Monthly Archives: October 2015

10.31.15 – Insights from Yvonne Gentile

YvonneGentileGPSYvonne Gentile serves on The Church of the Resurrection staff as the Director of Connections. Yvonne directs the team that helps people get connected into the life of the church through service, studies, group life, and other ways of involvement.

I spoke with someone this week who expressed some confusion about where she should even begin to serve “the least of these”. What if we simply began, as the GPS for today suggested, by noticing all people in need, starting with the people right in front of us?   By doing things like:

  • Taking dinner to a friend who’s had a death in the family
  • Visiting a neighbor who’s in the hospital
  • Sending a note to a co-worker who needs to be encouraged
  • Letting the person who looks impatient go ahead of us in the grocery checkout line
  • Speaking kind words to our own family, even when we’re tired

If you want to go further in serving the hungry and thirsty, the poor, the prisoner and the stranger, you can start by checking out Resurrection’s JOY in Serving options. JOY (Joyfully Offering Yourself) in Serving is Resurrection’s holiday mission program. Each year, October through December, the church puts together a number of opportunities for you to serve or donate and learn more about local area organizations and the work being done in Kansas City to alleviate poverty.

There are new opportunities available each week. You can find a list of available options online at www.cor.org/joy.   You can also drop by the JOY tables in the Narthex before and after service each weekend between now and December 20.

FaithWork is an easy way to step into serving the least of these. Every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month, you can choose from pre-arranged serving opportunities by simply showing up in the Narthex of the B Bldg at 8:45am, selecting where and how you want to serve (most opportunities will finish by 1pm). The remaining dates this year are November 7 and 21, and Dec 5 and 19. You can find more information and pre-register for FaithWork at www.cor.org/faithwork.

Resurrection has a vibrant prison ministry, too. Volunteers with New Day Prison Ministry go to Lansing Penitentiary each week to share the love of Christ with inmates, and the impact they are having is remarkable. Lives are being changed – both the lives of the prisoners, and of those who visit them. You can find more information at www.cor.org/prison.

On the right hand side of our worship bulletin every week, there is a list of ways you can get involved in serving God and others. Each week, after the sermon, our pastors highlight a couple of ministries who are actively seeking people like you and me who will step up to make a difference in the lives of the least of these. Listen and look for those announcements, and find something you can do now to make a difference in the life of someone in need.

Look. Listen. Notice. Do something. Start by doing something loving for the people right in front of you.

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

10.30.15 – Insights from Ginger Rothhaas

ginger-rothhaasGinger Rothhaas is a seminary student at Saint Paul School of Theology and is serving in Congregational Care at The Church of the Resurrection.

In today’s scripture from John 20:19, Jesus appears resurrected to the disciples and says “Peace be with you.” As I read this, I can’t help but think they were feeling anything BUT peace at that moment.

Their teacher, friend, mentor, leader had just died a gruesome death before their eyes, they are now in hiding fearing for their lives, and everything they had hoped to be true had just been extinguished on the cross.

And then, Jesus appears bodily right before their eyes and says, “Peace be with you,” in what I imagine to be a calm, loving, reassuring voice.

Can you imagine the shock they are experiencing in this moment?!?!

I have learned that it is so much more fun to read Biblical stories imagining you are in the room:

So there I am…shaking in my boots, knowing I am likely next to be on a cross because I was seen following this man.
Why did I make this decision to follow him? How could I be so wrong? My mama warned me I should have stayed a fisherman. It was good money.
I could have had a quiet, unfulfilled existence. Why am I always seeking more meaning? How did I get myself into this mess?
And yet there was something about this man. I have never felt better than when I was listening to his teaching. I know the love I felt from him was as close to God as I could ever feel. But these barbarians just killed him in the most horrible way.
I expected him to save himself, for God to miraculously make it all stop, but it didn’t, and now what do I do?

Jesus answers that anguish with an instruction to live in peace.

But how do I do that?!?! Everything has just been turned upside down in my life! Everything I was counting on just died before my eyes.
I had hope. I had joy. I had community. I had wisdom. I had it all. I was finally fulfilled, living into my calling and happy. Now all of that is gone.

Does this sound like anything you have experienced? We have all had the rug ripped out from under us at some time. This feeling of despair that everything you planned, hoped for, dreamt of, all of it comes crashing to a halt. Everything you knew to be true is no longer.

