Category Archives: Community

Monday 12.26.11 Insight from Rev. Andrew Conard

Rev. Andrew Conard is a Christian, husband, father, son, brother, friend, United Methodist and also Associate Pastor at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection West.

Hearing the prologue to the Gospel according to John while the light of Christ enters the room is one of my favorite parts of Candlelight Christmas Eve at Resurrection. For a few moments, the light from the single candle is all that lights up the room.  This experience gives me a picture of John’s description of a light shining in the darkness.

As someone who helps plan and lead the Christmas Eve services this is a moment that I hope everything goes well. The drama of a single light entering the room could be disturbed a bit if, for some reason, that light went out. There are matches and a lighter available just in case and if the light does go out in the worship space, it is able to be relit quickly. The planning and preparation to make sure that there is a back up available illustrates for me the meaning and powerful reality that Jesus is more than just a good man, he is the Son of God.

The candlelight at Christmas Eve can be extinguished, but the light of the world – Jesus Christ can never be extinguished. Putting my faith in Christ means that I am trusting in a God that can never be overcome and I am living into a kingdom that that is sure and certain. John tells us that the light that comes into the world in Jesus Christ “shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not over come it” (John 1:5, NIV). The certainty that God in Jesus Christ has overcome the powers of darkness gives me peace and strength.

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

Tuesday 12.20.11 Insight from Rev. Molly Simpson

Rev. Molly Simpson is the campus pastor at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection West.

From Micah 5: “He will stand and shepherd his flock
   in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.  And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.”

I’m trying to come up with something insightful to say in response to today’s reading.  I’ve got nothing.  I just keep reading those words from Micah 5 and thinking this is a really good promise.  The Messiah, the Christ born in Bethlehem is going to shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, they will live securely, and his greatness will reach the ends of the earth.  I’d like to be counted in that flock. 

I’m guessing the original hearers might have felt the same way, though their distress might have been more potent given their historical circumstances (evil kings and all) and the fact that they lived before Jesus was born.  In some way, you would think our comfort from this promise would be greater, living after the birth of the Son of God, having heard the truth of the resurrection, and knowing so much about this good Shepherd’s life. 

But here we are, people yearning for good news that this Jesus really does change everything… clinging to the promise that we will find security when we let him shepherd us… and praying that his greatness reaches the ends of the earth.  Perhaps this is why we celebrate Christmas every year.  We are a bit forgetful, and we need to hear this narrative again.  We need to read these ancient words and find hope anew for this day.     

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

Monday 12.19.11 Insight from Jeanna Repass

Jeanna Repass serves as the Kansas City Missions Program Director at Resurrection.

When I was working in the inner city of Omaha, at the Agape Lutheran Outreach Center, we had children in our program that had never really heard the true story of Christmas. The children knew about Santa Claus – even if he didn’t bring them much if any thing at all on Christmas morning – but a large number of our children had little knowledge about the birth of our Savior. They didn’t know what a manger was and had never heard a story about angels dancing in the night sky or shepherds or kings. They never knew that God chose to be born to a single mother in the poorest of conditions. Simply – no one had ever told them. So the Pastor of the Mission and I decided to teach the children about the birth of Jesus by putting on a very traditional Christmas pageant. We needed a cardboard manger, a Mary, a Joseph, a toy baby Jesus, some wise men, an array of angels – from cherubs to Arch-Angels – and of course we needed shepherds. Nativity cast list – complete!

As we sat in the sanctuary for the first practice and began handing out parts, I noticed something a little different about our kids. They were fighting for parts. OK – the fighting was not unusual, nor unexpected. We knew some of our older girls would want to be Mary (many of whom were young mothers at the ages of 13, 14, 15…). We knew some of our more outgoing girls would want to be Arch-Angels (who got to dance in our pageant!!!). We also knew that the boys wouldn’t want to play any parts. So they fought over who had to be Joseph. They fought over who had to be wise men – until I explained that the wise men were kings – then they wanted to make everyone bow down to them. But the biggest fight was about who got to be shepherds.

