Monthly Archives: April 2014

4.30.14 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

Staging
WEDNESDAY 4.30.14   Psalm 118:6-22

High school, college, and professional plays spend enormous attention to set design.  The right set design and backdrop will help the audience see the actors’ dialogue in the setting of a living room, a forest, or a prison.  The staging behind the dialogue adds dimension and, at times, additional meaning to the words that are being spoken.  Consider the intentional staging of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” in front of the Lincoln Memorial and under the 16th President’s watchful eye.

Jesus used backdrops too.  Today’s Scripture Psalm 118:6-22 was part of the yearly Passover Celebration where Jewish people remembered God rescuing their ancestors from Egyptian slavery.   The disciples and Jesus were celebrating the Jewish Passover Feast in a meal that would later become known as The Last Supper.   At the end of that meal, Jesus and his disciples would have sung Psalm 118 together.   Here are some lyrics.

The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
I was pushed back and about to fall,
but the Lord helped me.
 The Lord is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.
I will not die but live,
and will proclaim what the Lord has done.  Psalm 118 – assorted verses

When Jesus sang these words, he had the backdrop of millions of Jews singing these same words for over 1200 years.  Jesus, like all these other Jewish women and men, would not back down.  He is committing to being like his ancestors and standing unafraid of mere mortals.

In a dramatic shift of setting, as Christians when we hear Jesus sing these words we also see the future setting of his cross being moved into the background.   Jesus “will not die but live.”  The cross standing behind the words adds the dimension and meaning.

What happens when we say the same words?  A past background and a future background appear.

Recite these words with me from Psalm 118.
            The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?

Challenge- What is the past setting where you have seen this to be true of you?  Paint the picture.  Focus on the full staging of this past event where you stood with boldness (even if your knees shook).

Picture a future setting where these words will also be true.   A time when you will lean on the Lord for your strength and defense.

There is power in the words of Scripture and in the setting behind them.
May you find both today.

Grace and Peace,
Steven Blair
www.cor.org/liveforward

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

4.29.14 Insight from Donna Karlen

Donna Karlen serves as the Campus Communications Specialist at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

“Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body rests secure.” Psalm 16:9

Glad hearts and rejoicing souls certainly were not the initial responses to the first Easter. As Pastor Glen described the scene in his message last weekend, Jesus’ followers were filled with disbelief and racked with discouragement. And no doubt they had found little rest during the days following the death of their teacher, their friend – their every hope for life. The cross had taken all that from them.
Jesus was no longer theirs.

I have never doubted that I belong to God. He created me, watches over me – as today’s Psalm says, God shows me the path of life. And because of that first Easter, Jesus has given me a ticket to heaven. No disbelief or discouragement here on that point! And my heart is glad and my soul does rejoice because I belong to him.

But the amazing thing – or rather another amazing thing – is that Jesus belongs to me.
In the Sunday 5 pm worship service, we sang the popular Christian song, Oceans. It includes some lyrics that literally send a shiver of joy through me when I hear or sing them: “I am yours and you are mine.” Doesn’t it just get to your every hope for life to know that Jesus belongs to us?

Those first Easter believers took some time to get to the hope, joy and power of Easter. They disbelieved and felt discouraged because they thought they had lost Jesus.
It didn’t take them long to realize that through Easter, they really had just begun to find him.
He is ours, and we are his.

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

4.28.14 Insight from Jeanna Repass

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

I grew up in Harlingen Texas which is South – South Texas. I was one of three African American students in my entire elementary school – two of whom were my brother, VJ and I. Although I had many outstanding teachers at Bonham Elementary School, I did have one teacher in fifth grade who really did not like me.

For a long time I just thought she was mean but as the year progressed and she made comments to me like, “Black children just aren’t as smart as white children.” I began to realize that she was a racist.  She was one of those people who told me in front of the whole class that in her mind all black children secretly wished they were white. Among many other stories that I could share about how miserable she made my entire fifth grade year, one that stands out in my memory is a time when I was in a disagreement with another student about my faith.

