Monthly Archives: January 2016

01.30.16 – Insights from Lori Trupp

Lori_TruppLori Trupp is the Director of Children’s Ministries at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “Unity has never meant uniformity.” Often times the word unity is misrepresented, implying lack of diversity. In our scripture passage today, we read in Ephesians 2:16 that we belong to “one body.” Nowhere do we read that the only way to be part of “one body” is to look, think, or act exactly alike. Our unity lies in the diversity of each person coming together to be one body of believers, unified under God as the unique people he created us to be. In fact, I believe that it is in our variety and differences that the whole is made stronger, in our case the whole body of believers.

What unifies us is that we are God’s people. And as God’s people, we are called to tear down the walls that divide. But how do we do this? Through the power of God’s love, that’s how.

We know that perfect love comes from God. We know that we love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19) and that God loved us enough to send his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. We know that the greatest commandment is to love God, and to love others. We know that God’s love is the most powerful force in the universe. We know that God loves us sacrificially, and we are called to love sacrificially in his name. We know that when we receive and give God’s love, love is greater than hate. It is this love that has the power to tear down walls, to bring unity as “one body,” and to help us embrace the uniqueness and diversity of “one body” at the same time.

“From amidst diversified and often warring creeds: over a vast span of history: in the language of many a tribe and many a nation: out of the mouths of the learned and simple, the lowly and great: despite oceans of bloodshed, and torturing inhumanities, and persecutions unspeakable – the single voice of a greater humanity rises confidently to heaven, saying “We adore Thee, who are One and who art Love: and it is in unity and love that we would live together, doing Thy will.” –Victory Gollancz

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

01.29.16 – 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.

With all the preparations needed for today’s parties & celebrations, we’ll keep this Insight short & sweet. (If only. Wait. What celebration? – Editor.) Today is Kansas Day – commemorating Kansas’ statehood on January 29, 1861. (Having a Dad as a docent at the Kansas Museum of History helps you keep track of these milestones.)

Being a Kansan means having to deal with a variety of mundane stereotypes: Yes, we know you think Kansas is flat. Our state tree is the Cottonwood – not a telephone pole. No, we don’t live in constant fear of tornadoes. And yes, we are quite familiar with the “Wizard of Oz” – you do realize it is just a movie, not a documentary, right? (Clicking one’s heels to return to Kansas only works for Dorothy. Seemingly, I always have to make a tight connection through the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport.)

I tend to read with great trepidation when a coastal journalist deigns to parachute into flyover country to see what makes us tick (& to garner a Pulitzer Prize entry.) It seems to read like an excerpt from Gorillas in the Mist:

“I drove up to the County Fair not knowing what to expect. I took note of the lush vegetation. They said it was “wheat.” The younger males seemed to be at play. It appeared to be similar to a game we call “soccer.” They fed me charred, smoky meat smothered in a reddish sauce. They said it was “burnt-ends.”…My time was almost up. I will miss them. Those Kansans in the Field.”

Of course being a person of faith also means dealing with lame labels, mistaken impressions, & attempts to pigeon hole our beliefs into a 30-second sound bite or an 8-word screen-crawl.

Sadly, this isn’t anything new. In today’s passage, Peter is trying to help his readers cope with a culture that has a very hostile & distorted view of Christianity. Early Christianity, popularly considered a sect of Judaism, faced the usual virulent anti-Semitic attacks. The early church was accused of damaging the economy (think of the Christian disdain for man-made idols), of breaking up families, of turning slaves against their masters, & of being disloyal to Caesar & his government.

Peter suggests that the best defense of our Christian faith is to live a Godly life that is beyond reproach. Peter’s counsel echoes the great philosopher Plato’s response to slander: “I will live in such a way that no one will believe what he says.” Or as one sage put it, “A saint is someone whose life makes it easier to believe in God.”

So, as we get ready for our Kansas-Day-Themed parties, how do we live out our faith in a pluralistic society that recognizes many different religious beliefs?

First, we should avoid the shortcut of stereotypes. As our Christian brethren of 2,000 years ago would agree, stereotypes are typically based on limited information & usually represent an outlying percentage – not the norm. Further, I would submit that we would do well to recognize that the free exchange of theological ideas is healthy for our own faithwalk; it forces us to ponder what we believe & why and makes us consider how we might discuss our faith in a reasonable & gentle manner. Oh, and maybe we should strive to be a bit more humble in our faith journey – not be quite so sensitive to every perceived slight.

