Category Archives: The Final Week

4.22.09 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Nicole Conard

Forty is a reoccurring number in the Bible. To name a few instances, Genesis tells of Noah’s ark and the flood that took place for 40 days. The Israelites wandered in the desert to get to the Promised Land for 40 years. Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days. Now, the story today tells us 40 days after Peter denies Jesus, Peter addresses a crowd and gives a sermon of a lifetime.

Peter interprets the profound event of Pentecost – when the Holy Spirit came and dwelt among all the people (the beginning of chapter 2). He gives evidence through the Scriptures and then declares in verse 36, “God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Peter declares his belief in Jesus changes things. This belief changes my approach of day to day life.   I constantly strive to see the world through the Easter message.

Here’s my belief: Life is full of hard, suffering.  Christianity does not negate this nor tell that because you are a Christian you will not go through the hard times. In fact it is quite the opposite. God embraces the suffering and hardship….and transforms it! As we declare at Easter, suffering, death, pain, hardships in life are never, ever, ever the end. They are never the last word.

Though there may be 40 days of wilderness, darkness, suffering, there is always hope, light, love and the power of the resurrection.  Jesus Christ declares this through his life, death and resurrection! This is day to day life!

So great message, but what do we do about it? What did the people do when they heard that God was the Lord and Messiah?  They were “cut to the heart” (v.37 The followers were invited to live in a new way. To repent – ask forgiveness for their sins (I do this each day) and claim the new identity of being a follower of Christ (again, a daily practice). They, like us, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. God with us in all parts of our lives.

So how do we continue to be reminded of this message?  Take a peek in verse 42 (not in today’s reading, but just one extra verse.) The followers devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers.

My prayer for you this day is that we may be people that continue to proclaim the Easter message with boldness.  We may need to preach this to ourselves, too! We also may share this good news with those around us who need to know that suffering is not the end. May we be people that are “cut to the heart” and live in a new way through the next 40 days and years of your life!

4.13.09 Monday Insights from Pastor Andrew Conard

It is easy for me to believe that the disciples were scared while Jesus was in the tomb. They had followed this man for years and now he was dead. Their leader had been put to death and it would not be unreasonable to think that they might be punished or even put to death themselves. However, this experience would come to be understood quite differently in light of Jesus’ resurrection. What may have been thought to be permanent becomes a temporary place in time on the way to life with the hope of resurrection.

It is not always easy for me to look at events in my life with the perspective of the resurrection. I get caught looking at a narrow view of events and forget God’s action. The good news is that I am not left alone in that. God calls me out of focus on myself and reminds me that I am living a life that is a part of God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom that was initiated in the resurrection. I am called to live as one of God’s followers no matter what the circumstances. The reality of the resurrection makes this possible.

4.10.09 Friday Insights from Pastor Dagney Pullin

In the crucifixion passage in John, the priests want Jesus’ body removed from the cross expediently because it was the, “day of Preparation.” According to verse 14, it was the day of preparation for the Passover. That evening, faithful Jews everywhere would be celebrating the Seder, the ritual dinner where they remember God’s deliverance of the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt.

On facebook today, one of my Jewish friends said that he was, “excited that Nettie [his little girl] will be asking The Four Questions tonight.” Traditionally, part of the Seder liturgy includes four questions, asked by the youngest child able. The four questions seek answers to specific details of the overarching question, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” These ancient questions have been passed down from generation to generation for millennia. 

The night Jesus died,  across the land children were asking their parents, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” I think of my own little girl who, after the Maundy Thursday service last night, as everyone left the church building in complete silence, asked me, “Why is everyone so quiet?” This was different than her usual experience of church.

What were the disciples asking themselves that night, after Jesus’ death? They knew this night was different from all other nights, but they were at a loss for answers. They did not yet know about Easter; for them, this was the end of their hopes for liberation, for a new order and a new way of life. 

Easter celebration and worship without Good Friday loses much of the impact of its message, but Good Friday without the hope and knowledge of Easter would be almost unbearable. As I read this story of the crucifixion, I try to place myself in the disciples’ place, that place of utter hopelessness and despair. Easter is most powerful to those who can grasp this mindset, who have been there.

