Monthly Archives: February 2016

02.29.16 – Insights from Donna Karlen

dkarlengpsDonna Karlen serves in Communications at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

The feeding of the 5,000. It’s one of the most oft-repeated of the Jesus miracle stories. So let’s put ourselves in the scene.

Smell the sea air. Hear the unceasing noise of 5,000 people talking, laughing – probably complaining about the lack of food vendors. Feel the crowd pressing in on you – 5,000 was only counting the men – so actually there could have been 20,000 with women and children. Maybe you’re one of those women and you’re wondering what you were thinking this morning when you didn’t throw some granola bars and juice boxes in a bag to bring for your kids who are whining about how hungry they are. You didn’t plan on being here this long, but you’re drawn to this Jesus and can’t pull yourself away lest you miss some amazing thing he says or does.

Think about your stomach rumbling with hunger. You’re annoyed that there are SO MANY PEOPLE – maybe wondering why you bothered to come since you can’t even see Jesus. Maybe you’re one of the people Jesus had healed – the last thing you want to do is complain about being hungry. After all, the man made it possible for you to walk again!

Think about how Philip must feel more than hunger in the pit of his stomach when Jesus turns to him and asks, “Where will we buy food to feed these people?” Wait – what? Was that my job?! You’re Andrew: even though you’ve seen Jesus make the blind see, the deaf hear and the lame walk, you still express your doubts about the possibility of anything being done to feed this crowd any time soon. Or what if you’re the youth who possesses the five barley loaves and two fish. You were kind of looking forward to chowing down on your own lunch, and yet you want to help out this man who is changing lives right before your eyes! What if you’re one of the people close enough to witness the miracle of Jesus multiplying those barley loaves and fish. Whoa – how’d he do that?! What’s he gonna do next? Walk on water?!

Yes, that and more. He will go to the cross and feed us all with the bread of eternal life.

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

02.27.16 – Insights from Darrell Holtz

Darrell Holtz serves as Program Director for Adult Curriculum and Writing at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

I have the privilege of leading a new Grow Night class we call “Meet Your Bible.” Anyone is welcome, but the class is particularly meant to give people who aren’t very familiar with the Bible an overview of both the Old and New Testament Scriptures, along with some insight into the kinds of tools found in a good study Bible (like, but not limited to, the CEB Study Bible) to deepen a reader’s understanding of the Bible’s message.

I’ve had the chance, once again, to experience the truth of the old saying that “the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else.” Practically every week, as I prepare for another Tuesday evening session, I gain greater awareness of the spiritual power that courses through the Bible. Practically every week, I’m reminded of how important it is that we read the Bible, not blindly or thoughtlessly, but with our minds and our hearts fully engaged in listening for what God wants to say to us.

Today’s Scripture holds many beautiful truths Jesus taught. In just one of them, he corrected some of the biggest Bible “experts” who ever lived. Here’s how Eugene Petersen rendered the passage in The Message:

“You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want” (John 5:39-40).

I try to convey Jesus’ message–“These Scriptures are all about me!”–by sharing with “Meet Your Bible” participants that, ultimately, the “hero” of every story, of every part of the Bible is not Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Paul, Peter, Luke, etc. As we read the Bible, the hero of the story is always God. If we read with the correct focus, the focus Jesus taught, then we find God

–patiently, persistently working with whatever human material is available
–never giving up
–embodied (“incarnate”) in Jesus – Jesus IS God
–always with us in the Holy Spirit – the Holy Spirit IS God
–reigning triumphant, and always with God’s people in restored closeness, at the story’s end

So, as long as Resurrection gives me the opportunity, the honor, of writing and teaching and sharing, I pray that God will help me to convey as clearly as possible what Jesus wanted so urgently to convey to the people of his day–“These Scriptures are all about me!” And I pray you’ll find him as you read the Bible every day, during Lent and beyond.

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

02.26.16 – 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.

Being an armchair archaeologist, I’ve long been fascinated by the study of archaeology & how it can add background & context to our study of the Bible. Today, I thought we could “visit” with Dr. Xavier Cavation about Jesus’ healing of the paralytic.

DL: What is it like to be an archaeologist?

X. Cavation: Well, it isn’t as glamorous as the movies portray. For example, I have never worn a pith helmet & I rarely punch out Nazi’s during my digs. Since we archaeologists do enjoy dating other people so much, it is hard to be in a long-term relationship and, sadly, our career paths are mostly in ruins.

DL: I had no idea. So what is your view on today’s passage?

X. Cavation: I love this story. John gives us so much detail; it is like candy for any scholar of the Biblical era. We know Jesus is in Jerusalem for a Jewish festival; adding credence to Jesus’ contention that He came to fulfill the law – not destroy it. He is at a pool called Bethesda that is surrounded by 5 colonnades near the Sheep Gate.

