March 5, 2008


Dear Centenary Friends,

What would cause your faith in Jesus and commitment to follow Jesus to fall apart and disintegrate? It is an interesting question explored by Rob Bell in his book, Velvet Elvis ? Repainting the Christian Faith. Does your faith hinge on doctrine or correct belief? Bell plays ?what if?: ?What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archaeologists find Larry?s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel Do Bell?s ?what ifs? bother you? As you might surmise, Bell is stating facts in terms of historical accuracy and he is dissecting the word ?virgin? like a biblical scholar. These ?what if? questions are not new to Rob Bell. They have been around for many centuries. Let?s be clear here - I am not asking what you believe ABOUT Jesus. I am asking you if your faith in Jesus rests on doctrinal statements which are sometimes contradictory, even in the Bible.

We could play these ?what if? games all day from a biblical perspective on various aspects of the faith. But, dear friends, I have come to the point of realizing in my own life that while I find all of this study highly interesting and energizing, who Jesus is for me does not depend on whether or not he was ?born of a virgin? or any one of a number of other conversations that center around issues ABOUT Jesus.

In the New Testament there is agreement, I believe, that ?Jesus is Lord.? That is the one non-negotiable affirmation that all of the Nothing shakes the ?Lordship? of Jesus. All New Testament For some in this community of faith, our beliefs about Jesus are traditional and orthodox. Others struggle with questions and are not quite sure where they fit in because they seem to engage in a faith dialogue which is different from others. Those questions and musings run deep. Some of us wonder if there is enough room for us and our questions in the community of faith. For others, questions cause guilt and shame. That is not the way we were brought up! In the process of exchanging a second-hand faith for a first-hand faith we found ourselves at odds with ?the old time religion.? (Can anyone define exactly what that ?old time religion? is?)

Jesus is Lord. The key is not what we believe ABOUT Jesus ? the key is believing and following Jesus. Believing Jesus and following Jesus mean that we are formed by Jesus. Therein lies the heart of what it means to be Christian.

Here is my witness: Jesus is God?s way of showing us that God will never let go of the world. Jesus reveals the depth of God?s love. He gives His all. He dies. But God is not finished with the world. Resurrection, hope, and new life come out of the incomprehensible nature of death. Jesus? life was not defined by doctrine and correct belief, but rather by love. In fact, he questioned doctrine and correct belief countless times. Jesus is the Lord of my life, not because he was or was not born of a virgin. For me, the Lordship of Jesus is a non-negotiable which is not tied to historical or doctrinal statements ABOUT Jesus. So? the varying opinions of the New Testament and in the world do not bother me one iota. In fact, I like and appreciate those different perspectives because in those New Testament discussions and disagreements, I am given a place to stand. There is also a place for you to stand, too.

This Sunday, March 9, is Time Change Sunday. Move your clocks ahead one hour as you go to bed on Saturday night. Don?t forget! We want to encourage you not to miss worship because you overslept!

So? it will be a little more difficult for our breakfast workers to arrive on Sunday. 6:30 will seem like it is 5:30. However, you are needed ? particularly this Time Change Sunday. If you can help, please contact Joel Kitchens at or Jeremy Gray at

Following the breakfast, there is a workshop and briefing for all of our breakfast workers? at 9 a.m. (which will feel like 8 a.m.) Even if you are not serving on Sunday, we hope you will be present for the 9 a.m. meeting. All volunteers are urged to attend.

Next Sunday, March 16, after worship, we are having a picnic, Easter Egg Hunt, games, and visiting in Tattnall Square Park, across the street from the church. For more information contact Talisa Hanson at

This Sunday I am preaching about the resurrection of Lazarus, a friend of Jesus. I hope you will be present and I encourage you to bring a friend! Why not make a phone call and give an invitation today?

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God. Love others. Love yourself. Serve.


March 12, 2008

Dear Friends of Centenary,


A traditional Yiddish tale:  Rabbi Levi saw a man running in the street, and asked him, "Why do you run?"  He replied, "I am running after my good fortune!"  Rabbi Levi tells him, "Silly man, your good fortune has been trying to chase you, but you are running too fast."


I have been reading a book titled "Sabbath" by Wayne Muller.  I am convicted and challenged by it.  He tells the story of his friend, Marilyn, a devoted massage therapist.  "...She is very kind and works very hard.  She serves in the poorest sections of San Francisco, offering her services for free to those most in need.  In seedy residential hotels, where there are people dying of AIDS or suffering with tuberculosis, she goes from the room of one sick person to another, massaging, rubbing the salve of good care into their isolated dying bodies.  When Marilyn and I talk on the phone, she often sounds exhausted.  I invite her to spend a day on the beach.  She says she can't.  She has too much work, too many people to meet, too many things to do.  She is almost weeping, such is her need to rest, but she has no inner permission to stop working, even for an afternoon."  


" inner permission to stop working..."  That phrase describes and defines many people.  Sabbath time... time apart... recreation... rhythm... are all a part of the world created by God.  When we get caught up in our business, our busy-ness, even our service to others, to the point where we cannot give ourselves permission for Sabbath, fun, and play, then we are at a dangerous place.