I was ten and completely convinced that everything that I learned in church and Sunday school was to be accepted as truth. Believing without doubt is one of the great gifts of childhood. I was arguing with a classmate about the idea that I could walk on water. I was convinced that if I had Jesus with me, then I could definitely do it – just like Peter did and I found myself in a bit of a loud confrontation. My teacher called me to the front of the classroom – as she often did – to interrogate me in front of the class. When I told her that I believed that I could walk on water as long as Jesus was with me – she laughed at me.

Instead of being intimidate or humiliated by her as I often was – her laughing at me in that moment especially about my faith – made me angry. I remember asking her if she was a Christian. She said that she was, so I asked her if she believed that Jesus was alive and with us all the time. She said that she believed that too. So I replied that if Jesus was with me then I could walk on water. As I waited for her to carve me up verbally in front of the class – I remember just being resolved that no one was going to convince me that me and Jesus could not do anything and everything – as long as I believed.

I am so grateful for that time in my life when doubtless belief emboldened me to stand up to someone that I feared. That childhood belief is what we miss out on as we – necessarily begin to see the world through a more critical lens. But being an adult believer does not mean that we have to doubt everything. As a matter of fact – we have the scriptures to tell us that the most doubt-worthy things are the very things that we can believe in. “Then (Jesus) opened their minds to understand the scriptures and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiahis to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations,” Luke 24: 46-47. Amen.

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

4.26.14 Insight from Cathy Bien

Cathy Bien is Resurrection’s Director of Communications. She and her family joined Resurrection in 1994 at Leawood Elementary School, and she had been on staff for 14 years.

What do you do when Easter is over? How do you move on from that spiritual mountain top?

Jesus’ disciples and followers had been through the wringer – from the fear and devastation following Jesus’ crucifixion and death, to the confusion when his body is missing, to the rejoicing when they see the risen Lord. And then, as the first chapter of Acts tells us, Jesus leaves them again, ascending into heaven.

Their experiences had changed their lives. No way could they go back to being ordinary fishermen or tax collectors.

The disciples gathered together and devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14). They prepared for a new beginning as they waited for the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise: “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts: 1:8)

Jesus’ followers gathered together.

Last weekend, we celebrated Easter. We experienced music that touched our souls, we prayed as a community with one voice, and we heard a message that reminded us of the hope of resurrection and offered us reassurance that “the worst thing is never the last thing.” We were at that spiritual mountain top.

So this week, do we just return to our ordinary lives – focused on ourselves and insignificant concerns?

What if we followed the disciples’ example and gathered together to pray and worship and serve God each week? What if we lived into the promise that the Holy Spirit will give us power to be Christ’s witnesses? What if we recommitted ourselves to being the heart and hands of Christ in our community?

What could happen if we gathered together as Easter people all year long?

 

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

4.25.14 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.

For Spring Break our family traveled through the Pacific Northwest.  With its tie-in to San Francisco for family movie night last week we watched the 1968 thriller, “Bullitt,” starring Steve McQueen.  The brothers loved the movie but were disappointed to discover that a sequel was never made.  (Growing up in their era, of course, there aren’t just movies, but rather movie franchises.)  Naturally, not all sequels are created equal.  Some potential follow-up movies that might be wise to reconsider could include:

  • Toy Story Part 7:  The Rummage Sale
  • Arbor Day:  Independence Day Was Just a Holiday Compared to This
  • Titanic 2
  • Spider Man 6: A World Wide Web
  • Iron Man 12: Rusted & Busted
  • E.T.2: Text Home
  • The Graduate 2: Moving Back Home with the Family
  • Sleepless in Sabetha

Fortunately for fans of the Bible, our friend Luke’s sequel (The Acts of the Apostles) holds up quite well at the box office when compared to his original blockbuster (The Gospel According to Luke).  Let’s walk through today’s scripts to see what we might learn:

Interestingly, Luke tells the Ascension scene in both books.  As fans of sequels know, this is a necessity.  The Ascension is the critical wrap-up to the Good News.  You couldn’t have Jesus’ appearances slowly taper off; there needed to be a defining moment when the Disciples moved forward into the next phase of the Kingdom of God.  At the same time, the Book of Acts has to open with the Ascension scene to act as a bridge to the Holy Spirit’s bold coming-out party at Pentecost.  To reiterate, Luke takes the risk of repeating himself for the sake of clarity for his readers.  (Sigh – Editor.)

Frustratingly, Luke’s script provides few details about The Ascension scene.  However, upon reflection, it makes sense.  Like the Transfiguration, this was such a powerful encounter with Jesus that words could hardly do it justice.  I would also submit it would be a profoundly personal experience for the Disciples; each person would walk away with a unique impression of the scene.  (Similarly, Jesus has an intensely personal relationship with each of His children today; no two may be the same.)

As Luke turns the cameras to the Disciples, we have an unexpected reaction: joy.  This plot-twist seems a bit unbelievable.  Recall these are the same Disciples who were opposed to Jesus going to Jerusalem for fear they would lose Him.  They were emotionally, physically, & spiritually crushed at His death on the cross.  They had been in the most blessed relationship the earth could ever know for three years & now their teacher, their best friend, & their Lord was departing.  Yet, Luke describes His followers as being joyful?  How can this be?

I would submit that The Ascension was proof-positive that Jesus was victorious & their faith in Him was completely justified.  He defeated death, sin, & was now ascending to be at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty.  All their questions, all their doubts, and all their fears that had been lingering for years had been definitively answered & conquered.  They were at peace.

We, too, can be at peace as well.  The Disciples were no longer in the presence of God in the flesh, yet they weren’t filled with despair.  They knew He would remain by their side.  Two thousand years later, we have that same Comforter guiding us through the peaks & valleys of our faith walk and, thanks to the Ascension, we can be confident that Jesus is patiently waiting to greet us at the end of our journey with a joyous, “Well done!”  Now THAT is the ultimate sequel.

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


4.24.14 Insight from Janelle Gregory

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

I had flown multiple times across the country and across the world, and I had never been scared. That is, until I flew from L.A. to Palm Springs in a plane that seemed just larger than toy-sized. I boarded it with the other 9 passengers like squeezing into a clown car.

The ride didn’t start out being scary. It ascended just like all the other flights when all of a sudden – DROP! Woah!  Holy fall-out-of-the-sky!

I caught my breath as the plane (and my stomach) climbed a little higher. And then – DROP! Back and forth, up and down, we were being tossed around like dice on a craps table. I thought maybe it was just while we were gaining altitude, but the flight never seemed to get much better. Mile after mile, we were all over the place.

I knew there was no way Barbie’s dream plane was going to survive this. I started to panic, digging my nails into the armrests. My breathing was shallow, and  I came to the realization that I would soon meet my Maker. A list of life’s regrets ran through my mind. Why wasn’t I a better friend? A better daughter? A better neighbor? Why didn’t I ever go to the Final Four?

It was all too late for that now. Good bye, world! Good bye, life! Good bye, March Madness!

And then a calm voice came over the speaker, “We know it’s been a little bumpy, but we hope you’ve enjoyed your flight with us today. We’ll be on the ground in 20 minutes. Come back and fly with us soon.”

Wait. We were going to live?!!! It seemed to be impossible, but sure enough – in twenty minutes we landed safely.

I later came to learn that it wasn’t atypical for that flight to be rocky. A small plane and the terrain underneath leant itself to a lot of turbulence.

I wish I would have known this before the flight, as it might have saved my nerves (and the armrests). But going in unaware, left me shaken – both literally and figuratively.

There have been times when my spiritual journey has taken a similar path. I grew up in the church, and I was very active in both high school and college ministries. My faith was still strong in my mid-twenties when all of a sudden – DROP! Doubts appeared out of nowhere. I didn’t know what to do. Where did these come from? What did they mean? Had I fallen out of Christianity? Was I headed for a faith disaster?!

I didn’t want to tell anyone as I was so ashamed. What would they think if they knew? Would they see me as weak? As a disappointment to God? I kept my secret hushed – scared of judgment from others, feeling I was living a lie, fearful of damnation.  This was a very dark and lonely time for me.

Just when I felt that my faith had all but extinguished, I told someone about my doubts. I knew this opened myself up to being shunned from my Christian friends as word of my rare disbelief would become quite the juicy tidbit. But my friend didn’t shun me. In fact it was quite the opposite. “We all experience doubts on occasion,” he said. “It’s part of growing, owning, and testing your faith. God is big enough to handle your questions, and I assure you that He hasn’t left you.”

This was the first time that I had been told that doubts were a part of the journey – that there would be moments when theology doesn’t make sense or faith seems irrelevant or pain draws you further rather than closer to God.

I had always thought that a slight crack in your faith meant the whole thing would come tumbling down. I wish that I would have known earlier that doubts are normal and to be expected. I would guess that knowing ahead of time doesn’t mean that they won’t throw you around. You’ll still hit bumps, and you may get bruised. But at least you’ll know that your faith isn’t crashing towards the ground – you’ve just hit a little turbulence.

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

4.23.14 Insight from Angela LaVallie

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

 I received a poem as a forwarded email many years ago. I tried to find it online to share with you here and have not been able to, so I’ll explain it as I remember it. The poem was told from the first-person point of view, as if God were the narrator. In it, he says that you, the reader, asked where he was when you requested to see him. He goes on to explain that he sent the sun to rise to shine his warmth on our faces. He sent the birds to serenade us with a song. He sent the flowers to bloom to give us beauty. The entirety of the poem is to illustrate God’s love and presence through the beauty of creation; it’s always there, we just don’t recognize it because we don’t look for it.

In the same way, we often don’t see Jesus’ presence or effects because we’re not looking for them. I’m pretty sure Jesus himself is not going to appear to me when I’m out for my evening walk (and if he does, I hope I recognize him!), but I am confident that he works through others who represent him.

As Christians, we are called to be Christ’s representatives; and if we’re his representatives, shouldn’t we see him in one another? I wonder if we miss seeing him in others because we are not looking for him there. Just as the sun, which can so easily be taken for granted, is a reminder of God’s love, so are those little gestures that show us Christ’s presence.

How many times has a friend or loved one said something you needed to hear or did something to give you support just when you needed it? It happens to me all the time. I’ll pray about a situation in my life, and then, BAM – my prayer is answered. It’s not always in ways that I would ask for or have expected, but when it happens, it’s clear that the answer has to be more than coincidence.

I think Christ is present in small ways too. Time spent with a good friend. A conversation with a stranger at the coffee shop that leaves you both smiling.  Dinner with family. A door held open when you’re rushing to get inside. All these little interactions can be Christ’s presence with us.

My small group is currently reading the book Love Does by Bob Goff, an American attorney who serves as Cunsul for the Republic of Uganda. In one of the chapters we’ll be discussing tonight that focuses on selective hearing, Goff says that God “can communicate to us in any way He wants to anytime He wants to. Through flowers, other people, am uncomfortable sense, a feeling of joy, goose bumps, a newfound talent, or an appreciation we acquire over time.” He goes on to say that God [and Jesus] could speak to us audibly if He wanted to, but “it seems that what God does most of the time when He has something to say is this…He doesn’t pass us messages, instead He passes us each other.”

I wonder how open we are to listening for that message and noticing Christ’s presence when he passes us each other…


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

4.22.14 Insight from Rev. Anne Williams

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

This weekend in one part of the Easter sermon, Pastor Adam challenged us to consider, “What is your defining story?” He invited us to think about those narratives we tell ourselves again and again that soon become our truth. And then, he challenged us to think about how the people we surround ourselves with support our beliefs and opinions. As we see in today’s GPS reading of the disciples who didn’t recognize Jesus on the road to Emmaus, sometimes those narratives and defining stories hold us back from seeing the transformation that is right before our eyes.

Author James Bryan Smith talks about something similar in his book The Good and Beautiful Life. He describes how his own preconceived notions of the Gospel message were challenged and redefined even years after his graduation from seminary. All this he attributes to “some gifted teachers,” but I would say he could also give himself some credit for being open-minded and willing to re-evaluate his defining story. He came to understand that the Good News is not just about entering heaven when we die, but also about entering heaven now.