Jesus never misses a teaching opportunity, and his response to this disbelief and anguish is what I read as a three-pronged approach to finding peace:

  1. “I am sending you” – my translation of this instruction is that Jesus is saying ‘you have a job to do for God, you have purpose. The world needs you to carry on my work’
  2. “Receive the Holy Spirit” – no translation needed. I think this says ‘receive it, open yourself to its presence, recognize the Spirit’s active in your midst, you have help…I am with you’
  3. “Forgive them” – ugh, this is the hard part! Really?!?! Do I haaavvveee to? Translated…‘If you want peace, you do…this is it, the key to all of it, let it go, release, forgive, now.’

I think this story is here today to teach us that in our despair there is hope. We do have a purpose, we have help always available, and it’s up to us to find peace if we are willing to forgive.

What if we all lived into these truths? We can start today. Let’s do it together. Peace is possible. Peace be with you.

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

10.29.15 – Insights from Janelle Gregory

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

In the classrooms of my hometown church, I can vividly picture this image of Jesus at the door.

Jesus knocking

Once I got past waiting for the punch line to the knock-knock joke, this became the essence of being a Christian – “Behold I stand at the door and knock…” Jesus knocks. You answer. End of story. You have to end the story there, because if you don’t, it gets really awkward with both of you just standing in a doorway.

While I don’t want discount the importance of simply answering the door, this image just brushes the surface of what it means to be a part of the grandiose story of God’s love for this world.

Being a Christian is about diving into the river of grace, being washed and made whole through the redemption of a Savior. And this Savior invites us into his movement, the journey of “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Our lives should be viewed through the “as it is in heaven” perspective as we join Jesus on his mission. So how can our work-life be “as it is in heaven?” How do we treat our families “as it is in heaven?” What would it look like for our communities to be “as it is in heaven?” How can we educate children in our urban core so they may live “as it is in heaven?” What about the annoying lady in the check-out line? Can we treat her “as it is in heaven?” What about the child in a third-world country lacking access to clean water? Can we bring “as it is in heaven” to him too?

These are the choices we make, both in our day-to-day living and in our intentional serving. It’s using our gifts and resources and getting out of our comfort zones. Once we open the door, Jesus comes in. But he comes in to invite us out.

Just like most things in our lives, it’s the first step that is the most difficult – so do it now. There is no waiting until the opportunity arises. The opportunities are here and they are abundant.

If you call Church of the Resurrection your home, I encourage you to check out these sites for more information on practical ways to join in Jesus’ mission in Kansas City and beyond:

Local Impact Opportunities

Global Impact Opportunities

Today is the day to join Jesus on the journey. With his help, I truly believe that we can transform this world to be more like “as it is in heaven.”

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

10.28.15 – Insights from Kari Burgess

Kari Burgess is a Program Director for the Catalyst team, handling promotion and marketing for all of the conferences held at Resurrection, as well as registration and coordinating hospitality volunteers.

I am full of good intentions. I have a great desire to serve others as an expression of God’s gift of grace to me, but I also find lots of excuses not to do so. I get caught up in my kids’ activities and busy schedule (which I’ve encouraged), caught up in my own to-do list at work and home, and as a result I find my life filled with activities that do not necessarily resemble the life of service I imagined. So looking at today’s Scripture about the good works God prepared in advance for me to do, and thinking about how I am following God’s will for me in this area, I can sure get discouraged. I wonder where I might have missed or completely ignored the nudging of the Holy Spirit to reach out to a friend or neighbor or to sign up for a serving event in the community or through church.

But rather than feel discouraged, I started thinking about who inspires me, who challenges me in the area of serving others. Immediately my thoughts went to my friend Leslie who, from my point of view, is always serving someone, somewhere.

Our kids go to school together and she and her family are active members of The Church of the Resurrection, so our paths cross often. Whether at school or at church, very often it is Leslie or her husband greeting us at an event as a volunteer. Frequently, an email will come through from Leslie asking if we’d like to join them on a school day off for a serving opportunity. Whether it be coordinating the President’s Volunteer Service Award Program at the school (encouraging volunteerism among students) or starting a campaign through social media during Random Acts of Kindness Week, Leslie and her family are living out Scripture to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God.

Come to find out, Leslie comes by this naturally! We had coffee this week and as she told me about her faith journey, she described to me how she grew up in a United Methodist church in a family and faith community where serving was a way of life. Her father was a Lion’s Club member for 50 years, her mother was constantly making a meal for a friend or neighbor in need and as a family they were very involved in serving others through their church. Service was modeled for her over and over in her growing up years and was a way of life. Now as a parent she is intentional in living her life serving God’s people and believes by doing so she can have a profound effect on her children to cultivate a desire to serve others. What Leslie may not realize is that while modeling a heart for serving others to her children, she is also modeling it for me (and everyone around her).

