July 28, 2010

Dear Centenary Family,

It has been quite a week.  My computer crashed and I was afraid that I lost all my contact email addresses, notes, writing, etc., but I now have hope that at least it was partly saved.  If you received this, it means you are still on the Centenary email list.  If you failed to receive this, well? you get the idea.

A friend called this week to discuss a sermon he heard recently about heaven and hell.  I am always hesitant to be critical of sermons, for I know that I have preached some that were far less than stellar.  We are called to be kind.  But this preacher took the parable that Jesus told about the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), and made it into an exposition on what hell is like.  He used fear as a primary motivator, seeking to scare people into a relationship with Jesus.  (How many dysfunctional Christians has that approach created?) 

The parable is not about heaven and hell.  The parable is about the insensitivity of the wealthy to the poor.  Read it.  The parable is far more troubling when read as it was intended than in changing the focus to a literal understanding of heaven and hell.

 In much of Christianity there is an obsession with the subject or hell, so on a hot Friday afternoon, let?s think about it a bit.  Hell means that the possibility of making ?damned fools? of ourselves would appear to be limitless.  Most of what our minds conjure up about hell is not from the Bible? it comes from Dante?s Inferno.  The few places in the Bible that refer to hell have been the primary preaching material for hundreds of thousands of misguided preachers through the centuries.

Did you know that God is in hell?  The Psalmist says ?If I make my bed in hell, you are there? (Psalm 139:8).  In the oldest manuscripts of the Apostles Creed we find these words:  ?He descended into hell??  Protestants felt uncomfortable with such graphic language so they removed the reference and cleaned it up.  Frankly, I like the reference? ?He descended into hell.?  Did he have on an asbestos suit?  Was he carrying a fire extinguisher?  Did he touch the suffering?  Was he insulated?  If he was insulated, then he did not really descend into hell.  Upon his death, Jesus was hell-bound? temporarily.  For then came the resurrection!  If there is hope for Jesus who visited hell, is there not hope for all?

The ancient church was talking about mystery.  The phrase ?He descended into hell?  is not intended to be taken literally.  It was stating something about the grace and presence of God.  God (and/or Jesus) is in the most hellish moments of our lives? and deaths.  God is present in all manifestations of hell ? present and future.  And ultimately, just like it did in the resurrection, grace prevails with the Prime Mover.  Dante saw these words written over the gates of Hell:  ?Abandon all hope ye who enter here.?   Dante was wrong.  The Psalmist is right.

So, next time someone wants to engage you in a discussion of hell that tries to strip away all the mystery, don?t be intimidated.  It is not necessary to have any answers but one?  God is in hell as much as God is in heaven because if there is one soul in hell, God cares about that soul.  O Love that will not let me go!  Even hell itself can be viewed as God not giving up!


This Sunday I am preaching a sermon about Zacchaeus.  I have some new thoughts I want to share about this old story.  Hope you will plan to be in worship at 11 a.m.  Bring a friend.  We will climb a tree together, trusting that the Lord will pass by and engage us in conversation.

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.


 July 11, 2010

Dear Centenary friends,

In the June 7th edition of the Chicago Tribune there was a fascinating article about Ron Wayne.  Does the name ring a bell?  No doubt you have heard of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, founders of Apple Computer Company.  I-phones, I-pads, Mac computers ? all are made by Apple. 

As the story goes, Ron Wayne was Apple?s third founder.  However, Ron bailed out of the firm after only 12 days because he was afraid of losing his money in a risky venture.  Originally he had a 10 percent stake in the company which means that if he had just stayed the course he would be worth more than $22 billion today. 

Now here is the Ron Wayne quote that fascinates me:  ?I left Apple for reasons that seemed sound to me at the time.  Why should I go back and ?what if? myself??  Ron Wayne is now 76 and lives off Social Security checks and the earnings from the sale of stamps and coins. 

Let?s think about this for a moment.  Some of you might react by thinking that Ron is an idiot.  Others would feel very sorry for him.  There is no doubt that Ron?s situation could be considered one of the biggest business blunders of all time.  But I have got to tell you that if Ron Wayne?s soul is as calm and peaceful as his quote indicates, then I admire him more than I admire Steve Jobs.  He has something that is more valuable than Apple stock? he is self-actualized and is comfortable in his own skin. 

Such people are a rarity.  Jesus talks about this mindset:  ?... do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?...  And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?? (Matthew 6:25,27)

I have no idea how Ron Wayne?s life has unfolded.  But I do know that worry, anxiety, and a case of ?what if? can drive one insane.  Ron Wayne sounds pretty sane to me. 


Thank you? Thank you? for your support of the Air Conditioning fund.  We have received the funds needed to move forward.  Bill Hahn, chair of the Trustees, and Jack Castle, our building superintendent are working on the project with a couple of companies. 


Susan and I have been away for a couple of weeks celebrating a wedding in the family.  Our son, John, married Greta Davis in Washington, DC.  It was a great wedding with laughter, dancing, and a meaningful time of affirming a covenant between two very special people.  We wanted to share our joy with all of you.


This Sunday I will be preaching about the process of creating pottery from a biblical perspective.  I hope you will be present as we worship!  Bring a friend. 

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.