In that light, I conclude with the following self-deprecating statehood humor:

emerald-dorothy-and-toto-pl

Dorothy: I miss Kansas

Toto: I miss Foreigner, Rush, & Styx

Huh? – Editor. See, “Kansas” was a popular rock band from the 1970’s. Toto misunderstands Dorothy’s lament & notes he misses other 1970 rock bands like, Foreigner, etc. Hence, the amusement.

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

01.28.16 – Insights from Janelle Gregory

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

As a human resources professional, I tend to have a strong sense of fairness and justice, implementing what most of us learned in preschool – If you bring a cookie for one person in the class, you have to bring cookies for the entire class.

This concept makes sense, doesn’t it? Of course it does… in theory.

But as Christians, we have the inclination to hand out the cookie of God’s love to those we pick cookiesand choose. Of course I’ll take that cookie for myself. I’ll be generous to give you a cookie too (you’re welcome), and there will be cookies for others who are like us. We’re also taught to make sure that those who are marginalized and oppressed get God’s love cookies, so we hand them out to those who are homeless, sick, victimized, and beaten down.

At this point we’re handing out cookie after cookie after cookie, doing our best Oprah impression, pointing and saying, “You get God’s love! You get God’s love! You get God’s love! EVERYONE GETS GOD’S LOVE!!!”

At least that’s how it feels. But as we’re handing out the cookie of God’s love to the teenage boy targeted by racial hatred, we’ll suddenly hide the cookie tray when it comes to the racist man committing the abhorrent crime against him. This man doesn’t deserve the cookie of God’s love.

We’ve drawn the line. God’s love doesn’t go THAT far.

At least we don’t want it to. How could it? We separate out those we’ve designated to be the “evil ones,” those whose sins look different or have a “greater harmful impact” than ours. They don’t get cookies.

But if we go down this route, how do we know when the “cookie allowance” starts? At what point do you start getting cookies? No cookies for the corrupt dictator, but what about the power-hungry politician providing some good for his/her community? Or do cookies start at those who cheat a little on their taxes? How do we know?

We couldn’t, and thankfully we don’t have to. Whether we think it’s right or not, God has brought cookies for the entire class. No matter if you are oppressed, the oppressor, or somewhere in between, God’s love and mercy can reach you.

I don’t believe that this means God looks the other way while his people are being hurt. Certainly, no. But it does mean that the depths and breadths of God’s love go far beyond what we might imagine. Do we need to be cautious not to enable the wrongdoing of others? Absolutely. But in doing so, we must approach them, not from a place of vengeance or retaliation, but with a sense of knowing that we all equally receive the cookie.

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

01.27.15 – Insights from Angela LaVallie

Angela_LaVallieAngela LaVallie is the Program Director for Funerals and Prayer at Resurrection. She oversees funerals and Memorial services here at the church and assists with special prayer events.

I think one of the hardest things for most of us to remember is that God created and loves all people. It doesn’t matter how someone is different from us, those differences easily separate us. We gravitate toward those who are similar to us in some way – those who look like us, have similar jobs or educational backgrounds, have similar interests and hobbies, or are in a similar life situation.

There are a lot of benefits to bonding with and appreciating those who are similar to us. But, as we all already know, there is also danger in segregating ourselves. The more we associate only with those who are similar to us, the more uncomfortable we’ll be when we’re around those who are different from us. When we’re uncomfortable, we begin to fear. And when we’re afraid, we’re more likely to attack (verbally, emotionally, or physically).

Lieutenant Colonel Brian Steed, who spoke at last week’s forum on Islamic extremism and whom Pastor Adam mentioned in last weekend’s sermon, put forth the challenge for people of faith (all faiths) to refrain from criticizing other faiths and instead be the best representatives of their own faith so that, ideally, only the positive sides of different faith traditions will shine and make the world a better place overall. As Christians, if we focus on sharing God’s love and letting God’s light shine through us and loving others as Jesus taught us, we’re doing our part to make the world a better place. This is not to say we are agreeing with others’ beliefs or actions. We can love and respect others even if we don’t agree with them.

Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants too.” Those people who are different – in any way – from us are God’s children the same as we are. When we focus on that one similarity, I think it can help us to begin to overcome the discomfort and fear that can lead to separation and violence.

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

01.26.16 – Insights from Courtney Felzke

Courtney_FelzkeCourtney Felzke is Pastor of Silver Link. Resurrection’s Silver Link Ministry serves senior adults who become unable to fully engage in the life of the church, including those who are physically frail or suffering from dementia. Courtney seeks to maintain a connection with all such Resurrection participants through pastoral care and worship.

“God heard the boy’s cries” (Genesis 21:17).

