April 8, 2009

Dear Friends of Centenary,

Theologian Jurgen Moltmann was drafted into the German army when he was 17 and witnessed the firebombing of his hometown of Hamburg, in which 40,000 civilians were killed.  He wrote at one point, ?Good Friday is the center of the world.?  But he also wrote that ?Easter morning is the Sunrise of the coming of God and the morning of new life and the beginning of the future of the world.  The laughter of the universe is God?s delight.?

The story begins with weeping, grief, and despair.  Jesus is abandoned by most of his friends.  He is executed in a horrific manner.  Shock and awe.  Jesus offered hope and the hope was snatched away.  What were the followers of Jesus to do?  Good Friday was the center of the world.

We preachers stammer and stutter about Easter because it is beyond comprehension.  How can one speak eloquently about something that is beyond words?  The world shifted? no longer is Good Friday the center of the universe.  Easter is the center of the universe.  How does one describe that seismic shift? 

One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, writes:  ?I don?t have the right personality for Good Friday, for the crucifixion? I?d like to skip ahead to the resurrection vision of one of the kids in our Sunday School who drew a picture of the Easter Bunny outside an open tomb:  everlasting life and a basket full of chocolates.?   She goes on to say, ?Darkness is our context.  Darkness is Easter?s context.  Without the darkness you couldn?t see the light.  Hope is?about choosing to believe that love is bigger than any grim, bleak [stuff] anyone can throw at us.? 

Easter laughter is about the ultimate and eventual triumph of love over ANYTHING and EVERYTHING Good Friday may throw at us.


Don?t forget that we are having a special Holy Week Service tonight (Wednesday) at 6:45 in the sanctuary.  Plan to be present!



With anticipation we approach this special day.  I will be preaching a sermon titled ?Born in a Cemetery?.  You will hear and sing some of the great, traditional resurrection hymns, including one by Charles Wesley.  But you will also hear Cat Stevens, along with a selection from ?The Who? that is lifted from their rock opera ?Tommy?.   Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead have a wonderful song of resurrection we will be using.  It promises to be a great day of celebration.  Call a friend (or two or three) and invite them to join you at Centenary this Sunday.

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.



 April 29, 2009

Dear Centenary friends,

As I write this reflection the news is filled with information about the swine flu.  The outbreak began in Mexico and now 160 people are dead.  Mexico City appears to be the epicenter, but the virus has shown up in the United States, Canada, several European countries, and even in New Zealand.

Concerns have been expressed for President Obama because he made a trip to Mexico on April 16.  One person he shook hands with in a museum died of the flu on April 19.  However, since this strain of flu has an incubation period of 2-3 days, the President is in the clear. 

Hundreds of high school students in New York have the disease.  The contagious nature of the disease has everyone on edge and the CDC, in conjunction with the President and Homeland Security, declared a ?health emergency?.  The larger fear is for the virus to cause a pandemic.  What is a pandemic?  It is an epidemic spread over a wide geographical area which affects a large portion of the population.  When Europeans first landed on the shores of North and Central America, the native population was nearly erased because the Europeans brought with them diseases for which the Native Americans had no defense.  Entire villages and tribes were erased because of the European migration to the New World.  That is a pandemic.

Since this flu virus is a new strain, there are few defenses other than isolation and quarantine.  No inoculation can address this crisis because the antidote does not exist at this time.

The world is increasingly small.  Sometimes the interconnectedness brings issues that cause fear.  It appears to me, however, that the interconnections between different cultures, lands, and people bring far more blessings than baggage.  In our congregation we have Asians, San Salvadorans, Anglos of various ethnic backgrounds, African Americans, Mexicans, and Nigerians.  (And I suspect I am leaving out many other nationalities!)  I would not have it any other way, for we are rehearsing the reign of God.

Here is a prayer for you when you feel fear because the world is so very small and we are all interconnected:

Shepherding God,
Whatever we might ask for ourselves,
may we also ask for the world.
When we look at the world,
may we also see ourselves,
And may we come to know that
you reside in both us and the world, equally,
and are drawing us to a place where we may live without fear.


I hope that you will plan to be in worship this Sunday!  I look forward to our time of worship together.


Don?t forget that on May 17 I will be preaching a sermon focused on the incredibly popular N.Y. Times best seller, The Shack, by William P. Young.  You can order from it Amazon.com for $8.84 (plus shipping) or you can pick it up at almost any local bookstore.  If you can?t afford a copy, we have ordered extra copies that can be loaned out by Talisa in the church office.  Feel free to contact Talisa if you need to borrow a copy.  Special note:  You do not have to read the book to understand the sermon.  However,  everyone is invited to participate in this church-wide reading.  The next two Sundays following the May 17th sermon (May 24 and 31), I will lead a discussion about the book at 9:30 a.m.  The book has sold more than 5,000,000 copies and is ranked #8 on the Amazon sales website.  The point of the sermon and study group is not whether the book is classic, or even whether you agree with the book.  You can like or dislike it, but there is no denying that the theme of the book (which is focused around the nature of God) has struck a chord in many readers.  Let?s talk about it.


Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell