Monthly Archives: March 2014

3.31.14 Insight from Jeanna Repass

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

One year ago this week, my oldest son Adam was driving back to college for spring football practice when his car hit a patch of black ice on Interstate I-29 causing it to careen into the cement guard rail and roll over five times. I received a phone call from the State Patrol telling me that my son had been in a serious accident and was in the hospital. He survived, made a complete recovery (sans some nasty scarring on his left hand) and is thriving today – praise God!

As a Mom it was one of the scariest days of my life. At the time I would not have said “Thank God for that car accident!” I do not believe that God causes car accidents so I would not want to attribute a tragic accident to our loving, omnipotent heavenly Father. But today I would say, “Thank God for all the love and growth in my faith that came out of that car accident.”

I am most definitely a woman of faith whose belief in Jesus as the resurrected son of God is firm and unshakable. There is not anything that anyone could say to me that would change that belief. I’m a “Jesus Girl” and that’s that! I have however seen people whose faith is an inspiration to me and whom I look up to as the people I would describe as truly deeply committed Christians.  These are people who have a whole-hearted faith and they live it out in ways that are daily testimonies to me.

Most of those people who inspire me would be the first ones to humbly say that they are still striving to grow in their faith and become more committed to Christ. I know them by their actions. They are the ones that give the eulogies at their loved ones funerals and fill those eulogies with so much affirmation of the promise of the resurrection that those of us in attendance leave knowing we’ve glimpse resurrection and can’t wait to be a part of it ourselves.

These are the people who not only, “Consider the lilies of the fields….” but also live their lives reflecting what it truly means to, “Seek first the kingdom of God…” knowing “…it is our Father’s good pleasure to give (us) the kingdom.” (Luke 12: 29 & 32). During this season of Lent, I am not only reading through the book of Luke reflecting on the scriptures through renewed prayer for deeper understanding; I am also leaning into the witness of others where I find the scriptures lived out and find my faith inspired by theirs. Thank you Darrell and Patricia and all of you whom would never self proclaim – but whose lives are the example of what it means to follow Jesus whole-heartedly and passionately. Amen.

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

3.29.14 Insight from Dan Entwistle

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

We’re on a journey together through Luke this Lent. And in nearly every one of our daily readings, we’ve seen another illustration of how the “nobodies” of this world turn out to be quite important. And, on the flipside, we’ve seen how the “somebodies” of Jesus’ world, the ones who were convinced they were really something (or really really something), were grandly missing the mark.

With today’s reading, the tension between somebodies and nobodies ratchets up a few more notches.  Like a spring adding tension with each turn, Jesus’ ministry (and his custom of meddling with the well-accepted somebody/nobody balance) moves a step closer to the point of no return with the somebodies of his day.

Now we’re on the 22nd day of Lent (Lent lasts 40 days beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending at Easter, excluding Sundays.) So, we’re half way through our journey, and in our readings so far, we’ve seen how Jesus sided with the unclean, hurt and pushed down.  He stood beside the condemned and against the condemners.  He joined the side of the humble and against the proud. And he was a collision course with (gulp) many of the most religious people of his day.  He even had the audacity to announce that those who are most blessed are those who have lost everything, or find themselves hungry, and with those who mourn or find themselves rejected.

In today’s reading, Jesus healed a nobody and immediately ran up against the somebody bystanders who entirely missed the point of the healing.  They made the situation worse by claiming Jesus did so under the power of the prince of demons.  Audacious, right?  Jesus’ reply forces everyone (including us) to pick a side.  “Whoever isn’t with me is against me, and whoever doesn’t gather with me, scatters.”  In the Message translation, this verse reads, “This is war, and there is no neutral ground. If you’re not on my side, you’re the enemy; if you’re not helping, you’re making things worse.”

To make matters worse, he calls the Pharisees frauds.  As you’d expect, they become inflamed to the point where one of them asks, “Do you realize you’re insulting us?”  Jesus presses the point, “Yes… you’re hopeless, you religion scholars! You load people down with rules and regulations, nearly breaking their backs, but never lift even a finger to help.”  Not only has Jesus sided with the nobodies, but now he is calling out the somebodies for using their religion as a weapon to harm the nobodies.  And in this battle, Jesus leaves no middle ground.

This Lent, let’s take sides.  In the second half of Lent, what if we make a dramatic move toward a “nobody”?  Or instead of giving up candy, we could drop an attitude that weighs down someone who doesn’t measure up to a standard that we hold dear.  Or maybe it is time to leave the neutral zone and actively become a healer.  This Lent, let’s follow Jesus by siding with him, on the side of the nobodies.

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

3.28.14 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.

When I was in the Boy Scouts, I took a Public Speaking class during which we had to prepare a persuasive speech, an extemporaneous presentation, &, most daunting for me, a 90-second speech.  As Winston Churchill once said, “I will give you a long speech today, because I have not had time to prepare a short one.”

As I struggled with mastering the succinct presentation, (And still struggle – Editor.) one of the mentors suggested that Jesus’ parables would be a great example of concise story telling.

In a portion of today’s reading, we have The Parable of the Good Samaritan, which Jesus shares in only 164 words. (Interestingly, Jesus never uses the phrase “Good Samaritan.”  I would gently contend that the title robs some of the power of the plot-twist in the midst of the story; I would opt for The Parable of the Good Neighbor.  But I digress.  (149 words – Editor.)

For today’s purpose we’ll focus on our friendly Samaritan & how Jesus’ initial audience might have reacted to the Samaritan’s actions.

Jesus has 3 people come upon a man who has been robbed, stripped, beaten & left for dead.

Aside: This is a familiar formula in story telling since it easier for people to recall things in groups of three.  (Hence, when I order a sandwich at Subway I always group my requests to the Sandwich Artisan in trios:  “Onion, Lettuce, Tomato & Pickle, Olive, Salt.”  But I digress.)  Of course the template is also a common shtick for comedic use: “There was a Priest, a Rabbi, & a Methodist Minister who walk into a bar.  The bartender stares at them & asks, “What?  Is this some kind of joke?”

Jesus’ audience would have readily understood/excused the Priest & Levite passing the man by.  If the Priest came within 4 cubits of a dead body, he would be defiled.  He would then have to return to Jerusalem for ritualistic cleansing.  Embarrassingly, he would be ordered to stand at the Eastern Gate in front of the altar with all of the other “unclean” people.  He then would need to locate, buy, and reduce a red heifer to ashes – a ritual that took a full week.  (Speaking as someone who won’t even go through airport security a 2nd time if I forgot to buy a USA Today, I can sympathize.)

After our 2 devout Jews, Jesus controversially introduces a Samaritan into the story.  Recall that the Jews despised the Samaritans.  As one scholar noted, “The Samaritans were publicly cursed in the synagogues; and a petition was offered daily, praying to God that the Samaritans might not be partakers of eternal life.”  Alrighty, then! (439 words – Editor.)

The Samaritan then binds the man’s wounds.  Jesus’ phrasing here is no accident.  He is echoing the same actions God took to heal His people noted in Hosea chapter 6: He will come to us, He will bind us up, He will raise us up, & He will revive us.

The Samaritan also pours oil & wine on the man’s wounds.  This isn’t the normal First Aid procedure.  But the pouring of oil & the pouring of wine ARE part of the sacrificial elements in Temple worship.  The Apostle Paul refers to the pouring of wine as a sacrificial offering of his faith.  So, Jesus is really pounding the distinction home:  the Priest & the Levite, who poured wine/oil as an act of worship just a few days earlier missed the opportunity to pour wine/oil as an act of love for their fellow man.

Now, the Samaritan isn’t done.  He places the wounded man on his donkey & brings him to an inn to care for him.  Jesus’ audience would readily perceive the risk our friend is taking; since the Samaritan was in enemy territory, it wouldn’t be too far fetched for the villagers to assume he had been the one to waylay the victim.

The Samaritan then pays for his care & promises to return to pay any remaining balance.  Jesus’ audience would have understood the importance this scene quite well.  Innkeepers were a notorious lot.  If the wounded man could not pay his bill, the innkeeper could have him arrested & imprisoned for his debt.

Thus, Jesus has brilliantly brought the story full circle: The man was impoverished, broken, & abandoned.  Thanks to the Samaritan, his needs are satisfied, he is being healed, & he will not be alone.

One can’t help hearing this story & seeing Christ’s love for you & me.  A man makes foolish choices.  For a variety of reasons, society deems him unworthy of saving.  Another Man, despised by the same society, volunteers to come to his aid.  He gently tends to the hurting man.  There is no limit to the price He is willing to pay to restore the man.  He promises to be by his side forever.

The question for us today, is what should the healed one(s) do in response to this amazing gift of love?  (832 words.  Better luck next time – Editor.)

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


3.27.14 Insight from Janelle Gregory

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

“Janelle, can you unload the dishwasher?” my mom  once yelled from the other room when I was young. As soon as I heard this, I realized that I had somehow slipped up. I had spent years perfecting my ability to know where the dishwasher was in its cycle so as to conveniently be in my room when it came time to unload.

Panicked, I froze when I heard the request. How could I have let down my guard?! What was I going to do?! With nothing better to do than to sit there and continue to watch television, I felt as if defeat was inevitable.

But before I threw up the white flag and helped my mom, I just had to try something, anything, that would get me out doing this chore. From out of my mouth, with very little hope of success, came the words, “But mom, I’m too cute to unload the dishwasher.”

Once I had given the outrageously stupid argument, I did the only thing I knew to do next – nothing. I sat there waiting to hear, “Janelle Yvonne Baker,” (because being in trouble meant using my full name), “you get in here and unload this dishwasher. RIGHT. NOW.”

But I never heard those words. Nor did I hear any other words from my mom. The only thing I heard was the sound of the plates clapping together and silverware jingling as my mom put away each and every dish all by herself.

A song of victory echoed in my heart. I couldn’t believe that I had managed to pull that off! I was a genius!!

But looking back now, I can’t seem to see anything really smart about what I did to my mom that day. And I wish I could say that it only happened that one time, but unfortunately I used this free-ticket phrase to get out of anything undesirable so often that my parents still call me “Cute Girl” to this day.

I don’t feel justified in my actions. In fact, I feel far removed from it. I’m ashamed that I was so lazy and inconsiderate that I continually talked my way out of doing what was right and helpful to someone I deeply care about.

But excuses are so easy to throw out there, aren’t they? I keep a stocked arsenal ready for every occasion. “I’ve got a deadline I have to meet.” “I think I might have plans that weekend.” “It’s just too cold out.”

There are times that these excuses are legitimate when it comes to not attending an event or missing a meeting, but when it is a matter of following Jesus, I’m guessing they sound a lot more like, “I’m too cute to unload the dishwasher.” And not just in the sense of following Jesus as it refers to becoming a Christian, but in really following the instructions he’s given us to love, to forgive, and obey.

It’s that day-to-day following where the excuses flow more easily. “I would give more, but I am saving for retirement.” “I would be more regular in worship, but our lives are so busy right now with the kids.” “If I tell her that I’m sorry, she will think that I’m weak.” Let’s face it… those are all just really “I’m too cute” statements.

I fight a constant battle to not go into excuse mode when it comes to my spiritual life. But I have to remind myself of my priorities – what is really important to me. Because I  don’t want to get to the end of my life and look back to see I had given up opportunities for joy and blessings because I had told Jesus that I was just too cute to follow him.

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

3.26.14 Insight from Angela LaVallie

Angela LaVallie is the Worship Logistics Program Director at Resurrection. She oversees preparing the Sanctuary for worship, supports Vibe worship in the Student Center, provides oversight for Holy Communion at the Leawood campus, and assists at conferences.

 

 This week I attended the funeral of a long-time Resurrection member who had served as a pilot in the military during World War II and then later went on to seminary to become a United Methodist pastor. I heard stories about this man’s life from his son, grandson, and the pastors who were officiating at the service. As I listened to the ways he had inspired his family, friends, and countless others, I thought to myself, “I hope I can influence even just a small fraction of the people he did.”

The thing is, he wasn’t always going around doing heroic things (although piloting airplanes during a war is pretty heroic by most people’s standards); he lived to follow Jesus and to serve God and his fellow man. His son used the following quote attributed to St Francis of Assisi to describe his father: “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”
I didn’t have a chance to get to know this man until the past year, and even then, I didn’t know him well, but it struck me as I heard others who were close to him explain that the reason people respected and loved and followed him was because he loved and followed the Lord. He lived out the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels.

The world judges greatness and success by a different set of standards than God. The world sees power, profit, strength, beauty, and popularity as greatness. God looks for humility, service, and love. The world would only see  the Jesus during the transfiguration as great, but his true greatness was evident off the mountain when he healed the sick, ate with sinners, stood up for the marginalized, and died a humiliating death on a cross to save the world.

If we want to be great, it would behoove us to ignore what the world says and ask that clichéd but always-applicable question – what would Jesus do?

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

3.25.14 Insight from Rev. Anne Williams

Rev. Anne Williams is a Congregational Care Pastor at Resurrection.

This week, as I was driving through town, I saw something that reminded me of the scripture that we read in today’s portion of Luke, chapter 9, verses 23-24. I was at an intersection watching traffic go by when I saw a truck was pulled over on the side of the street because its tailgate had come unhitched and a bunch of materials flew out of the back. The driver was in the middle of the road, frantically trying to pick his things up as fast as possible with traffic headed his way. Most of the cars were flying by, hurrying on their way, or frustrated that there was a delay in traffic.

Then I saw someone do something a little different. I saw a car drive up behind this man who was desperately trying to clean up his mess as fast as possible, come to a stop and put on its flashing lights. Instead of attempting to get in the other lane and pass by quickly, he was content to stay parked as long as it took to guard and protect the man who was in danger on the street.

As I saw this happen, it reminded me of the way God shows great love and concern for us when we are in trouble. God doesn’t pass by, but stops to care for us in our time of need. This is the God we see manifest in Jesus Christ throughout the Gospel of Luke, but it is also the kind of behavior Jesus calls his disciples to when he asks them to “say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me” (v. 23), and when he shares that the secret to life is that “All who want to save their lives will lose them” (v. 24).

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

3.24.14 Insight from Melanie Hill

Melanie Hill is the Visitor Connections Program Director in Resurrection’s Guest Services Ministry.

I hate feeling powerless. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that sentiment. After all, none of us likes to think that we don’t have ultimate control over our lives. A few weeks back my 3 year old daughter got the stomach flu. It was awful. Yes, the mess wasn’t pleasant, but the feeling that there was nothing I could do to speed her recovery was the most frustrating. Or the feeling I get when I get off the phone with my sister who lives in California who is suffering through a terrible divorce. Not only can I not make her pain less, I can’t even wrap my arms around her and whisper “it will be okay.” Or there’s the daily struggle of being a full time working mom of four small children trying to keep the house clean, the dinners cooked and everyone on schedule. So often I feel out of control and powerless. And these are just the regular day-to-day issues. In the last month I have walked alongside friends who have suffered the loss of a spouse, or watched as their parent lost all recognition of who they are. Talk about feeling powerless! It’s in the moments that I feel the most powerless that God reminds me that I am in fact, not the one in control and that’s a good thing.

As I read through the passage in Luke this week I was amazed at the power displayed by Jesus. The power to calm the storm; both the ones that rage around us and those that rage within us. As I read through each of the four incidents in today’s passage I was reminded of another passage in scripture in 2 Corinthians 12:9 where Paul shares God’s response to his request to be healed of an affliction. God tells Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I’ve struggled with this verse for a long time. What does it mean? Does God need me to be weak? But as I read through it again in light of today’s passage from Luke I realized that although the people Jesus healed were powerless to heal themselves or their loved ones, it wasn’t weakness that urged them to reach out for Jesus’ power. There is strength in the recognition that not only can I not do it all, but that I was never intended to. When temptation comes knocking on my door or pain and suffering seem to be a constant companion it is easy to feel weak and powerless. But it’s in these moments in life when I realize that I can’t lean on my own power and strength but must rely on God’s power that I am truly free. For God’s grace is sufficient. Through God’s grace I am no longer powerless. I can hold my daughter through her sickness and love her. There is power is easing her suffering. I can pray for my sister and be there to listen when she needs it. There is power in offering comfort and support. And there is power in doing my job well, whether that’s at work or the important job of being a mom and wife. God doesn’t ask me to calm the storm. Instead he gives me the gift of grace, through which I can love others. Instead he calls me to rely on his power. And honestly, when I’m broken and weak, I can’t think of better hands to be in.

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

3.22.14 Insight from Randy Meyer

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

Luke 7:36-8:21  

I’ve had the privilege of co-leading a small group of high school young men over the past four years.  I have to tell you that it has been one of the best things I have ever done in my life for my own faith.  Talking about our faith, studying scripture, sharing our “best thing” and “worst thing” each week during our prayer time, and laughing out loud more times than I can count or remember has led this time to be the highlight of my week most weeks.  (If you’ve ever considered or thought it would be great to lead a small group of teenagers through our Rezlife ministry, consider this your nudge to do so!  You can thank me later!)

Next year, all of the boys plan to head off to college, and recently when we met we devoted our time to talking about their hopes, fears, and questions about what the next phase of their lives will bring.  I found myself (along with Phil and Todd my co-leaders) trying to cram as much good and wise advice (good seed?) as I could think of into our time together that night.

I thought of that meeting and of our group and our four years together as I read this passage of Luke, more specifically of the parable of the sower and the seed.  Jesus mentions four types of soil; soil that has become a stepped on path, rocky soil where moisture is scarce, thorny soil that chokes out the good seed, and good soil where crops grow strong and resilient.

I think that today most of us live in thorny soil.  We hope that we are in good soil, but the reality of our world is that we have so many distractions that keep us from living the life that Jesus prays that we live.  In his words in verse 14, we are “choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures.