Up to that point in my Christian journey and countless Episca-Bapti-Lutheran Christmas plays, I had never seen anyone who really wanted to play the part of the shepherds. After all – isn’t the role of shepherd the “throw away” part? You just tie a towel around your head, put on some one’s old bathrobe, and walk from place to place. Shepherds never had lines to say. The angels got the good lines and looked all cool in their shiny halos and white choir robes. Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph got to be the center of attention. Shepherds didn’t even get to carry in the boxes or jars with pretend gold, frankincense and myrrh. Shepherds were not the part any one ever wanted to play! Except that our boys at Agape did. *Our boys were the unwanted, the poor, the burdens on society (some gang members), the un-churched… they were the outcasts – and they wanted to play the shepherds.

I still can’t say for sure why the boys wanted so badly to be the shepherds in our Christmas pageant. Maybe our boys at Agape relished not having to talk or dance or wear bright clothes or stand in the spotlight… But maybe – just maybe – the boys at Agape found something special about shepherds that they could relate to. Maybe they understood what it meant to be looked upon by society as the lowest of the low. Maybe they understood that God will speak to you in the darkest hours of the longest nights – when you are alone, most willing (and needing) to hear Him. Maybe they understood in hearing the story of the nativity for the first time, that being a shepherd is a position that God honors. After all, God is our Shepherd through whom we shall not want (Ps. 23 v.1).  Maybe the boys at Agape understood that playing the shepherd might indeed be the role of a life time – a role that is honored by God – a role worth fighting for… Amen.

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

Saturday 12.17.11 Insight from Constance Stella

Constance Stella serves as Director of Worship, and has been part of the church staff since 1998. She and her family were among those who helped start Resurrection in 1990, when worship happened in a funeral home!

The brief story of Anna is a gem. The way I read them, these verses provide a concise example of the power and importance of worship. Anna was an elderly woman, a widow. As such she probably had few resources of her own, but would have had to depend on a son, brother or other male relative to provide her with food, shelter, and other necessities. We have no reason to think she had leisure or luxury of any kind. Life was surely not easy for Anna.

Verse 37 says she “never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.” That could mean that Anna literally stayed at the temple all the time, camping out with a cot and oil lamp just inside the temple walls. But in verse 38 we read that “she came,” implying that she had gone away and come back. So, for me these verses mean that, no matter what else was going on in her life, Anna never deserted the church or her faith. And she never missed worship.

For Anna, worship was life. The rhythm of fasting and prayer sustained her, kept her going day after day. Worship connected her to God, and she made sure that nothing severed the connection. Worship is so important! It is also powerful, as we see in the next action of Anna’s story.

How was it possible for this elderly woman to come into church one day, notice a young couple with an infant, and instantly recognize that infant as the long-hoped-for Messiah? And how did she have the strength to proclaim his arrival to all those around her? It was possible because worship transforms. It transformed Anna and it transforms us. It empowers us to do unlikely and remarkable things, to take part in what God is doing in the world. Anna was old, a woman, a widow. Yet she was so connected to God through worship that she was able to recognize the Savior, and so empowered through worship that she was able proclaim the good news. May it be so for each of us.

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

Friday 12.16.11 Insight from Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 3rd grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group & a men’s group, and serves on the Curriculum team.

With the 3rd graders reading their own Bibles, we’ve been having some extra fun in Sunday school. If time allows after our regular lesson, we’ll open the floor to questions about what the kiddos are reading from the Gospel of Mark, the Book of Acts, or general thoughts as they explore their very own Bible.

One comment that frequently pops up is the surprise that the New Testament is rather short compared to the Old Testament. If Jesus is the main story, the thinking goes, why do we need the Old Testament?

Suffice to say we could spend a great deal to time going down that rabbit trail, but today’s passage illustrates one very clear explanation: The New Testament is filled with references & quotations from the Old Testament. So, while we are understandably drawn to the compelling story of the New Testament, the Old Testament provides the reader incredible insight & information about God, about us, and about God’s hopes for us.

While on a Boy Scout campout with my older son, Matthew, I began to reflect on today’s charge to be “a light for the nations.” Fortunately a not-too-distant community was a busy railroad hub with trains blaring their horns in 64-minute increments throughout the night (a backlit digital clock is such a mixed blessing), giving me some extra time to consider this challenge.

My initial inclination was that we should make our best efforts to tell others about the love of Jesus, His incredible sacrifice He freely offered on our behalf, & His desire to heal our broken hearts & make them like new. But perhaps this is just an excellent 1st step. Maybe we could do more.

Consider the scenario of a camper on a campout without a flashlight. As dusk turns to night, without any light, everything becomes more complicated & harder than it really needs to be. Hiking through the woods becomes a treacherous trip. Trying to set up a tent becomes a struggle as one tries to locate poles & stakes.

