March 11, 2009

Dear Centenary friends,

400 years ago (1609), Galileo looked into a crude telescope and found that some of the assertions of the Bible about the nature of the universe were untrue.  When Galileo stated what he viewed in the telescope, the church was threatened. 

What caused the rift between the church and Galileo?  It was the telescope.  The telescope, combined with Galileo's keen gift of observation, contradicted what had been assumed for thousands of years.  Galileo?s most startling claim was that the solar system was not geocentric (with earth at the center), rather it was heliocentric (with the planets revolving around the sun).  In our day this assertion does not seem radical at all.  Few would maintain that the earth is the center of the universe any more than we believe that the earth is flat.  However, in 17th century this revelation threatened biblical truth.

Galileo was not seeking to cause problems with the church as he carried out his research.  A deeply devout man of faith, Galileo wrote: ?I render infinite thanks to God for being so kind as to make me alone the first observer of marvels kept hidden in obscurity for all previous centuries.?   

Now here is the rest of the story (to give a nod in memory of Paul Harvey):  Many of Galileo?s contemporaries fiercely resisted his findings.  In fact, some refused to look through the telescope for fear of what they would see.  The Pope summoned Galileo to Rome, where an inquisition found him ?vehemently suspect of heresy? and placed him under house arrest from 1632-1642.  But the church eventually corrected the error of its ways --- in 1990.  Can you believe that it took 350 years for the church to get it right?

Be careful, however, about thinking that this type of incident does not happen in modern culture.  There are many in the church who refuse to look in the telescope for fear of what they might see.  Faith, for some, is like falling into a comatose state where there can be no questioning of the Bible.  Galileo?s  evidence brought about a direct conflict with the Bible.  Such a conflict was untenable, so the church refused to look in the telescope.

Jesus relished looking into the telescope and discovering new things about the nature of God!  Let?s get this straight ? Jesus was a radical.  While he was a devout Jew, he challenged religious authority.  He even reinterpreted (and dismissed) some sections of Old Testament scripture.   The religious elite of his day were threatened because Jesus looked into a telescope and spoke truth.  Something had to be done about this radical Jesus!  He was a heretic!   His interpretation (or hermeneutic) challenged the prevailing understanding of the nature of God.  Looking through the telescope and speaking what he saw got Jesus killed.

Now we have taken this lively, amazing, life-giving, spirit-enhancing, passionate, dancing, gadfly, unorthodox, loving Jesus and put him in a mind-numbing, deadening, comatose straightjacket of orthodoxy.  That which was radically unorthodox has become orthodoxy.  There are many who worship orthodoxy more than they worship Jesus!  Holy people in Jesus? day ultimately could not stand his re-interpretation of Old Testament scripture as he openly questioned certain passages.  The One who danced God?s love had to be silenced.  So He died? at the hands of holy people who did not want anything to change. 

Join me at the telescope.  The telescope does not threaten our faith.  Jesus is standing at the telescope, encouraging us as we search for truth and faith.  He talks about dispelling ancient misunderstandings about the Bible.  His eyes sparkle as he becomes animated in his discussion of the nature of God.  ?Do not fear the telescope?, he says.  ?I am Life!   God has a sense of humor!  Follow me!  Dance with me!  Lay down your life!  Consider the lilies of the field!  Don?t take yourself so seriously!  Understand what is of ultimate importance!  Love God!  Love Others!  Love Yourself!  Serve!? 

If you want to know more about Galileo, read a book titled Galileo?s Daughter by Dava Sobel.  This exceptionally well-written book is one of my all-time favorites.

We are, as you know, focusing on a series of sermons about ?Famous Last Words.?  This Sunday I will be preaching about the disruption Jesus caused in the temple.  In the gospel of John, the story occurs at the very first part of Jesus? ministry.  In the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) the story happens the last week of Jesus? life.  What does that radical difference in chronology mean?  The sermon is titled ?It?s Not About Bingo?.  I hope you will be present.  Bring a friend.

Grace and peace,

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.   


March 18, 2009

Dear Centenary friends,

There is no place like home.

You can never really go home again.

Feel at home.

Make yourself at home.

Be it ever so humble, there is no place like home.

Home is where the heart is.

Bring home the bacon until the cows come home.

A man?s home is his castle.

It is nothing to write home about.

Home, home on the range?


Dr. David Aiello, a biology professor at Mercer and a part of the Centenary community, told me how each year Monarch butterflies east of the Rockies migrate up to a 2500 miles to the Transvolcanic Range in Central Mexico during winter.  A group of zoologists captured Monarch butterflies in their native summer habitats in various settings in the U.S.  and took them to Washington, DC.  The question was this:  If you interrupt or sabotage the migration pattern by moving the Monarchs from their native summer homes, will the Monarchs still find their way to the Transvolcanic Range in Mexico? 


So, they captured Monarchs from various locales throughout the U.S. were released in Washington, DC to confuse them.  (Yes, I see the irony in that!)  Some of the butterflies were tagged by the zoologists so that the experiment could follow the patterns which unfolded.  The Monarchs, upon release, flew around confused for a short time before getting their bearings and heading to their winter home in Mexico.


I am fascinated by the power of this homing instinct.  I believe there is something in all of us that longs for home.  My definition of home is ?a place where you find rest and are fed.?  A house is not necessarily a home.  In fact, it can be quite the opposite.  The inverse is also true:  Home is not necessarily a house.  (Some of my homeless friends have taught me that truth.) 


For me, Centenary is one of the places in my life that is home.  Last Sunday we had some visitors who stated to me before they left, ?This place has a great ?feel??.  I know exactly what they mean.  There is a homing instinct that causes me to want to be a part of this movement at Centenary.  Some of you who read these emails are far distances from Macon? yet you, too, claim Centenary as part of your spiritual home.  The mere existence of this faith community gives you a sense of hope and belonging.  Instinctually you know you are a part of what is happening in this place.  May I say to those who are scattered far and wide ? We are deeply grateful that you are a part of the Centenary family.



If you have eaten a slaw dog from Nu-Way in the past 30 years, I want you to know that Ray Mills prepared the slaw that topped your hotdog.  Ray arrived at work very early every morning and prepared the slaw for all of the Nu-Way locations in Macon.  That is a lot of slaw!  Ray died on Monday.  Deborah Mills (wife) and Christy Youngblood (daughter) are very active in our Wednesday night community.  On Sunday morning at 10 a.m. we are going to have a memorial service for Ray in the sanctuary.  Even if you did not know Ray, I invite you to come be supportive of this family. 

I am preaching a sermon this Sunday titled ?Grace Happens?.  Hope you will be present! 


Grace and peace,

Tim Bagwell


Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.