Today, as we seek to live as Resurrection People, I wonder if you’d be willing to consider if there are ways your preconceived notions are holding you back from noticing God’s transformative work in and around your life. Is there one idea or attitude that you could stand to let go of? Is there one attribute or practice that adding would open your eyes to the stories of resurrection all around you? Today, I pray our narratives help us seek the Kingdom of God that is here and among us even today. Happy Easter!

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

4.21.14 Insight from Celicia Hiatt

Celicia Hiatt is a Coordinating Assistant in the Guest Services Ministry at The Church of the Resurrection, serving as a crucial member of the team that helps visitors and members of the church get plugged into the life of the church.

I grew up in a non-religious household and can honestly tell you that I did not begin to understand the true significance of the resurrection until I was in my twenties. I did not fully comprehend the hope that the resurrection brings with it until I was 25. Until this defining moment in my life, I thought Easter paled in comparison to Christmas and really was the lesser of the two major holidays (I mean you can’t fit those big gifts you get under the tree into an Easter basket). How wrong I was. I cannot imagine what my life would be like today if I did not have the promise of the resurrection.

Almost six years ago, I found out that I was expecting my first child, Adam. I can’t explain the excitement and joy that surrounded his arrival and how in love I was with this baby I didn’t even know yet. Sadly, halfway through my pregnancy, I found out that he had a birth defect that made life unsustainable outside the womb. When I was given the news of my son I felt like someone had knocked the wind out of me; I was devastated.

I can honestly tell you, though, that the feelings of fear and sadness that came with this life experience are not the feelings I remember most when I look back on my memories of Adam. I was very blessed to spend five hours with him on this earth, and I look at those hours as a miracle and gift. Because of my faith in God and knowing that this is not the end sadness and sorrow are not the overarching themes of my loss. Because of the resurrection the overarching themes are pride, joy, thankfulness, love and most of all hope. The worst thing was not the last thing in this moment; I leaned hard into my faith and found that I believe more in the resurrection today than I did the day he was born. I was free to enjoy and really live those moments with my son because I knew they would not be the last.

Thursday, as I sat down and processed the interfaith service at the Jewish Community Center with a co-worker I remember her saying “I can’t imagine I would ever survive something like this because I am such an emotional person.” To which I replied, “You don’t know that. You never know what God will do with you in those moments.” I am an extremely emotional person and will be a blubbering mess if I catch a Hallmark commercial in the wrong moment, but you know what? Faith is a funny thing…when you lean into it, I mean REALLY lean into it, it dulls the sting of sadness and blankets you with peace. I saw this in another mother’s eyes this week as she spoke about her son and her father.

I have to imagine this is what happened when the women went to the tomb and found that Jesus was no longer there. Suddenly their world would have shifted and a story that was once defined by sadness and grief was defined by hope and joy. He is risen! At this moment, the resurrection became that breath that you desperately fight for after having the wind knocked out of you. It’s what made possible taking the next step or getting out of bed the next day. Resurrection gives us a guarantee that this is not the end and that darkness and sin will never have the last word.

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

4.19.14 Insight from Bryan Cisler

Bryan Cisler serves as the Digital Media Specialist at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

When I read this story I try and put myself in Joseph of Arimathea’s shoes. You have a prestigious position in the council. You are presumably in good standing with the community. All of your colleagues think that the man they just crucified was a real threat to the community. How easy would it have been to rationalize to yourself that doing nothing is the best option?  Stepping out of line and taking it upon yourself to bury Jesus is a real risk.  Joseph didn’t know Jesus was going to be resurrected. Joseph didn’t know how important his role was in the greatest story that’s ever been told – a story that’s impacted billions of people over the last 2,000 years. It doesn’t appear he was looking for any recognition either. He wasn’t trying to “make his mark.”  All he knew was that Jesus was wronged, and Joseph was going to give him a proper burial.

As you read this story, think of a time in the last year you defended somebody that the masses felt didn’t need defending. Maybe it’s something even as simple as speaking up for a family member or coworker who is being gossiped about. Maybe it’s a politician that you and your friends don’t particularly care for. For me, I am generally a “go with the flow” type of person. I am not sure that’s always a good thing. I think it’s a natural reaction to want to be liked and accepted by those around you. That can make it difficult to speak up. But as this story shows, sometimes God’s plans are more important than how we want others to perceive us.

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