is a lot like life – without a strong serve, it doesn’t mean a thing.  If you enjoyed these tips, you might check out my other video about preventing nagging injuries when playing tennis.  I call it, “Tennis the Menace.”  Thanks for watching & see you out on the court!

 

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

9.19.13 Insight from Janelle Gregory

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

The first time our Malawi missions team poured out of the van at the Madisi United Methodist church, everyone gravitated towards the energetic group of kids that were excited to play with new friends…. that is, everyone but me.

I’m scared of large groups of children (I’m convinced they are plotting against me), so I stood on the sidelines. That’s when I first struck up a conversation with Blandina. Blandina was a local woman that looked to be around my age, and she and I were both observing the chaos of joy coming from the interactions our team was having with the kids.

mm-blandina-and-janelleBlandina’s English is great, and it wasn’t long before our conversation turned into Chichewa lessons. If you ever need to point out a baby eating a tomato while you’re in Malawi, I’m you’re gal. But beyond and through the language lessons, a friendship was born. There was an instant connection that formed as if though we had known each other for years. I quickly learned about her children, her husband, her passions, and her involvement in the church. Blandina is incredibly intelligent and has amazing, untapped leadership skills.

But Blandina lives in a house that wouldn’t suit as a shed for most of us. She has no electricity or running water, and two years ago she nearly died in a difficult surgery that we would consider to be a common, outpatient procedure. There are challenges that she faces that I will never be able to fully grasp. This is her reality. This is Malawi.

Surviving in an impoverished country doesn’t make Blandina some sort of a saint. She’s human just like the rest of us with flaws and faults. But she’s my friend, and I have been able to keep up with her through notes passed by mission teams and by returning to Malawi the following year.  I care for her, and I care for her community and the struggles they face. And because of the love overflowing from God, my hope is to empower them in ways that encourage sustainable growth in areas of economics, health, and education. So when I think of Malawi, I don’t think of it as a mission project or charity; to me Malawi is Blandina.

And there are Blandinas all over the world and right in our community that you may not know yet if you’ve never made the effort. But it is never too late!

Ginny Howell, our Missions Mobilization Program Director, would love to talk with you if you’re interested in getting involved with local or beyond Kansas City missions. You can give her a call or she even said that she would take you to coffee (awesome, right?).

If you are not currently involved in serving, I encourage… no I challenge you to contact Ginny today. She would love to get to know you and help you find the best way to get involved based on you, your desires, and the gifts that you bring. You can reach her at ginny.howell@cor.org or by calling 913.544.0290.

Making this step is an important piece of being a Christian. It matters to God, it matters to the Blandinas of the world, and as those who follow a Servant, it should matter to us too.

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