Now, imagine our solution for our young camper was to just tell him about the flashlight. With the flashlight, we might say, instead of stumbling over every obstacle, you could see the hurdles in front of you & carefully navigate around them. Instead of losing key pieces of gear you could create shelter so much faster & certainly before that rainstorm heads this way. Our light has rechargeable batteries & never runs out of power, and it can clip on our belt so we are never alone without it. I love the flashlight in my life & you would too!

How do you think our young tenderfoot would respond to such exhortation? Grateful? Ecstatic? Or, perhaps he might be wondering why we talked so much about this awesome flashlight but never used it.

What if, instead, we helped our camper by showing him the light? We could provide the light and walk alongside him to assist him on his journey. We could point the light back up the trail so he could see how far he has gone. We could hold the light to help him create a shelter from life’s many storms. In short, we could tangibly demonstrate that this light would allow his campout to be filled with more peace, more hope, & more joy.

Next question. Mr. Lippe, what do they mean when they say the Virgin Mary? I’m so sorry; parents are here for check out. Have a great week!

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

Thursday 12.15.11 Insight from Janelle Gregory

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

It’s tragic that the essence of Advent is lost on most of us these days. There are the obvious barriers of shopping for the right gifts, decorating with twinkle lights, curling up to Hallmark movies, the 10 “can’t miss” parties, the 5 pounds you intend to gain from the food at said parties, and the worrying about those 5 pounds. But even if you are able to navigate your focus around all of that to a story in Bethlehem, there is still a good chance that you may not experience the significance of Advent.

Because Advent doesn’t begin in Bethlehem. No, the roots of Advent were planted in a garden long before that with one bite of a tempting fruit. It’s a story of a people lost and hopeless, trapped in the snares of Eden. They wandered, they strayed, they sometimes got it right, but they mostly got it way wrong. They were in a world of hurt, and they were desperate. This is Advent.

So if we celebrate Advent by skipping to the manger, we miss out by not sitting with the tension that springs from the hearts of these people (our people) for the anticipation of a King. Because Advent reminds us of the bigger picture, the greater story – the greatest story. This is best described in The Sacred Romance by John Eldredge and Brent Curtis:

The gospel says that we, who are God’s beloved, created a cosmic crisis. It says we were stolen from our True Love and that he launched the greatest campaign in the history of the world to get us back. God created us for intimacy with him. When we turned our back on him he promised to come for us. He sent personal messengers; he used beauty and affliction to recapture our hearts. After all else failed, he conceived the most daring of plans. Under the cover of night he stole into the enemy’s camp incognito, the Ancient of Days disguised as a newborn. The Incarnation, as Phil Yancey reminds us, was a daring raid into enemy territory. The whole world lay under the power of the evil one and we were held in the dungeons of darkness. God risked it all to rescue us.

When we don’t remember that we needed rescuing, that we need rescuing, we cheat ourselves from experiencing the beauty of this season. We must bask in the tension, we must find meaning in the tension, we must own it until we not only want to sing, but to shout, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel! And ransom captive Israel!”  Because without it, the glory of that day when the history of the world was changed in a manger is lost on us.

So for Christmas, I may wish you peace and happiness. But until then, I wish that you may find beauty in the despair, the yearning, the hopelessness, and the tension of Advent.

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

Wednesday 12.14.11 Insight from Angela LaVallie

Angela LaVallie is the Member Connection Program Director at The Church of the Resurrection. She provides oversight to our member connection efforts through the Connection Point, the Weekday Hospitality Team, Coffee With the Pastors, the New Member Team and our Spiritual Gifts Placement Team.

“The worst thing is never the last thing.” This is a phrase that I have become familiar with these last few years.  Scripture tells us this over and over. We are repeatedly reminded that in the end, Christ will triumph and we shall be resurrected with him. By always keeping that in mind, we can live our lives in such a way that shows we believe that promise.

Today’s passage tells us that Simeon “was waiting for the consolation of Israel…It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah” (verses 25-26). Simeon knew something good was coming, and he was eagerly looking forward to it and was inspired to live a life that was “righteous and devout.”

I have a friend who was a POW in Korea. I have another friend who had to bury her newborn baby. And a friend who was addicted to drugs and was in danger of living on the streets before he went to jail on drug charges. Despite having gone through these horrible tragedies, these people radiate joy and peace today because they live with the hope that comes from their incredibly strong faith in Christ’s promise. 