She told me a story about a time when she distinctly felt the Holy Spirit’s nudge to action, This story is a great reminder to me that the Holy Spirit is constantly at work leading and showing me works he has prepared for me, if I would only be open to His prompting.

A friend of Leslie’s had mentioned that one particular day of the week was difficult for her to get a meal ready for the family due to her work schedule. Leslie had tucked that away in her mind and thought she would like to surprise this friend with a meal sometime on that day of the week, just to bless her (remember her mom’s ministry of food?). Time passed, life got in the way and she hadn’t gotten around to taking a meal. Then one day she had a strong sense to make a meal for this friend. She stopped for groceries and came home to prepare the meal. But as she started preparing the meal she metone barrier after another—she was missing a key ingredient for the side dish, she hadn’t picked up lettuce for the salad, she didn’t have enough time for the dessert to bake. All she had was the entrée to offer, and she began to wonder why she bothered. But she continued to sense that she was supposed to do this. When her friend answered the door and Leslie gave her the food and explanation, her friend broke down weeping. Something incredibly difficult had happened the day prior in this woman’s life and the food blessed her in more ways than one. Leslie’s timing (and the Holy Spirit’s) was perfect.

I walked away from our coffee date feeling inspired, encouraged and empowered about making an impact in the lives of those in my immediate community, in Greater Kansas City and beyond. My prayer is for my eyes and heart to be open to where God leads me. I look forward to acting the next time I feel that little nudge from the Holy Spirit.

Has the Holy Spirit been at work in your heart lately? Have you felt a nudge to reach out to a neighbor, or to sign up for a serving opportunity at church? I encourage you to follow that prompt. It could be God working to put you exactly where you need to be to bless someone else. In the process, you might be blessed too.

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

10.27.15 – Insights from Brandon Gregory

brandongregorygpsBrandon Gregory is a volunteer for the worship and missions teams at Church of the Resurrection. He helps lead worship at the Vibe, West, and Downtown services, and is involved with the Malawi missions team at home.

I have to say, Isaiah is one of my favorite books in the Bible. It’s no exaggeration to say that Isaiah 58 changed my life, and today’s passage (Isaiah 42) isn’t far behind. I didn’t get this message until later in life.

Throughout high school and college, I was a fighter. Coming out of a strict fundamentalist church, I was not afraid to call people out for whatever needed calling out. This led to some amazing breakthrough moments, but it also led to some spectacular failures more closely resembling a shouting match than an enlightened conversation. My conviction was inspiring for those already inclined to believe the same as me; but for those who disagreed, it left no room for civil discourse.

In those days, I saw in Jesus what I saw in myself: someone who called out sin boldly, someone who shouted until he was heard, who wasn’t afraid to get into fights no matter the cost.

But I was only half right. This passage in Isaiah is the one Jesus chose to announce his godhood. Jesus was a messiah who would not break even a bruised reed, would not extinguish even a smoldering wick. That’s not to say he couldn’t raise his voice when needed. But that’s just it–he only raised his voice when needed. It wasn’t his iron will or sharp wit that saved us; it was his love and faithfulness.

A personal hero of mine, Soren Kierkegaard, a 19th century Danish philosopher, wrote (and I’m paraphrasing, here): What this age needs isn’t another genius–we’ve had our fill of geniuses. What this age needs is a martyr, who would show us how to be faithful, even unto death. What this age needs is awakening.

This is reminiscent of Isaiah’s words in today’s passage: In faithfulness, he will bring forth justice. Remember, while will and wit are useful and worth developing, it is ultimately our love and faithfulness that will save our friends time and time again. Just as Isaiah wrote and Jesus lived out, it’s possible to achieve justice without so much as breaking a reed. Be the one who will show us how to be faithful, even unto death. Be the one who loves fearlessly, beyond human explanation. This will be the change we need in the world today.

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

10.26.15 – Insights from Cathy Bien

cathy-bien-gpsCathy Bien serves as the Director of Communications at Resurrection. She and her husband Rick have been members of the church for 20+ years and have four adult children.

The Old Testament prophets, Isaiah, Amos and Micah, sure didn’t sugarcoat it. They are pretty clear that the trappings of worship are not what pleases the Lord. Festivals, burnt offerings, public demonstrations – they mean nothing to a God who knows our true hearts and motives.

Amidst the prophets’ harsh condemnation is a very simple truth about what God expects:

“He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

So how do we do this? What does it look like?

The late John Wooden, UCLA basketball coach, is often quoted: “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

This could be a good test to apply to this verse. Are we demonstrating justice only when we have an audience? Do we talk about justice, but ignore the need right in front of us? How do we treat others when no one is looking? Is our worship for show or an expression of our love of God?