This site was first excavated in 1888. Early scholars contended that John’s description was error-filled or just invented. For example, the 5 colonnades didn’t make sense. There would be a colonnade on each side of the pool, but there weren’t any 5-sided pools known from that era.

This theory was challenged during a dig at the site in 1956 when archaeologists unearthed a rectangular pool with a portico on each side AND a 5th one dividing the pool into 2 compartments. We have also gathered evidence that the generations post-Christ, believed this same pool had healing powers for their ailments.

DL: What is your take on this miraculous healing?

X. Cavation: It is true. The Jewish leaders unwittingly provide the corroboration to the miracle. They confront a man, known to be invalid for 38 years, for walking around & carrying his mat on the Sabbath. He plainly tells them that he was told to do this by the man who had healed him. Yet, they don’t confront the authenticity of the miracle; rather, they challenge Jesus on the side issue of working on the Sabbath. (This may seem odd to us today, but remember the Jewish community’s identity back then revolved around 3 practices: circumcision, food laws, & honoring the Sabbath.)

DL: So what does this miracle mean for us today?

X. Cavation: There are two parties to every miracle. Jesus asks the man if he wants to be healed. Jesus cannot heal our brokenness if we don’t want to change. Secondly, Jesus tells our friend to get up. The man could have just said it was impossible; but he still tried. Likewise, we may view some task before us as impossible (having a heart for forgiveness, braving a mission trip, or even sharing our faith with a friend), but nothing is impossible with God. Finally, the man’s mat had been his personal burden for 38 years. (Oh, how he must have loathed that mat as he stared at it day after day.) Yet, with Jesus’ encouragement our friend’s burden became manageable & no longer defined him. Regardless of our ailment(s), we never have to suffer alone.

 DL: Thanks for your time. Before we go, what has been your most unusual find?

X. Cavation: I was on a Mayan dig site in Central America. I was hoping to find their infamous calendar; however, it turned out to be just an ancient Mayan colander.

DL: Oh.

X. Cavation: Yeah. All it said was “pour in corn & drain.” That was the worst case of Irritable Trowel Syndrome I ever had.

DL: Ugh.

X. Cavation: Oh well, that’s archaeology. Sometimes your “great find” is just humerus:


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

02.25.16 – Insights from Janelle Gregory

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

Bad assumptions are an easy mistake to make. For instance, you probably thought this post was written by Janelle. In fact, it was written by her husband, Brandon. (Surprise!)

Speaking of assumptions, I was working on the family computer a few weeks back when my son walked into the room.

“What are you doing?” he asked me.

“The computer’s not working,” I said. “I’m trying to fix it.”

“It’s probably because I play too much Minecraft,” he said.

“No, that’s not it.”

“It’s probably because that controller is plugged in,” he said, pointing at a controller on the ground.

“No, that’s not it either.

“It’s probably because that program is open.”

He continued to point at things that were happening at the same time as the computer’s bad behavior, none of them being the actual cause.

People are funny. We’re hard-wired to look for causation patterns. When two things happen together, we frequently assume a causal relationship between the two. Social psychologists will remind us that correlation is not causation, but that doesn’t stop us from spotting the correlation and making assumptions.

In the example with my son, when given a problem, he began looking around at his immediate surroundings to look for a possible cause. But we’re adults. We don’t do that. Right?

Question: How many times have you wanted a friend to come to know God, so you invited them to church? If you do this more often than not, you’re doing the same thing as the man in today’s passage. He had seen God at work before, and it had always happened in a very particular way.

Just like Jesus can heal from anywhere–he doesn’t have to be next to the sick person–God can work anywhere. People can experience God anywhere. That’s not to say that inviting someone to church is a bad thing–the church can be a great place to experience God. But we can falsely make the assumption that people can only meet God in churches. See? Correlation is not causation.

Where we frequently fall into this trap is in our prayer life. We can assume that God will answer our prayers the same way he has in the past. God points in a direction, we pick a destination. God points at a person, we pick the kind of relationship we want to have. We do this based on our experiences; but the reality is that God is bigger than any pattern we can conceive. He is not bound by any laws or rules–his ways are higher. Remember, God can act anywhere, and answer our prayers in totally unexpected ways. We have to be open to listening even once we think the path becomes clear, because the path usually ends up looking a lot different than we initially imagine it to be.

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

02.24.16 – Insights from Jennifer Creagar

Jennifer Creagar facilitates the Prayer Ministry and coordinates the Financial Care and Assistance ministries. She is married, has three great kids and three perfect grandchildren who she loves spending time with, and she enjoy writing and photography.

In John Chapter 4, Jesus travels through Samaria on his way back to Galilee. It wasn’t the usual way for a Jew to make that trip (they used to avoid Samaria whenever possible), but there was a reason Jesus made this detour. Lives were about to be changed through his encounter with a woman he would meet there. The Samaritan woman Jesus meets at Jacob’s Well intrigues me, because I see in her the same traits that make us all so very human, especially the longing to be connected – to be known.

This woman was most likely a social outcast. Fives time she was married–connected to a husband and a family and a home–and five times she was cast away from that relationship and those connections. When she meets Jesus at the well, she has settled for whatever protection and connection she can get from a man who doesn’t even care enough to marry her. She has come to the well at noon, in the heat of the day, when all the other women are not likely to be there. She probably passed them as they sat together in the shade taking time for rest and community while she walked to the well. She knew she wasn’t welcome. She is adrift and isolated by things she has done and things that have happened to her.

And then here is this man, a stranger and a Jew, hanging out at the well and he wants to talk to her. What he says interests her enough that she continues the conversation. He tells her about the gift of God and living water, about eternal life. Then he tells her about the details of her life, and reveals himself as a prophet and more. He plainly tells her that he is the Messiah she and her people have been waiting for, just as the Jews have.

What intrigues me most about this woman is that, when she leaves to tell her story, she doesn’t run down the street shouting “I just met the Messiah!” She says, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!” What touched her most, more than even the words about living water and eternal life, was that this man knew her. He was connected to her in a way she couldn’t even understand, but knew was true. Jesus reached out and touched her in her humanity, and then she was ready to hear and believe that he was her Savior. Over the next two days, many more people experienced Jesus themselves and came to believe.

We are all marginalized, different or outcast in some way, and Jesus reaches out from his holy identity and tells us that he knows us. What’s more, he wants us to know him! Jesus doesn’t come to us as some encased-in-gold deity who watches and judges from afar. He wants to know us and tell us about ourselves. He wants to give us the gift of knowing and being known by God – “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (4:14).

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

02.23.16 – 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.

As I read the GPS for today, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of us have strengthened our relationships with Jesus as we’ve gone through dark points in our life.

I was one who was baptized as a baby, confirmed in 8th grade, and active in youth group in high school. I came to know Jesus early in life, but it wasn’t until I found myself in a place of darkness that I felt as though I truly came to KNOW Jesus. I remember how much my relationship with Jesus strengthened in this dark time in my life when I felt lonely, confused, helpless, and frustrated with myself. I struggled to express to my friends and family what I was feeling, so I leaned greatly on God during this time in my life. I remember saying breath prayers over and over again; praying “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It was in my place of darkness, that I truly came to know the light and life in which Jesus offers. As I prayed these breath prayers I felt God’s peaceful presence with me. When I felt lonely and sad God would remind me that I wasn’t alone, that I needed to simply express all I was feeling to God. God was the constant in my life when all else around me was changing.

I know when we’re in times of darkness it may be hard to turn to God. In fact, our dark places may cause us to be angry with God. However, I would encourage us to turn to God in these times–even if this means yelling at God. God can handle yelling and anger. The important part is turning to God. I truly believe we can strengthen our relationship with God even in the midst of the most difficult circumstances. Reach out to God, let God help you through whatever it is you might be going through. If we’re open and receptive to receive all that God has to offer, God will bring light and life to even the darkest of situations.

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

02.22.16 – 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.

Today’s Bible passage in John is the familiar story about Jesus performing his first miracle or sign, transforming water into wine at the wedding feast. Jesus does this only after asked to do so by his mother. While little information is given about why Mary turns to Jesus and asks him to do something about the situation, I used to read the story and assume that Mary was asking Jesus to perform a miracle. Now, as a mom of two grown sons, I feel tenderness for Mary and imagine her as a mother who, proud of the man her son has become and with total faith in his abilities and resourcefulness turns to him and says: “Jesus, our dear friends will be so embarrassed if people know they’ve run out of wine. Please figure out a way to fix this for them.”

I don’t know if Mary was hoping Jesus would do something miraculous to remedy the situation or if she was just hoping he would see a practical solution. In fact, Jesus doesn’t say any magical words or do anything more than ask the servants to fill the water jars and then take some out and serve it to the head steward, who not only confirms that it’s wine but exclaims that it is wine of the best quality.

However, as Pastor Glen reminded us in his sermon, if we look only on the surface of the material John includes in his gospel we really miss the whole point of the gospel. The water that Jesus transformed was the water used for Jewish purification rites. John wants us to see clearly that Jesus offers a new way to salvation; a way that offers joy and abundant life through faith in him. The transformative work Jesus began at that wedding feast so long ago continues today in and through us as long as we open or hearts and invite him in.

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

02.20.16 – Insights from Dave Robertson

Dave_RobertsonDave Robertson is the Director of Community Life at The Church of the Resurrection’s West Campus.

