December 3, 2009

Dear Centenary friends,

We humans have always been drawn to miracles.  There is a longing in the human spirit that never wants to give up on hope.  We desire to know that there is more than what we experience or perceive.  We want to believe that certain things happen outside of the laws of nature.  (Of course the laws of nature are much broader than what we may ever think.) 

During winter, there are all sorts of celebrations of miracles:  Jews celebrate Hanukkah to commemorate the miracle of an oil lamp that burned 8 days on very little oil.  Christians celebrate the miracle of God Incarnate? in the flesh of a little baby born in a stable in Bethlehem.  People of African heritage celebrate the miracle of home, love, connection, and community and call it ?Kwanza.?  And we all celebrate the hope brought about by the new calendar year and the possibilities that are in front of us.

There is something all miracles (human/religious, ancient/contemporary) have in common ? They point to something beyond themselves.  Long ago, the ancients pointed to the stars, the moon, and the sun and saw themselves as a part of the unfolding miracle of love and life.  And we are.  We are a part of the miracle and yet we long for miracles.  Both---at the same time.  Is it not true that we are an act of God?  We are unexplained phenomenon ---home-loving, star-following, light-shining, street-dancing, love-longing beings who are a part of the world in a mind-boggling sort of way.

So join me in looking forward to encountering miracles.   But also recognize that everyone you meet (as well as you, yourself) is a miracle.  When you understand that, you stand a little taller and you treat people a little differently.

To quote Albert Einstein:  ?There are two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle; the other, as though everything is a miracle.?  I choose the latter.


Teri Hatley is teaching an Advent series at 9:45 on Sundays.  The group will meet downstairs below the sanctuary.  Hope you will be a part of this study! 


This Sunday I am preaching a sermon titled ?O Come, O Come Emmanuel?.  There is a longing in our souls for an encounter with God.  I hope you will come be a part of worship as we weave a tapestry that reflects our love for God. 

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.    


December 15, 2009

Dear friends,


You receive many invitations to give, particularly during this Season of the year.  Unapologetically, unashamedly, and with joy I bring you another opportunity.


Every Sunday, 52 Sundays a year, Centenary feeds 200 - 275 persons at our breakfast.  It is an amazing ministry of radical hospitality that opens doors of communication and challenges persons to step to a different level.  These persons who come for breakfast are a part of our faith community and we have some remarkable stories of lives moving in different directions.  But I want you to know that we also love those who continue to be caught in a web that drags them toward darkness.  Our love is the light which offers hope for them.  No good work is wasted.  No breakfast we give is wasted.  Ever.


Think about it... we feed 13,000 to 14,000 meals per year.  We are a very small congregation.  We not only feed, but we connect in meaningful ways.


The cost?... a little more than $1 per plate.  And frankly, we need your help.  We need to raise about $15,000 for the breakfast in 2010.  If you are receiving this email, you are a part of the extended Centenary Community of Faith.  We could use your support for this outreach.


Here is a promise... 100% of the gift you send will be used for the breakfast at Centenary.  Your bucks will feed people and create possibilities of connection for them. 


If you are interested, here is what you need to do:

  1. Make your check out to Centenary Church and mark on the check that it is for the Christmas Offering.  Our Christmas offering is going to fund the breakfast.
  2. Mail the check to Centenary Church, 1290 College Street, Macon, GA  31201

Pretty simple.  Feeding hungry people.  I seem to recall that Jesus asked us to do that!  This is worthy of our attention and generosity.  From near and far, will you help us with this?  It is God's ministry.  It is your ministry, too!


Thank you for being part of the Centenary extended family!  We count you as one of us.


Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

December 17, 2009


Dear Centenary friends,

My friend, Jim Harnish, pastors a church in Florida.  Jim tells the story of attending one of those huge extravaganza events at Disney World where throngs of high school kids are brought in to provide music during the Christmas Season.  Crowds gathered at the train station in front of the Magic Kingdom.  The lights were dimmed and the procession of more than one thousand high school choir members commenced.

They came, four abreast wearing choir robes and carrying battery-powered candles.  Singing as they processed, the high school students finally joined the Disney Orchestra in Town Square.  They packed the risers and formed a ?singing? Christmas tree.  The director lifted the baton and everyone sang ?O Come, All Ye Faithful, joyful and triumphant??