After reading these words, I’m reminded  that we need to cry out to God, if we expect God to respond. Last week we observed Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. One of the hymn’s Dr. King absolutely loved and which gave him hope was “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” The writer of this song, Thomas Dorsey, wrote the words to this hymn after losing his wife and son. After these losses Dorsey found himself in a place of depression and felt he was alone in the world. However, Dorsey was able to find healing as his church community encouraged him to give his pain to God. As Dorsey cried out to God, giving all of his emotions to God, he found healing. In order for God to hear our cries and have a chance to respond, we must first call out to God. We must release to God all we’re feeling and holding in our hearts.

To watch a video in which Thomas Dorsey described how he came to write “Precious Lord,” click here.

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

01.25.16 – Insights from Roberta Lyle

Roberta_LyleRoberta Lyle has been on the Resurrection staff since 2006. She oversees the Collection Ministry, coordinating the donations of clothing, beds, food, furnishings, cars and computers and re-purposing them through our ministry partners to provide to those in need in our community.

The questions included with today’s Scripture reading asked whether the headline grabbing acts of one small group of “Christians” should be considered representative of all Christians. The acts of this small group certainly receive a lot of media attention not only locally but nationally. This question made me think about the number of times in a day that we read statements like the following:

“”The views expressed here are not necessarily the views of the management.”

“All content provided herein is for informational purposes only. The owner makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site.”

“Our company accepts no liability for the content of this email, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided .“

I’m not an attorney but I believe the purpose of a disclaimer is to make it clear when someone is about to provide information about a topic that they are not necessarily qualified to give or are stating a personal opinion. These disclaimers are attached to everything from corporate emails to health claims to editorial opinions. Wouldn’t it be great if there could be some huge disclaimer banner included in every news story about outrageously hurtful acts done in the name of Christianity? Something that would alert everyone that these acts were carried out by a tiny group of individuals and this hatred bears no resemblance to the Jesus who gave his life as a ransom for all our sins?

I appreciated last week’s opportunity at the forum hosted at Resurrection to hear from Mahnaz Shabbir, who frequently speaks on behalf of the Islamic Community and was one of my professors at Baker University’s School of Business. Ms. Shabbir stated that, that while the Islamic community is vocal in its response to the acts of extremists, their responses tend to get buried. Join me in being more diligent in seeking out and listening to their voices so we will have a better understanding of the true nature of the Muslim religion.

(If you’d like to watch the forum that took place last Tuesday, click here.)

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

01.23.16 – Insights from Dave Pullin

Dave Pullin serves as the Director of Technical Arts at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. The Technical Arts ministry handles all audio/ visual/technical support for the church including worship services and events.

“…belonging to God’s kingdom means that our ultimate allegiance is not to any earthly country or ruler, but to God’s kingdom and its principles.”

It was the summer of 1996 when I met Dzan (pronounced john). We were both in our early twenties, and from the outside we seemed pretty similar, two young guys with their lives ahead of them. On the inside, however, because of our life experiences, we couldn’t have been more different. You see, he fought in the trenches for 3 years during the Bosnian War, a war that completely ravaged his home, his friends, and his family. And that changes a person.

Following the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement in 1995, humanitarian aid organizations were officially allowed into Bosnia. In coordination with UMCOR, I spent nearly 3 months in Bosnia and Herzegovina working to coordinate & assist reconstruction efforts as well as establish interim schools and ‘Youth Houses,’ all of which were a means to better facilitate mediation and rehabilitation for those remaining in the war-torn country.

Dzan and I connected immediately. He’d learned English from bootlegged and subtitled American movies, so he was one of our interpreters. The communication gap vanished and was filled with constant conversations about American movies, music and all things pop-culture. Over time though, our conversations deepened, and he began to share more and more of his story.

Dzan is a Muslim who grew up in a small town in the central part of the country. This town was unique in that there were a relatively equal number of Muslim Bosniaks, Orthodox Serbs, and Catholic Croats (the 3 primary ethnicities), all living together and among each other in this town. Before the war, life was all intermingled–there were no boundaries or lines. A Croat taught school to Serbs and Bosniaks alike. People intermarried and had multiracial children. Dzan’s parents lived in a relatively nice home, and were good friends with many of those from different backgrounds. Neither ethnicity nor religion mattered, at least not until 1992. But on June 20th of that year, everything changed.

Gornji Vakuf, where Dzan and his family lived, was one of the towns where the fighting began. It was a strategic stronghold for supply lines, and it was targeted from the beginning. It became quickly evident that the Muslims were the primary target, yet what unfolded astounded Dzan. The people he knew–his close friends, his teachers, the grocery store clerk, his father’s employees, even some of his extended relatives–all of those from a different background joined ranks with their ethnic country. It was no longer the city of Gornji Vakuf fighting together as an outside enemy approached. The city began fighting against itself. Over time, they tore themselves completely apart.