After living through the darkness of Friday and Saturday, on Easter Sunday, when the light of Christ is lit again, I hope we can all ask ourselves the question, “What makes this morning different from all other mornings?” and give a confident, life-filled answer.

Rev. Dagney Pullin is the pastor of community life in the adult discipleship department. She can be reached at and you can read her blog at

04.08.09 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Nicole Conard

Today we read Mark’s quick gospel.  We read the moments that Jesus is mocked, crucified, and died.  It is action packed focus on this king who we worship today. In the worship services, we have focused on a question:  “Who is this king?” I want to explore that more in this insight.

In this passage, Jesus the word king is brought out in several ways. First, in verse 16, the soldiers led Jesus out to the courtyard, clothed him with a purple cloak, and gave him a crown…of thorns. They mockingly saluted, bowed to him and said, “Hail, King of the Jews.” Second, in verse 25, Jesus has a sign “King of the Jews” above his head.  Third, the mocking continued, in verse 32, as the chief priests and scribes said “Let the king of Israel come down from the cross.”

The song “Who is this King of Glory” from Third Day rings through my mind as I read this passage. The lyrics are:

Who is this King of Glory that pursues me with his love
And haunts me with each hearing of His softly spoken words
My conscience, a reminder of forgiveness that I need
Who is this King of Glory who offers it to me
Who is this King of angels, O blessed Prince of Peace
Revealing things of Heaven and all its mysteries
My spirit?s ever longing for His grace in which to stand
Who’s this King of glory, Son of God and son of man
His name is Jesus, precious Jesus
The Lord Almighty, the King of my heart
The King of glory
Who is this King of Glory with strength and majesty
And wisdom beyond measure, the gracious King of kings
the Lord of Earth and Heaven, the Creator of all things
Who is this King of Glory, He’s everything to me
The Lord of Earth and Heaven, the Creator of all things
He is the King of glory, He’s everything to me

Quite a contrast from the scene unfolding in the Scriptures. The king of glory, Jesus, seems to act in such a humble and obedient way.  Jesus recited the first part of Psalm 22. He continued to trust in God’s faithfulness even though he felt alone. Jesus had extreme faith in the midst of utter cruelty and injustice.  I imagine what Simon and the Roman centurion saw was a humble, loving, kind, obedient king. They saw this through all the mocking, the gory crucifixion, and death.  They changed their lives because of what they saw.

They did not know that there was more to the story. This was not the end.   In Christ, love and life would triumph over death. They did not know there was more to the king that we may hear in Handel’s “Messiah” Hallelujah chorus.

King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
He shall reign for ever and ever
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

This week we reflect and remember the story of Jesus’ last week.  We see, even through death, a king. A king we worship because we see great faith, humility, obedience and love.  A king that promises that at the end of all things there is more to come. May we change our lives because of what we see.

This week I look forward to seeing you on 7pm Thursday as we reflect on this passage of Scripture through song, 3pm on Friday for the Prayer Vigil service on the hour Christ died (and/or 6am-10pm in Wesley Chapel for prayer), and then to hear the rest of the story this Easter weekend.

4.07.09 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Molly Simpson

This is a passage about making hard decisions. 

Peter is faced with acknowledging his relationship with Jesus and possibly facing consequences or denying him and continuing to fly under the radar of those in power.

Caiaphas and the priests don’t like Jesus’ teaching, but they are all too eager to turn Jesus over to the Romans, and particularly Pontius Pilate, to be dealt with.  And Pilate is ready to hand Jesus back to the Jews–John 8:31, “Pilate said, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.’ ”  Then, the Jewish leaders say,”But we have no right to execute anyone.” 

So then Pilate decides to draw upon the tradition of releasing a prisoner and puts Barabbas up against Jesus, hoping that the people will cry for Jesus’ release.  To his surprise, they call for Jesus’ crucifixion, not his freedom.  Again, Pilate makes it clear that he finds no basis to charge Jesus–actually, he says this three times–but he finally relents and hands Jesus over to be crucified.

