December 2, 2010

  Dear Centenary friends,
What does God’s way look like?  It is wrong to believe that our faith will always bring inner peace and a sense of well-being.  What does God’s way look like anyway?  Isaiah tells of the new heavens and new earth that god will bring to pass; people will have a place of their own and will be able to do good work, and the “wolf and the lamb shall feed together.”  That sounds like inner peace.  Right? On the other hand, Jesus says that those who seek to embody and live into God’s vision and God’s way are going to face tough times, turmoil, persecution, even arrest and death, and will have to learn to endure these things.  It seems to me that God’s way involves living into what can be (Isaiah), and having the endurance to do the things that act as a catalyst for what shall be in God’s Kingdom (Jesus). Religious experience is more than a personal warm heart.  It can be that, but that warm heart, in order to be authentic, must then begin to envision what a new heaven and new earth might look like.  The Jesus step is to do that which is necessary to live into God’s way.  The Jesus step runs counter to empire and culture because the values are not the same.  Empire values power.  Culture accommodates.  Jesus turns everything on its head.  The first shall be last and the last first.  Seek first the Kingdom.  Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me.  It is VERY difficult (if not impossible) to be a Jesus Christian without being a social activist.    Theologian John Howard Yoder says that the church needs “a minority perspective.”  A majority perspective assumes that by power, wealth, organizing or hard work we can get things to turn out the way we want.  A minority perspective never makes those assumptions.  A minority church perspective seeks to embody and be witness to the way of Jesus, but without embracing worldly power or wealth or influence.  A minority church uses imagination and learns to survive over the long haul. Yoder said, “In Christendom, both optimism and despair are correlated with the direct reading of how it is going for us in the rising and falling of power structures.”  But a minority community learns to hope even when things seem to be going badly.  We are in this for the long haul.  The battle is hard and journey is long.  We can’t make it without God. Now that, my friends, is the minority report. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ This Sunday my sermon’s title is “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord”.  We will be talking about John the Baptist and his role in preparing that way.  The sermon is weaving of spoken word and musical response.  I hope that you will be present!  ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ This week many of you received a mailing about the Christmas Offering at Centenary.  I hope you will read that mailing closely and that you will be generous. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Teri Hatley is leading an Advent Study on Sundays at 9:45 a.m.  You are invited! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Special Christmas music at Centenary – Sunday, December 12, 7 pm.  Spread the word. Grace and peace. Tim Bagwell Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.
December 9, 2010

Dear Centenary family,
 It is a tradition to light the star on the front of Centenary Church on the first Wednesday of December.  After the star was lit this year, I received this note: As a little girl, my mom and I rented an apartment in the back of a big house located on the other side of Tattnall Square Park.  The apartment was small- one bedroom apartment with a kitchenette. As big as my little girl’s imagination was then, I can remember thinking the apartment was small.  But that is not all I remember!  I remember my mother's sadness!  My father had left us and my mother was alone, scared and hurting.  While it was a lot for a little girl to comprehend, my mother’s pain was very clear to me. Even though I was too young to understand, I carried the weight of her struggle.  I soon found a symbol of hope.  I could see from our little apartment a beautiful church across Tattnall Square. I remember thinking it was so a castle. had a lit star out front!  This could only mean Christmas was near! What an exciting time of year for every child!  Christmas was time where all troubles, no matter the circumstance, were erased for a moment.  In my mind, as my mother taught me to make homemade ornaments out of dough, I could anticipate hope.  There had to be a better time than more sadness in my mother's more tears! 
I have looked forward to seeing the star at Centenary every year since.  As I got older, I told myself I would one day visit that church that was my symbol of hope and of a better day.  Instantly those emotions came flooding back on Wednesday night when the star was lit! The community of Centenary Church is as magnificent as my little girl imagination had dreamed!  Thank you for allowing me to call Centenary family!  Thank you for your warm embrace of my family now and then! What a witness! +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ IMPORTANT!!!  - Our choir and soloists are sharing an evening of Christmas music on Sunday, December 12, at 7 p.m.  Let nothing interfere with your presence…  Bring others to share the joy! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Beth will be preaching this Sunday.  She writes about her sermon: "A young couple I know gave birth to their first child this week, a beautiful baby girl.  After nine long months of waiting her due date came and went. ( I'm not sure that I know of a single child who actually arrived on their predicted birthday.)  With each day  that passed the anticipation grew along with the need for increased patience.  Finally, their precious 'Peanut'  arrived as bright and beautiful as Mom.  Hopefully she will grow to be as enthusiastic and witty as her Dad as well. This Advent, whether we recognize it or not, we are all waiting on something.  It is the season of waiting.  Are you excited? Anxious? Impatient?  Whatever your response to the season join us Sunday morning as we explore the question, "What are you waiting for?  I am looking forward to worship with a since of great anticipation, I hope you will be present as we light the candle of joy together." +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Nueva Vida Christmas Party for Centenary Church – Dec. 18, 5 pm Christmas Eve Communion – December 24, 5 pm   Grace and Peace, Tim Bagwell   Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.
December 16, 2010

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. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ I will be preaching about Joseph this Sunday.  He found himself on the horns of a dilemma….  Plan to be in worship at 11. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ The Christmas Music last Sunday evening was incredible.  At some point it ceased to be presentation and became worship.  The church was packed.  Thank you to Jerry Elder, to the choir, to the soloists, to the instrumentalists…  What an evening! Nueva Vida Christmas Party – Saturday, 5-7 pm.  Come for a special time of celebration!  ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Christmas Eve Communion – Friday, December 24, 5 pm…. 
Grace and Peace.
Tim Bagwell
Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.