To walk humbly with God means that we are servants of God or as the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:1, “a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God.” God doesn’t want our burnt offerings, God wants our hearts.

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

10.24.15 – Insight From Denise Mersmann

Denise Mersmann serves as the Early Childhood Coordinating Assistant at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

Our family joined Resurrection in July of 1996, about two weeks before our second daughter, Caroline, was born. In October of that year Carrie passed away suddenly from leukemia that had not been diagnosed. Our family was in shock, our world had been rocked and our faith was shaken.

Within hours of Carrie’s death, we received a call from Pastor Adam that he would be coming to talk to us and help us make decisions about the funeral. By the time he arrived, people we had never met were dropping off food, offering to help in any way they could. Flowers and plants came from Kate’s Sunday school teachers and families of kids she had just met. The mom of a youth nursery volunteer called to say how heartbroken her daughter was. She had just gotten to hold Carrie the previous Sunday and wondered if it would be okay if they attended the visitation.

The next day our mailbox was filled with sympathy cards–some from people we knew, but mostly from people at our new church we had never met. Over the next couple of weeks our mailbox continued to be filled with cards and notes, signed “your COR family”, “prayers from a friend at Church of the Resurrection,” and “we haven’t met, but we go to your church.”

As we went through the days and weeks ahead adjusting to our new normal, we found that our “church family” (this group of strangers from the church that we were told would be too big for us to really get connected) had taken their time and put forth the effort to be stretcher bearers for our family.

Through the years we realized that during the darkest time of our lives, God had shown us His incredible mercy by putting us in a place where His people could show us His love in real, tangible ways. Not one person who supported us during this time did it because they had to. They did it because they know God’s grace and realize that His grace is more than enough for each of us. More importantly they know that by spreading His grace the world can be changed, one person at a time.

On Carrie’s eighteenth birthday, I pulled out the box with all those cards (over 400 total) and sat down to read the words that had carried and sustained my family many years before. As I read them and looked at the names of the strangers who had sent them, I found that most of these people weren’t strangers at all. Over the years, we have gotten to know many of the people who took the time to care for us. In fact, as I read the heartfelt message of one card I was not surprised to see the names at the bottom were a family that went from our “COR family” to our dearest friends.

You see, God knew that what we needed wasn’t just for the moment. We needed a church family that would celebrate with us, grieve with us, laugh and cry with us, and most of all live the example of what His grace looks like, so that we can one day share that grace with another family who needs it.

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

10.23.15 – Insights from Darren Lippe

Darren_LippeDarren Lippe helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 7th-grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group & a men’s group, and serves on the Curriculum team.

Last week in our 7th grade boys Sunday School class, we went through the list of the 12 Disciples, discussing each one’s claim to fame & how they helped the church survive & thrive for 2,000 years. To help them remember each Disciple we also included their respective Coat of Arms/Symbol. Peter has the keys to the church & the upside down cross. Andrew has the cross in the form of an X. Philip has the loaves of bread & cross.

peter.jpgandrew.jpgphilip.jpg

While some of the Disciples are well known: Peter, John, Thomas, and sadly Judas, I’ve always been more intrigued by the lesser-known Disciples. Their faith was just as commendable as the renowned ones, but somehow their sacrifices are too often overlooked. (Aside: I’ve always felt the bravest Disciples were those martyred after James, since they knew what was going to happen to them & yet still preached the Good News.)

Of course, the Disciples can prompt lots of humor:

  • What kind of car did the disciples drive? A Honda Accord, because as we read at one point they were no longer of one accord.
  • What is their favorite social media outlet? Twitter of course, because it is so easy to get followers.
  • What is Peter’s favorite kind of pie? Pumpkin.

Today’s passage is intriguing because of the 3 Christians identified: Titus, Brother #1, & Brother #2. (Note: Since Paul sometimes references fellow believers as “brother,” scholars debate whether they are indeed related.) Let’s look at them in reverse order:

Brother #2: We’ll call him, X. Am. He had been tested many times & found to be a zealous man of faith. X. Am had great optimistic confidence in the Corinthians, and was willing to make the journey to help those in need.

Brother #1: We’ll call him, Sir Mon. He was a high profile, charismatic preacher with a devoted following. Sir Mon was considered to be so trustworthy, that he was selected by the donating churches to accompany their love offering.

And then we have our friend, Titus. Titus was believed to be from Antioch & of Greek ancestry. He was converted to the faith by the Apostle Paul & served as his secretary & interpreter. He was not circumcised & was used as an example by Paul at the 1st Church Council in Jerusalem that Gentiles needn’t fulfill the Mosaic rites to be considered a follower of Christ; the acceptance of Christ should be the only requirement to be a member of the church.

Paul sent Titus to work with the church in Corinth & his work/teachings were well received. As our passage notes, Paul had absolute confidence in Titus’ integrity & faithfulness as Titus takes the initiative to organize collections for impoverished Christians in Jerusalem. To avoid any appearance of impropriety, Paul has the 2 brothers in faith accompany Titus – even though Paul had no doubts about Titus & his reliability.

Titus eventually ends up at a church in Crete, a very challenging assignment since Crete was known for its very loose morals. But Titus uses his strength of character to help redirect the wayward congregation & to help re-form the church’s leadership. Titus’ 20-year ministry would be marked by his ability to preserve the church’s direction in the face of difficult opposition. Titus was buried in Crete at the age of 94.

Interestingly, St. Titus is the patron saint of the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps & his name adorns the Order of Titus Award given to outstanding Army Chaplains &/or their Assistants for meritorious efforts in ministry.

While there is a popular premise that many of the leaders of the early church were just “ordinary” folks, who when empowered with the Holy Spirit, were able to accomplish “extraordinary” feats, I would submit that this contention sells these early champions of the faith a bit short. They weren’t ordinary. They were men/women of amazing character who, with God’s help, were able to achieve great things for the Kingdom.

We, too, can strive to be of reliable character as we stand ready to serve God’s Kingdom.  As I challenged the boys last Sunday, how would you describe someone of good character?  How might we become someone who is reliable & dependable?  What symbols might we put on our own Coat of Arms that depict what is important to us?  If you’d like to join in, a template is below.  Give it a try!

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MyCoatofArms

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

10.22.15 – Insights from Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality at Saint Paul School of Theology at OCU. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. For 25 years, Amy has taught theology and history, pursuing scholarship in service of the church.

When I was pregnant with my son and went into premature labor at 25 weeks, my doctor put me on full bed rest. I couldn’t do much for myself for weeks and that was really frustrating. My church pitched in to bring meals each day and that helped a lot. But I struggled to accept their help graciously. I wanted to do things for myself and be seen as self-sufficient and productive. I didn’t want to be seen as needing help or unable to “handle it.”

Most Christians I know are happy to carry another’s burdens, to reach out with help or support. What is more difficult for many of us is to share our own burdens with others or ask others to help us carry them. I am more ready to give help than to receive it. It can be hard for me to admit to my own needfulness so that others can help carry my burdens. I have to be honest, vulnerable, real.

I wonder if the church at Jerusalem was able to receive help from the Gentile churches easily, or if they resented it? Jerusalem was the mother-church, the one who sent out church-planters to these Gentiles. Now here they are receiving help, and from these outsider-Gentile-newcomers no less! The Jerusalem church could easily have pretended to be just fine, to be self-sufficient and not need anything.

The gospel tells us to carry each other’s burdens. The world tells us to handle things on our own. This message of self-sufficiency hardens our hearts to others’ needs as well as to our own. Perhaps the world-changing step for us as followers of Jesus is to be honest and real about our own burdens and let others help carry them.

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

10.21.15 – Insights from Wendy Connelly

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 8.55.49 PMWendy Connelly, wife to Mark and mom to Lorelei & Gryffin, is Community Outreach Director at the Leawood campus, a graduate student at Saint Paul School of Theology, Faith Walk columnist for the Kansas City Star, and co-leads the “Live and Let Think” dialogues at Resurrection Downtown.

This Sunday, I attended Chicago Temple, a gorgeous Methodist gem tucked among the skyscrapers of the Windy City. The pastor asked for visitors to stand and share where they were from.

“I’m Wendy, visiting from Church of the Resurrection, in Kansas,” I said on my turn.

Delightfully, the senior pastor exclaimed, “Welcome, Leawood, Kansas!” He knew our church.

As Outreach Director, I find myself frequently talking with people—clergy and laity alike—from other churches. Without fail, they share the warmest sentiments about their interactions with Church of the Resurrection. I love collaborating with other churches on behalf of Resurrection, sharing ideas and forging new bonds. “Our win is your win, and your win, ours,” I say, because ultimately, the glory belongs to God.

When you think of other churches, or see a new church plant coming to town, what’s your personal reaction? Do you feel a twinge of competition, or rather, a spirit of genuine  celebration? There is no competition in the Body of Christ. Ultimately, differences aside, we are one holy catholic church, ushering in the reign of God, together. Let’s champion one another.

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