Back and forth…  back and forth.  No one wants to claim Jesus, and no one wants his blood on their hands.  For all of the players in this narrative, doing the right thing is costly.  It takes a hard decision.   And Jesus is the only one willing to pay the price to do the right thing. 

When has doing the right thing cost you something?  When have you taken the easy road and “passed the buck”?  When does following Jesus require making a hard decision and pressing on in the face of the consequences? 

Lately, the hard decisions for me have come in the little things–it’s deciding to be honest about not getting something done instead of making excuses which shift the blame off of me, it’s humbling myself and realizing that I am not always right for the sake of my marriage, and it’s saying no to the TV, radio, and facebook which so readily steal away my time for prayer and relationship with God.  What are your hard decisions that will allow you to be faithful to following Jesus?   

Molly is the Campus Pastor at Resurrection West and can be reached by email at

04.06.09 Monday Insights from Pastor Andrew Conard

This passage of scripture is high drama. I can almost feel the high stakes as Jesus is before the high priest, Peter despairs and Judas recognizes what he had done.  It is evident that both Peter and Judas recognize that each of them betrayed Jesus in a way. However, the outcomes are quite different. Judas sees no way out and kills himself. Peter weeps bitterly but doesn’t take the same drastic action.

Judas sought to repent from what he had done. What do you think would have happened if the priests accepted Judas’ return of the money? Would the outcome have been the same? Did Peter seek to be redeemed for his betrayal of Jesus that night? How did Peter find hope at a time like that?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I know that when I act against God’s will I hope to turn to God with repentance and a hope to live in a new way. A significant part of my faith is that nothing can separate us from the love of God. It does not matter what I have done or what I have left undone. There is importance in recognizing ways that I have rebelled against God, naming them and asking for God’s forgiveness. I find hope in God’s promises in Jesus Christ.

04.02.09 Thursday Insights from Pastor Jeff Clinger

A central theme of Jesus’ teaching in this 17th chapter of John is the unity he desires for his followers.  As I think about Christ’s desire for unity and the state of relationships in the church today I find myself reflecting on how very far we have to go.

Of course there are the  serious large-scale conflicts and divisions that exist within the body of Christ; things that are deeply rooted in our theological differences like the debates over sexuality, abortion, or just war.

There are the seemingly less significant conflicts that arise in churches then too.  People fight over whether or not guitars should be used, whether or not screens should be installed, and whether or not hymnals should be replaced with words projected on the screens.

Finally, then, there are the small and petty fights that divide people in churches.  I think particularly of the type of conflict that arises when something happens like a person responding negatively when a new person comes to worship and sits in “their” seat.

As the body of Christ we are divided on a number of the large issues in our day and strong people of faith passionately hold vastly different opinions.  However, I’d venture to argue that a majority of the conflict in our churches has more to do with what would likely be considered less significant points of conflict than these deeper theological issues.  It seems that we often allow ourselves to get bogged down in minutia and miss incredible opportunities to grow in relationships and to be in ministry with one another.

The next time you feel yourself coming to a place of conflict with a brother or sister in Christ, ask yourself the tough question, “am I feeling what I’m feeling and desiring to respond as I am because of a deep seeded theological conviction about who God is and who God might be calling me to be or am I responding in this way because of my desire to be right or to have the last word?”  When we place a higher value on our desire to be right than we do on unity in the body of Christ we do a disservice to our calling as men and women of faith.  In these coming days and weeks ask yourself how you might best work for unity in the body of Christ and ask God’s spirit to guide you as you seek to do this.

Rev. Jeff Clinger is the pastor for members of the Resurrection family whose last names begin with D-I.  He can be reached via email at and he blogs regularly at Changing to Bring Change.

03.30.09 Monday Insights from Pastor Andrew Conard

Sharing communion is one of my favorite parts of worship. This scripture passage which describes Jesus transformation of the Passover meal into one that would continue to have significance for his followers is powerful. Jesus seems to know that he will be facing death and that his betrayer is at the table with him. Yet, he brings new meaning to what would have been a familiar meal to the disciples.