With our small group of young men, we’ve tried to stress over and over to them that we live among thorns.  In fact, some times we become the thorns choking out the good seed in others.  “The world” will tend to pull us in one direction and all the while Jesus is reaching toward us to pull us back into the good soil.  Hopefully, enough good seed has been planted in and around these young men that they will continue to honor God with their lives as they experience their college years.  It is my prayer for them that more good seed than thorns has been planted in their lives and that they will live more times than not in the good soil.

I’m sure that every farmer knows that not all of the seed sown will take root.  Some will inevitably not grow for all kinds of reasons.  However, that doesn’t discourage the farmer from sowing as they know that in spite of all of that a harvest will occur if they sow enough “good” seed.  The harvest is sure to come. We all have our setbacks and disappointments in life and times when the thorns appear to take over.  Strive for the good soil.  The harvest of God is sure to come!

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

3.21.14 Insight from Chris Folmsbee

Chris Folmsbee is Resurrection’s Director of Discipleship Ministries  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.

I use the word ‘amazing’ several times a day. When one of my kids does something that demands affirmation, I say, “That’s amazing!” hoping my words will pierce them with gladness and a sense of confidence. Truth be told, the things they do often aren’t amazing. They aren’t mind-blowing. They aren’t remarkable. They aren’t beyond belief. They are, most often, pretty ordinary. Our hyperbolic use of words like ‘amazing’ actually make the words a little less fitting, especially when true amazement is necessary. Still, I use ‘amazing’ and will continue to in my everyday descriptions of things my kids do. “Hey kid, amazing job taking out the garbage! The bag made it into the can and everything. Wow!”

The Gospel writers, however, use this word “amazing” (or “amazed” in today’s reading) fittingly and sparingly, especially as it relates to Jesus being amazed. In today’s reading we have what I believe to be one of two places where we read that Jesus is “amazed” (Mark 6:6 the other). What a feat! To blow the mind of the Son of God—well done, Centurion!

Luke 7:9 says, “When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Why was Jesus amazed? Jesus was amazed to learn that this Centurion, a Gentile, had such great faith. A faith that not only was characterized by his belief that Jesus could heal, but by his posture of humility—of knowing where he stood in relation to the Son of God, and where the Son stood in relation to God. He was unworthy to host the Son of God in his home, and knew that Jesus, as the Word, just needed to speak a “word” to heal his servant, accomplishing Jesus’ purposes.  Jesus isn’t bashing the faith of the believing Jews. Jesus was pointing out that not even all the Jews in Israel believe, and yet this Gentile does. Such great faith!

In what ways might Jesus declare your faith to be “amazing”? Is your faith amazing-ordinary or amazing-extraordinary? In what ways are you providing a way for accomplishing Jesus’ purposes in your life and the lives of those around you?

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

3.20.14 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.

I read the accounts of Jesus telling people the basic tenets of his ministry, and I’m struck by how often I hear this same stuff (paraphrased, of course) when we’re trying to teach our own children. It’s astounding to me how profound a few verses from Luke can be, and how apparent it is that God, through Jesus, saw us as his children. These are lessons to live by, not just good suggestions to help us get along.

One phrase that always stands out to me is the one about the speck of dust versus the plank in your eye. The Message translation uses the term a smudge on your brother’s face that you want to clean while you have a disgusted sneer on your own. How can you fixate on their smudge while you have such an ugly look on your own face?

Many years ago I had a coach who said, “Breaking that guy’s leg won’t make you any faster.” That’s always stuck with me and made me TRY to always get better myself rather than tearing someone else down. Granted, it took a few years before that lesson sank in. It was only really clear when I was faced with people so gifted in their craft that I would never WANT to tear it down. Seeing someone performing with such beautiful, masterful artistry is awesome, in the classical sense. Destroying their ability would not give me that gift.

Now I find myself, as a father, dealing with the angst of an adolescent son who is fiercely competitive, but also insanely tenderhearted. He has a serious internal conflict in every game he plays because he wants to see everyone around him doing well and being happy, but he also loves to see his name at or near the top of the stats sheet. I can relate, because the Proud Dad in me feels the same way. I have to remind myself that he may not have a career in professional sports in his future, but there is always a place for a good man who cares more about everyone else than his own success; with the ambition to succeed and the desire to take everyone else with him.

It’s difficult to grasp that the wealth we achieve in our daily lives is of very little value in God’s eyes, yet we continue to work diligently toward it.  For me, it’s about motive and intent.  There are worldly comforts I enjoy and work hard for, but those things are not the goal of my work. My goal is to provide a foundation for my boys to grow, where they can always amaze me with their hearts and minds, while pursuing God and seeking to be servants to God’s kingdom.

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