Many other Christmas carols were a part of the program, but it ended with the traditional ?Hallelujah Chorus?.  We preachers are prone to cynicism on occasion.  (Be assured that I write that sentence as confession on my part.)  Jim wondered if any of the high school singers understood or connected with what they were singing.  Was this experience for them about a free trip to Orlando, free admission to Disney World, and hanging out with friends?  Did they understand at all?

While the ?Hallelujah Chorus? was being sung, Jim caught sight of a blond soprano on the second row of the risers.  The chorus sang softly, ?The kingdom of this world is become? and then burst into full voice, ?The Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and of His Christ!?  At that moment, Jim saw tears streaming down her cheeks and dripping on her choir robe.  Her lips quivered as she sang, ?and he shall reign forever and ever.?  Deep inside, this high school student had grasped the gravity and truth of the moment.  Jim wrote, ?Christmas came for me as I witnessed those tears.?

What causes you to pause?  What stirs your soul?  Are you open to the unexpected?  The baby, Jesus, wants to turn your world upside down!  This baby wants to turn our hearts inside out!  Status quo is not good enough!

A light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not, cannot, and will not snuff it out. 

May Christmas sneak up on you this year.  And may you recognize God beneath all of God?s surprising disguises.

This Sunday, I will be preaching on ?Setting the Record Straight?.  I will be talking about Jesus? family tree and the myths surrounding Bethlehem.  I also will be bringing some VERY unusual nativity scenes (crèches) which Susan and I have collected over the years.   I hope you will be present.  Bring some friends.


This Saturday, December 19, 4-7 pm, we will be in the church fellowship hall celebrating Feliz Navidad with Nueva Vida.  I hope you will join us for a festive and special time!

Also? please remember that on Wednesday, December 24, 5 p.m. there will be a Christmas Eve Communion Service at Centenary.  Bring family and friends!

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.    


December 30, 2009

Dear Centenary friends,

Many of us divide the world into sacred and secular.  Over the last several years I have become convinced that the divide between sacred and secular is not only obsolete ? it never existed in the first place and was a figment of imagination.  Look at Jesus ? for him, everything was sacred, thus there was the possibility of redemption.  Redemption implies that something had value in the beginning.  True?  Jesus confronted the profane in the world, reminding the world of its sacredness in the first place.  Jesus did not make things sacred ? he jarred the memory of those who were unaware that they were sacred.  Reminding people of their sacredness when they do not want to be reminded can get you into a lot of trouble because sacredness carries with it certain implications for living in the world.  Jesus died because he reminded people that they were sacred and belonged to God.  Some folks, particularly those of us in positions of power and comfort, just don?t want to hear the truth. 

The lines we have created between secular and sacred don?t exist in the heart of God and the mind of Jesus.  In the words of David Dark, ?There is not a secular molecule in the universe.?  Everything ultimately belongs to God.  No doubt that some sacred things can become profane? they get off track? people make bad decisions and are overwhelmed by circumstances? but that does not mean that they don?t belong to God!  They are still sacred --- they either have forgotten it or never discovered it.  So our role is to remind them of what they already intuitively know:  They are of sacred worth.  God made them who they are.  God calls them to an awareness of who they are.  They do not move from being secular to being sacred.  They might move from uninformed and misguided sacredness to intentional acceptance of their sacredness.

Therefore, the role of the Christian is not to avoid what has traditionally been called ?secular?.  Jesus didn?t.   Our role is not even to ?engage secular culture?.  God has already done that because God created all things so there is no such thing as secular culture.  God does not make junk.  Three questions:  What would it mean to live as if everything is sacred in 2010?  How would that awareness change your actions, words, relationships, work, and leisure?  How does knowing that you are sacred impact your self-esteem?   

Centenary is involved in this conversation at a very deep level.  Thousands long for a place where they can be reminded of who they are.  The conversation continues and grows.  We are shaped by the conversation.

This week, the first Sunday of 2010, I will be preaching on the connection between exile and home.  All of us have connections to both.  I am looking forward to worship!  Come from the sacred space you already occupy to another dimension of sacred space.


And? I want to say thank you for your strong support of the Christmas Offering as well as the general ministry of Centenary.  Your generosity propels this ministry forward.

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell