February 14, 2013

Dear Centenary Family,

The United Methodist Community at American University sent out this note about the history of Valentine’s Day…  I thought you might find it interesting.

What’s the Deal with Valentine’s Day?

What does a Christian saint have to do with candy hearts and chocolates?

Not much, to tell the truth. It’s another example of what happens when Christian faith intersects with pagan custom: a tradition whose origins remain unclear.

Valentine’s Day is the feast day of St. Valentine. It is not certain who this saint was. There are at least two individuals named Valentine (Lat. Valentinus) who might be at the heart, no pun intended, of the tradition. One Valentine was a Roman priest who died in AD 269 under Emperor Claudius II Gothicus. He was executed for helping Christian martyrs. He refused to renounce his faith and became a martyr himself, being beaten to death and beheaded. According to tradition, this happened on February 14th. A second candidate is a bishop from central Italy who was executed in Rome. Other traditions hold that both men also performed marriages that were considered illegal because they occurred during a time of war.

In AD 469, Pope Gelasius set February 14th as the feast day to honor this Christian martyr and saint. St. Valentine was said to have suffered from epilepsy and so became the patron saint of those who suffer epilepsy.

Now how, where did all the romance stuff come from, you ask? That’s where the syncretism comes in.

The 15th of February was also the Roman “Feast of Purification” known as the Lupercalia or Februarca. Associated with the coming of spring, it was a celebration intended to ensure the fertility of flocks, fields, and people. It’s not a big jump from fertility to romance.

Probably as a result of the conflating of a holiday about fertility and a feast day to commemorate a saint who had been persecuted for performing marriages, the Feast of St. Valentine became a holiday associated with romance and it was not long before St. Valentine would be identified as the patron saint of lovers.


There is a great study group meeting at 9:45 on Sunday at Centenary.  You will find them in the middle classroom below the sanctuary.  Catie Eisele is leading the discussion this week.


Our own Teri Hatley is in a play at Theatre Macon.  “The Octette Bridge Club” will be playing this weekend and next weekend.  Teri – Centenary is proud of you!


Levi Min-La Elder, son of Nathan and Angela Elder and grandson of Jerry and Phyllis Elder will be baptized this Sunday.  What a celebration!


I will be preaching a sermon titled, “Baptism, Wilderness, and Identity”.  Sissi Zhang will be offering special music on the pipa, a Chinese stringed instrument.


Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.


February 20, 2013

Dear Centenary Family,

An oxymoron is a rhetorical figure of speech in which contradictory terms are used to make a point.  “Deafening silence” is an oxymoron.  George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” is an oxymoron.  On one hand, a rhapsody is an “exalted or excessively enthusiastic expression of feeling---a state of elated bliss…”  On the other hand, the “blues” are “a state of melancholy or depression”.  “The blues” are a particular kind of music marked by reality, sadness, 4/4 rhythm, with “flatted thirds and sevenths.”  

George Gershwin was a genius who took us to the heights of excess and enthusiasm with “Rhapsody in Blue” but you can hear the “blues” and the minor keys filtering into this incredible piece of music.  In fact, the piece starts with the “bluesy” feel of the solo clarinet.  If you want to hear “Rhapsody in Blue”, click here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSq_nwoG43s     Enjoy watching some incredible scenes of New York as you listen to George Gershwin’s greatest work.  Listen for the change in emotions from blues to exaltation and back to blues.

There is a point to all this…  Just as Gershwin created an oxymoronic musical masterpiece, the season of Lent has the same sort of oxymoronic feel.  Lent is a season of repentance, reflection, and introspection.  It is kind of a “bluesy” time.  But scattered throughout Lent are times of rhapsody… joy… enthusiasm.  In fact, Sundays are not included in the 40 days of Lent – Sundays are “little Easters”.  In every Lent, there should be a touch of Advent.  And in every Advent, there should be a touch of Lent.  The juxtaposition of conflicting emotions is what brings significant depth, for our lives are filled with oxymoronic moments… joy and sorrow, tears and laughter, blues and chuckles. 

I invite you to rest easy in the incongruent emotions of the season of Lent.


The Journeying to Understanding Class is meeting Sunday at 9:30 in the Community Center (next door to the Centenary Fellowship Hall).  Dr. Angel Vasquez will be making a presentation on Human Sexuality.  You are invited!


This Sunday is a great time to worship at Centenary…  Beth will be preaching a sermon titled, “The Many Faces of Jesus”  Luke 13:31-35.  Hope you will be present!

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.



February 28, 2013

Dear Centenary family,

I came across this poem several months ago and filed it away to share at some point in the future.  I will explain why now is the right time to share it after you read the poem.

Ice Dance

Once, in icy February,

I watched a flock of geese

land on a frozen lake,

land and glide across

in a great, silent dance.

Each bird put down

one webbed foot,

slid it forward,

hesitated for an instant

before shifting weight to it.

They all did this:

step, hesitate, slide.


Rising and falling together,

the whole flock waltzed forward,

each one testing the ice

each one ensuring

the other’s safety.


Not birds of the air

nor any creeping thing,

nor beast of the field

nor humankind in God’s image

can safely dance alone.

The ice is too thin;

the dance is too dangerous.


--“Ice Dance,” by Bonnie Thurston in Princeton’s Theology Today


On occasion we are on the ice… and the ice breaks.  We are waltzing and we think all is well in the moment and suddenly it is not ok.  The ice broke for Scott and Laura Barrett yesterday.  They are a wonderful young couple, very active at Centenary.  Laura and Scott were pregnant with their first child, Charlie, who was due this week.  But Charlie was stillborn.  The ice broke for Scott and Laura.  Stacey and Talisa joined me, along with the extended families of Scott and Laura, in the hospital room.  Laura and Scott wanted to bless and baptize Charlie.  I circled by the church to pick up the baptismal font and pitcher you see every Sunday in our sanctuary.  I was not going to bless and baptize this baby out of a non-descript bowl.  This is a church baby.  This is our baby.  Charlie was going to be baptized out of the font that is in our sanctuary. 


Here is some of what I said:  “God has claimed us as God’s own.  Baptism does not make something true.  Baptism reflects what is already true.  In baptism, we are acting out God’s promise of hope and new life.  That has never been truer than what we are doing today.”  Then I asked several ancient questions to those present.  I continued with these words:  “This day we gather with grief, yet we affirm the goodness of God.  God weeps with us.  The tears of God are the source of the water which we use for this blessing and baptism.  Laura, even before Charlie was born, you were a very good mother.  Scott, even before Charlie was born, you were a very good father.  Charlie knew that he was loved and cared for.  And right now God is caring for Charlie in ways we cannot comprehend. “


 I then posed this question to everyone in the room surrounding Scott and Laura:  “Will you surround Scott and Laura during this time of grief and will you resist offering simple or easy answers to the mystery of Charlie’s life?”  They all answered:  “We will do our best to be present with Scott and Laura as they walk through this time.”


The ice broke for Scott and Laura.  No doubt about it.  But Scott and Laura are not alone.  They have their family… and they have their church family.  Here is what I invite you to do:  First, they don’t need visitors right now.  But, I am asking you to join them on the ice and to be a part of process.  Refrain from offering them simple or easy answers to the mystery of Charlie’s life.  Drop them a note.  You may not know Scott and Laura Barrett.  That is a non-issue.  They are a part of your faith family.  The note can be as simple as “I am on the ice with you.  I’m here.”   Let’s be the church.  The mailing address:

 Scott and Laura Barrett

2974 Woodhaven Circle

Macon, GA  31204



Long before the situation with Scott, Laura, and Charlie unfolded, I was preparing a sermon for this Sunday that has to do with Jesus’ view of God’s control.  In fact, the first unfolding word is “Does God Control Everything?”  I invite you to worship so we can think through a thorny theological and faith issue – Does God control everything?  There are lots of implications to however you answer that question.  Read Luke 13:1-9 before worship, if you get a chance.  This sermon, in light of all that has happened this week, feels providential to me.


Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell


Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.