Dzan described to me how everyone practically lived in ski masks for nearly 3 years. Since the fighting was in such close quarters, people didn’t want to be recognized. When I asked him why, he told me that everyone there knew each other, and no one wanted to imagine what life would be like after the war; what it would be like if others knew who it was that pulled the trigger. Listening to him describe the atrocities he witnessed was difficult, but I could not even fathom the amount of relational pain and agony Dzan had endured, and continues to.

I realize this war was anything but simplistic. There have been numerous wars in the former Yugoslavia over the centuries, and the politics surrounding them all are quite overwhelming. But I tell you part of Dzan’s story because I often wonder: what would have happened if all of the Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians and Muslims living in Gornji Vakuf in 1992 had decided to offer a higher allegiance to God (and His corresponding principles), rather than to their country or race of origin? Would anything have changed? Perhaps not. But set aside for a moment the religious differences between the three groups, and focus more on what it means to place God before country, especially when country seems to directly contradict God’s wishes, regardless of religion.

I have often thought about the juxtaposition of my aim of living out the Christian faith while at the same time being a dedicated patriot. Most of the time it seems there is little conflict between the two, but perhaps I am being naive. As I look more closely, it doesn’t seem to be so clear. I used to think that when I disagreed with American politics or a decision the government made, distancing myself from (and blaming) the offending political party was the “go to” answer. I’d just shove my head in the sand and wait for it to pass by. But as a person of faith who has been given clear instructions on how to treat others, I don’t think I can plead ignorance any longer and pretend that Jesus didn’t tell me to love my enemies as well as my neighbors, which is pretty much everybody in existence.  That is the ultimate message that I have chosen to promote, yet I often find reasons and excuses not to.

I hope and pray that I never face a situation as horrific as Dzan had to endure. Few of us reading this ever will. But I do think we are faced, on a daily basis, with the opportunity to place our allegiance to God’s Kingdom higher than to our own country (or to our business, or to our self). For me, that means identifying and changing the areas of my life that might not align with the teachings of Jesus: the way I treat people I don’t like, the way I don’t speak against the injustices I see, the integrity of my thoughts, they way I spend my money, they way I talk to my kids and my spouse when I’m angry. Or the way I blame the state of our nation’s politics on a particular leader or group when I have not taken an active role in educating myself and voicing my opinions to my state’s representatives.

The way I see it, giving my full allegiance to God’s Kingdom means that regardless of the policies that end up being passed into law, I am still instructed to love everyone, not just those the government or the media tells me are worth loving, or those who are convenient for me to love–but everyone, which honestly can be quite difficult sometimes. Perhaps this may all be a bit idealistic, but isn’t the pursuit of God’s Kingdom here on earth an ideal we should be striving to make a reality? If I am honest with myself, the answer is an absolute “yes.” Yet selfishly I don’t like the implications that has on my lifestyle. I like being comfortable. But then I remember Dzan and think about how easily comforts can be lost or taken away when our primary allegiances are to a country looking for power rather than to a Kingdom looking for love.

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

01.22.16 – Insights from Ginger Rothhaas

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

In scriptures from Deuteronomy and Leviticus, the Hebrew word we translate as sojourner, alien, or stranger (depending on your Bible version) is the single word guwr that in Hebrew means, “to dwell for a time, to abide, temporarily stay.”

Aren’t we all dwelling here on earth for a time, on a temporary stay?

In Thomas Merton’s book New Seeds of Contemplation, there is a chapter titled “We Are One Man.” This title says it all, but read with me the words of Merton from this chapter (maybe a couple of times, and it helps to read it out loud):

“The more I become identified with God, the more will I be identified with all the others who are identified with Him. His Love will live in all of us. His Spirit will be our One Life, the Life of all of us and the Life of God. And we shall love one another and God with the same Love with which He loves us and Himself. This love is God Himself.

Christ prayed that all men might become One as he was One with His Father, in the Unity of the Holy Spirit. Therefore when you and I become what we are really meant to be, we will discover not only that we love one another perfectly but that we are both living in Christ and Christ in us, and we are all One Christ. We will see that it is He Who loves in us.”

I had to read it a few times too! But I have come to love these words the more I read them.

“His Love will live in all of us.” That’s you and me and every single human on the planet, filled with God’s love.

These words of Merton’s especially give me hope: “when you and I become what we are really meant to be, we will discover not only that we love one another perfectly, but that we are both living in Christ and Christ in us.”