I appreciate the question in the GPS about looking forward to communion. I do look forward to it, but usually only when I enter the worship space and recognize that we will be sharing in the meal together. I do not always look forward to it days or weeks ahead.

I believe that communion is the most important meal that we share together as believers. In it I recognize my need for God, share with a community and tangibly receive Christ. I am looking forward to receiving communion again.

3.27.09 Friday Insights from Pastor Dagney Pullin

In seminary, a professor once said to us, “When you can’t pray, when you feel like your faith is dead, lean on the prayers of your congregation, let their faith carry you for a while.” I remember my surprise at the thought of a pastor’s depending on the faith of the congregation she is supposed to be leading. But the comment stuck with me.

The wisdom of her insight is much clearer to me, now. As with most people, the last few years of life have brought ups and downs, and there were times when I lost my focus, or was too emotionally exhausted to listen to God’s voice. I thank God that I was always surrounded by strong, committed Christians with amazing spiritual maturity. Their prayers, compassionate and encouraging words, patient instruction, and loving accountability led me back into the light when I could have easily turned to the darkness.

Judas Iscariot was surrounded by faithful followers of Christ. When the darkness threatened to enter his heart, however, instead of turning to them and leaning on their faith, he chose to go his own way, to abandon his friends and his savior. Even after betraying Jesus, he still could have returned to them.  Unfortunately,  he allowed remorse to overtake him rather than seek their forgiveness and the support of their faith.

None of us, no matter how long we have walked with God, can travel this journey alone. We are made to live out our faith in community, so that when we lose sight of the light, when we are too tired to keep moving, our friends can carry us for a while.

Rev. Dagney Pullin is the pastor of community life in the adult discipleship department. She can be reached at and you can read her blog at

03.25.09 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Nicole Conard

Today we read a lot of Scripture.  Let’s look at the first passage: Matthew 22:1-10.

This is a remarkable story about the king’s wedding banquet.  Three years ago, I was in the middle of planning a wedding reception.  Planning parties is not my forte.  I remember agonizing over the guest list.  Who is invited? If I invite this person, then I need to invite this person? It was a very particular process.  In some sense, I am glad the planning is over.

In this Scripture, the people that were invited did not want to come. So in verse 10 we read “so the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.” I imagine being in God’s presence or the kingdom of God is like a party.  But, I don’t pick the guest list — that’s God’s job and I’m glad. This is good news.

Charles Wesley wrote a hymn illustrating this Scripture, “Come, Sinners, to the Gospel Feast”. The verses are:

Come, sinners, to the gospel feast; let every soul be Jesus’ guest.Ye need not one be left behind, for God hath bid all humankind.

Sent by my Lord on you I call; the invitation is to all. Come, all the world! Come sinner thou! All things in Christ are ready now.

Come, all ye souls by sin oppressed, ye restless wanderers after rest; ye poor and miamed and halt, and blind, in Christ a hearty welcome find.

My message as from God receive; ye all may come to Christ and live.  O let his love your hearts constrain, nor suffer him to die in vain.

This is the time no more delay! This is the Lord’s accepted day. Come thou this moment at his call and live for him who died for all.

This is good news!!!

At the same time,  I must remind myself to watch the self-righteousness and pride if I start to question anyone God invites. Sometimes I/we may think we should be God’s favorites or at least have some special privileges.    In Matthew 23 there is a strong warning against looking good on the outside but inside are filled with gunk. I know it’s not just the Pharisees that Jesus was warning but also the Pharisee in us. We can often let the ugly side of ourselves come out (the sinful side) thinking that we are better than other people.We looked at this passage in depth two weeks ago in worship.  If you missed the first sermon from Israel looking at Matthew 23, I encourage you to check it out.

We remember from this week that we can acknowledge we’ve messed up, turn and live in a new way, and rest in God’s grace, knowing God’s grace is even for us…because we are “those people” who need God’s grace too.