In the Daily Study Bible series commentary, William Barclay describes how John’s Gospel was written to a much different looking audience than the first three Gospels. By the time John writes his Gospel, the vast majority of the church came from a non-Jewish, Greek-speaking, Gentile background. This is one of the reasons John’s Gospel is written like it is. The philosopher Plato pictured the world we live in as just a shadow or reflection of the real world. Jesus, having come from the real world, gives us glimpses of what the real world actually looks like.

When John presents Jesus being the Word or Logos of God who existed in the beginning from another world, finally entering our world by being made flesh, this helped the Gentile world understand the very nature of Jesus in a way they probably could not grasp from the synoptic gospels. John paints a picture of Jesus, throughout his Gospel, showing people glimpses of what this other world is like–the real world. In the synoptic gospels, we see a picture of a compassionate Jesus as he heals people. One who sympathizes with lepers, feels sorrow for people with sick kids and shows pity for the infirm. In John’s gospel, the healing stories typically have Jesus pointing toward these being done to reveal God’s glory. It’s not that Jesus is dispassionate, but there is a greater purpose to the miracles. The miracles point to something greater than what we know in this life.

When Jesus engages Nathanael, Jesus seems to have seen him from an other-worldly viewpoint. Jesus kind of mystically sees Nathanael before they ever met, and Nathanael’s response to Jesus telling him about himself was to declare Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus tells Nathanael, “You will see greater things than that.” Jesus has come to show people what the real glory of God looks like; to show people glimpses of the real world. The good news of John’s Gospel for Gentiles really comes later, when Jesus talks about his Father’s house having many rooms and he is going there to prepare a place for them. Gentiles never before thought they would ever get to live in the real world–now Jesus promises them they will.

I think back to times when I believe I have seen glimpses of what the real world looks like, glimpses of God’s glory revealed through Jesus Christ. Times that reassure our faith and cause us to say, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” You are “the way, the truth, and the life.” One day we will truly experience in its fullness what the real world is like. As Pastor Adam reminds us, “I not only believe it, I’m counting on it.”

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

02.19.16 – 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.

Take a quick walk through your memory, and picture the teachers you loved.

We can all think of a teacher that we loved. That’s a universal memory we all share. At some point in our education, there was a person who made a positive impact on us.

Put yourself back into that space with the beloved teacher. Do you remember the feeling of hanging on their every word? Of watching their mannerisms and wanting to be more like them? Do you remember thinking they must know everything there is to know?

I imagine this is what the disciples were feeling when they affectionately call Jesus “Rabbi.” The gospel of John depicts Jesus as a teacher more times than any other gospel. I love that about John–he is painting for us a scene of Jesus as our ultimate teacher.

Can you imagine being there in person with this profound teacher? I imagine we would be hanging on every word, watching his mannerisms, wanting to emulate his sense of peace, feeling that he knew all there was to know. We would want to soak it up.

That’s what the disciples are doing when they ask him where he is staying. John uses the Greek word meno here, which can mean staying, going, remaining, or abiding. It seems the disciples are saying, “Jesus, our great teacher, wherever you go next, I’m going too!”

The disciples want to soak him up. They want to learn all they can. They are realizing that this is their ultimate divine teacher.

And he is our beloved teacher too!

Use this Lenten season to re-connect with his teachings. Soak up all you can. A good place to start…the red letters in your Bible! But also consider artwork depicting his teachings, music lyrics, sermons online, commentaries, spiritual teachers, and the many pastors you have available who would love to help you. Your morning prayer could be, “Jesus, my great teacher, show me the way today. Teach me what I need to see. Bring to me what I need to learn, and help me be an instrument of your love.”

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

02.18.16 – 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.

Sometimes I’m not sure I know who Jesus is. I’m not always confident I would know him if I saw him. I have a picture in my mind of what he looked like in Bible times, but I’m pretty sure that is not what he looks like walking down the street today. Then I think of what John the Baptizer says in this passage. Twice John says he didn’t know Jesus, “I myself did not know him…” (v. 31 and 33). It’s surprising and encouraging to realize that even though John didn’t know Jesus yet, he was still part of the good news.

John the Baptizer really hoped God would do a new thing. And he believed that God would do a new thing, even though he didn’t know what that new thing would be. He just knew that people were hungry for mercy and forgiveness and love. He knew it was time for the Spirit of God to come afresh upon all people.

So John offered his ministry – baptizing with water and declaring forgiveness – before he’d ever met Jesus, before he knew for sure what God was up to. He wanted to be part of this new thing God was doing in Jesus, even before he ever knew who Jesus was. And though his baptizing wasn’t yet the complete fulfillment of God’s dream for the world, he was doing what he could to be part of that dream.

I want to be part of God’s dream for the world, too. So, on those days when I’m not sure I know who Jesus really is, I’m grateful to be like John the Baptizer, part of the Good News unfolding in the world.

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