To me, Merton is saying, when we each find our Divine Purpose and calling, when we become what we were made to be, we will stop judging, blaming, and closing our hearts. We will be fully living into our own potential and we will want that for every other person too.

It is when we are fully accepting God’s unconditional love and serving God wholeheartedly that we can show unconditional love to others.

Are you becoming what you are really meant to be? I’m working on it too.

Soon, we will realize we can love one another perfectly as we live in Christ and Christ in us.

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

01.21.16 – 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.

The GPS for today asks you to think of a time in your life that was vulnerable or difficult.

“You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9). In this scripture, “resident aliens” refers to foreigners who were living among the Israelites–in their midst, but as outsiders. When did you feel like an outsider? Maybe you were traveling abroad and couldn’t speak the language. Maybe you were the only person of your race in a group. Maybe you were new at work or at school. Recall that experience right now, and see what feelings or sensations arise in you. Anxiety? Loneliness? Frustration? Excitement?

Most of us can immediately get in touch with the feeling of being the stranger. Where do you feel it in your body? In the pit of your stomach? Maybe a tightening in your chest or throat? A tension in your shoulders? Or maybe an overall feeling of nerves? Our bodies carry these memories viscerally and help us understand God’s concern in this scripture about outsiders.

In fact, the experience of being the stranger is almost universal. Everyone has felt like an outsider at some moment in life. The Bible tells us to remember this experience, because it’s crucial to a faithful life.

The act of remembering helps us to see God at work. Otherwise, we are prone to think we have created our own lives and to credit ourselves for everything we have. We are prone to forget God. Let the physical sensations in your body help you remember God. Lean into this body prayer–whatever you experience–and let it help you remember God.

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

01.20.16 – Insights from Kari Burgess

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

Recently, I started following a blog on Facebook called “Humans of New York.” The writer of this blog, Brandon Stanton, posts a daily photo of an everyday New Yorker and generally includes a quote or short story about the person. It started out as a quest by the creator to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers as a sort of catalogue or cross-section of the city’s inhabitants. It has become a social media phenomenon with over 16 million followers giving “daily glimpses into the lives of strangers in New York City.” Brandon now has published two books which are collections of the photos and stories.

When I started following HONY (as it’s known), Brandon was visiting Pakistan and highlighting the stories and living conditions of everyday people there. I was curious and intrigued to learn about people living in a country which was completely foreign and mysterious to me. The more I read, the more the people of Pakistan became “human” to me. Real. People just like me, but living and working in tragic conditions and in a reality so different from mine. I was hooked. As interesting as it was to follow an eclectic group of everyday people from New York and gain a little insight and background, it felt important to read about the people of Pakistan.

Since then, Brandon has also traveled across Europe talking to refugees and migrants fleeing the conflict in Syria and Iran. During this time, each day, I would await a photo and story to come across my Facebook feed. It was fascinating, eye-opening and heartbreaking to learn about the struggles of these people – many of them very well educated and previously middle-class, now living in a foreign land with an uncertain future.

The blog has also inspired some amazing humanitarian work. Several fundraisers have been started as a result of a particular issue being highlighted by the blog – for Hurricane Sandy victims, for a New York principal investing in the future of her students and others. Nearly $5 million was raised in 2015 for various fundraisers started as a result of a cause raised by HONY. Most recently, a petition in support for the appeal process of a Syrian refugee who had been denied resettlement had almost 1 million signatures. And one of Brandon’s refugee subjects was invited as a guest to the recent State of the Union Address.

What does all of this have to do with Psalm 82? “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.” For me, “Humans of New York” has made these stories personal. Some of the issues we see on the news can seem so far away, about a culture which seems so foreign and almost unreal. It can be easy to skim over the headlines or not be deeply affected by the sound bites on the news. Reading HONY when it was following refugees and people in Pakistan urged me to dig into the issues more deeply, to do my own research to understand them better, to read information on both sides of these important issues. “Humans of New York” gives a voice to the voiceless.

There are many credible blogs, investigative reporting sources and news stories out there. (I’m certain there are plenty of non-credible sources to watch out for too). Whether it is “Humans of New York” or another source, I believe it is important to read stories of real people involved in any number of important subjects. Once invested in someone’s personal story, we can see them as God sees them – not as a statistic or a faceless problem, but a real person God knows, loves and cares for dearly. People whom we as Christians are called to care about and advocate for. I encourage you to do your research, make it personal and get involved.

(Fair warning: Should you choose to check out “Humans of New York,” please be aware there is occasionally some colorful language and adult content. And while I generally find the community supportive and positive, I have also seen some negative rhetoric in the comments section, particularly as it pertains to Christianity.)

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