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

Tuesday 12.13.11 Insight from Rev. Anne Williams

Rev. Anne Williams is the Congregational Care pastor for members of the Resurrection family who have last names beginning with S-Z.

Today I’m preparing for a memorial service for one of our church members who died suddenly on Friday. That day, I went to the family’s home and prayed over his body before they took it away. Saturday I returned to spend time hearing the stories of this man’s life as told by his loved ones. This is one of the great privileges of being a pastor. To hear a family remembering the stories and memories that made up that saint’s life is an incredibly sacred thing.

In order to help stimulate the memories, we usually ask the family to think of one word or phrase to describe their loved one and the legacy they leave behind. I have found that asking that question of another person’s life is a challenging spiritual discipline that causes me to think about how I am living my own life. I wonder–which words would my loved ones use to describe me upon death? Would they have special memories to remember me by? Would they say I have used my time, energy, and resources to live a life devoted to loving God and serving others?

In the case of this particular memorial service, and in most cases, it’s a great joy to hear about God’s faithful people and the creative ways they have served throughout their lives. I find that the most powerful testimonies come from those who live faithfully through the ups and downs that life always brings. Regardless of the age of any who may be reading this today, one thing that is true for each of us is that we still have time to do things that will be remembered by our descendents with joy and thanksgiving. May it be so!

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

Monday 12.12.11 Insight from Rev. Andrew Conard

Rev. Andrew Conard is a Christian, husband, father, son, brother, friend, United Methodist and also Associate Pastor at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection West.

There are many faith rituals that are meaningful to me. I want to say more about the Lord’s Prayer and Holy Communion today in reference to the questions from the GPS Guide. We say the Lord’s Prayer every weekend and there are times when I catch myself having reached the end of the prayer and not being aware of the words I had just said. Times like this are when the repetition did not have meaning for me. To work against this tendency, I pay particular attention to the words of the prayer. Outside of the worship service it is possible to slow down the prayer and pay particular attention to each word or phrase. These help me keep the ritual from becoming an empty form.

Holy Communion is another ritual that we participate in on a regular basis at Resurrection, every week at some worship services. This meal that we share together both remembers the meal that Jesus shared with his disciples on the night before he died and looks forward to the heavenly banquet that we will share in God’s Kingdom. One of the things that I do to keep this ritual from being emptied of its meaning is to pay close attention to the taste and texture of the bread and juice in my mouth. This intentionality helps me slow down for a moment and recognize what is represented as we share this meal together.

I hope that you will take time to recognize the meaning in the faith rituals which you practice.

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

Saturday 12.10.11 Insight from Dave Robertson

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

Light plays an integral part in the Biblical narrative.  In the creation story we are told the first thing God created after the heavens and the earth was light (Genesis 1:3), and it was good.  But God wasn’t done there. In Genesis 1:14-19, the sun and the moon were created to help bring light to the day and the night. Stars were also created by God. That was significant because many of the ancient peoples worshipped the stars in the skies.

Later in Genesis (22:17), part of the covenant God makes with Abraham is that Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Rob Bell says that God uses the other people’s gods as props to make a point to Abraham that God is the creator of everything and all things are in God’s control.

The star in the birth narrative is also a prop, created by and used by God to point to something significant happening in the world. What was happening? The Apostle John tells us the light of the world was being born into the world. The light that the star shone was a symbol that the light of the world was now here.

Then John makes this statement (1:9): “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” God didn’t just enter the world for God’s own glory. Remember, the nature of our relationship with God is covenantal. God made a covenant with Abraham. God initiated a covenant with humankind and we are still living in a covenant relationship with God. The basis of the covenant with Abraham was that God will bless him so that he and his descendants will be a blessing to the rest of the world. Now the true light is coming and he will give light to every man. For what purpose? Matthew 5:14 tells us, “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

I think of it this way. God is the sun. We are the moon. God’s light brightens everything. We reflect God’s light in the darkness and have the capacity, because of God’s presence and grace, to make the darkness much lighter. I was in Africa earlier this year and I can tell you, when you are in the middle of nowhere with no city close to help light the sky, and there is a new moon that exudes no light, it’s dark! But when the moon is full, its capacity to supply light in the darkness is immense. Know that God will use you to shine light in the darkness!

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