Pause as you read this...  Breathe in.... Breathe out... Sabbath... Why can't you do something really fun this afternoon?  Can you play hooky?  Do it!  If it can't happen today, why not tomorrow?  


The rhythm of play is a part of God's design.   Have fun, my dear friends, for fun was created by God.


This Sunday is Palm/Passion Sunday.  We are moving into Holy Week.  I hope that you will plan to be present for worship this Sunday at 11 a.m.


Following worship we will have C.C.P.I.P.A.W.& E.E.H ? Some people at Centenary go crazy with acronyms!  Here is what that means:  Centenary Community Picnic In Park After Worship And Easter Egg Hunt.  A.Y.G.T.Y.K.T.  (Which means: Aren?t You Glad that You Know that?)  Bring sandwiches to share (in baggies), lawn chairs, blankets to sit on.  The church will provide drinks, chips, cookies, fried chicken, etc.  Hope that you will be present!


Two special services of worship during Holy Week:

Wednesday, 6:45 p.m. - A Service of Shadows with Holy Communion

Friday, noon ? Good Friday Service


Grace and peace to you all.

Tim Bagwell


Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.  



March 18, 2008

Dear Centenary friends,
Easter skews our understanding of reality.  We handle the challenge to our reality by focusing on Easter as history, thus robbing the resurrection of its power.  Focusing on the reality map of Easter as history is easier to follow and accept than for Easter and resurrection to be a present reality.
During the time of Homer, Greek sailors never sailed out of sight of land.  They hugged the coast, because their reality maps told them that any seagoing ship would be lost.  According to their belief systems, the sea was filled with deadly monsters.  Our reality maps cause us fear and limited vision.
European sailors navigated by reality maps which stated that the world was flat.  If you sailed too far, their belief systems said, you would fall off.  Christopher Columbus (and others) changed all that.  But even Columbus' reality map was way off because when he landed in the New World, he thought he was in India - which is why Native Americans are mistakenly called "Indians".  Reality maps sometimes reveal what we do not know.
In 1597 another young sailor returned to his home port of Madrid, Spain.  Juan Combe had been to the New World, and upon his return he became quite a celebrity.  People flocked to hear his stories about adventures in the New World.  He was wined, dined, and was the toast of the town.  BUT one day in Madrid it rained and Juan Combe walked the streets wearing a cape that kept him and his clothes dry.  Superstitious folks thought this cape must be magic.  Juan explained that rubber-coated capes were widely used by the Indians in the New World.  His explanations did not satisfy the authorities who arrested him.  A judge examined the curious garment, questioned Juan at length, and gave his verdict.  Juan was obviously interfering with the Will of God, who sent the rain to "fall on the just and the unjust."  According to the judge, the cape was a result of witchcraft and Juan was executed.  The wrong reality map, even if it is someone else's, can kill you.
Galileo (one of my heroes) was shunned and placed under house arrest BY THE CHURCH because he dared to suggest that the earth orbited the sun.  The church's reality map was that the sun orbited the earth.  The church was threatened by this challenge to their reality map.  In the church's limited understanding, Galileo was a heretic for promoting a new map of reality.  Challenging the reality maps of others can be dangerous business!
Easter upsets our reality map.  Our tendency is to deal with the challenge by focusing on history rather than allowing our reality maps to shift.
Easter as history is limited.  Easter as present reality is unlimited.  Peter Gomes, Chaplain and professor at Harvard University, preached an Easter sermon in which he proposed that resurrection was a continuing event which involves everyone who dares to be involved with it.  He said, "Easter is not just about Jesus, it's about you.  Jesus has already claimed his new life.  What about you?  Easter is not just about the past, it's about the future.  Your best days are ahead of you.  The proof of the resurrection is in your hands and in your life." 
That, my friends, is a completely different reality map.  To quote Kirk Byron Jones, "Handling the resurrection is challenging;  being handled by the resurrection is even more challenging."  Being handled by the resurrection means not only that we are challenged by the unknown, it also constantly challenges our fear of the loss of the known.  (Think about that for a moment.) 
Easter as history holds little to no interest for me.  In fact, I refuse to engage in that conversation.  It is a waste of breath.  Easter as a new map of reality holds my interest entirely. 
That is why I want to invite you to go out of your way to be in worship this next Sunday.  We will sing the great hymns of resurrection, we will hear from Mary of Magdala, Apostle Peter, and a couple of other disciples walking to Emmaus about how their reality maps shifted.  We also will hear from Van Morrison and Cat Stevens. 
As far as I am concerned, it is exciting stuff!  What an opportunity you have to invite friends and family to join you in a great service of celebration!  We are moving to a new map of reality. 
Two other services of worship this week will prepare us for Easter Sunday morning: 
First, on Wednesday, 6:45 pm, there will be a Service of Shadows with Holy Communion in the sanctuary. 
Second, on Friday, noon, there will be a 30 minute Good Friday service in the sanctuary as we focus on the cross. 
Grace and peace,
Tim Bagwell
Love God.  Love others.  Love yourself.  Serve.